Sunday, July 17, 2011

I could have been there . . . and more Frances Hardinge

Last weekend our tango teacher hosted a tango festival that we bought tickets for, but when Saturday night came around and it was time to go to the Gala (which starts at 10pm--past our bedtime), my husband and I looked across the couch at each other and decided we were too tired to go. This is what we missed:

For those of you who are serious tango fans, (and in case my video embedding didn't work) you'll want to see the rest of the videos from the evening: here they are. I am still kicking myself for not managing to drag my sorry behind out of the house!

And in other news, I just finished my third Frances Hardinge book, and I went to her website to confirm that I have now read all of her books, and it turns out she's just published a new one! Much excitement! It's a sequel to Fly By Night, which I shall now reread to get up to speed.

The one I just finished is Verdigris Deep (also titled Well Wished, which is more literal but way boringer). I won't do a whole review, but I highly recommend it. Very different from The Lost Conspiracy but equally well-plotted, well-charactered, well-written. This one's British urban fantasy, the kind where unwitting kids unleash ancient magic on their everyday town. Here's a great scene: "A shrill, laughing conversation upstairs, a television-crowd roar in the living room, and nobody with enough attention spare to notice as two children scrambled past, struggling to prevent a god escaping from a bucket." (They flush it down the toilet.) And did you know shopping carts were so creepy?

You know who would make the most excellent panel at a writers' festival? Frances Hardinge, Laini Taylor, and Neil Gaiman! (Round it out with Frannie Billingsley.) Oh, oh, and Neil Gaiman could collaborate on a novel with Frances Hardinge. You'd have to leave the lights on all night after reading it!

I have to leave you with another quotation from Verdigris Deep. She is just so amazing, the way she uses words to come up with concepts you hadn't ever thought of that way but know immediately are true:
People's personalities took up space, he sometimes thought. When they were trapped in a house or a job or a school together they rubbed up against each other, squeaked like balloons and made sparks. Ryan's parents both had large, gleaming, hot-air-balloon personalities. Sometimes it was hard to fit them into the same house, and Ryan had learned the art of suddenly making himself take up less space, demand less, so that his parents were not chafing against each other as much.
And here's a psyche-shaking one from the end of the book (no spoiler 'cause it won't make any sense until you read the whole thing):
The image that would not leave Ryan's imagination was of Josh walking with a mask-like countenance towards the woman who had tried to kill him, and giving her the child he could not be. 
As Kiersten White said in her blog post about author crushes (and she was referring to Laini Taylor!): "Oh my gosh. I want that brain. I will keep it for my own and love it and take care of it and decorate it for all major holidays."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White

I've revised my blogging goal: now I aim to blog twice a month. Clearly this is a more realistic goal that I might be able to achieve! I know it will disappoint all of you who hang on my every word, but you'll just have to appreciate me in fewer doses. And if I manage to write more than two blogs a month, it will be a happy surprise for all of us!

I have a number of books in my to-be-recommended queue. I'll start with Paranormalcy because it's a particularly fun one.

I've already sent you to Kiersten White's blog, so you know she's an extremely funny writer with a great imagination, and her debut novel doesn't disappoint. I think the best way to sum up Paranormalcy is to say it's Artemis Fowl for teenage girls. (Maybe a bit of X-Men thrown in for good measure.) It has the same humorous juxtaposition of the paranormal (in this case everything from fairies to vampires and werewolves)(mermaids, too) with an Organization.  So there are rules, procedures, protocols; yes there are monsters, but they're safely regulated. It's humorous because the otherworldly aren't supposed to follow rules (hence, "para-normal"). The opening scene, where Evie encounters a vampire being all menacing and she tasers him, slaps a cuff on him and reads him his rights, introduces the slightly flippant tone of the book. "I sighed. I hate the vamp jobs. They think they're so suave."

I interrupt this book recommendation to squee excitedly (as opposed to laconic squeeing, which rather defeats the point) about something I just found out while catching up on Kiersten White's blog: Laini Taylor has a new book coming out!!!!! It's not a Fairies of Dreamdark book; it's called Daughter of Smoke and Bone (awesome title) and you have to read the description in Amazon, because I'm pretty sure Laini Taylor wrote it herself. No one else says things like "Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky." Aieeeee! And I don't know when it's coming out so I don't know how long I have to wait! If you don't believe my posts about Laini Taylor, believe Kiersten White: this is an author you simply must read. 

Okay, back to the review of Paranormalcy (sorry about that!):

Main character Evie has grown up in the International Paranormal Containment Agency: she was an orphan with the previously unheard-of ability to see past glamours, and the IPCA took her in because this invaluable skill allows Evie to "bag and tag" paranormals who are a threat to humans. (To give them credit, the IPCA also offers refuge to paranormals who are threatened by humans). Evie wishes she could live a normal life, like the kids she sees on TV, but she doesn't question her place as the IPCA's most valuable operative.

Then things begin to go south, because the otherworldly don't actually follow the rules, and the International Paranormal Containment Agency is not as in control as it thinks it is. A shapeshifter arrives at the IPCA at the same time as someone starts killing paranormals in places they were supposed to be safe. While all this is going on, Evie learns she isn't quite who she thought she was. Whose side is she supposed to be on?

You will hate this book or love it depending on how you feel about Evie: I loved her, with her sparkly pink taser and her high heels and her addiction to teen soaps and her complete confidence in her own abilities. I loved that she is believably naive but able to think for herself; I loved her attitude and her vulnerability. I also really appreciated the romance element: not the typical tortured love triangle, and definitely not the I'm-unaccountably-attracted-to-this-mysterious-and-possibly-dangerous-stranger that's par for the course these days.

This is excellent summer reading: light, funny, and fast-paced. Fresh local raspberries brought home and washed and eaten at the kitchen sink right out of the container.

And book 2, Supernaturally, is coming out at the end of July. Just in time for peach season!