Book Review for: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Image- Coldtown

Title: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Author: Holly Black

Targeted Age: Young Adult

Genre: Science Fiction/ Fantasy

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

 

Does the world need another young adult vampire novel? After reading, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, I’m happy to say, yes, we do, if Holly Black is going to write it.

When seventeen-year-old Tana wakes up at a sundown party, she realizes the terrible truth; she and her ex-boyfriend, Aiden, are the only ones to survive a vampire attack and they’ve both probably been scratched or bitten. Tana lives in a world where vampirism is caused by a virus and transmitted by scratches or bites. An infected human can get rid of the virus if the patient doesn’t drink human blood for 88 days, which means being locked up away from other humans. There are whole quarantined cities, called Coldtowns, throughout the country where the infected are sent to live.

Tana understands the danger of this disease and still bares the physical scars from it.  When she was six years old her father locked her mother in the basement, in a misguided attempt to treat his wife at home. Tana watched as her mother went from a caring parent to a manipulative user who would do anything to get a drink of blood.

Rather than risk harming others, Tana decides to take herself, Aiden, and the good-looking mysterious vampire boy chained to the bed, to Coldtown. No one leaves Coldtown but Tana’s pretty sure the vampire she’s going to turn in to to the Coldtown authorities is her key to getting out.

Holly Black takes the vampire mythology and manages to tell it from a fresh gritty angle with the quarantined Coldtowns— part MTV reality show, part cold war Berlin, and part prison. In addition to levelheaded Tana, Black populates the book with colorful characters, like Winter and Midnight, twin bloggers hitchhiking their way to Coldtown to chase their dream of becoming vampires, and Gavriel, the beautiful centuries-old vampire with a secret mission.

Book Review: Stranger and Hostage (Books 1 and 2 of The Change Series) , by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith

Image- StrangerStranger (The Change, Book #1), by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith

Targeted Age: Young Adult

Genre: Science Fiction/ Fantasy

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Stranger is an enjoyable new young adult science-fiction novel that stands out among the many teen dystopian novels published since The Hunger Games made the New York Times bestseller list. Instead of predicting that humans can only respond to hardship with aggression and malice, Stranger imagines a world in which the best of human nature also comes out after disaster.

The story takes places generations after a catastrophic event rocked the world and wiped out most of its technology.  Leftover radiation changes some people, giving them unique powers.  The “change” tends to occur during times of strong hormonal upheaval—pregnancy, birth, adolescence, or menopause.

The City of Los Angeles has been reduced to a small frontier town now called, Las Anclas—full of diverse people— who work together, for the most part, to keep the town independent from despot King Voske’s nearby empire. In Voske’s empire, which looks a lot like the typical dystopian society, “the changed” are controlled by the king and used to keep the commoners in line.

While Las Anclas works to value all its citizens, there are those in the town who fear “the changed”. The town’s sovereignty depends on guarding the city walls against Voske’s army though. Volunteers, called Rangers, protect the city. The town needs every strong warrior and that means accepting any man or woman willing, including “the changed”.

Sheriff Elizabeth Crow rescues teen prospector, Ross Juarez, one of the stories main characters, during a shoot out with one of King Voske’s men. Now the people of Las Anclas must decide if they will protect Ross and let him stay—despite his change.

Brown and Smith fill their world with a diverse cast of fully developed characters, free of stereotypes, and full of progressive ideas about relationships. The story is told through five narrators: Ross, three teen girls, Mia, Jennie, and Felicité and another teen boy, Yuki— each with their own unique personality. Yuki is gay and his romance to another local boy is treated as if it’s any other romance.  In fact, there are a couple of non-straight romances in the book, between minor characters that are also treated as completely ordinary.

The multiple viewpoints made me very aware of the complexities of a town’s politics. As Ross, Yuki, Mia, and Jennie rush to defend their town’s unique hopeful nature, I felt like I was right in the center of a story of action and danger hoping for the best to happen right along with them.

 

Image- Hostage Hostage (The Change, Book # 2)

Target Age: Young Adult

Genre: Science Fiction / Fantasy

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 

I won’t say too much about this book except that it satisfyingly continues the story of Las Anlas and Voske’s Gold Point City, again using multiple points of view to tell the story from many sides.  I’m looking forward to the next 2 books in the series.

 

 

Favorite Short Story Collections Read From 2013-2014

Science Fiction / Fantasy Short Story Collections 

Image of Blood ChildBlood Child and Other Stories, by Octavia E. Butler (July 2003) – This is an excellent collection of five short stories and two essays from Ocativa Butler—including her “male pregnancy” story. Her writing is deceptively simple, and her stories contain clever ideas in worlds that are so well-developed, in just a few pages, that I wished most of them had been developed into novels. I also liked her reassuring essays about writing.  Reading this collection makes me even sadder that Butler died in 2006, when she was only 58 from a fall/stroke.

