Charles de Lint‘s latest novel, Dingo, is certainly good, but it was less wonderful than I expected. Worth reading for fans? Yes. But if you haven’t read anything of his, don’t start with this, or you’ll have an unfairly low opinion of his talent (my favorite book of is is The Blue Girl).

Dingo is told from the viewpoint of Miguel, a teenager who is working at his father’s store one day when a girl and her dog come in and change his life. Lainey is a beautiful girl, with eye-catching red hair the same color as her dog’s coat. Em, the dog always at her side, is less than fond of Miguel. They have just come from Australia, and Lainey is being homeschooled by her stepfather, Stephen.

Lainey is gorgeous and smart and funny and seems to like Miguel. He can’t stop thinking about her. Still, though, there’s something a little strange, a little off about Lainey and her life. He’s not sure what it is, so he can’t tell his friends, even when strange paw prints show up outside his window, or when he starts having bizarre dreams. Lainey needs his help, and he needs Lainey–but is he up to the challenge, far greater than it seems, of saving her?

It’s hard to give a summary without  giving away too much, though if you read any summary of the book online, you’ll find out a major plot twist (which I advise you not to do, if you dislike spoilers. Don’t read anything else about it). I liked this book. I read it all at once, never putting it down. But isn’t the author’s ability to make us  suspend our disbelief essential in fantasy? I never felt like I was able to stop questioning certain elements of this book–the love story in particular, which happened quickly and was never explained in such a way as to satisfy my disbelief. I also felt like Charles de Lint took the easy way out, the short way of solving the many problems, in a way (though it was still difficult for the characters–I just mean from a writing standpoint). After thinking long and hard about it, I realized that this seems like a several-hundred-pages-more-long story abridged and shortened and made into something that makes far less sense but is only 213 pages long. This is a big story crammed into a little book, a book of such a length that Charles de Lint didn’t explain things well enough, a short book that meant he took too many shortcuts. There was so much potential in Dingo to be amazing and brilliant, and I know Charles de Lint is capable of that, but this potential was far from realized.

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I wanted to absolutely adore A Curse As Dark As Gold. After all, I’ve heard a lot of great things from people whose opinions I trust (Miss Erin and Sookie at Over My Head, for example). So maybe I had unreasonably high expectations opening this book, and I’m afraid I wasn’t quite as taken with it as they were, though I did really enjoy it, and any disappointment is probably my own fault for having unreasonably high expectations. I will certainly look forward to future work from Elizabeth C. Bunce, and highly recommend this debut novel!

That said, A Curse As Dark As Gold is an enchanting fairy tale retelling of Rumpelstiltskin.  In it, Charlotte Miller’s father has just died, leaving her in charge of Stirwaters, the mill that’s been in her family for generations. Though their cloth is lovely and they work hard, Stirwaters has always had a run of bad luck. No son has lived to adulthood, so the mill has passed from Miller to Miller, but in a rather haphazard way–from uncle to nephew to cousin to brother, etc. Charlotte and her younger sister, though, are the last of the family, and they’re determined to hold on to the mill.

Of course, that won’t be as easy as it sounds. Charlotte has to keep the mill from being seized by debt collectors, and being female at this time makes things particularly difficult. And that bad luck? There have always been whispers of a curse on Stirwaters. Charlotte’s not the superstitious type, but now she’s starting to believe it might be true…

So what desperate measures will Charlotte take to save Stirwaters? She’s not sure how far she’ll go, until Jack Spinner shows up with promises to be her salvation. But what will be the cost, in the end, and is she willing to pay it?

Elizabeth C. Bunce’s debut novel is a well-told and well-written story, populated by interesting characters. Its setting is a slightly fictionalized time in English history, and, well, I’m a sucker for all things English, past and present, and I really enjoyed the setting. The story starts out a little slow for my taste, but certainly picks up by the end (the last hundred or so pages, I couldn’t put it down and read all through Spanish class). A Curse As Dark As Gold is an intelligent, original, and interesting new take on an old fairy tale, and a marvelous debut novel.

Also check out Erin’s wonderful interview with the author.

This is another YALSA list. Borrowing the idea from Little Willow, I’ve pasted the list below, with the ones I’ve read in bold, and the ones I plan to read in the near (or near-ish…) future underlined. The lists are divided by category. Conclusions I draw from this? I love urban fantasy, and am not usually into sports stories. What about you all? Oh, and does anyone know how to do some sort of “behind the cut” thing in wordpress?

