You know what? Candlewick Press!

Hi, everyone! I am back from my hiatus and have missed you awfully. For the first few weeks I was like, Yeah! Freedom! No blog posts to write!, but then pretty soon I felt forlorn at not hearing from you, and I have this new Nook where you can highlight passages, which means I don’t have to constantly be at war with myself about whether this one passage is entirely awesome enough to be worth dogearing a poor little book what never did me any harm. I can just press highlight. Er, but anyway, so, I have missed you, and now I am back. I can’t promise I will be the world’s best blogger, but I’m going to do my best to schedule posts in advance and then be at leisure to answer comments and read your wondrous posts all during the week. We’ll see how it goes.

Upon the occasion of my return, I would just like to say: Candlewick Press. Is pretty much the greatest. It would be impossible for there to be one publishing house that published all the books to cater to all my reading needs, but Candlewick Press reliably hits a few very sweet spots for me, which are:

  1. Young adult books that do not mind being Dark. (Hi, Patrick Ness!) (It’s cool to be an author and have a last name that rhymes with “Press” cause then if Patrick Ness wants to he can say “I’m Patrick Ness of Candlewick Press,” thus making the world sound more like a Dr. Seuss book.)
  2. Excellent characters I care about.
  3. Putting excellent characters I care about in dark situations that are dark, and then sticking all the emotional landings. This is tricky! Not everybody can do it. But Candlewick authors seem singularly gifted in this area.

If you are taking this rave about Candlewick to mean that I still love Patrick Ness and have used the summer months to read through Melina Marchetta’s backlist, and am drawing generalizations based on those two examples because I like having rules to guide my reading, especially in YA fiction where I like plots dark and emotional landings stuck, you are correct. That is exactly what is going on here. But I think I’m right! I have a plan to read a whole bunch of Candlewick’s fall catalog of middle grade and young adult books, and then report back to you on how right I was about Candlewick being awesome in general. Not just because of two authors I think are good, but all the time.

So that’s that. Now, a programming note.

I am tired of my blog having this boring name, and I am thinking of changing it. I called it a boring thingĀ only because I did not really realize how amazing the blogging community was going to be, and that actual people in the world were going to be reading my blog. I thought it was just going to be a site on the internet nobody but me knew about where I would keep a record of what I was reading. But that turned out to be wrong, and then I was too lazy to change the name, but I kind of want to change it now. Any suggestions? Something slightly weird would be best, because I am slightly weird. And something that suggests “Books may be read about herein.” Or maybe something to do with being from Louisiana? Or living in New York? Or reading the end before I read the middle? Any suggestions are welcome!

And, hi! I missed you!

Review: Monsters of Men, Patrick Ness

Dear heavenly God. This book. Listen, everyone: Monsters of Men is being released in America on the 28th. That gives you just about enough time to go get the first two books in the series, The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer, and read them before Monsters of Men comes out. I strongly advise this course of action if you have not already read the series. Do it now. You will thank me later.

I started writing this post during Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and that feels fitting because if there is any set of books for which I am grateful to book bloggers, it is the Chaos Walking series. I wouldn’t have read this series, or probably even looked twice at it, without the blogosphere’s ardent recommendations, and that would have been terrible because it’s quickly become one of my most favorite series in all the land, surpassing books by authors I have loved for much longer. Like, I asked myself which could I more easily live without, the Chronicles of Chrestomanci or the Chaos Walking books? If one of them were going to be lost forever to human history, and I had to pick which one got to survive, I’d pick Chaos Walking. And y’all know how I love Diana Wynne Jones.

I shall continue to honor spoiler-free September for this book, but I really can’t talk about it at all without spoiling the first two books to some extent (as in: who survives the first two books). If you haven’t read The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer, please return to the first paragraph and follow its instructions before continuing reading this post. You will be happier in your life.

Where to begin? There were so many good things about Monsters of Men that naming just one, or even naming a few, feels completely inadequate. When the book opens, Todd has just freed the Mayor to command the human armies against the Spackle; Viola has gone to meet a scouting party from her colonization ship. The war against the Spackle proceeds along predictably horrifying lines, and even though you know the Spackle are justified, and the Mayor is evil sauce, you can’t help aligning yourself with the humans. Given your pick of humans and aliens, you’ll pick humans. Meanwhile, back at the scouting party, there is a different kind of awesome as Viola is reunited with two of the people who raised her on the colonization ship. Ness absolutely nails this: Viola has been through so much since she saw these people last, but in their minds she’s still the girl they’ve known all her life, and they are responsible for taking care of her.

Ness basically nails everything. There is not a false note in this whole damn book. Monsters of Men introduces a third narrator, the Spackle 1017 whom Todd let go in The Ask and the Answer. I was afraid this was going to feel put on, but that fear was, of course, unfounded. The Spackle’s narration gives us the aliens as they see themselves, complicating (of course) the war between humans and Spackle; and it also gives us his side of the events of The Ask and the Answer, which are even sadder than we knew at the time, and more heartbreaking than I would have anticipated. And, y’all, I anticipated a fair amount of heartbreak.

From the utter bleakness that was The Ask and the Answer, I thought Monsters of Men was going to be unmerciful, and it wasn’t that. Terrible things happened to major characters, but there were also moments of pure joy. I am thinking of one specific scene about two-thirds of the way through that filled my heart with happiness. If you’ve read it you probably know what I mean. Something happened that I desperately wanted to happen but did not think Patrick Ness would allow to happen, and I cried like a baby and read that scene over and over again. It is one of the greatest strengths of these books that Patrick Ness never ever fails to get the emotion he’s aiming for. I want to read these books a million times. Monsters of Men is a perfect conclusion to the Chaos Walking series. I have no complains whatsoever and will now go and reread that one scene again because it makes me cry just thinking about it. WITH JOY.

So many thanks to Heather at Candlewick Press for the review copy she sent me of this book. I was going insane waiting for it to come out in America and would have perished if I’d had to wait until September. Also, my family and friends were impressed that I got an advance reader’s copy, and I believe it was as a result of this that my mother, my friend, my sister, and my sister’s boyfriend all agreed to read this trilogy, and they loved it. Of course. How could they not? (Well, Captain Hammer has only read the first book so far, but he liked it and will assuredly like the subsequent books even more.)

Other reviews, probably including some spoilery ones, proliferate. Go ye to the Book Blogs Search Engine. And once again I would like to extend my strong and heartfelt thanks to Ana, who convinced me to read this series in the first place, kindly told me in April whether Todd and Viola were going to survive, and encouraged me to ask Candlewick Press for an ARC when I was shy.