Image- Near and FarNear + Far, by Cat Rambo (September 2012) – The paper version of this short story collection is two books in one.  On one side is a collection of “near” future short stories, flip the book over and it’s a collection of “far” future stories. Cat Rambo is probably one of my favorite current speculative fiction short story writers.  Her stories tend to be clever, imaginative, and often feminist, with literary touches.

 

Young Adult Short Story Collections 

Image- KaleidoscopeKaleidoscope Story Collection: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories (August 2014) –  A good collection of YA science fiction and fantasy stories with an emphasis on diversity.   The first story about a disabled super hero is probably my favorite. It’s just so cheerful and charming. There are a number of other good stories though, including one about an Olympic ice skater using future technology, and a story about a young woman befriending alien students at her school.  There is a heavy emphasis on young women as protagonists, which I liked, but I thought the collection might have been more well-rounded if there were also one or two more stories featuring diverse young men as protagonists as well.

Image- My True Love Gave to MeMy True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories (October 2014) – I read this YA holiday romance short story collection over winter break. It features stories from Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, and a host of other bestselling YA authors. There’s really not a bad story in the bunch—though I certainly liked some of the stories more than others. Overall, it’s a charming collection of holiday cheer and romance that I highly recommend.

Favorite Grown Up Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books Read in 2013 – 2014 (Catch Up Post 2)

While I was too sick to blog I read light, escapist adult novels—lots of chick-lit and action-adventure. Here are my favorite grown up sci-fi/fantasy reads over the past two years.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Fiction for Grown Ups

Image- Ready Player OneReady Player One, by Ernest Cline (August 2011) – is a computer-aged version of Charlie searching for the golden ticket to the chocolate factory.  Like Charlie, Wade Watts lives in a grim world where most people are poor.  The only good thing about his life is The Oasis —a free virtual world with decent online schools, games, ways to earn a living, and more.  Wade attends school and spends all of his free time searching the Oasis for the three keys its creator, James Halliday, hid before he died.  Whoever finds the keys first becomes the new owner of the Oasis. A competing corporation has sent out hundreds of its own employees to find the keys so they can turn the Oasis into a money maker. Hundreds of independent “gunters”, like Wade, are trying to find the keys first, to preserve the one good thing about their world. Halliday came of age in the 1980’s and so the hunt is full of 80’s games, movies, and TV references— an era Wade has become an expert in.  It’s a tightly structured, engaging adventure, chock-full of fun 80’s details.  The enjoyable audiobook version is read by Wil Wheaton, which is amusing since Wheaton is one of the cultural references mentioned in the story.

Image- FledglingFledging, by Octavia Butler (January 2007) – I’ve read a number of Octavia Butler’s short stories but Fledging is the first novel of hers I’ve read.  She puts a neat twist on the whole vampire concept in this Jane Doe-type courtroom drama.

 

 

 

Image- Agent of HelAgent of Hel: Dark Currents (October 2012) and  Agent of Hel: Autumn Bones (October 2013) by Jacqueline Carey- I ended up reading the first two novels in this paranormal detective series because they were the picks for Felicia Day’s Goodreads book club (see more information below).  The series reminded me a lot of urban fantasy version of Janet Evanovich’s chick-lit-esque Stephanie Plum series, except instead of having a young woman investigating crimes in Trenton, New Jersey, Daisy Johanssen investigates crimes in Pemkowet, Michigan—a town with a open-secret connection to the supernatural and underworld. They’re fun, light novels—with a touch of emotional darkness—and a good dash of sex and romance.

Image- Wicked as They ComeWicked As They Come, by Delilah Dawson (March 2012) is another fun read from the Vangial Fantasy Book Club list.  Tish Everett— a home healthcare nurse getting over a difficult breakup—is strangely attracted to a necklace she finds at an estate sale.  When she wears the necklace to bed she’s transported into the world of Sang.  In Sang vampire-type people called Bluds are a marginalized minority and most of the worlds animals are bloodsuckers.  Tish meets handsome blud carnival owner,Criminy Stain, who insists the necklace she’s wearing was like an otherworld classified ad for his truelove, and the fact that she’s attracted to the necklace means she’s meant to be with him.  This is a enjoyable escapist fantasy romance set in a fun over-the-top world.

You Tube Book Clubs

Image- Vaginal FantasyVaginal Fantasy Book Club (on Goodreads and YouTube) – For a long while I’d been looking for a source for romance novels that were more feminist, preferably with sci-fi/ fantasy or historical elements.  I finally found the perfect source in Vaginal Fantasy Book Club.  The book club is run by actor/producer Felicia Day ( Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along BlogThe Guild, Supernatural). Every month she and her three friends pick two novels to read—one main pick and one alternative read.  

On the last Tuesday of the month the group gets together on Goggle Hang Outs/ You Tube to discuss the main book. The video discussions are available on You Tube, go on for about an hour, and are like eavesdropping on an especially fun, cool book club.   One member of the group also makes a short video to discuss the alternative book. There is also a forum on Goodreads and a Twitter feed that the group uses for discussing the book.