Sex Is….

Barnes, Derrick. The Making of Dr. Truelove. 2006. Simon Pulse, $7.99 (ISBN13: 978-1-4169-14396).

Behrens, Andy. All the Way. 2007. Puffin, $7.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-14-240833-9).

Blume, Judy. Forever. 2007. Simon Pulse, $8.99 (ISBN13: 978-1-4169-3400-4).

Brian, Kate. The Virginity Club. 2005. Simon Pulse, $5.99 (ISBN13: 978-1-4169-0346-8).

Burgess, Melvin. Doing It. 2006. Henry Holt & Company, $6.95 (ISBN13: 978-0-8050-8079-7).

Cabot, Meg. Ready or Not. 2007. HarperTeen, $6.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-06-072452-8).

Davidson, Dana. Played. 2007. Jump at the Sun, $8.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-7868-3691-8).

Ha, Thu-Huong. Hail Caesar. 2007. PUSH, $7.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-439-89026-7).

Hartinger, Brent. The Order of the Poison Oak. 2006. HarperTeen, $6.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-06-056732-3).

Kazumi, Maki. Desire. 2004. Digital Manga Publishing, $12.95 (ISBN13: 978-1-56970-979-5).

Klause, Annette Curtis. Blood and Chocolate. 1999. Laurel-Leaf, $6.50 (ISBN13: 978-0-440-22668-0).

Levithan, David and Rachel Cohn. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. 2007. Knopf, $8.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-375-83533-9).

The Little Black Book for Girlz: A Book on Healthy Sexuality. 2006. Annick Press, $8.95 (ISBN13: 978-1-55037-954-9).

Lockhart, E. Fly on the Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything. 2007. Delacorte, $8.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-385-73282-6).

Medina, Nico. The Straight Road to Kylie. 2007. Simon Pulse, $8.99 (ISBN13: 978-1-4169-3600-8).

Pardes, Bronwen. Doing it Right: Making Smart, Safe, and Satisfying Choices About Sex. 2007. Simon Pulse, $14.99 (ISBN13: 978-1-4169-1823-3).

Ruditis, Paul. Rainbow Party. 2005. Simon Pulse, $12.95 (ISBN13: 978-1-4169-0235-5).

Scott, Elizabeth. Bloom. 2007. Simon Pulse, $8.99 (ISBN13: 978-1-4169-2683-2).

Wallington, Aury. Pop! 2006. Razorbill, $8.99 (ISBN13: 978-1-59514-092-0).

Watase, Yuu. Absolute Boyfriend, Volume 1. 2006. VIZ, $8.99 (ISBN13: 978-1-4215-0016-4).

What Makes a Family?

Alvarez, Julia. Finding Miracles. 2006. Laurel-Leaf, $6.50 (ISBN13: 978-0-553-49406-8).

Bauer, Cat. Harley, Like a Person. 2007. Knopf, $8.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-375-83735-7).

Cohn, Rachel. The Steps. 2004. Aladdin, $4.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-689-87414-7).

Ferris, Jean. Of Sound Mind. 2004. Sunburst, $6.95 (ISBN13: 978-0-374-45584-2).

Frost, Helen. Keesha’s House. 2007. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $8.00 (ISBN13: 978-0-374-40012-5).

Headley, Justina Chen. Nothing but the Truth (And a Few White Lies). 2007. Little, Brown, $7.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-316-01131-0).

Johnson, Angela. The First Part Last. 2004. Simon Pulse, $5.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-689-84923-7).

Kantor, Melissa. If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince? 2007. Hyperion, $8.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-7868-0961-5).

Kidd, Sue Monk. The Secret Life of Bees. 2005. Penguin, $16.00 (ISBN13: 978-0-14-303640-1).

Kingsolver, Barbara. The Bean Trees. 1998. Harper Torch, $7.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-06-109731-7).

Marchetta, Melina. Saving Francesca. 2006. Knopf, $8.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-375-82983-3).

Myers, Walter Dean. Bad Boy: A Memoir. 2002. Amistad, $7.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-06-447288-3).

Patterson, James. Maximum Ride: School’s Out—Forever. 2007. Little, Brown, $7.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-316-06796-6).

Perkins, Mitali. Monsoon Summer. 2006. Laurel-Leaf, $6.50 (ISBN13: 978-0-440-23840-9).

