My job sent me to the Texas Library Association annual conference April 13-15 in Austin this year, and it was a treat as always. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to attend three straight years in a row. In between attending sessions and speaking with vendors, I was able to pick up a few books from publishers that looked promising. I’ve already motored my way through almost four of them, and although they won’t be released for a few months yet, I figured I would give our readers a peek. Full reviews will come closer to publication date.
This is a change from Warman’s previous books. Liz Valchar wakes up on her parents’ boat the night of her 18th birthday and realizes she’s dead, but she hasn’t “passed on” quite yet. You see, Liz’s death wasn’t strictly accidental, and it appears she’s still hanging on in this world in order to solve her own murder. She’s joined by Alex, a fellow classmate, who was killed in a hit and run the year before. Unsurprisingly, the two deaths are linked. The plot is nothing new (it’s really similar to Amy Huntley’s The Everafter and others I could name), but Warman writes well and she’s created a compelling character with Liz.
Chloe lives with her older sister Ruby in a small town in New York, next to a giant reservoir. One night, Chloe is with her sister at a party at the reservoir, and Ruby tells the crowd that Chloe can swim to the other side of the reservoir and not drown. When Chloe attempts this, she finds a boat with her dead classmate in it. This event prompts Chloe to leave town to live with her father, but Ruby wants Chloe back. Two years later, Chloe returns to Ruby, and she begins to learn about the strange hold her sister has on the town and what really happened to the girl in the boat that night in the reservoir. The book is incredibly creepy, thanks in large part to Suma’s writing style and the character of Ruby, who is beautiful, manipulative, and selfish, yet so protective of her little sister Chloe. It’s a character study of the two sisters and a meditation upon sisterhood in general. It toes the line between fantasy, magical realism, and straight-up realistic fiction. So unsettling but very, very good.
Tamora Pierce, aka my favorite author from my teenage years, blurbed this book, so it was an immediate draw for me. It’s billed as a fantasy in the same vein as Pierce and Kristin Cashore, but in reality, it’s got a lot of elements that you don’t normally find in fantasy adventures. Carson is clearly trying something new here, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. When Elisa was a baby, she was gifted with a jewel in her navel, indicating she has been chosen to carry out a great act of service. What that service is, she doesn’t know (and in fact she’s terrified of what it might be). The book starts out slow, but the last two thirds pick up a great deal and they’re filled with some great action. There’s a lot of Spanish flavor to this book, which I appreciated, since so many fantasies go straight for the weirder than weird made up stuff or rely on old British Isle stand-bys. Religion also plays a major part. Carson has created her own religion for her book, but it’s quite similar to Christianity (in particular Catholicism), and I wasn’t ever able to puzzle out if the similarities were purposeful or not. This is not your typical fantasy.
I am about halfway through this book, and I am in love with it. Two ships are bound for New Earth sometime in the future. A girl and a boy, romantically linked, are separated by a battle between the ships. The girl, along with the rest of the girls on the first ship (ages infant through 15), are forcibly taken to the second ship and told they have been rescued. The boy remains on the first ship, along with a largely slaughtered crew, and must somehow work with the surviving boys to salvage a broken ship that’s filling with radiation. What I like best about this book is how I feel that I know what’s going on, and then Ms. Ryan throws me for a complete loop. She’s manipulating me in the best of ways. Plus, the writing is polished, there’s plenty of action and intrigue, and she knows how to write a good character. I predict this one is going to be huge.