Smugglivus Smugglivus Guest Blogger

Smugglivus 2011 Guest Blogger: Jodie of Book Gazing

Welcome to Smugglivus 2011! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2011, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2012.

Who: Jodie, one of our favourite book critics, running the excellent UK-based blog Book Gazing as well as Lady Business (co-edited by Things Mean a Lot’s Ana and Subverting the Text’s Renay).

Please give it up for Jodie!

It’s Smuggliiiiiivvvuuuuuusssss!

I’m so happy that Ana and Thea decided to ask me to celebrate the holiday all book lovers look forward to each year. In the true sci-fi spirit of The Book Smugglers I’ll first take you back in time to look at five books I really enjoyed reading in the last 11 months:

Loved in 2011

The Night Watch – Sarah Waters:

This is the second Sarah Waters novel I’ve read and I loved it so much. So many of things I like to read about are included: GLBTQ lives during the World Wars, male prisons, women beginning to work, romance – all that is topped with a twisty literary structure. I am assured that Fingersmith is the best of Waters work, but I doubt it’s as related to my specific interests, which might mean I like Night Watch better. Promise not to disown me if it turns out I’m right!

Homicide Related – Norah McClintock:

Homicide Related is the second in a trilogy, about Ryan Dooley the teenager who was saved from the typical life of an alcoholic, drug addicted teen just getting out of juvenile detention, by his incredibly strict uncle. The first novel, Dooley Takes the Fall, provides a great character study of the troubled Dooley, as he tries to make it through life with his head down while struggling with flaws and addictions, but I thought the mystery element of Homicide Related was much clearer. In this novel there’s all the grit, soul searching, down played emotion and red herrings of your typical adult ‘down on his luck detective’. By using that traditional character type to describe a teenager (and by creating a really human character within the rules that define this character type) McClintock brings something new and exciting to YA.

The World More Full of Weeping – Robert J Wiersema:

This is an exceptionally slim novella, with an incredibly powerful impact. Brian Page’s parents have agreed that he should go and live with his mother. That means leaving the woods behind his father’s house, a place which provides Brian with the most joy he’s ever known. The book begins just before Brian goes missing in the wood, switching back and forth between the present search and the weeks before he disappeared. The World More Full of Weeping is a book with a simple but emotional tale to tell, full of ordinary details that come together quietly to ensure that the reader has a clear picture of the world they’re reading about. And because it’s a book about woods, the ever present fairy tale setting, don’t rule out the possibility of some magic.

Slowly, the reader learns just what has happened to Brian and it will freak you out, without the ending being steeped in blood or even that depressing. The ending really got me, because it contains a display of emotion so raw and yet unexaggerated it broke your little loving heart.

Fury of the Phoenix – Cindy Pon:

The follow up to Pon’s Silver Phoenix is rather a change of pace. Fury of the Phoenix contains just as much action as Silver Phoenix, beginning with the heroine Ai Ling leaping onto the side of a vast passenger ship from a fisherman’s boat. However, as much of Ai Ling’s story takes place on board a long boat trip to a foreign land, the pace of the sequel does feel calmer at times than the first volume. Personally I love sea going adventures. Put a boat in your book, fill it with a cast of interacting characters, chuck in a bit of peril and I will sit rapt at any author’s feet. Include ship board romance and I’ll bring cookies shaped like doubloons (essentially round cookies) to fuel said author.

For readers who want a bit of off ship action (what are ships not exciting enough for you? They have rigging and galleys!) there’s a second storyline set in the past that follows Ai Ling’s enemy Zhong Ye. It’s remarkable that Pon manages to humanise a character who was so wholly villainous he may as well have been twirling a damn moustache in Silver Phoenix, without requiring Ai Ling, or the reader to justify his attack on Ai Ling in the first book.

The Dispossessed – Ursula Le Guin:

I’m a new convert to Le Guin’s novels, since Nymeth told me I should give her books another go. This piece of sci-fi illuminates so much about real life systems of labour, exchange and politics through the juxtaposition between its fictional worlds Urras and Anarres that the reader comes away feeling infinitely smarter. It also contains a tender, personal story of love, family and self-development and a symbolic, literary structure to keep even the most sci-fi averse lit junkie happy.

