Waiting on Wednesday – Fear by Michael Grant (YA)

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating. This week’s pre-publication “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

Fear

Michael Grant

Publication Date: April 3, 2012

There are many young adult series of which I have read the first one and left it at that, but not the Gone series by Michael Grant. This is book #5 and I need to find out what’s going to happen to Sam and Astrid and all the other kids in a small California town who were left behind one day when everyone aged 15 and up disappeared suddenly and without warning in the first book, Gone.
Over the course of the series, the kids who were left to manage with no adults and a dwindling food supply have been trying to figure out what happened (a dome/force field of some kind), whether the scary mutations that some of the kids are experiencing can be stopped, whether it’s good or bad to disappear on your upcoming 15th birthday, and, of course, how to fight off the bad (rich) kids, the forces of evil, and the Darkness monster. (There are several plot threads to keep track of, including the role that Little Pete, Astrid’s autistic brother, plays in the whole catastrophe.)
The story seemed to lose a little momentum with book #4, and I wondered if the author had to extend the series past an originally planned trilogy due to the books’ popularity, but I’m counting on the author to answer at least a few questions in book #5!
These books are page-turners that teens looking for action and suspense who don’t mind a touch of science fiction verging on horror will eagerly devour.

Gone series so far:
Gone
Hunger
Lies
Plague

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Waiting on Wednesday — The Night Eternal

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating. This week’s pre-publication “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

The Night Eternal

Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Publication Date: October 25

The Night Eternal is the third book in The Strain trilogy, a horror-laced vampire-pandemic thrill ride that started with The Strain and The Fall. Co-written by the director of Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy, these movie-ready books will keep you reading well into the night (wondering what that sound downstairs might be.)

Waiting on Wednesday – All About Emily

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating. This week’s pre-publication “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

All About Emily

Connie Willis

Publication Date: December 28

This novelette is being published in a limited print run by Subterranean Press in December; no cover image is available yet. Connie Willis is one of my must-read authors, so I am looking forward to this. Here’s what she says about it on her Web site:

I finished my story, which is called “All About Emily,” and which is about a robot who wants to be a Rockette.  It’s going to be in the December issue of Asimov’s and then Subterranean Press is bringing out a special limited edition, like they have with Inside Job and D.A.  I loved writing this story because it gave me an excuse to do all this research about the Rockettes and Radio City Music Hall, which came this close to being torn down.  But not all stories have unhappy endings, even in real life, something I find I need to remind myself of now and then.

Among Others by Jo Walton

Like many readers, I keep a list of books I eventually want to get to, but author Jo Walton mentions so many intriguing titles in Among Others, a novel in diary form, that they threaten to completely overwhelm my list.
Fifteen-year-old Morwenna, the narrator of Among Others, a novel in diary form, is an avid reader of novels, mostly science fiction and fantasy, but also historical ones set in Ancient Greece or Rome. With all the shout-outs to 1960s and 70s’ science fiction authors, like Roger Zelazny and Samuel R. Delany, Among Others at times seems less like reading someone else’s diary, than like reading someone else’s reading diary. (If that still sounds interesting, then please keep reading this blog post. Otherwise, you can forget about Among Others, but you’ll miss out on a quasi-magical, quietly memorable coming-of-age story, if you do.)
While Morwenna, or Mor or Mori, as she is known, is grieving the death of her twin sister in an accident that she herself survived (with a badly injured leg), she runs away from her mother and is sent to live with her father and his older sisters — all strangers to her. Her father left when Mori was very young; he was removed from all of the wedding pictures and never spoken of by the family. Now, in the fall of 1979, Mori is so far removed from her childhood in Wales that when she says “You’re very English” to her three English aunts, they take it as a compliment.
Her aunts pack this strange, prickly, adolescent niece with her odd-sounding Welsh accent straight off to an all-girls English boarding school where everyone likes sports and no one except the school librarian reads anything beyond what is assigned. But Mori is even more strange than her limp and her reading addiction make her seem, because a.) she can see fairies; b.) her mother (crazy? a witch?) scares her half to death; and c.) she believes she can perform magic. Here’s Mori looking back on her childhood years with her twin sister:

It wasn’t that we didn’t know history. Even if you only count the real world, we knew more history than most people. We’d been taught about cavemen and Normans and Tudors. We knew about Greeks and Romans. We knew masses of personal stories about World War II. We even knew quite a lot of family history. It just didn’t connect to the landscape. And it was the landscape that formed us, that made us who we were as we grew in it, that affected everything. We thought we were living in a fantasy landscape when actually we were living in a science fictional one. In ignorance, we played our way through what the elves and giants had left us, taking the fairies’ possession for ownership. I named the dramroads after places in The Lord of the Rings when I should have recognised that they were from The Chrysalids.

When I saw Among Others reviewed on the things mean a lot blog, I added it to my to-read list, because it was a realistic novel with fantasy elements which appeals to me (see my post about The Magicians by Lev Grossman), because the things mean a lot librarian-blogger seems to like a lot of authors I also like (e.g. Connie Willis), and because she says: “This is a very quiet and understated novel, and it’s perhaps more about reading than about anything else.” It is quiet and understated; it’s also slow to build, with occasional short bursts of action and a lot of deliberately loose ends. (Also, a heads-up to potential male readers — however geeky, Mori is still a 15-year-old girl writing about her life, so you’ll have to deal with that.)
So, should you read Among Others or not? Maybe fantasy author Robin Hobb‘s blurb for the book says it best: “If you love science fiction and fantasy, if reading it formed your teen years, if you remember the magic you used to do, if you remember the absolute joy of first discovering those books, then read this.”

