Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Host, by Stephenie Meyer

Wow. Talk about a wild ride. You get on and there's no getting off. You can't even stop to breathe! The tension is unrelenting. You have to keep going till the end.

I loved the concept of alien parastites taking over humans for "the greater good," at first emphasizing the tendency for humans to be violent and unreasonable, and later defending us as the most desirable companions in the universe.

I also loved the concept of two enemies sharing the same body, forced to get to know one another and eventually coming to love one another. I loved how the two identies occupying the same body have distinct personalities, which is underscored by their being in love with different men. The conflict of the two men both wanting the same body but being in love with two different persons is brilliant.

The ending might have gone on a little too long, but that's my only complaint about this exciting, interesting, and moving read that has made its way up to one of my top picks!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Starters, by Lissa Price

Starters is a  dystopian novel about a war-torn society in which unclaimed minors struggle to survive without getting caught by marshals, who want to institutionalize them. Because most of the middle-aged citizens were wiped out in the spore wars, the society consists of minors and the elderly. A power-hungry entrepreneur has developed a company called Prime Destinations at which impoverished minors, also called starters, can make money by renting their bodies out to elderly folks referred to as enders. Callie, desperate to help her sick younger brother, becomes a renter when things go wrong. The person renting her body pulls her into an investigation of Prime Destinations and she gets caught in the crossfire where she can't always tell who her friends are.

There were a lot of things I loved about this book. I loved the concept, and thought Price did an excellent job making the technology believable. Other areas weren't quite as believable, in my opinion, and at times I felt like some of the language describing emotional scenes was a bit heavy-handed, but the logistics of switching bodies was well presented. The plot was also compelling. There was never a dull moment.

Overall, I would recommend this story and look forward to the sequel.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sabriel, by Garth Nix

I'm glad I read this story. Initially I didn't like it. Nix started the story off with lots of action, but did little to make me connect with and care for the main character, Sabriel. I pushed onward anyway, and became intrigued by the author's creativity, especially with the necromancer's use of bells. LOVED that. The charter marks and sendings were also interesting, as were the paper flyers. The world, in general, was captivating, and by the last half of the story, Sabriel's character began to shine. I also enjoyed the relationship that developed between Sabriel and Touchstone.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Poison Princess, by Kresley Cole

This post-apocalptic fantasy novel based on the arcana of the Tarot cards pulled me in with riveting action and compelling characters. I grew to really care about Evie, the main character, and fell in love with Jackson, the sexy eighteen-year-old Cajun boy who protects her through much of the story.

As much as I loved the book, I was confused as to why Evie was telling her story to Arthur and couldn't believe she would tell this stranger such intimate details. The ending explains why,but I wish the novel would have hinted to this explanation from the beginning. The whole time I kept thinking, "The author didn't need this frame around Evie's narrative. Why did she even include it?"

As wowed as I was by the revelations at the end of the book, I was disconcerted by the many unanswered questions. Because this is the first book of a series, I guess I'll defer my judgment until I finish it, which I definitely plan to do!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

This story, about two young women, a Scottish spy and an English pilot during World War II Nazi-occupied France, pulled me in, yanked me around, and left me feeling breathless. The narrative begins in Queenie's point of view, as she writes to literally save her life as a prisoner of war in a French hotel that's been converted into a place of torture by the Nazis. Queenie oscillates between recalling what she knows of the wireless operators working for the resistence and Ally forces--including their codes, locations, and activities--and details about her torment as a prisoner. As a once refined, uperclass student at Oxford, Queenie employs literary devices to dramatize her story for her captors, writing more than required. She also needs to write, to help her deal with her terrifying situation and to return to a time when she was still with her best friend, Maddie.

Maddie, the English pilot, is not refined. At a time when women were discouraged from flying--used only as a last resort--she just wanted the opportunity. Raised by grandparents who own a motorbike store, Maddie has her own motorbike (and independence) and quickly learns how to work on engines. Once her talents are recognized, she quickly becomes the go-to pilot for a French resistence unit flying by moonlight on secret airfields getting people in and out of the country, not far from where her best friend is being held captive.