And now I’ll take you forward to gaze in wonder at six futuristic reads. See, who needs a Tardis?


Longing for in 2012

Ship of Souls – Zetta Elliot:

Ship of Souls has a pre-order date. Whoopee! I read a couple of excerpts on Elliott’s blog as she was in the process of writing this book and I would very much like it now, please. February seems very far away. Unlikely friendships and romances are promised, as teenagers embark on a dangerous journey that will take the characters to some of the real life landmarks, which Elliott has mentioned are particularly special to her.

The Hunt – Andrew Fukuda:

I was a huge fan of Fukada’s debut novel Crossing, but had no idea he had a new book in progress until I saw an author tweet about it. I feel like the internet has let me down *stern face*.
Crossing was a realistic contemporary novel about one teenage boy’s struggles with his immigrant experience and the suspicions of a small town. The Hunt sounds like a total change of pace, with Fukada launching into a sci-fi trilogy. The books main character Gene lives in a world where humans have been hunted to extinction, where he must hide his human identity from everyone around him. I haven’t come across a sci-fi world where humans aren’t a dominant force in some time, so this book promises to offer a new, exciting fictional situation.

Unspoken – Sarah Rees Brennan:

Gothic houses, ruling families, secrets, female reporter heroines! All the authors whose blogs I follow seem to be writing books made just for me right now.

Team Human – Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan:

I may have tweeted that this is my perfect book made real. Here’s a little bit from Sarah Rees Brennan’s blog announcement about the novel that illustrates why:

‘And then I thought, well, a book about friends, will people get it? Will they want it? Will people think we’re making fun of vampires because we wrote a funny book about vampires, when we LOVE VAMPIRES?’

I have been literally been waiting for a book like this ever since I was a little vampire loving teen. I too am a girl who loves vampires; I grew up watching Buffy and The Lost Boys. All I read for months were Anne Rice and L J Smith novels. However, I also really like vampire parodies and being encouraged to pull all the symbolism out of ‘Dracula’ at university means I can’t help but see the strange traditions at the (cold, grey) heart of most vampire media. I LOVE vampires, but I also like for people to be smart and aware about vampires.

Now that Ana and Thea have established that Team Human really, really isn’t a hoax I can start my anticipation labelled wait.

Spellbound – Rachel Hawkins:

We will finally find out who is dead and who was saved after the dramatic cliff hanger ending ofDemonglass, as the Hex Hall trilogy comes to and end. OMG why did Rachel Hawkins dooooo that? I’m still not over it! Is Jenna ok? I must know! I’m also excited to see a tribe of Irish warrior women go from being Sophie’s enemies to her allies. I love when YA gets all the women working together.

The Brothers – Asko Sahlberg:

I search out stories about brothers, because they’re often male focused stories which concentrate on the exploration of male emotion. The eighth book published by Peirene Press, follows two brothers that fought on opposite sides in a war. In peace time must return to their family farm to live together. Can you say awkward? That’s definitely a situation that would yield strong and clashing emotions.

Thank you, Jodie!!

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  • Michelle
    December 6, 2011 at 2:28 am

    I’m looking forward to Spellbound too! I’m sad to see a favorite series come to an end though.

  • Bob Cravener
    December 6, 2011 at 3:53 am

    Have you checked out Chronicles of Silvercrest. I sure would like your opinion on it as it is my first Novel.

  • Doret
    December 6, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    I’ve heard a lot of great things about the Ryan Dooley series but it’s not available in the States. 🙁 And Team Human is already in my 2012 queue. 😛

  • Jodie
    December 7, 2011 at 12:28 am

    Michelle: I know, no more Sophie snarking on everyone 🙁 On the plus side Rebel Belle in 2013.

    Doret: Dooley is not available in the US? What madness is this, isn’t McClintock a Canadian neighbour? If you want I will totally get you a copy of the first one and post it to you.

  • Jen B.
    December 7, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    My kids have begged me to stop calling everyone Sweetie! It’s just do much fun!

  • SandyG265
    December 9, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    I’m looking foward to Spellbound.

  • Vasilly
    December 10, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Jodie, thanks for reminding me about The Soul Full of Weeping! I bought it ages ago because of you but haven’t read it yet. I’ll start this weekend. Great post!

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