Glimmerglass by Jenna Black

It’s been a few weeks since I finished this one, so I’m going from memory here. I really enjoyed it – more so than other recent teen reads, I’ll say.

Glimmerglass reviewDana decides to leave high school after her mom shows up drunk (again) to her singing recital and embarrasses her: she heads over to England, to a town called Avalon. It’s the only place where the faerie world overlaps with the earthly one, and apparently the dad she’s never met lives there. Turns out her dad is actually a pretty important guy in Avalon, and everyone knows who Dana is — and wants her for something.

I liked the idea of Dana being a faeriewalker. (Someone who can travel between the human and faerie worlds, no problem, and can bring magic into the human world and technology into faerie. Ruh-roh, as Veronica Mars would say.) ¬†Plus it’s been awhile since I read a faerie book, AND Black‘s a pretty decent writer. Some of the plot elements are a bit obvious, but… that’s ok with me right now. Part of the mandate, I’ve found, is predictability (though, with a caveat: if good things happen unexpectedly, that’s ok. Bad things? No indeed. Foreshadowing, please!).

And, like so many teen books these days, it’s part of a series! I know, shocking. So I can always read more if I want to. Maybe later…

I picked up Linger by Maggie Stiefvater and Chime by Franny Billingsly from the library, but couldn’t bring myself to read either — just not in the mood, I guess. Chime seemed a bit … dark… for the mandate, and I tried a few pages of Linger and just couldn’t get into it. Probably partly because I had another few books lined that I KNEW I’d like … stay tuned for more about that!


The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

This book was so good!!! I feel like I start every second post with that sentence, but oh well. ūüôā I can’t help it if I keep finding all these wicked books! I can’t believe I didn’t read this one when I was younger. I would have LOVED it.

Kate is a lady in waiting (? or something? I am not too great at paying attention to courtly plot stuff) for the Queen’s sister in exile (Queen Mary Tudor, I believe), along with her sister Alicia. When Alicia makes a blunder, it is Kate who is sent away to the Perilous Gard (apparently a Gard is a castle); so called because it is rumoured to be in fairy territory.

This is a re-telling of the ballad of Tam Lin, apparently, though I was not really familiar with Tam Lin before I read the book. The Scottish ballad is about Tam Lin being rescued from the Queen of the faeries by his true love. I came across reviews of this book after reading Tithe by Holly Black, which is another book based on the ballad.

I thought this was a really great YA book, and very deserving of its Newbery honour. Pope‘s writing kept my attention as an adult and I highly recommend it. I am interested to read other re-tellings of the Tam Lin ballad. Time to start searching…

Jennifer Lynn Barnes – x3

I just finished reading my third book by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: Raised by Wolves. I LOOOOVEDD it. This, coming from someone who thinks the whole vampire/werewolves theme right now is ridiculous.

So, here’s the sitch. Our girl Bryn is a human that was raised in a pack of werewolves. When she was four, her parents were killed by a werewolf. Now she is fifteen and finds out that her pack has a human¬†boy who was bit by a werewolf and survived (and is thus now a werewolf himself). Despite objections by the pack leader, Callum, Bryn knows she has to see the boy, Chase. She knows it will answer questions about her own past. Like all of Barnes’ heroines, Bryn is smart, sassy, and strong-minded (love that alliteration).

I can’t tell you how surprised I was to LOVE a werewolf book, but such is the power of Barnes’ writing and characters. I will admit that when I first read the title, I thought¬†it would be a book about a girl who¬†was raised by *actual* wolves, and that plot idea was much more compelling to me (but probably not to most of the intended readers, and likely much harder to write convincingly about). But Bryn is totally kickass: she only plays by the rules when she has to, and she’s gonna get what she wants no matter what it takes. As I think I’ve said before, Barnes creates her worlds so effortlessly that you can’t help but believe in them right away.

So, of course, immediately after I finished the book, I had to go online and find out when the next one would come out: lucky me, Summer 2011! I only have a few months to wait.

Before I read Raised by Wolves, I had just finished Tattoo. This is the first book in the series about Bailey and her four friends, Delia (fashion, boys); Zo (brawn), and Annabelle (brains). I read the second book in the series, Fate, first. This one’s about faeries, kinda, and the three fates (life, death, birth). As it turns out, two of the fates have fallen in love and the third one feels left out, so she decides to take that out on the mortal world. It’s up to Bailey and her friends to stop the third fate from wreaking havoc. Luckily, they get some temporary tattoos that give them each a special kick. For such a short book, I found it amazing how alive the¬†characters felt.

I can’t recommend these books enough – they are quick reads with happy endings (which you know I am all about these days) and they all have sassy female main characters. What more does a girl want in a book?

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Just in case you’ve noticed that I’m posting an awful lot in a short amount of time, let me assure you that this will not be the norm.¬†Now that¬†I’ve decided to start keeping a list of the things I’ve read¬†since moving to the Island (well, really, since discovering how great the Victoria library is), I’m playing a bit of catch up. So once I’m caught up, my pace will slow down. Just fyi.

Sooo, Stardust. I first saw the movie, actually, and loved it. When I discovered that it was actually a book first, I was so pissed! I always want to read the book before seeing the movie. After having resigned myself to the fact that I was doing this in the reverse of my preferred order, I found the book and devoured it. I loved the tone of the book, the other-worldly, ethereal, mythical way it was written. I now love the book and the movie equally: they are quite different from each other and I enjoyed both. I had a hard time getting into the book since the edition I got from the library was some kind of goofy large-print book (beware the cover I posted a picture of here ‚ÄĒ supposed to be for teens, though it isn’t clear to me why teens require large print), which I found frustrating to read. After doing some research for this post, I have now discovered that the most popular version of this book (according to Wikipedia, which of course we all take as the Authority – if it’s on the internet, it must be true, right?) ¬†is one that is illustrated by Charles Vess. So of course now I will have to try and track that version down and read it again.

