Amy Says Read This

Seriously, you should totally read this.


Leave a comment

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Image from Goodreads.com

Rossi, V. (2012). Under the never sky. New York: Harper. ISBN: 9780062072030

Annotation: Aria has spent her entire life living in the Reverie Pod, having adventures in the virtual Realms. When she gets blamed for starting a fire in an abandoned section of the Pod, she’s exiled Outside and has to rely on an unfriendly Outsider to survive.

Reaction: With all the concern about boys not reading, I think this is a book that really would have crossover appeal for both boys and girls. The story is told in alternating chapters from the perspective of Aria and Perry, giving the reader both the female and male viewpoints. There’s plenty of action as Aria and Perry travel across the barren, dangerous Outside. They have to fight off cannibals and wolves and avoid deadly Aether storms. And they have a romance that, in my opinion, develops naturally. And it’s nice that there’s no love triangle to deal with (why do we have to be excited about this?), though the shadow of the inevitable end of their romance adds a sense of urgency and sweetness to their love.

By the end of the book, Aria has really become a strong, courageous young woman, and I’m excited to read the next book in the series.

Author’s Website

Advertisements


Leave a comment

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Carson, R. (2011). The girl of fire and thorns. New York: Greenwillow Books. ISBN: 9780062026484

Annotation: Elisa is God’s Chosen One. She is also a terrible princess, fat, and married for political alliance. When she is kidnapped by zealots, she has to figure out how she can help save the kingdom.

Reaction: I really enjoyed this book, and Elisa has a great voice. I love how frank she is and how determined she is to become a good queen. Carson does a great job of showing the atransformation Elisa goes through to become a leader, and though she does go through a physical change, the biggest changes are mental and start even before her appearance changes.

And while there is some aspect of romance in the story, it is almost incidental to the rest of the plot. I was a bit concerned when Carson seemed to be setting up a love triangle, but let me tell you, she took care of that in the most shocking way I’ve ever seen.

I want to read the rest of the series, and I hope that they are as enjoyable as this one.

Author’s Website


1 Comment

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Taylor, L. (2011). Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Little, Brown Book for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780316134026

Annotation: Karou is an art student living in Prague, but she is also the errand girl for the wish monger Brimstone, whose shop is through a portal into Elsewhere. When all the doors to Brimstone’s shop are destroyed, Karou sets out to find another way to him.

Reaction: This book is delightful. Laini Taylor reminds me a lot of Sarah Rees Brennan, with great characters and sharp dialogue. I’d wanted to read this book since I first saw that gorgeous cover, but I didn’t get around to it until after the second book was released. When the third and final installment in the series was released in April, I decided to do a re-read of the first two before I dove into the last one. I am so glad I took this opportunity to experience the lushness of Taylor’s creation all over again.

Laini Taylor does something really interesting & unique with the idea of angels and devils in this series, and she does it really well. I don’t know about you, but I am exhausted by the fallen angel trope, and I am leery of anything that uses it. Taylor’s angels and devils, though, are different races from an alternate world rather than actual supernatural beings, which I find really refreshing. Her characters aren’t limited to a good versus evil dichotomy or a struggle against their “true nature” the way you often see in other books featuring angels. These characters are individuals and some of them are good while some of them are bad and most of them are somewhere in the middle trying to live their lives and survive the war that’s been raging between the two races for the last thousand years.

In the first book, she weaves mystery around these two races, using Karou’s journey of discovery to take the reader on a fantastical journey to figure out what is going on. Her writing is dreamy and magical, and the story is compelling. Taylor’s style is one that I love to read, full of beautiful descriptions that make me long to live in her world and enough plot development and suspense to keep the story moving forward at all times. At no point in this trilogy did I ever want her to just “get on with it,” because it was never boring or slow. And I love her characters! Zuzana totally needs to be my new BFF. But everyone is smart and snarky and super enjoyable, and the villains really make my skin crawl with how wonderfully vile she has made them.

