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Tag Archives: Holly Black

It’s taken long enough, I know.  I promise 2016 will not take as long… unless someone else dies and I get depressed and don’t do it.  But back on topic, hope you find something new and exciting here.

Children’s Books:

Tea RexTea Rex by Molly Idle

A little girl and her brother have a tyranosaurus rex over for tea. The text goes over tea time manners while the beautiful pictures tell the story. Hilarity ensues.

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Nerdy Birdy by Aaron Reynolds

A picture book about the difficulties of fitting in.  Personally, fitting in has always been a struggle for me, so I found this heartwarming.

 

 

421063Santa Claws by Laura Leuk, illustrated by Gris Grimly

Children’s picture book about monsters and Christmas, illustrated by the amazing Gris Grimly.  Are you looking for a book that’s cute, but creepy?  Look no further.

 

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Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman

A short children’s novel about a father who has a wacky adventure while on the way to the store to get milk for his children’s cereal.  And it’s by Neil Gaiman.  ‘Nuff said.

 

 

17591892Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell

A graphic novel about a world where each medieval town has a monster they are proud of.  Every town, that is, except for Stoker-on-Avon.

 

 

Teen Books:

17453303Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King

A strange story about a girl and her friend who drink a bat and gain the power to see both people’s past and future. How do you drink a bat? I’m not telling. As for the history of the future, it’s horrifying and compelling, but I can’t tell you much more than that. It’s a story about friendship and choices, despair and hope, truth and lies, art and life, and the connections between people, both past and future. And personally, I enjoy books that delve a little into what it’s like living with mental illness, as well as feminism. I can’t think of a better way to explain this book; you just have to read it.

10874177Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Silly steampunk adventure about teenaged Sophronia, who is failing at being a proper lady. Her mother sends her away to a very unusual finishing school where she learns not only to be a lady, but also spying, poisoning, and a lot of other things she never expected. It takes place a generation before the Alexia Macon stories, so there are guest appearances of characters I recognized, but much younger. Fun fan service to see these characters in their youth.

14059024The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

Lucy, Lockwood, and George take on a seemingly normal case helping out a graveyard crew. But the body they unearth is more perilous than anticipated, and the people involved are just as dangerous as the ghosts. More banter, more scary ghosts, more adventure, and of course, a mystery.

 

 

 

20898019Ms Marvel No Normal by Willow G. Wilson

Part of being a teenager is dealing with being different, not fitting in.  And what I love about this version of Ms Marvel is that the girl is a muslim teenager living in New Jersey.  On top of all the normal teenage angst, she also has to deal with prejudice about her religion, and racism because she is of middle eastern heritage.  Plus, you know, super confusing new powers, and having a secret identity, as if things weren’t complicated enough already.

 

12813630The Coldest Girl in Cold Town by Holly Black

Holly Black wrote a vampire book.  That’s really all I needed to know, but if you need convincing, it’s about a teenage girl named Tana who wakes up after a house party to find that everyone else in the house has been massacred by vampires.  Everyone, that is, but her ex-boyfriend(of course) and one vampire who has been left behind by his companions to die.  But Tana’s ex is “cold” with the vampire infection, and she fears she may be too. Vampirism is treated as a communicable disease by the government, and “cold towns” have been established and quarantined for those infected.  Holly Black builds a rich world of quarantined concentration camps, prejudice, fear, reality television, and celebrity worship around a character who struggles with her own self destructive tendencies.

 

8490112Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Days of Blood and Starlight, and Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

I completely tore through this whole series on a recommendation from a friend, Maryelizabeth, who owns Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego.  This is the story of Karou, a mysterious art student with blue hair(yo12812550u gotta have blue hair) and tattoos who draws monsters in her notebook.  What her friends don’t know is that the monsters are the only family she’s ever known.  The double life of a normal art student, and errand girl for monsters is a lonely one, and Karou is starting to get fed up with it all.  Then three angels with wings of fire begin marking magic doo13618440rs with handprints, and Karou’s life is about to literally burn down around her.  I love the amazing world that Laini Taylor has built, the characters she’s created, the drama and the humor, and the marvelous strangeness of it all. It’s a love story full of the worst kind of betrayals and loss, friendship and revenge, wishes and monsters and secrets, but a love story nonetheless.  And I love it.

 

Adult Books:

7235533The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson.

How does he do this?  The books are huge and daunting, but totally worth it, and with Sanderson, you know you won’t be waiting 10 years for the next one.  He builds an amazing world ravaged by magical storms, full of strange creatures, new religions, and characters you want to like because they all believe they are doing the right thing(even the bad ones).