I don't want to give too much away, but the story continually surprises to the very end while it simultaneously pulls at your heartstrings. The attention to detail--historical, geographical, and mechanical--was sometimes difficult for me to follow, and I would think a teen would have even greater difficulty. I also worry the details about torture might be hard on some teen readers. I often thought while reading that the novel may be more suitable for adults. But maybe I'm not giving young people enough credit.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Insurgent, by Veronica Roth

I just finished the second book in Veronica Roth's dystopian Divergent trilogy, Insurgent, about a society divided into five factions, each based on a particular value. Among the society, there exist the factionless, most of whom have minds different from the others, minds that are more flexible, that can see value in more than one faction. Those people with more flexible minds are called the divergent. In book two, a group has arisen to resist the efforts of one faction to dominate the others, but the motives on either side of the war aren't as black and white as they seem.

The compelling plot had me on edge for the entire read. Although the fast-paced plot was sometimes exhausting, I felt like Beatrice, the main character, unwilling to rest.

At times, I doubted twists in the plot and worried I was being manipulated and would come to the end, disenchanted and upset. But the ending brought all of the plot points together in a way that overcame my doubts and reinstilled my confidence in the saga, and now I'm eager for the next book. Hurry up, Veronica Roth!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Divergent, by Veronica Roth

At first, I didn't think I was going to enjoy this novel, because the choosing ceremony reminded me too much of Lois Lowry's The Giver, but it didn't take long for me to change my mind. I was quickly drawn into the action, into Beatrice's dilemma, and into her relationships with the people around her.

I appreciated how the author represented all five factions without favoritism. All five had positive and negative traits, allowing readers to decide which faction best represented their values. I found myself contemplating which faction I would choose. My initial thought was Euridite, because I love seeking knowledge, but I wonder if my love for peace is greater, putting me in Amity. I would definitely not choose Abnegation or Dauntless! Not sure about Candor, either.

Although the action was gripping, the relationships between the characters are what kept me reading. Roth really knows how to draw her characters and make them real. In fact, as much as I loved The Hunger Games, I think I enjoyed this story more because of that, and I can't wait to read Insurgent.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Hunger Games

My book club just finished the first book of this trilogy and most of us really enjoyed it. The time in the arena dragged in a few places for me, and although I saw a certain setup coming (which shall remain nameless), it still worked! I cried my eyes out!

My favorite parts involve the creativity the author puts into the staging and the stylists and the interviews. I liked the costumes. I also liked the irony in the fact that Katniss is forced to please the very people she despises.

I do think so much more could have been done with the Peeta relationship, but maybe the author wanted to keep it tame for a PG audience. The violence though makes it PG13, I would think (though I was surprised that one of my friends found the violence too tame). Racier feelings could have gone along with that level of violence. I just didn't feel enough sexual tension in that relationship, but not everyone in my club agreed.

Overall, I recommend this book.

Monday, August 13, 2012

His Dark Materials Trilogy

I am fascinated by the many worlds and characters Pullman has created in The Golden Compass (or The Northern Lights), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.

I was curious to see what all the hubbabaloo was about "killing God," and, now that I've read it, don't think that's what the author was doing. I understand the story as showing a tyrannical "authority," who is not the true creator but an angel imposter, who has inspired the religious leaders to oppress its peoples by spreading lies and keeping them in ignorance, and it is Lyra and Will's duty to help Asriel and others overpower this imposter and his minions and establish a new kingdom of heaven that fosters knowledge and tolerance and diversity.

But the new Adam and Eve have to pay a price in order to help their respective worlds to succeed.

Both The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife were FAST reads full of intrigue and delightful creativity. The Amber Spyglass was equally delightful in the amazingly creative worlds and inhabitants, but much more slowly paced. Over all, I highly recommend the entire trilogy.