Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Nebula nominations and other recent reading

Getting on toward the end of January, and to my surprise I’ve actually read quite a few books — even though I’ve been working on projects of my own, too.  (More about that later.)  There are several things that led me whittling down my immense Get To It Someday pile o’ books:

I wanted to read some YA because I’m tossing around ideas for starting another YA novel.  Books read:

Thirteenth Child (Patricia Wrede) — very nice, if a little predictable.  Wonderful writing and characterization, of course, and I particularly enjoyed the steam dragons, even though we barely saw one.  What a neat idea!

Graceling (Kristin Cashore) — kind of a disappointment.  I think it had been built up too much by everybody talking about it and so my expectations were too high.  I had a hard time believing in the characters or the situations.  Loved the climb through the pass, though.

The Sky is Everywhere (Jandy Nelson) — whoa. I see why THIS one go so much attention.  *These* are characters you can believe in.  Such a strong voice for the main character!  I’d be so jealous, except I’d never have written a book like this anyway.  Amazing treatment of grief, but actually not a downer at all because of the great ending. All that AND a fantastic title, too.

Birth of the Firebringer (Meredith Pierce) — sorry, but though I hoped to like this and expected to like it, I just didn’t.  The impulsive bratty heir to the throne thing?  Doesn’t do it for me.  I finished it, but only because it was short.

And I’m re-reading The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynn Jones, but I don’t know if that counts because I’ve read it before.

Also, just about time to send in Nebula nominations!  First time I’m nominating anything because at this point last year I’d hardly read anything from 2009.  But this year I’ve read quite a few books from 2010, plus I’m reading a few more that I had on my Get To It pile just in case I want to nominate them.

The Warded Man (Peter Brett) — I liked it, but not enough to nominate it for the Nebula.  Nice setting, good writing, good pacing — I really did enjoy it.  But the main character is kind of an obsessive idiot and twice I wanted to pound on the table and shout:  WHAT ARE YOU DOING, YOU IDIOT? and I hate that.  Even when I get that the character is flawed in ways that lead to moments like that, I still hate it and wonder if the author could have handled things a little differently.

The Black Prism (Brent Weeks) — Now, this one I’m nominating.  The author’s Night Angel trilogy was a little dark for me, but though this book isn’t exactly light and fluffy and pink unicorns everywhere, it didn’t go quite as far with the physical and mental torture and worked for me much better.

I loved the magic system, so unusual, and Weeks handles it beautifully. And the characters are excellent.  And the plot twist halfway through?  I so didn’t see it coming.  Wow.  It *was* foreshadowed, the author was playing fair, but I didn’t see it coming anyway.  I love that.  I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this book.  Really nice job.  I can’t wait for the sequel.

Dragon Keeper / Dragon Haven (Robin Hobb) — I enjoyed these a lot, even though for me the main dragon character was totally unsympathetic. I just hated her.  I really liked the human characters, though, and the author really kept me guessing about how some of the plot threads involving minor characters would work out.  Not the main characters, though, everything there was pretty predictable.  And I absolutely expected that little plot twist right at the end, after the barge gets stuck.  I hope that wasn’t supposed to be a surprise.

The pace of the books was pretty slow, but actually I enjoy that if the worldbuilding is cool and detailed, which it was here.  These were the first books I’ve ever read by by this author, and I think I’ll look up some of the others set in the same world.

Next up —

I really need to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by Jemisin.  And the second book, too, that’s on my pile also and it also came out in 2010, so I need to get to it right away.  I’ve heard good things about this series and it would be great to have another book to put on the nomination form.  I’ll read that this week.  Or next week at the VERY LATEST.  I really need to finish writing at least one more scene of the book I’m working on myself, though, and preferably right now while it’s flowing well.  In two to four days I should be done with that and ready for these.

In the YA category, by the way, I’m nominating A Conspiracy of Kings (Turner) and I Am Not A Serial Killer (Wells).  The former is just wonderful in every way, the fourth book of an utterly fantastic series; and the latter is really good, really interesting, and has the most unusual protagonist basically ever.

I’m not nominating Mockingjay because I’m sure lots of other people will and I really want to see the other two books land on the ballot.

And that’s it for nominations for me.  I don’t read enough short stories or novelettes or novellas to have anything there.

AND!  In other news:  Keep an eye out at your neighborhood bookstore!  Or go check out Amazon!  Because THE FLOATING ISLANDS is so close to landing on shelves I can hardly stand it!

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