Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull
I have this book, and am already more than halfway through it. I love it. It's a young adult fantasy (or possibly middle reader, depending how mature the middle reader is). I'm sure the author's had lots of jokes made for being named Kat Cat and writing a bird book. She does a lovely job of it.
The story starts with sisters Summer and Bird at home. The setting is modern day, and the girls' mother is always telling them stories and singing songs about birds. Surprise of all surprises, Bird, 9, wants to be a bird, which irritates her big sister a little, who knows better at the ripe age of 12. Summer thinks it's silly, until they wake up one morning and their parents are gone. They learn that their mother used to be the queen of all birds, before her feather robe was stolen. The girls follow her into Down, where birds can talk and all their mother's stories come to life.
Catmull has a beautiful writing style, akin to an oral storyteller in the way she tells past and future events all at once. Her poetic lilt and the way she combines subject matter are very like Neil Gaiman's writing, and they remind me a little of all the stories in The Green Man, by Datlow and Windling.
The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress
I first ran across this book on John Scalzi's blog, where he had a wonderful Big Idea post by the author. The big idea behind her book, she said, should not be a big idea: that girls could be main characters in a story, without the story being focused on the fact that they were girls. Without making them weak, without making them ashamed of their attractiveness. Still flawed, of course, but you could replace her characters with boys and the story would be virtually the same.
"If you make a film about eleven men robbing a casino, the story is about eleven people putting together a cool heist first and foremost," Kress says in her post. "But switch the genders around. Do you see now how the film becomes first and foremost about women robbing a casino, not about a cool heist?"
The three women in the book are assistants to men in their field. They attend a ball and happen to meet, but before the night ends, a man turns up dead. I love Kress's Big Idea, which is why I want to give this book a try even though it's a bit different from what I usually read. It's steampunk, which is glorious, but it's also a murder mystery. I'm not a terribly big fan of mysteries. But every book needs a little bit of mystery in it, or there would be no story.