I listened to the audiobook, and I loved the narration, though the voices of some of the characters are not as distinct as in some other books to which I’ve listened. The second I finished the first one, I downloaded the sequel from Audible, and I had the third on preorder in anticipation of its release. The narrator of this series, Khristine Hvam, has become one of my favorite favorite narrators, and I’m always excited to see that she’s reading something I’ll be listening to. Hvam’s voice does an excellent job of capturing the tone of Taylor’s writing, and I don’t think I’d ever be able to read the text without hearing her voice in my head.

Author’s Website


Leave a comment

Mercedes Thompson (series) by Patricia Briggs

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

(I originally wrote this when Frost Burned (book 7) first came out about a year ago, but it’s been languishing in my drafts ever since. Book 8, Night Broken was released earlier this month, so I thought this would be an excellent time to actually publish this bad boy.)

You know that series that you devour in like two weeks and then wait anxiously for the next installment? And that book/series that is your totally guilty pleasure reading (except you don’t actually feel that guilty)? Well, the Mercedes Thompson books (written for an adult audience) are that for me. I happened across the first audiobook, Moon Called, a couple of years ago, when I was browsing for books to listen on my walks to work. I was a little skeptical about it, as I tend to be about any vampire/werewolf book I’ve never heard of before, but the premise sounded interesting, and I was getting it for free from the library, so why not? Also, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ll read just about any werewolf/vampire novel. I love the genre, lordy.

Well, I loved it. LOVED. I read or listened to the next five books as soon as I could get my hot little hands on them, even buying books four and five because the library copies were already checked out. I then went on to read Patricia Briggs’s Alpha & Omega series, which is set in the same world.

Mercedes Thompson is a Walker, a Native American shape changer who turns into a coyote. She owns a garage and lives next door to the local Alpha werewolf. In the first book, a young werewolf shows up at her garage looking for work. A few days later, he’s dropped on her doorstep, dead, and she takes it on herself to find out where he came from and why he was killed. Hijinks ensue.

Each subsequent book has Mercy getting into all kinds of trouble, involving various supernatural villains, including vampires, wizards, and the Fae. One of my favorite things about these books is that, while they reference the previous books, I don’t feel any great need to reread the earlier books when a new one comes out. Each story is self contained and stands on it’s own, so I don’t have to worry about remembering what happened two books/years ago.

When I got the email from Audible that book 7 had just been released, I bought it immediately. Starting it was like going back to visit old friends. I love the cheesy, punny, snappy dialogue, and I love the way the action started within thirty minutes of the beginning the book. And I preordered book 8 from Audible, waiting with great anticipation for when I could spend some quality time with characters I’ve grown to know and love.

The Mercy Thompson books live in a sub-genre of fantasy in which ladies who have some supernatural abilities get into trouble, kick some bad guy booty and fall in love. I love that genre, I generally find the plots fun and engaging and the characters pretty decent, but after reading books in AT LEAST six or seven of these types of series, the concept gets a little stale. But you know what? I will always come back to Mercy. Maybe it’s just because she was one of the first experiences I had with this kind of book, but I find her stories exceedingly readable and the characters all really relatable and interesting.

Sidenote: I have listened to most of these books on audiobook, and I love them. The narrator is wonderful, and after about 5 or 6 books, she is the voice of Mercy to me. And I was able to download most of the audiobooks through my library’s e-audibooks provider Overdrive.

Author’s Website


Leave a comment

Lovetorn by Kavita Daswani

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Daswani, K. (2012). Lovetorn. New York: HarperTeen. ISBN: 9780061673115

Annotation: When Shalini’s father’s new job moves the family to Los Angeles from India, she has to learn how to survive in American high school, and eventually she begins to question the marriage that was arranged for her when she was three.

Reaction: I feel like I don’t often see Young Adult novels with an Indian (the country, jsyk) protagonist, though that could be a symptom of me simply not noticing these books. I am always fascinated by stories featuring Indian culture, since it is so different from what we experience in the US.