Reinhardt, Dana. A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life. 2007. Wendy Lamb Books, $8.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-375-84691-5).

Rottman, S.L. Shadow of a Doubt. 2003. Peachtree, $7.95 (ISBN13: 978-1-56145-354-2).

Schraff, Anne. Lost and Found. 2007. Scholastic, $3.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-439-89839-3).

Sones, Sonya. One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies. 2005. Simon Pulse, $6.99 (ISBN13: 978-1-4169-0788-6).

Triana, Gaby. Cubanita. 2006. Rayo, $7.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-06-056022-5).

Walls, Jeannette. The Glass Castle: A Memoir. 2006. Scribner, $15.00 (ISBN13: 978-0-7432-4754-2).

Wittlinger, Ellen. Zigzag. 2005. Simon Pulse, $6.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-689-84998-5).

Woodson, Jacqueline. Miracle’s Boys. 2006. Puffin, $5.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-14-240602-1).

Zeises, Lara M. Anyone But You. 2007. Laurel-Leaf, $6.50 (ISBN13: 978-0-440-23858-4).

Magic In The Real World

Barnes, Jennifer Lynn. Tattoo. 2007. Delacorte, $7.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-385-73347-2).

Black, Holly. Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie. 2005. Simon Pulse, $7.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-689868-23-8).

Card, Orson Scott. Magic Street. 2006. Del Ray, $14.95 (ISBN13: 978-0-345-41690-2).

Chima, Cinda Williams. The Warrior Heir. 2007. Hyperion, $8.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-7868-3917-9).

De Lint, Charles. The Blue Girl. 2006. Puffin, $7.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-14-240545-1).

Friesner, Esther. Temping Fate. 2007. Puffin, $6.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-14-240848-3).

Funke, Cornelia. Inkheart. 2005. Scholastic Paperbacks, $8.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-439-70910-1).

Gaiman, Neil. Neverwhere. 1998. Avon, $10.95 (ISBN13: 978-0-380-78901-6).

Hoffman, Nina Kiriki. A Fistful of Sky. 2004. Ace, $7.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-441-01177-3).

Horowitz, Anthony. Raven’s Gate: The Gatekeepers, Book One. 2006. Scholastic Paperbacks, $6.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-439-68009-7).

Johnson, Maureen. Devilish. 2007. Razorbill, $8.99 (ISBN13: 978-1-59514-132-3).

Jones, Diana Wynne. Deep Secret. 2002. Starscape, $5.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-7653-4247-8).

Lackey, Mercedes and Ellen Guon. Bedlam’s Bard. 2006. Baen, $3.99 (ISBN13: 978-1-4165-3282-8).

Larbalestier, Justine. Magic or Madness. 2006. Razorbill, $7.99 (ISBN13: 978-1-59514-070-8).

Mlynowski, Sarah. Bras and Broomsticks. 2005. Delacorte, $8.95 (ISBN13: 978-0-385-73184-3).

Riordan, Rick. The Lightning Thief. 2006. Miramax, $7.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-7868-3865-3).

Swendson, Shanna. Enchanted, Inc. 2005. Ballantine, $12.95 (ISBN13: 978-0-345-48125-2).

Vande Velde, Vivian. Now You See It . . . 2006. Magic Carpet Books, $6.95 (ISBN13: 978-0-15-205461-8).

Westerfeld, Scott. Midnighters: The Secret Hour. 2004. Eos, $6.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-06-0519537).

Yolen, Jane and Adam Stemple. Trollbridge: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy Tale. 2007. Starscape, $5.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-7653-5284-2).

Yoshizumi, Wataru. Ultra Maniac Volume 1. 2005. VIZ Media, $8.99 (ISBN13: 978-1-59116-917-8).

Anyone Can Play

Andora, Anthony. Rhysmyth. Illus. by Lincy Chan. 2007. TokyoPOP, $9.99 (ISBN13: 978-1-4278-0088-6).

Carey, Mike. Re-Gifters. Illus. by Sonny Liew and Marc Hempel. 2007. Minx, $9.99 (ISBN13: 978-1-4012-0371-9).

Colton, Larry. Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor on the Little Big Horn. 2001. Grand Central, $14.95 (ISBN13: 978-0-446-67755-4).

De La Pena, Matt. Ball Don’t Lie. 2007. Delacorte, $7.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-385-73425-7).

Deuker, Carl. High Heat. 2005. HarperTeen, $6.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-06-057248-8).

