Wish I would have had this book alongside all my Beverly Cleary books back in middle school. Like Cleary, Jason Reynolds clearly remembers what it wasWish I would have had this book alongside all my Beverly Cleary books back in middle school. Like Cleary, Jason Reynolds clearly remembers what it was to be a kid — the private humiliations, the silliness, the outsized misconceptions, the way the tiniest bit of support can change a day. ...more
Pretty much a perfect teen adventure novel. In a conflict-free world where humans have conquered death, elected Scythes must cull the human populationPretty much a perfect teen adventure novel. In a conflict-free world where humans have conquered death, elected Scythes must cull the human population. Two teens find themselves volunteered as apprentice-Scythes, and discover that of all the things that Scythes can kill, corruption is not one of them.
1. Over the years, I've heard many books touted as the successor to Hunger Games, but SCYTHE is the first one that I would really, truly stand behind, as it offers teens a complementary reading experience to that series rather than a duplicate one. Like Hunger Games, SCYTHE invites readers to both turn pages quickly but also furrow their brows over the ethical questions it asks. Tone-wise, I would place it solidly between M. T. Anderson's FEED and Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series.
2. Over the years, YA has come to encompass a wide age range — one that I feel tends to skew ever older and sometimes forget the folks who are growing out of middle grade, but slowly. SCYTHE strikes me as a true teen novel, one that I will happily thrust into the hands of even reluctant 12-14 year old readers to show them what awaits them in genre fiction. It asks enough difficult questions to stick in the mind, but it never asks them at the expense of pacing or story. Although it's a series-starter and the end is tantalizing, it does feel like it satisfyingly stands alone (as is evidenced by its new Printz Honor sticker — the Printz is very rarely awarded to series books as the novel's merit must be contained entirely within the volume awarded). Moreover, it is very light on the romance, something that younger readers often prefer (and somewhat difficult to find in YA).
3. Over the years, I have grown too lazy to make note of when sequels come out. I've made a note on my calendar for this one, though — November 2017. I look forward to another good time....more
What a splendid and fun supernatural procedural. I read it in its entirety on a cross-country flight, while a weary moFIVE THINGS ABOUT LONDON FALLING
What a splendid and fun supernatural procedural. I read it in its entirety on a cross-country flight, while a weary mother's dictatorial three-year-old loudly terrorized my entire seating section from the seat beside mine. Even with a strange child's feet flailing in my lap and a strange child's popcorn arcing over my field of vision and a strange child's crappy diaper removed and instantly refueled inches away from me, this novel held me. So, without further ado, five things about it:
1. It's the first in a series: the Shadow Police series, book 3 of which came out last year in the UK and is coming here to the U.S. in May. I know that I'm a hypocrite to be saying I'm not a fan of series because I don't like waiting for the next book to arrive, but there it is, it's the truth. London Falling, however, wraps up book one's concern in a satisfying, sprawling climax, and although there is a decidedly open ending, it's better classified as a promise than a cliffhanger.
2. Cornell has writing chops. I knew before starting London Falling this was his debut novel, but I also knew that he wrote comics and had written a few episodes of Dr. Who. He brings that sprightly pacing to this novel, juggling four main characters with ease. It's a procedural at heart, so expect efficient, brisk characterization rather than lavished pages of introspection, but the main characters were nonetheless specific and intriguing.
3. The magic is just wonderful. Sometimes when a book tries to meld grit and magic, one or the other suffers, but London Falling delivered some lovely and toothsome magic that felt essential and old.
4. The first 50 pages are a slog. I'm saying this because I want you to push past it. There are a lot of characters introduced very quickly and a lot of unfamiliar workplace relationships strung across the page, and for me, at least, it meant that I sometimes had to flip back to earlier pages to see if I was remembering last names correctly. This may have been due in part to my airplane seatmate's shouting that she wanted her candy NOW, but I suspect not.
5. There is a very, very rewarding plot element three quarters of the way through the novel that I'd love to tell you about — but I won't. It is the result of a careful building of a plot and character house, and far be it for me to bring it tumbling down before you get a chance to climb the stairs. Suffice to say that I grinned on the plane when I read it. Well done, Cornell, well done.
