Friday, October 30, 2009

Best Book of October...

It's not even November yet and I can already tell you what the Best Book of October was: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Absolutely, this choice is a no-brainer :)

It seems to me that I've been hung up on YA novels lately: Shiver, Vampire Academy, Wicked Lovely, etc. I don't generally read lots of YA novels but I've been hanging out quite a bit in my local library's YA section and I keep finding all this good stuff. I did try to read A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray but it just wasn't for me. The Hunger Games, however, was totally and completely awesome.

Suzanne Collins has created a world where the (former) United States is more like North Korea: the citizens are kept under airtight control with poverty and starvation. To reinforce the sovereignty of the Capitol, each of the now twelve districts are forced to hand over two of their young people to be pitted against one another in a survival game to the death. And the citizens are required to watch this spectacle where their children may die on live television after they've been turned into celebrities. The main character, Katniss, volunteers to take her younger sister's place in the games and is sent with Peeta, a boy who she doesn't really know but has a sort-of history with. This book was riveting with its fast pace and smart writing. There isn't a boring part in this book and I had to make myself put it down for the night when I was reading it; otherwise I would have been up way too late and if I didn't hate mornings so much, I would have stayed up to finish it :) Catching Fire, the sequel, wasn't quite so good as The Hunger Games but I think that's more because I became so emotionally invested in the characters and a lot of crappy things happen to them. The next book, still untitled as far as I can tell, will most likely not be out until next September. Ugh. Write faster!

Ink Exchange and Fragile Eternity

I'm not sure I like where this series is going. I so enjoyed Wicked Lovely and the introduction of Aislinn. She seemed much older to me in that book, more adult and maybe a little more wise. Definitely more mature. Aislinn wasn't in Ink Exchange that much; she is turned into a part of the scenery in Leslie's world. Delving into the Dark Court was very interesting, seeing Irial's management style and the different types of players definitely helped describe life in Faerie. I felt bad for Leslie and even more so for Niall, who I love. I am so happy that he's a major player now :)

Fragile Eternity is a transitional story. Has a perfect title too. It returned the focus to Aislinn, Keenan, Donia, and in particular, Seth. Ash's honey is now also a major player and it is bound to cause lots of problems. Good. I intensely dislike Keenan - a master manipulator, Keenan couldn't care less who gets hurt or stepped on when it comes to getting what he wants, faery or mortal. He is definitely about to reap what he has sown. Introducing the High Court was important too as that's Seth's court now. War is imminent amongst the faeries and Aislinn has some key decisions to make. Does she still want Seth? Will she finally give Keenan the kick in the ass he so desperately needs? Will she grow up and fulfill her role as Summer Queen or is she going to wallow some more, tempted by Keenan but unsure about Seth? She really regressed in this book and I was so disappointed in her. But she is only a teenager (technically) without much experience beyond high school. Maybe this is the whole point of the story, Aislinn's progress in maturation and turning faery. A coming-of-age story maybe? All I really know is that the next one won't come out until April and I have six more months to wait :)

Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris

I check in on Charlaine's website weekly; she splits her weekly entry into half book reviews, half journal entry. She's had the first chapter of this book up on her site for a month or two and when I read it, I wasn't sure I was going to like this book. We all know her last Sookie book was pretty serious and I was shocked how many people criticized her for it. IMHO, she can't write a bad book but I just wasn't jazzed up for this one. Harper's life isn't that exciting and her relationship with her stepbrother/best friend/lover Tolliver has, as Harper said in this book, an "ick factor." In many ways, each book is quite similar - Harper and Tolliver travel all over the U.S., hired by people who are generally skeptical at best in Harper's talent of finding the dead. Someone decides that they are worth taking a shot at and then they solve the mystery and go along their merry way. There's also quite a bit of angst, definitely understandable, about their childhood, their neglectful parents who went to prison, their little sisters being raised by an aunt and uncle who don't like Harper and Tolliver, but most of all is Harper's missing sister, Cameron. Well I have news for you-all, Grave Secret ain't boring.

I won't rehash the whole plot of this book since you get the gist on the dust jacket but I will say that several of the dangling plotlines that have around since the first book are resolved. Family stuff in particular is focused upon and I was so relieved about that. It was about time too; backstories tend to be cleared up around this time in a series. We get to meet Tolliver's father and the way he was wrapped in the mystery in this book was interesting, if not exactly surprising. Harper and Tolliver end the book with a (mostly) happy ending and I expect that the next book can be started with a (somewhat) fresh start.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Very freaking cool. As I've said before, I don't usually enjoy books about the
Fae but I LOVED this one. I've had a lot of luck with YA series as of late and I just picked up this one from the library because I recognized the author's name. I'm so glad that I grabbed the second one in the series, Ink Exchange, since I plan to get into that one tomorrow. I recently saw a review for Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series that said (I need to paraphrase here) that the reviewer's favorite thing about that series was that it didn't talk down to the reader. I'm not sure if I agree completely with that statement in regard to Mead's series but it certainly does apply to this one.

Aislinn (love that name, pronounced Ash-linn) is a senior in high school and can see the Fae just like all the other women in her family. Faeries are everywhere in her town and she has learned how to live among them without attracting their attention - think of the creatures in Pan's Labyrinth. That is, until she meets Keenan. The Summer King, Keenan has been searching for his Summer Queen for years. His mother is The Winter Queen, a cruel and murderous woman, responsible for binding his powers and keeping him weaker so she might stay in control. Keenan needs his Queen to release his powers and help vanquish his mother. Aislinn wants nothing to do with the Fae and wants someone completely unrelated to all this mess, Seth. (I wasn't completely sure how old Seth was; he lives alone in a train car of all things, doesn't go to school, and as far as I could tell doesn't work.)

This book focused mainly on the most integral people in Ashlinn's life: her grandmother, Seth, Keenan, Donia (the Winter Girl), and a few assorted friends, none of whom make much more than a few appearances and then only at school. I appreciated the lack of the high school drama; Ashlinn's friends don't know about her abilities or even the existence of the Fae so they weren't important to the meat of the story. Ashlinn has some serious choices to make that could put her whole future in jeopardy, and with Seth, a slightly older boy who isn't involved in the inanities of high school, her romantic life was more adult but not too adult. Keenan did strike me as someone who seemed younger than he should; why would an immortal being like the Summer King look for his Queen to be someone who hasn't even fully grown yet? It is a YA novel after all, I guess :)