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Posts Tagged ‘Laini Taylor’

faultJohn Green’s novel The Fault in Our Stars (Penguin) continues to blaze in the literary sky, appearing on many best of the year lists. All credit to Time magazine for lauding the smart, funny and moving story of teens with cancer as its No. 1 fiction book of the year, even though other publications put it in the YA — young adult — category.

First published in January, the fourth solo novel from Green — who grew up in Orlando — was a pre-pub bestseller and garnered praise from the get-go with numerous starred reviews. It’s been optioned for a movie, is a Goodreads winner, and Barnes and Noble will issue a special hardcover collector’s edition next month. As far as I’m concerned, it couldn’t happen to a better book. I first read it last fall in a manuscript galley after signing a promise not to review it before publication. I laughed at the beginning, and then I cried later on, even as I smiled. Same thing when I recently reread it. Yes, it’s that good, and characters Hazel and Augustus that memorable.

It’s also a good time to be a YA author, with both realistic novels and fantasy titles finding large crossover audiences. Sure, the success of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy further enhanced YA’s popularity, but Harry Potter deserves the real credit. Not only did the series let grown-ups admit to reading kids’ books without apology, it also created a generation of readers thirsty for good books.

fairylandTime magazine’s No.5 fiction book for 2012 is also ostensibly a kids’ book, but anyone who loves layered storytelling and lush language will be enchanted by Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, paperback ARC). It’s a follow-up to last year’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which first introduced the Nebraska girl named September.

In the new book, nearly a year has passed since September has returned home, keeping her extraordinary trip to Fairyland a secret. But soon after she turns 13, a sweet, green-smelling wind ruffles the pages of her book, and September falls into Fairyland Below, where her lost shadow reigns as Halloween — the Hollow Queen — and old friends and new adventures await.

“The revolving door spun shut behind them and vanished. Satiny, perfect blackness greeted them, blacker than the Panther of Rough Storms in the midst of the most livid thundercloud, blacker than the ink-sodden page in Avogadra’s book. September’s eyes ached with trying to see through the crowblack air. Iago, being a cat, had a somewhat better time of it. He stepped forward carefully, his paws landing quietly as footsteps in snow.

“Someone lit a candle.”

Open Book: I read a lot of YA fiction, especially fantasy. I can recommend Aly Condie’s Reached (Penguin, purchased hardcover), the conclusion to the Matched trilogy; Laini Taylor’s Days of Blood and Starlight (Little, Brown, purchased e-book), the second in a trilogy; Veronica Roth’s Insurgent (HarperCollins, purchased e-book), the second in the Divergent series; and Kerstin Gier’s Sapphire Blue (Henry Holt, paperback ARC), the second in the Ruby Red trilogy.

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Paranormal is the new normal, especially in teen fiction. Ask teens if they’ve read any good books lately, and nine times out of 10, they’ll name a fantasy. Make that 10 out of 10. For this year’s recent Teen Read Week, 9,000 teens across the country voted at their local libraries for the 2011 Teens’ Top Ten, http://tinyurl.com/3hwnpy Steampunk, dystopia, apocalypse nigh. Vampires, zombies, aliens and angels. Many, many angels.

Karou is the girl with blue hair, the girl raised by demons, the girl who falls in love with an angel. She is also  the title character of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, a scintillating mix of myth and magic, religion and romance.

In the storybook setting of 21st-century Prague, Karou is an art student who occasionally puzzles her best friend with unexplained absences and detailed drawings of fantastic creatures. But how to explain her errands for the chimaera Brimstone, who looks like a monster and who trades in wishes and teeth? It’s what Karou has always known until enigmatic handprints start appearing on the portals to “Elsewhere,” and she is attacked in Marrakesh by a beautiful man with blazing eyes. He is the seraph Akiva, and he and Karou soon learn their destinies are joined by a 1,000-year-old war between angels and demons.

Taylor nicely tempers the exotic and epic with teen angst and snark. Karou may discover she has secret powers, but she still is a teenager with a cell phone and boyfriend trouble. The book doesn’t end so much as stop, leaving readers longing for the next in the series.

Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races is a dark horse tale. On the island of Thisby, which is rural and Gaelic, riders risk their lives every fall riding fierce water horses on a strip of beach. The stallions are predatory carnivores who pluck people off of horses and boats, drowning them in the sea.

At 19, Sean Kendrick is a Scorpio Race veteran and winner. This year he’s racing for the right to buy the red stallion Corr. Young Puck Connelly decides to race her land mare for the prize money she and her orphaned brothers desperately need. Both know they are just as likely to die as to win as they take turns narrating chapters.

Stiefvater’s atmospheric, present-tense story fairly gallops along. The water horses rise realistically from the waves, and the race itself is harrowing. Readers win.

Open Book: I bought the e-book versions of both Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Little, Brown) and The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic). I’m also about halfway through a digital galley of Lia Habel’s first novel Dearly, Departed (Random House via NetGalley), an inventive steampunk-zombie hybrid slowed by some clunky writing. But I want to find out what happens to New Victorian teen Nora Dearly and the oddly attractive and very undead soldier Bram Griswold.

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