Feinstein, John. Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery. 2006. Yearling, $6.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-553-49460-0).

FitzGerald, Dawn. Soccer Chicks Rule. 2007. Square Fish, $6.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-312-37662-8).

Hamilton, Bethany with Sheryl Berk and Rick Bundschuh. Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board. 2006. MTV, $12.00 (ISBN13: 978-1-4165-0346-0).

Hawthorn, Rachel. The Boyfriend League. 2007. HarperTeen, $5.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-06-113837-9).

Hughes, Pat. Open Ice. 2007. Laurel-Leaf, $6.50 (ISBN13: 978-0-553-49444-0).

Konomi, Takeshi. Prince of Tennis Volume 1. 2004. VIZ Media, $7.95 (ISBN13: 978-1-59116-435-7).

Lipsyte, Robert. Raiders Night. 2007. HarperTeen, $6.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-06-059948-5).

Lupica, Mike. Heat. 2006. Puffin, $6.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-14-240757-8).

Miller, Timothy. NASCAR Now! 2006. Firefly Books, $24.95 (ISBN13: 978-1-55407-148-7).

Murdock, Catherine. Dairy Queen. 2007. Graphia, $8.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-618-86335-8).

Rottman, S.L. Head Above Water. 2003. Peachtree, $6.95 (ISBN13: 978-1-56145-238-5).

Scott, Kiernan. I Was a Non-Blonde Cheerleader. 2007. Puffin, $7.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-14-240910-7).

Skate and Destroy: The First Twenty Five Years of Thrasher Magazine. 2006. Universe Publishing, $32.50 (ISBN13: 978-0-7893-1386-7).

Takanashi, Mitsuba. Crimson Hero Volume 1. 2005. VIZ Media, $8.99 (ISBN13: 978-1-4215-0140-6).

Tomlinson, Joe with Ed Leigh. Extreme Sports: In Search of the Ultimate Thrill. 2004. Firefly, $19.95 (ISBN13: 978-1-55297-992-1).

Volponi, Paul. Black and White. 2006. Puffin, $6.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-14-240692-2).

Wallace, Rich. Wrestling Sturbridge. 2001. Laurel-Leaf, $5.99 (ISBN13: 978-0-679-88555-9).

I’d heard a lot of good things about Kathleen Duey’s Skin Hunger before finally picking it up. It’s blurbed by Holly Black, Nancy Farmer, and Donna Jo Napoli, and Justine Larbalestier has also said great things about it on her blog. That’s an impressive list of people who loved this one! It was also a National Book Award finalist. All of which are great endorsements for the book, but lead to (possibly unreasonably) high expectations.

When I started this book, I was less than impressed. It’s two (at first, seemingly disconnected) narratives, the first third-person from the point of view of Sadima, a girl with magic living in a time when it’s banned, and the second the first-person narrative of Hahp, a boy sent to the wizards’ academy to learn magic–or, more likely, to perish within its walls, as over 90% of those who come in do–in a time when magical secrets are kept hidden, but are greatly respected (a later time).

Both are good. At first, neither story really blew me away. I put the book down several times, after just a few pages, with no particular rush to finish.

Somewhere, though, it started to grow on me, without me even knowing it. By the time I neared the end of the book, I couldn’t put it down! I raced to find out what would happen next to the characters. I don’t want to say it starts slow, because that doesn’t even feel like the right wording to use, but I don’t know what is. Whatever the reason, though, it quickly became one of my favorite fantasies in recent memory. I was actually strongly reminded of Tamora Pierce as I read, which, from me, well, there’s little higher praise; I adore Tamora Pierce’s books. A quick note, though: it’s the writing that reminds me of Tamora Pierce, not the characters–Pierce would never write the character of Sadima. She is realistic, for her world, yes, but Pierce’s heroines are generally far more independent than Sadima is.

The characters, who at first seemed rather flat, quickly grew quite real to me. Kathleen Duey’s writing drew me in, and she made me believe in not one world, but two, over the course of one novel! That’s really rather remarkable. The story moves along quickly, but not too quickly–there’s so much suspense building! My only issue with this brilliant novel, once I’d finished, was that it does not stand on its own. It is not a story in and of itself; there are major cliffhangers at the end. As much as I love series, I also like the books to be able to stand on their own, to some extent, and Skin Hunger doesn’t have that. I don’t want to wait ages for book number two; I’ve become invested in the lives of these characters! I want to know what happens next!