Welcome to Smugglivus 2013! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2013, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2014.
Who: Merrie Haskell, author of middle grade fantasy novels The Princess Curse and 2013’s The Handbook for Dragon Slayers. We dearly loved both books, and are so thrilled that Merrie can join the Smugglivus festivities this year.
Please give it up for Merrie, everyone!
I read some great stuff this year, and thanks so much to Ana and Thea for letting me talk about these books!
I will now endeavor Thematic Lumping. Because I’m like that.
Rae Carson’s The Bitter Kingdom wrapped up her amazing first trilogy this year, and I could not have been more excited to get my hands on it. The trilogy is a fitting heir to my childhood favorite, Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword, in the “bewildered girl comes into her own power in a desert” vein. (That’s a vein, right? A very, very specific vein, I suppose, but an important one.) The main character goes from being the reluctant bride in an arranged marriage to an independent and capable ruler. I adored the moments where Elisa took charge and truly came to understand her own worth. I love the subtleties of the world-building as much as I love anything about this trilogy. A very powerful conclusion, and if anyone hasn’t broached this trilogy yet, now is the time.
Cassandra Rae Clarke’s duology, Assassin’s Curse and The Pirate’s Wish wrapped up this year as well–I read both of them this year, in fact. Actually: “bewildered girl comes into her own power in a desert” might hold true for these books as well. Clarke’s books are wildly romantic in the best possible way, but they really impressed me with their examination of promises and fate. I have always loved the trope of “you saved my life and now we are bonded forever” and this book starts there and goes all the way out the other end of examining that trope. So much fun.
Two books I read this year that seemed to be speaking on some of the same topics were Karen Healey’s When We Wake and Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince. Healey’s book is the more straightforward of the two, though it is satisfyingly complex in its own right. Healey’s story is of a young political activist who dies and is cryogenically frozen, to be resuscitated in a future where environmental catastrophe is present and real, but many of the things she fought for have come to pass (gay marriage not being an issue at all anymore, for example). It’s quite poignant, and addresses so many things that are going on right now in a future context. There are similar environmental, political, and class themes within The Summer Prince, which takes place in a world beset by a nuclear winter. Johnson’s book has layers upon layers of complexity; sexuality and gender are fluid in the society she’s drawn, and there is a fascinating dialogue about the importance of art throughout. Both books are wonderful.
Books I Read This Year That Were Not Published in 2013
Ursula Vernon’s Digger series is killing me. Graphic novels about a wombat! I laugh, I cry, I kick myself for not reading these earlier.
I re-read Cynthia Voigt’s Jackaroo, which is the first of her Kingdom series. I love the books in this series: They are so beautiful, sharp and subtle, and each one builds on the other in ways that just hurt, but so good.
Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale. If you are looking for a hilarious modern take on Northanger Abbey–and why wouldn’t you?–this is the one.
Books I’m in the Middle Of
I’m always reading about five books at once. At the moment: I am all of the way into chapter 3 of Robin McKinley’s Shadows, which I hesitate to describe because I’m not actually yet sure what it is about (did I read the blurbs? No, I did not. Why would I need to know what a Robin McKinley book is about?) and she has already made me tear up once with spot-on insight into what it’s like to have a single mother and have to act a little older than you really are.
I am likewise reading: Nova Ren Suma’s 17 & Gone, Jaclyn Moriarty’s A Corner of White, and Carey Wallace’s The Ghost in the Glass House. And I’m sure something else.
Books I’m Looking Forward To
I’m keen to read the conclusion of Sarah Zettel’s American fairy trilogy; I think it’s just a brilliant concept, fairies in the Dust Bowl. I am currently reading a narrow spectrum of books in 2013 for an award jury, and I have been so focused on that, I mostly don’t know what’s on the radar for next year in YA/MG–I’m just really looking forward to reading everything I’ve had to miss in all the other genres lately. I’d like to read Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker trilogy, for example, and I have been meaning to finally dive into Middlemarch forever. I’ve had Lara Zielin’s The Waiting Sky on my TBR pile for too long. I can’t think of the last time I cracked a contemporary YA, so that will be novel. Forgive the pun. And I haven’t re-read Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion in about two years, so it is time!
Thanks so much, Merrie!
We have two awesome books up for grabs – one copy of The Handbook for Dragon Slayers and one ARC of Merrie’s upcoming book, The Castle Behind Thorns. The contest is open to all, and will run until Sunday, December 8 at 12:01AM EST. In order to enter, use the form below. GOOD LUCK!