Monthly Archives: May 2010

No more Lingering

I am one of not-so-very-many lucky people to have an ARC of Maggie Stiefvater’s upcoming Linger (July 2010). That would be the sequel to her NYT Bestselling book, Shiver. Besides the fact that there are readers out there probably weeping with impatience to read this book, I have this evening discovered something super-inspiring which has made me want to drop everything and read this book. Now-ish.

I present, the book trailer (made by Ms. Stiefvater herself, I might add. Oh, and she also plays the music on it. Try not to be jealous folks).

Wow.

I’m thinking that if Maggie Stiefvater weren’t a bestselling author, she could be a famous maker of book trailers. Truly beautiful. You can learn more about the making of the trailer here.

Turtle in Paradise

I haven’t read any of Jennifer L. Holm’s books beyond the Babymouse series (which I adore in all of its perfect pinkness). I was looking for an audiobook a few weeks back, and I came across Turtle in Paradise, Holm’s newest solo effort. When I choose an audiobook, it’s really all about the reader. To be honest, there aren’t many audiobooks that I end up listening to all the way to the end. They often don’t hold my interest the way reading a book does, unless the performance is really strong. Some audio performances are just creepy. They sound stilted and weird or the reader’s intonation is completely monotonous. I don’t get it when the producers cast an actor for a character who is 11 or 12 or a teen, and the actor sounds like s/he is 40-something. Hmm… something not so convincing about that, I’d say. So when I find an audiobook that grabs me, with a performer who perfectly conveys the mood of the narrative, and it keeps me hooked all the way to the end, I feel lucky. Turtle in Paradise was a listening treat.

Set during the Depression in Key West, this book tells the story of Turtle, an 11-year-old filled with gumption and smarts. Her mother is a housekeeper and she takes a new job working for an older woman who hates kids, which means Turtle has to go to Florida to stay with her mother’s sister and a whole gang of cousins. When she gets there, she discovers a quirky community, very different from any place she’s lived before. Her cousins have created a gang, called the Diaper Gang, in order to earn a bit of extra cash babysitting testy infants. They are the most unlikely collection of babysitters you could imagine. Turtle spends most of her days hanging around with the gang, and the kids end up on an adventure seeking buried treasure. Turtle learns to open herself up to others, and what it means to be part of a family.

This book seems made for reading aloud. There’s a lovely rhythm to the language, and it’s plenty funny. The characters are sassy and they are all big personalities, leaping off the page and coming to life as the adventure unfolds. I’d have a hard time choosing my favourite. I would read more about this crew in a heartbeat. Holm has created a story that captures a time gone by without making the historical period an obstacle for younger readers. In fact, I’ll bet they might be eager to learn more about this time in history. It’s charming and sweet and perfect for summer. Doesn’t that cover say, “Read me at the beach” (by the lake, on the dock, under a tree, in a deck chair…)?

Turtle in Paradise is published by Random House.

The Jane Cure

I’ve been feeling distinctly, “meh” lately.

Is it the heat?

Is it the fact that I still need to wait 86-ish days for this book?

Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be cured by lemonade or reading or even eating a lot of gelato.

So this week I finally went with the Jane Cure. A little P&P cannot fail to lift a girl’s spirits. You know you’ve watched the BBC miniseries one too many times when you can whistle the entire theme song (and play all of the parts). Remember this scene?

Well, I’m thinking the Jane Cure would be even more powerful if I watched while wearing this:

You could get one too. Right here.

Thank goodness for Jane.

The Agency

I was entirely pleased by Y.S. Lee’s The Agency: A Spy in the House. It has many elements that put together, make it exactly the type of book that I am inclined to devour: a well-crafted mystery, historical setting, and an amusing romance with a certain Darcy/Elizabeth quality. To tie up this satisfying package, it also happens to be the first in what will be a trilogy. Yes please!

Our heroine is Mary Quinn, an orphan who had the very good fortune to be rescued from the gallows to attend Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls. At the Academy, Mary receives an impressive education and learns fine manners.  After completing her studies, her teachers offer her an unusual opportunity. She is invited to join the Agency, a secret organization of female investigators who work on high stakes cases. Mary chooses to accept the invitation and is sent out on her first job. She is placed in a position as a lady’s companion in a rich merchant’s house, where she is meant to investigate a possible case of international shipping fraud. What she finds is much more complicated and personal, and her work will take her into some of London’s seediest and dangerous parts.