All Clear by Connie Willis

Connie Willis is one of my favorite writers, so I was ready to accept her word that the story she started in Blackout (Feb. 2010) of time travelers stuck in the London Blitz needed to stretch over two books (500+ and 600+ pages, respectively) and would be continued in All Clear (Oct. 2010). Having just come to the end of All Clear, I’ll concede to the few complaining, online customer reviewers that the two-book saga could probably have been edited down to one long book, but some of the reader’s sensation of total immersion in the day-to-day of Londoners living through the Blitz — not knowing which way the war would go — would have been lost.
For most of the two books, a few young time-traveling historians from 2060 are bravely facing down the fact that they have no way of getting back to their own time, yet still try frantically to rescue at least the others. Even more alarmingly, their meddling in the past may have changed the future irrevocably, including the outcome of World War II, as well as whatever events led to the discovery and invention of time travel at Oxford University.
As for the two-book story, if you’re a fan of Connie Willis’ writing, her light touch with the most serious of topics and her haplessly heroic characters, the more words the better.
Here’s how Michael Dirda, writing in the Washington Post, recommended Blackout to readers:

If you’re a science-fiction fan, you’ll want to read this book by one of the most honored writers in the field (10 Hugos, six Nebulas); if you’re interested in World War II, you should pick up “Blackout” for its you-are-there authenticity; and if you just like to read, you’ll find here a novelist who can plot like Agatha Christie and whose books possess a bounce and stylishness that Preston Sturges might envy.

And here’s what Julie Phillips writing for the Village Voice, says about Connie Willis:

Not all science fiction looks like science fiction. Connie Willis has won more Hugo and Nebula awards than almost anyone in the field, but her books are often set in the past, while her style is more Dorothy Sayers than Neil Gaiman. Still, she belongs in genre more than in literature, because genre fiction—SF, YA, mystery—is the traditional home of narrative pleasure, and Willis can tell a story like no other.

I should mention that Oxford University time-traveling historians and even a few characters from Blackout and All Clear appear in earlier books and stories by Connie Willis, most famously in The Doomsday Book (1992). Click here to read an eloquent post about The Doomsday Book by a book blogger at Things Mean A Lot.

Horror for Halloween

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Horror and horror movies are booming, and just in time for Halloween.
Like other genres, horror doesn’t get much notice from book reviewers, but there really are some good horror writers out there. I wrote about Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box last Halloween. Since then, the son of Stephen King has published Horns, which starts out with the debauched main character waking up with devil horns sprouting from his head. The New York Times review said, about Horns, that Hill “is able to combine intrigue, editorializing, impassioned romance and even fiery theological debate in one well-told story.”
If you prefer a dash of science fiction instead of theological debate in your horror reading, try the vampire trilogy in progress by Guillermo del Toro (director of Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy) and Chuck Hogan (author of Prince of Thieves, that The Town, the recent movie about Charlestown is based on.) The trilogy starts with The Strain, in which Manhattan is ravaged by a virulent strain of vampirism while CDC tries to play down the danger, and is continued in The Fall, which came out last month. There is a lot of cinematic action in The Fall, with a corresponding decline in character development among the small band of those left fighting the vampires, but we’ll see what happens in the third book, The Night Eternal, due out next year.
For many more suggestions for horror reading this month, check out RA for All: Horror, a new blog dedicated to advising readers about horror.
Check the Old Colony Library Network for availability of Horns.
Check the Old Colony Library Network for availability of The Fall.

The Postmistress & Blackout

The heroism of Londoners as they took shelter during nightly bombing raids and carried out their business in as close an approximation to usual as possible during the day quickly become legendary. Two recent novels — The Postmistress and Blackout — give readers a sense of how it might have been to live through the London Blitz, while Americans were divided on what to do.

Given a big publicity boost by Katherine Stockett, author of The Help, The Postmistress by Sarah Blake will be popular with the same readers, but has the added bonus for us of a Massachusetts connection. Confident and strong, Iris James is the postmaster (not postmistress) in the fictitious Cape Cod town of Franklin in 1940, where Emma Fitch has just moved to join her husband, a young doctor. Country after country is falling to the Germans, President Roosevelt is promising Americans their boys are “not going to be sent into any foreign wars,” and plucky radio correspondent Frankie Bard is bucking male chauvinism in broadcasting, reporting heartrending stories of the Blitz that bring the war home to American listeners.

If you’re an audiobook reader, try The Postmistress on audio, narrated by Orlagh Cassidy. (The only problem with an otherwise excellent audio version is that the characters with broad Boston accents sounded more like Mainers to me.) Like The Help, The Postmistress is a good story, grounded in American history, with strong female characters, and many poignant moments.
Read The New York Times review of The Postmistress here.

Blackout, the new book by science fiction author Connie Willis, is also about the London Blitz and other historical turning points in England during World War II.
Set in the same time-travel universe as The Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog, Blackout’s storyline is continued in All Clear, which isn’t coming out until fall. (!) Readers will have to wait to find out what happens to the time-traveling young historians in Blackout, whose cautiously laid plans for safe travel in and out of London and surrounding areas during crucial periods in World War II history have gotten them in to observe the casual heroism of ordinary Brits, but aren’t working to get them — ordinary historians now in crisis themselves — back to their own time.
Read The Washington Post review of Blackout here.
Check availability of Blackout in the OCLN catalog here.

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