I'll be checking out Cornell's other work posthaste....more
It's difficult for me to recommend thrillers to non-thriller readers. I grew up reading them and so have a high tolerance for the genre conventions. YIt's difficult for me to recommend thrillers to non-thriller readers. I grew up reading them and so have a high tolerance for the genre conventions. You know, men named Jack or Tom who will later be played by Denzel Washington or Liam Neeson. Shadowy figures from whichever country your grandpa thinks is sketchy. We need YOU, civilian man with no training, to help us with this investigation, or it will all fall apart. Machine guns referred to by brand, in case you were in the market yourself. A certain number of fridged relatives in order to grease the emotional gears of the plot machinations. Titles like DOUBLE-CROSSED and DON'T LOOK BACK and MAN ON THE RUN and TRIGGER HAPPY.
Look, I know.
But I think BEFORE THE FALL is a mystery/thriller I can recommend to non-thriller readers. "This," I will tell them, "is a thriller!" Actually I will mean, "This is what I always want thrillers to be."
The hook is simple: a small plane crashes with two fancy business moguls on it. Also in attendance are their families and a down-on-his-luck painter. Only the painter and a four-year-old boy survive. The narrative winds back and surges forward in order to examine the events leading up to the crash and the consequences after.
It's fast-paced and tightly plotted, which is always on the menu of Genre Thriller Cafe. But BEFORE THE FALL also has a playful turn of the phrase, a decidedly character-driven story, and something to say about the media. It means that while you're devouring this particular menu item, you'll find that you might have to stop to chew, a welcome request in a genre that in both print and film has been overflowing with lump-free puddings since the 80s. I'll be putting this one on the plates of both my thriller-loving friends and those who normally stick with more literary fare.
I'd like to think this book LOOKS like my novels FEEL.
What do I mean by that? I'm not precisely sure. TALES FROM THE LOOP is an art book, a handsomeI'd like to think this book LOOKS like my novels FEEL.
What do I mean by that? I'm not precisely sure. TALES FROM THE LOOP is an art book, a handsome matte collection of a dreamy alternate 80s. There's a bit of text, but the text is mostly besides the point. Really, TALES FROM THE LOOP is about the images: hyper-realistic paintings of Swedish life with decaying robots, inquisitive dinosaurs, rundown hovercraft, and well-worn androids. It feels like our world, but just a little strange. Sometimes this strangeness is magical, and sometimes this strangeness is off-putting, and sometimes, deliciously, it is both.
I read it first on my own, paging through slowly, and then I paged through it again with my eleven-year-old son, who found it an even more wistful experience than I did.
Sometimes a book feels like it has always existed. It’s not that it’s predictable nor unadventurous, merely that you can’t shake the feeling as you tuSometimes a book feels like it has always existed. It’s not that it’s predictable nor unadventurous, merely that you can’t shake the feeling as you turn pages that it is familiar — you’ve read it before or just known that it existed for so long that it feels as if you had.
The Secret Horses of Briar Hill was that way for me. Other blurbs for it compare it to The Secret Garden (it does have a secret garden) or The Chronicles of Narnia (it does have tiny British children in big houses), but really, I think what they mean is this: it feels like it has been sitting invisibly on the shelf next to those classics for decades, waiting to be discovered. It feels old. Right. Uncovered, rather than written.
It is a simple story: a girl in a World War II children’s hospital —Emmaline — has been seeing winged horses in the mirrors of the building. When she discovers that an injured pegasus has arrived in a secret garden, an intimate and wintery quest unfolds as Emmaline performs tasks for the Horse Lord. It is a book about the magic of hidden places and the colorless misery of war and also a book about kindness in all its forms. Originally, I had typed that it was also a book about illness, but the draining fight against the “stillwaters” in Emmaline’s lungs is really just another battle in the war devastating Britain.
The Secret Horses of Briar Hill is a morsel of a book, just 231 pages on my e-reader. I read it in a single hour and a half session, which felt perfect: the ability to linger in the shivering atmosphere of the book without interruption seemed right. Theoretically this is a middle grade novel, but I can’t decide how I feel about that. I would hand this immediately to someone who had enjoyed CODE NAME VERITY or FROM SALT TO THE SEA or any of the other YA historicals I’ve loved within recent memory and I’d also hand it to any adult who grew up with the classics mentioned above and expect them to enjoy it, but I’m curious to know how my eleven and twelve year olds feel about it. So much of what made this book poignant to me was empathizing with the unsaid experiences of the adults around the children in the book, and although the book would work fine without that insight, there is one beautifully heartbreaking moment in particular that becomes muted if you aren’t paying close attention to the adults in the scene.
I adored it. It is not a bombastic novel nor an epic novel. It’s a sweet, sad, beautiful whisper in your ear. Enjoy....more