Saturday, January 30, 2010

Graceling by Kristen Cashmore

"Graceling" was a staff pick at Bookshelf at the Boatworks, this cute little indie bookshop in Tahoe City, so I picked it up for airport reading material.

Katsa is a 17-year-old, graced with special killing abilities. In rare cases, certain people in her country can be "graced" with anything - a special, extreme affinity for music or the arts, cooking. They can be mind readers, swimmers or fighters. For Katsa, she has been able to kill with her bare hands when her grace manifested itself when she was a young girl.

Though Katsa is royalty, her uncle, the king, has turned her into his own hired killer. It is on one of her missions that Katsa meets Po, another Graceling, and she is finally able to learn that she has more control of her own destiny than she realizes.

When it comes to finding good books to take on vacation, I am a lot more superficial than usual. I only grabbed "Graceling" because it was one of the thicker books on the YA shelf, and I wanted to get something that would last through the 10 hour day of traveling.

"Graceling" turned out to be one of the best young adult books I've read in a while (up there with Collins' the Hunger Games and Catching Fire). It can be kind of a challenge to find an author or series in the YA genre where plot, narrative and characterization all come together, and I think it does in this one.

And the best part? Cashmore did do a follow-up, "Fire," but it doesn't follow the same lead characters. It only takes place in the same world.

Looking forward to checking it out, soon.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy Series

Neil got me the first three of the Vampire Academy series for Xmas, so I took the first one with me to Tahoe, where I proceeded to read the first book in the four-hour plane ride to Vegas. (I've come to terms with the fact that I prefer young adult over most books ... particularly over what most normal adults read.).

So anyway, my standards for "quality literature" are probably considerably lower than most people's, but really: I was surprised at how completely engrossed in this series I was.

There is nothing particularly spectacular about it. I mean, it's written in coherent sentences and has a decent, easy-to-follow plot and fairly believable characters (certainly more than I can say for some vamp/fantasy series in YA ... that I still like. heh.). It was just a quick, engrossing read.

Vampire Academy is narrated by Rose Hathaway, a half human/half vamp (Dhampir) training to become her best friend, Lissa's, guardian (a royal Moroi vampire). Rose and Lissa are closer than most best friends -- they have a special bond where Rose can slip into Lissa's conscience and feel what she is feeling, see what she is seeing.

There are four in the series so far:
  • "Vampire Academy"
  • "Frostbite"
  • "Shadow Kiss"
  • "Blood Promise"
  • The fifth in the series, "Spirit Bound," is coming out in May
I think this is my new favorite of the cheesy YA vampire series.  Mead can actually write, unlike some of the authors in YA.  Vampire Academy is Mead's only young adult series - she also authors two fantasy series -- one about a freelance shaman and the other, a succubus protagonist. They're on the list to check out.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jasper Fforde

Just when I thought Jasper Fforde couldn't get any better ... I got to meet the guy.

I guess I shouldn't really be surprised, I mean he had everything going for him. He's Welsh ... he writes literary fiction and makes all kinds of references to make bookworms of every type happy (from Austen, Bronte, and Dickens to contemporary and romance) ... he's witty, hilarious and unique.

And during his tour for Shades of Grey, he stopped by Borders and I got to get my books signed.


So anyway, it made me start re-reading some of the Thursday Next novels. (Namely, the ones I hadn't read twice, already ... Skimmed through Well of Lost Plots again and then read Something Rotten and First Among Sequels).

I just completely love him, to the point that I can't give any coherent detail as to why I love him.

Not brain-washed, I swear.

Looking forward to checking out Shades of Grey, soon.

Incidentally, did you know that he actually wrote The Big Over Easy and the Nursery Crime Series before Eyre Affair?

Who knew?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Children's Lit to Start the New Year

I started the New Year by reading some stuff of my YA/IR shelf: A Wrinkle in Time and City of Ember.

Now I HAVE to go to the library and read the rest of L'Engle's series. I don't know what happened to my copies of Wind in the Door and Swiftly Tilting Planet ...

I'm not entirely sold on City of Ember. It was a bit different than I expected, and given that you can read one in a matter of hours, I guess I should just pick up the other two and finish it, too.

A Game of Thrones

This book and the entire Song of Ice and Fire series has been recommended to me more times than I can remember. I can be fairly reluctant to take on new Sci Fi series -- it's a big commitment to read seven books when each is 700+ pages (it's the same reason I still haven't started Jordan's Wheel of Time). Forgive the cliche, but really: so many books, so little time.

But I relented. And then I couldn't put it down, of course... and then suddenly found myself anticipating the rest of the series.

Martin tells a fantastic story, but leaves no character safe from his plots. He kills characters off easily, if pain and suffering and death are what the story demand, so make sure you don't get too attached to anyone. But, I am, of course, attached to some. Favorites: Arya, Jon Snow, Caitlyn, Tyrion and Dany.

I'm catching up on some Jasper Fforde and YA before I continue the series, but I have some time until Dance with Dragons is released, I think. We'll see if it actually is released this fall.

The past few months have changed a lot for me, and I find myself reading much more than I have in the past several years (since high school ... really). I spend more time reading than anything, nowadays (not a bad thing). I won't set a goal of the 50 books in 365 days -- that's much too organized and ambitious -- but I think I might actually come closer this year than I have since about 2003... but at least with this thing it will be much easier to remember what I have read.