Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ah, the notorious Young Adult novel...

Since for a few of you, this is the first blog of mine you've ever read, this is going to be a wonderful illustration of how my thought process works.

Today was day 3 of a 4 day off weekend. As such, I wound up driving north to one of the outlet malls that actually has store I want to shop at and has prices that make me feel like it was worth driving up there. On the way home, I stopped in Ashland, Ohio, to hit one of the Amish markets that has really good cheese and pickles. And fudge. Pumpkin Pie fudge.

Anyway, I was hungry, so I drove into town and hit the McDonald's (Hey, Monopoly started and I want to WIN!) south of the Ashland University campus. And then I walked around campus for a while, remembering my time there.

See, I actually applied to Ashland and was accepted back in 1994, mainly because of the experience I had in 1992 there at the Governor's Institute for Creativity. Where in my particular group wrote, directed and performed an original one act musical. (I wrote 1.5 verses of a song and most of the scoring for the song. I also contributed most of the humor to the script, since adolescents and hormones usually equates with emo.)

So, what the hell does any of this have to do with a book blog?

We had two "talent shows" during the 2 week camp. A few folks read excerpts from novels they were writing. I read a story I had written that was based on a 2 sentence synopsis in a Christopher Pike book.

Yes, Christopher Pike. Some of you of a certain age may remember his rather large catalog. And R. L Stein.

Back in my high school days, I was known for reading tomes. Usually Steven King's back catalog, Anne Rice's Vampires, Clive Barker's stuff...Stuff that was very adult and huge time sinks. Thankfully, there's a wonderful world of Young Adult novels that are also horror themed. Christopher Pike (Showing my lack of Silver Age geekdom, I found out later that pseudonym refers to the original Star Trek) had a bunch of these. Of course, I also noticed that he tended to slip in New Age philosophy into many of the later novels, which made them more fun for me to read.

Mind you, he also wrote a few that went a bit on the preachy side. The Road to Nowhere is a good example of this. Not only does it center around a time loop (which is one of the sci-fi conventions that never ceases to annoy me), it also gets into the abortion debate. When I reached the last page, I gave the book a razzberry.

He also wrote a few which I still have copies of and still occasionally pick up and read. The best of them is The Midnight Club. It centers on 5 teens in a hospice (and believe me, I wish more hospices were converted mansions on the Pacific coast) who meet at midnight every night and tell stories. (If I tell you World's End is my favorite Sandman collection, will you see a pattern emerge?) One of the major plot points revolves around past lives and shared karma. But the real reason I loved it so much as a kid? One of the supporting characters turns out to be gay. Which is a major rarity in Young Adult (or maybe not anymore, it's been a while since I've had any reason to read it. That, and YA seems to be expanding a bit. See Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, etc. Now that Dumbledore came out [after he's dead, of course]...). But there it was. A gay character I could semi-relate with in a book. Something that was largely missing in my teen years.

He did write some Adult fiction as well, but the only one of his adult novels that I ever read centered around using K to bump people out of their bodies so dead Nazis could possess them. It was kind of stupid.

But still, Young Adult got a largely undeserved bad reputation. Much like "Adult" fiction, there's often hidden gems among the dross, which makes me suspect the ones I liked best had the same ghostwriters.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Introductions and the like

So, I caved in and created another blog I can forget to update as often as I should. I have two others that remain semi active and a few defunct ones that I don't think even exist anymore.

For the really curious, I'm one of 6 contributors at Together We're Better, a shared blog started back in January to help track New Year's Resolutions, and my LiveJournal, which like most of em gets personal and frequently emo.

Anyway, I wanted to set up a blog to help track what I'm reading, particularly since a good majority of what I'm reading anymore is series Urban Fantasy, and I tend to lose track of which authors I'm actually reading, then finding out I missed a release date by several months. I do read a lot outside of that particular area, however, I find books with scantly clad heroines posed provocatively on the cover tend to make good reading over lunch and on the bus, which is when I actually get most of my reading done these days.

To be fair, male characters are starting to make inroads into the genre (see Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden and Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid), and many authors have long since written their series out of the box I'm labeling here (LKH's Anita Blake [OK technically she started the current iteration of genre, but she's since gone off the deep end into supernatural erotica] and Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan). But still, so many remain behind, gradually getting better to a point where they don't have to follow formula quite as much.

Which is where my current read is getting to.

Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire is Book Six in her October Daye series. October, the main character, started off as a relatively weak Daoine Sidhe changeling, born to a fey mother and human father. The first book turned her into a goldfish in a koi pond for 14 years at the very beginning. As the series has progressed, October has become much more powerful, learned more about her heritage, met increasingly more powerful and devious villains...fairly standard formula stuff, and fairly well researched into the old myths. It's a bit like reading a campaign from the old Changeling: The Dreaming setting.

Now here, in Ashes of Honor, we find October resolving two long standing not quite antagonistic relationships. One with Tybalt, the King of the local cait sidhe clan, with whom she's been flirting and fighting with since book one, and with Etienne, the Tuatha de Dannan knight of her current court. Tybalt, you could see some kind of romance with coming from book one. Etienne...Well, Etienne is more or less a textbook example of Lawful Stupid. The very epitome of Paladin. And now, here in this book, we find he does have weakness. In a brief and understandable bit of stress relief, it seems he sired a bastard changeling on a Folklore professor at Berkeley. A child he didn't know about until she vanished and her mother accused him of taking her. Which, of course, it turns out the daughter managed to get a full compliment of Tuatha de Dannan teleportation powers and no limits, so she's opening portals to places Oberon locked up eons ago...(Hey, have to have a plot somewhere...)

Basically, the series, while remaining within the formula, remains fun reading. You can usually predict some of the major outcomes, but most of the collateral stuff remains unpredictable and amusing. As the series has progressed, more of the author's voice is showing in the text, making it much more enjoyable.

I'll also mention she's started a new series, InCryptid. Book One, Discount Armageddon, came out earlier this year. It got around the necessity of having a half naked woman on the cover by making the main character a waitress in a supernatural strip club. Thus she's normally dressed like a dancer from an 80's Hair Metal video. Also a fun read, given how she's playing with things like Gorgons, Boogymen, and Dragon Brides. (It's like reading an old horror movie magazine, only with snark. Love it.)

So, anyway, Almost done with the current book. Not sure what's next in the pile, but I think it has to do with some guy kung-fu fighting demons.