Lee certainly succeeds in bringing London of this period to life. (Could this be due to the fact that she has a PhD in Victorian literature and culture? Likely). The novel takes place during a terrible heat wave, and you can practically smell the stink of the Thames. One of the highlights of the book is the relationship between James Easton and Mary, which has definite shades of Darcy and Elizabeth, as they show a similar cutting banter and the same swing from love to hate and back again. I liked that Lee manages to comment on the limited choices available to women during this time, without making it seem like she is pausing for an Important History Lesson in the middle of her story. This plot really moves, and the secondary characters are well-drawn.

I’m all set to see what Mary tackles next, in The Body at the Tower, coming August 2010 from Candlewick.

For a teaser, click here.

And for a nifty behind-the-scenes look at photos from the cover shoot for that title, take a look here.

Fever Crumb

Philip Reeve’s Fever Crumb is a book to sink into. For some of you, all I really need to say is “Prequel to the Mortal Engines Quartet” and you won’t feel it’s really necessary to read any more of this review. That would make you already a Philip Reeve fan. That would mean that you know that a Philip Reeve book is all about amazing world-building, creative vision, and characters as quirky and rounded as they come. A Philip Reeve book is a truly transporting experience. If you haven’t yet read any of his work, I’d say Fever Crumb is a fine place to begin.

Fever Crumb takes place far in the future, a few centuries before the first book in The Hungry City Chronicles. Fever is a girl who was abandoned while she was still a baby, and raised by the Order of Engineers, scientists for whom logic is all. Years before this happened, Auric Godshawk, a powerful ruler and member of a strange social class known as the Scriven, was deposed during a violent uprising. Things haven’t really been stable in London since that time. When she’s nearly grown up, Fever is sent to work with an archaeologist named Kit Solent who believes that he may have found Godshawk’s secret laboratory, where he hopes he may uncover amazing scientific secrets. At the same time, invaders are drawing closer to London’s borders, and they have plans of their own for the city’s future.

Where to start with why I loved this book? First off, there’s an appealing Dickensian quality to it. I think it has something to do with the way that the atmosphere is alternately gritty and then suddenly funny, and how the characters are perfectly captured in their smallest gestures and interactions with other characters. You will feel like you are reading a real tale, a little bit old-fashioned in feel and grand in scope. And the world-building. One word: incredible. Every aspect of the London of Reeve’s imagination is right there for you to picture and smell and hear. Reeve is one of those amazing authors who manages to convey attention to the smallest details (the Scriven’s facial markings, the scent of a summer night), the kind of small details that make a world come to life for the reader, but at the same time, his big-picture world-building is remarkable and consistent. The story moves at such a pace but you never feel that you aren’t getting a sharp, fully-realized picture of things. His inventiveness is apparently unending. One of my favourite examples of this? There are these spooky/fantastic paper assassins that feature at several points in the plot. Just when you thought the mail slot was safe.

Of course, for those who are already wild fans of The Hungry City Chronicles, there is a great deal of additional appeal as you will discover in Fever Crumb more about the origins of traction cities, as well as the history of some of the characters featured in that series. I think Philip Reeve is masterful in how he develops different story threads, always knowing when to leave one to return to another but never leaving anything for so long that you stop caring about it. Every plot line gets its fair share of development and care, making for a rich reading experience.

If you’re still reading this review, and you haven’t raced away to get your hands on this book, check out this mini interview with the author. And then hurry off and get your hands on this book.

(He’s a charmer, yes?)

Fever Crumb is published by Scholastic Press. And it’s worth every second.

(This post is cross-posted at Guys Lit Wire).

SBBT – Days 3 & 4

Look at all these fantabulous interviews. Go. Read. Be amazed.

Day 3

Chasing Ray: Michael Trinklein

Fuse Number 8: Nick Burd

A Chair, A Fireplace And A Tea Cosy: Sarah Darer Littman

Finding Wonderland: Tom Siddell

Shaken & Stirred: Jess Leader

Day 4

Matthew Reinhart at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Jenny Boylan at Fuse Number 8

Lisa Mantchev at Writing & Ruminating

Tara Kelly at Shaken & Stirred

Donna Freitas at Bildungsroman

Enjoy!