Monday, April 11, 2011

PR Special Edition (29): Isabel Kunkle Guest Post

Poisoned Rationality Special  Edition

Welcome  to another Poisoned Rationality Special Edition!   Today we have Isabel Kunkle, author of Hickey of the Beast!  She's discussing her Favorite Books!

Synopsis: Connie thought freshman year might suck. She never thought it'd be literal.

Bad dreams? No big deal. After all, Connie Perez is starting her first year in the prep school her mom runs. Anyone would be a little stressed, right? When she starts dreaming about strange creatures and places that don't make sense, she doesn't think much about it: there's other stuff on her mind. Then she starts noticing that the people she dreams about get sick right afterwards.

Then everything gets weird.

There's something bad on the campus of Springden Academy. Something that feeds on students and warps their minds. And, as Connie and her friends try to figure out what's going on, it starts to look like she's the only one who can stop it.

Freshman year was hard enough without having to fight evil after class.

by Stephen King

I’m a Stephen King fan. Have been since I was eleven and I started reading his books because my fifth-grade teacher gave us regular lectures on how they were horrible and violent and a Bad Influence on Youth. He writes an amazing combination of supernatural weirdness and just plain life, and his writing style is vivid and really accessible: I’ve never had to try and get into one of his books. Full Dark, No Stars is no exception to either of those observations. I ended up reading it while walking home, a habit of childhood I’d mostly given up since growing older and moving to Boston, where the cars regularly try to kill me. King is that engaging.

King’s work also swings between grim-but-hopeful and incredibly bleak, with his short stories particularly skewed to the latter, and...well, in case the title didn’t give it away, this one heads out to the uber-depressing end and then just keeps going. I finished up the book and sort of sat staring ahead of me for a good minute or two. Seriously. The most hopeful stories are the ones that involve serial killers, so there we are. In a way, this is even more of a recommendation: King is the only author from whom I’ll read anything that I think will have a downer ending. If you yourself like dark and gritty, you will probably love Full Dark, No Stars even more.

by Terry Pratchett

As with King, I will read just about everything that Terry Pratchett writes, ever. The man is funny, accessible, and inventive; more than that, he’s touching in unexpected ways. I Shall Wear Midnight is the fourth book in his Tiffany Aching series, a YA subset of the Discworld books that follows Tiffany Aching (duh), a rural witch in training. As a general rule, Tiffany is made of pure undiluted awesome: she’s practical, stubborn, smart without being pretentious, and open-minded without being a flake. As she grows up, she also takes an interest in boys without going all gooey about True Love, either, which makes me very happy.

That particular theme plays a major role in I Shall Wear Midnight, too: Stuff Happens between Tiffany and the boy who was her kind-of-sort-of love interest in the first few books, and while some of it stung on a “but I was expecting something else” level, I really ended up liking the way it got resolved—it’s a plot that I think fiction in general could use more of. The metaphysical plot itself was not my favorite as the Aching books go, but I liked it pretty well, and it tied in nicely to everything else that goes on here. Seeing Tiffany actually becoming a grownup is great—and a little sad, in a way that’s the closest I’ll probably come to watching my kid graduate.

by Lisa Mantchev

Lisa Mantchev is a new author for me, and one I really like. Eyes Like Stars is the first book in the Theatre Illuminata series, which features every character who’s ever appeared in a play wandering around and getting into trouble, just about. First of all, fictional characters as independent agents is a concept that I love beyond all reason (see also Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next and Nursery Crime novels), so this is already making me happy. Second, the main character is a non-self-indulgent Plucky Girl. Oh, she does stuff wrong—Good God, does she ever do stuff wrong—but she has good intentions and faces the consequences and, again, doesn’t get pretentious or whiny about anything. Third, the love interests are a handsome pirate and Ariel as played by David Bowie, basically, and I have certain weaknesses. I have got to get the sequels!

by S.M. Stirling

This is the sixth in S.M. Sterling’s Emberverse series, in which the modern world loses electricity and internal combustion and basically all post-medieval tech. (I hear there are problems with the science, and I truly do not care: it’s wacky alien magic stuff and I spent most of my chemistry classes thinking about boys or DandD anyhow.) Civilization collapses and rebuilds, giving us an interesting take on how societies form out of ruin and how myths survive and adapt. These are things I love. Then there’s Weirdness.

A lot of weirdness, in this book, and a fair amount in the last. Some of the more nebulous things in the first trilogy become explicit here, and I like that. I still don’t understand all of it—particularly a scene at the end—but there are vaguely Theosophical zombies, and that’s kind of awesome. The whole second series plays out very much like an epic, with our band of heroes visiting strange places, learning their customs, and getting involved in their issues, and I love that. I love less the fact that Sterling writes one love interest per trilogy who needs slapping (I think Matti gets a slightly lower score on the “Oh my GOD, shut UP” Counter than Signe did, but she still bugs me), but life goes on. Plus, his other female characters make up for it, especially the Ranger chicks.

and by Jacqueline Carey

Another continuing series, this one taking place several hundred years after Jacqueline Carey’s first two Terre d’Ange trilogies. My other weaknesses include worlds that are kind of like our own but with interesting magical bits. I will also never turn down entire nations of ludicrously pretty and liberated people. Seriously. Terre d’Ange is an entire nation of salty goodness, to paraphrase Buffy, and there’s even some kind of descent-from-angels rationale for it. What’s not to like? Well, in fact, I didn’t care terribly much for the uber-special heroine of the first trilogy (she is Blessed Yet Cursed, and Nobody Understands Her) or her mad conflict romance.

That’s not a problem here, though: the Naamah books are set several hundred years later and feature a pretty and tough warrior girl from Alba, the Not!England of the books. Moirin has some special talents, and they do come at a cost, but I didn’t get any Unique Snowflake implications there. Rather, it’s an interesting look at serving one god among many, particularly since this series retains the fantasy-travelogue approach that the past books took. Again, that’s something I particularly like—I found some of the crazy politics in the first series confusing—so these novels were a good time, and I enjoyed Moirin herself a lot. She’s very much a free spirit, and very resilient considering everything that happens.

About half of the books mentioned are books I really enjoy as well or are books I'm looking to enjoy (looking at you S.M. Stirling, I own all your books, why haven't I read them yet?!).  How about you guys--any interesting titles you see?

Want to know more?  Check out my review of Hickey of the Beast, Isabel's webpage and blog Another Universe, Please and make sure to check out Isabel's other tour stops through Teen Book Scene!


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