For those who don’t know, here’s the gist: Tristran Thorne, our main character, is from a small village in England called Wall, and is in love with the prettiest girl in town, Victoria. One night he’s walking her home and they see a falling star – Tristran¬†promises to bring Victoria the star. He ends up crossing the wall that runs next to his village (the one that the village is named for, and that separates the mortal world from the faery one) and heads off to find the star. He is not the only one in the faery world in search of the fallen star, though – some very old, very evil witches are also on the hunt for the star, whose heart will bring their youth back.¬† When Tristran¬†finds the fallen star, he is surprised to see that the star is actually a¬†girl named Yvaine. The story unfolds as Tristran¬†tries to bring Yvaine back to Victoria.

I’m so glad I discovered this book – I can’t wait to read more by Neil Gaiman!

Iron King by Julie Kagawa

I just finished this book last night. My first, surficial¬†impressions after finishing: first half was a struggle, second half was great. For me, parts of the first half seemed strained. It’s always difficult introducing readers to the world of your characters as a fantasy or sci fi writer, I think. Or even as a writer of general fiction. Some accomplish it with more grace than others. I’m on a real kick for reading stories about faeries these days.

This is yet another story about how a teenaged human girl finds out she is part magical creature (faery in this case). Puck plays a big part in this book, as the main character’s best friend (sent from the seelie court to protect her). Kagawa¬†has a great, original idea for the plot¬†‚ÄĒ¬†she’s got a third court in the faery world: in addition to the classic seelie¬†and unseelie¬†courts, she has the iron fey. The iron fey have sprung up from human’s feelings (or whatever) about technology, and as we know, iron is poisonous/harmful to most fey.

Our heroine is¬†Meghan Chase (excellent character name, I think), and I thought Kagawa’s portrayal of her, at first, was a bit superficial. She seemed a little two-dimensional. (really? she’s in love with “that hot football guy” at her school – the one who doesn’t even know she exists? how original.) I also wasn’t a big fan of how¬†Meghan reacted to finding out that she was faery – didn’t feel very artful to me. Not that it didn’t feel authentic, but it felt a bit … canned. HOWEVER. I will say, the second half of the book was fast-paced and carried me along on waves of its plot twists quite effortlessly. So much so that I will track down the next book.

For me, how much I like the main character is a big part of how much I like these teen fantasy faery books. So, while I applaud Kagawa for her imaginative idea of the iron fey, I would have enjoyed the book more if I had liked Meghan more. I think for other readers, the unique plot element might be more important though.

I feel a bit guilty about my lack of enthusiasm for this book, so please understand, Julie: I admire you for having the ladyballs to write a book at all. You rock.

I’m now reading Tattoo by Jennifer Lynn Barnes — I did this series backwards; read Fate a few weeks ago (the book that started my whole teen fantasy kick, actually!) and am now reading Tattoo. I’ll write a bit about both these books when I’m finished.

Hex Hall and Demonglass – Rachel Hawkins

These books are the ultimate in indulgence. I say that because, within the teen fantasy genre, these books are exactly what I’ve been looking for. They are well-written; the author does an artful job of making magic, faeries, and demons seem plausible enough, and doesn’t lay it on too thick – there’s enough cynicism in here that it doesn’t feel fake. The characters are likable, are not overly cliched, and are three-dimensional. No over-wrought teen angst here (just the regular kind). The books are short, and lots happens. THANK YOU RACHEL. With my recent re-entry into the teen fantasy forum, you have provided me with a true guilty pleasure.

A brief plot summary (hopefully without any spoilers) of the first book, Hex Hall: Our girl Sophie is a witch hopping from state to state, attending regular schools. When one too many of her well-intentioned spells goes awry, she is sent to the boarding school for misfit witches, wizards (warlocks?), and faeries (affectionately known as Hex Hall) on some island in Georgia (or somewhere in the southern US. forgive my crappy geography/memory). Not long after arriving she falls for the dreamiest¬†fella in school (who has a super-snotty gf), lands semester-long cellar detention with him, and befriends her roomie, the only vampire at the school (much hated by her peers). As usual, trouble continues to follow her around and pretty soon she’s wrapped up in some sinister, mysterious disappearances and something she doesn’t completely understand.

Other books I’ve read recently (or am reading) in the teen fantasy genre are:
Fate by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (I just got it’s precursor, Tattoo, from the library today! yay.)
Tithe by Holly Black (grittier; pretty good, but not quite up to the top-tier of my indulgence standards)
Iron King by Julie Kagawa (currently in the middle of this one – so far, so-so)
After finding the movie The Seeker on itunes¬†a few months ago, and promptly renting it, I’ve begun to reread Susan Cooper‘s The Dark is Rising series (a favourite of mine as a kid). So far, I’ve read the first two books (Over Sea, Under Stone and The Dark is Rising), and am in the middle of the third, Greenwitch. So far, the Dark is Rising is much better (just as I remembered) – seems to have stood the test of time best. Over Sea, Under Stone feels dated and reminds me a bit of Enid Blighton’s books (not that I’ve read any of those since I was 12 or so).
In a similar vein (though adult fantasy, not teen), I just read The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff. I can’t believe I haven’t been reading Tanya for years. I loved this book and devoured it almost as fast as Hex Hall (and it’s much longer, set in much smaller type). I’ll be on the lookout for others of hers.

Stay tuned…