Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Sound of Silence

Excuse my silence (if there's actually anyone out there reading this. Hellooo? hellooo? hellooo? )

Haven't posted for two weeks. The day after my last downer of a post, I learned some distressing news that hit much closer to home. So I decided to start another blog for personal posts and go back to being professional in this one.

Ahem. So here are my Gems of the Week, based on ARCs I've read recently (and no spoilers, I promise).

GOING BOVINE by Libba Bray (Ages 14 and up, Random House, available Sept 22, 2009). Cameron, the sixteen-year-old narrator, is a slacker and a stoner who wants nothing more than to coast through high school (forget reading Don Quixote). Early in the book, Cameron learns he has Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (commonly known as mad cow) and that he's dying. The kicker: it's actually very funny. After being visited by a punk angel named Dulcie, Cameron escapes the hospital (or does he?) and goes on a cross-country trek with a hypochondriac dwarf and a living yard gnome. Everything in Cameron's life comes into his journey, so in that respect it's reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz. But look for those sly Don Quixote touches too. Oh, and there's Disney World. Who wouldn't love a novel with Disney World in it?

One warning: if you're looking for something similar to Great and Terrible Beauty and the rest of the Gemma Doyle trilogy, you may be shocked. Or disappointed. But don't be. Because this is a wild ride of a novel and overall just a really cool book. (In fact, it mentions Schrodinger's Cat, which I wanted to mention in my own YA novel, of which I've written only 15 pages, so ... bummer. Libba Bray, you win.)

LEVIATHAN by Scott Westerfeld, (Ages 12 and up, Simon & Schuster, available Oct 6, 2009). This is my first experience with Steampunk. As the ARC explains, "Steampunk is a genre of science fiction set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used." Leviathan is set in an alternate 1914. Yes, you remember a few things from history class, right? The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 started The Great War (later known as World War I). Well, that's what Leviathan is all about, with the addition of some really imaginative machinery (used by Germany and Austro-Hungary) that should make George Lucas salivate, and the even more amazing addition of living beasties that have become machines (used by the British Empire and France). Huge airships are whole ecosystems, with whales, bats, birds and other animals each contributing life threads to make it work.

But this is mostly the story of Alek, from Austro-Hungary, and Deryn, from the British Empire, two fifteen-year-old kids drawn into war. Both kids are hiding secrets.

I'm a huge fan of Westerfeld's Uglies books and of So Yesterday, and I'm really impressed with his newest offering. He's a master craftsman. I was completely caught up in the story and couldn't wait to find out how the two story lines would intersect. I was so interested in it that the ending caught me off guard and left me wanting more (naturally, because this is the first in a series).

Side note: this would be perfectly safe for younger readers too. And it's even illustrated (by Keith Thompson), with detailed, though rather dark, drawings.

So keep those pub dates in mind and run to your local independent booksellers to order them. Ok?

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