 

17671993Injustice: Gods Among Us, years 1 and 2 by Tom Taylor

I don’t often read DC comics, but these are amazing, and dark, and really explore the line between good and evil, hero and villain.

 

 

 

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 40102Outliers and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Fascinating research on becoming an expert, making snap decisions, and what makes successful people stand out from the crowd.  It gives you insight and perspective, like turning the Rubik’s cube of life around in your hands to examine from all angles.

 

 

91479Death Masks by Jim Butcher

I realize this is a single book partway through a series, but I don’t care, it was still one of my favorites from the last year, so it’s on the list.  Dresden is forced to confront the consequences of some of his mistakes, part of his past he tried to forget, and finds himself tempted to do the wrong thing.  Lots of moral and emotional dilemmas combined with sarcastic humor, badass fighting, and magic and myth.

 

7622500The Artist in the Office by Summer Pierre

Quite possibly the most inspiring book I read all year. A fantastic self help book for artistic personalities who work in non-artistic professions. It helps you to incorporate art into your daily lifestyle at work and at home, and to recognize how you can live your ideal artistic life, or something close to it, while working a day job. It has really energized me, and reminded me about the good things in life.

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The Third Act: Writing a Great Ending to your Screenplay by Drew Yanno

It’s short, and pretty to the point.  And it helped my fix the ending to my first completed novel.  Effective!

 

Gone GirlGone Girl By Gillian Flynn

A dark, surprising murder mystery full of twists.  This story kept me entertained despite the lack of magic OR spaceships!  But dark, Dark, DARK.  Be prepared for some messed up relationships.  Nick Dunne’s wife disappears, and when the clues begin to point back toward Nick himself, he realizes that the most likely explanation sounds completely insane. The movie was a faithful rendition, but the book is still totally worth it.

 

 

Saga vol. 4 and 5 by Brian K. Vaughn, illustrated by25451555 Fiona Staples.

23093367I love this series so much, and it continues to hold my devotion.  I love the characters, and I
love the art, and I love the world.  Though I have to say, there a was a really harsh sucker punch at the end of Vol. 5.

 

So there it is, only like 11 months late… Happy reading.

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I was fortunate enough this year to be invited to the Tucson Festival of Books to give a talk on teen books. Actually, my friend and co-worker Mosylu was invited, and I just tagged along. But, since I don’t have much else to say for March, here’s the booktalks I wrote for that:

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
I could hardly put this book down. It’s a graphic novel that’s also the autobiography of a girl growing up in Iran. Comics aren’t just for super heroes and cartoons anymore. They’re simply a medium, another way to tell a story. This story is told in simple black and white images, and much of it with the detached simplicity of a child’s eye. Marjane remembers growing up in Iran before the Islamic Revolution, and after. After the revolution, all the women and even the little girls had to cover their hair. Parties with drinking and most kinds of music are banned. As a child, this a sudden and bewildering change. Violence becomes common place. But it’s funny too, painting a picture of what life was like; the ups, the downs, and the in-betweens. It’s made all the more compelling, touching, and appalling by the fact that it’s autobiographical. Marjane’s spare black and white cartoons show the world she saw just as she saw it. And now you can see it too.

 White Cat by Holly Black
Cassel Sharpe wakes up on the roof of his fancy high school dorm and nearly falls to his death. He’s been sleepwalking again, or was he cursed? He dreamed of following a white cat. . .

In Cassel’s world, working curses is real.   It was outlawed in the 1920s, meaning that most curse workers are employed by the mob. This is part mystery, part dark urban fantasy, and part mob story. At first, Cassel thinks he’s only got to solve the mystery of why he’s been sleep walking. But then, he begins to think that the girl he loved when he was fourteen, the girl he thought he killed, might still be alive. What’s more, there’s something weird going on with his two older brothers. Why can’t Cassel remember the murder or why he did it? Why does he keep having nightmares about a white cat? And what is the secret his brothers are trying to hide from him? To find out, he’ll have to find the white cat, and make a deal with a mobster. Only then, Cassel may find himself in even more danger than when he started. And he started on the edge of a roof, so that’s no saying much!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Do you like videogames? That’s good, because in the future, the internet is one big mashup of every videogame you’ve ever played, and then some. The internet has become one massively multiplayer online game, while the real world has fallen to pieces around it. When the most famous video game programmer to ever live dies, there is a huge fortune to be won in the greatest video game ever played…The prize? A controlling interest in the most powerful company on earth, and more money than someone like our hero, Wade, can imagine. He lives in a trailer with his family, stacked on top of more trailers full of other families: the slums of the future. His only relief is the game, and his only hope of ever getting out of the stacks is to win. But what chance does he have when literally most of the world is trying to win too? And more to the point, once he’s cracked the code and started the chase in earnest, what will those other people do to try and stop him?

Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner
I love this book for so many reasons, not the least of which is that the author, Janni Lee Simner, is a local Tucsonan and all around lovely person. “I had a sister once… ” That’s the first line. The faerie war ended before Liza was born, but it seems the world will never recover. Faerie weapons have given the trees the ability to move and kill, ghosts to rise, and even some of children are born infected with magic. People who are touched by magic are even more dangerous than the trees, so when Liza suspects that she may be tainted, she flees from her village. The world is a dark, ferocious, and war ravaged place. But Liza finds that there is much about magic, herself, and her world, that she didn’t know. She must learn the truth about the faerie war, and find the strength to face everything she has been taught to fear.

Ash by Melinda Lo
This may be my favorite retelling of Cinderella since the faerie godmother is a dark faerie with ulterior motives, and there’s an unusual love triangle. When Ash’s widower father remarries, his new wife hopes to inherit his money. Only when her father dies, it turns out he didn’t have any, and Ash’s new mother expects Ash to work off his debt. Ash’s only escape are walks in the woods, where she does a very unwise thing: she befriends a faerie. And he’s not the Tinkerbell kind of faerie. Sidhean is tall, otherworldly and handsome, and he treats Ash with more kindness than her family. Ash feels a fierce longing for him, and hopes that someday he will steal her away from her cruel stepmother and stepsisters, just like in the faerie tales her mother used to read her. But she also befriends the King’s Huntress, Kaisa, who is everything Ash wishes she could be: strong, independent, warm and beautiful. She finds that her heart is drawn to both of them, though she can have neither. She does not belong in either the King’s lavish world with Kaisa, or the faerie’s ethereal one with Sidhean. Still, if she had to choose where her heart belonged, which one would it be?

The Fault in Our Stars

I talked this book up at the Festival, but I already talked about how much I loved The Fault in our Stars in a previous blog, so instead, here’s my reaction to a different John Green Book:

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Collin, semi-famous child prodigy, has been dumped by 19 girls named Katherine.  After Katherine the 19th dumps him the summer before college, Collin and his friend Hassan go on a road trip.  It’s full of much of the ridiculous comedy that I loved in The Fault in Our Stars, but without any cancer or death, which was nice.  I related a lot to Collin and his internal emptiness after being dumped.  Collin, being the erudite boy he is, tries to invent a theorem that will allow him to graph the future of all relationships.  It even inspired me to try to graph my previous relationships in the hopes of discovering what went wrong.  But as it turns out, I’m not a child prodigy, and I suck at math, so all I have are lists.  Sigh.  Anyway, An Abundance of Katherines is a fantastic book, and good pick me up if you are down.

World War Z by Max Brooks
If there was a real zombie apocalypse, I think it would look a lot like this. The story is told in a series of interviews with various survivors after the fact. It’s set up like a historical record. They are men and women, rich and poor, and people of all nationalities. The documentary style, and the great variety of people interviewed, make the story feel real. There’s the story of a patient zero in China, as told by a rural doctor. Some governments deny the existence of the new disease, some mobilize quickly to fight the zombie hoardes, and some governments simply leave their ill prepared citizens to fend for themselves. It also follows the very personal human interest stories of what people had to do to survive, and who they lost. And since the movie will be out soon, this might be a good pick for reluctant readers.

Nation by Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett is one of the best comedic authors out there. He’s most famous for his Discworld fantasies, but Nation is a stand alone. A tidal wave destroys the island Nation, leaving behind only one boy, Mau and a shipwrecked girl from England washed up by the wave, Daphne. Though they do not understand each other’s language, or ways, they are all the human life that is left on the island. So Daphne is left with the choice of keeping company with the indecently naked Mau, or with the parrot who survived the wreck and knows only curse words. Likewise, Mau must either be alone, or make friends with this strange ghost girl who appears to have no toes, or with the grandfather birds of the island who mostly eat until they throw up(which made me laugh because I’m twelve in my head). Though the beginning is tragic, the author’s quirky voice, and ridiculous details make the story a comedy that goes a little deeper than most. And just when Mau and Daphne are getting used to things, other survivors of the wave show up, including pirates.

Also, if you’re wondering how the books on a plane were, the only one I’ve finished at this point is Rachel Rising, and OMG SO GOOD! Need the next issue. Need it.

As for the others, well, Name of the Wind is long, okay!