This is a story about a sixteen year old girl who has been engaged to her best friend since she was three years old. She loves her fiance, but the distance and culture shock of coming to the US cause Shalini to doubt her relationship. When she first starts at her new school, Shalini clings to the familiarity of her Indian heritage, but as the year progresses, she comes to embraces both the cultures in which she lives. Complicating her transition to American life is her mother’s deep depression and rejection of anything American.

This is a great book for anyone who is interested in Indian culture and wants a glimpse into what it might be like for a teen from India. The romance is strong in this book, so I’m not sure how much boys will enjoy it, but I think it would be a great introduction to another culture for those teens interested in realistic YA fiction with a romantic twist.

Author’s Website


Leave a comment

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Miller, M. (2012). The Song of Achilles. New York: Harper Audio. ISBN: 9780062126122 (US paperback edition)

Annotation: After being exiled by his father, Patroclus grows up with the half divine Achilles. Eventually, their friendship blossoms into love, and they become central figures in the Trojan War and the epic Illiad.

Reaction: My Bachelor’s Degree is in Religious Studies and Classics (as in, Classical Civilizations). I love stories about those ancient civilizations or their art or literature. I like the familiarity of these stories, and I love the heartbreaking bittersweet tragedy that so many of them have. I LOVE the Iliad; it was one of my favorite things that I read in college, and a huge part of my love was due to the larger than life figure of Achilles. I loved reading the story of his rage and pride and heartbreak. I loved that a figure such as Achilles could be so undone by the death of his “beloved companion.” I even loved the movie Troy, unashamedly and unironicaly.

In school, my instructor waved off the homoeroticiscm as a part of the culture that cannot even really be compared to our cultural norms. So it never even occurred to me to think of Patroclus and Achilles as a love story, but I am so glad Madeline Miller did. She has told a really beautiful, heartbreaking love story involving two men, one of whom was Aristos Achion: Best of the Greeks. And one of the things that I love most about the romance is how it’s Not A Big Deal, for the most part. There’s a few mentions about how men did not have male lovers, though they it was a common practice for boys, and how the pair tried to keep their relationship on the downlow when camped at Troy (though they shared a tent and spent all their time together; I feel confident that ALL THE GREEKS KNEW), and obviously Achilles’s goddess mother hated Patroclus for being inferior to her golden son, but mostly? They are two people in love with each other and NO ONE CARES. It’s great.

She has lovingly retold the myths and stories surrounding Achilles and Patroclus, and the amount of effort and research and dedication she demonstrates in her telling awes me. It’s been awhile since I’ve read the Iliad or any other literature about Achilles, but from what I remember, Miller’s version is very faithful to the original.

This story is told from the first person perspective of Patroclus, and I spent the entire book wondering how she would handle the telling of the aftermath of his death, of Achilles’s grief and rage. I was sort of expecting that she would handle it the way that she did, and I did not mind it. Seeing those events unfold through Patroclus’s eyes was all the more poignant and heartbreaking. (I also spent the entire book hearing Brad Pitt scream, “HEEEEEEECTOOOOOOOOOR!” over and over and feeling my little heart break a little.)

I would give this book to anyone who loves mythology, epic battles or starcrossed (and gay!) lovers. This book is ABSOLUTELY, 100% in my Top Ten Favorites. I know it’s early in the year still, but I think this is going to be one of my favorite books read in 2013. So beautiful and wonderful and epic and heroic and lovely and everyone should read it!

(Note: I listened to the audiobook, narrated by a man with a delightful, soothing voice that perfectly suited the tone of the story.)

2012 Orange Prize for Fiction

Here’s a great video of the author talking about this book:

Author’s Website


Leave a comment

Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross

Image from Goodreads.com

Cross, S. (2012). Kill me softly. New York: Egmont USA. ISBN: 9781606843239

Annotation: Mira’s godmothers have forbidden her from visiting Beau Rivage, where her parents were killed when she was a baby, but as her 16th birthday approaches, she decides to disobey their orders and return to the place she was born.

Reaction: I really enjoyed this book, and once I really got into it, I couldn’t put it down. I think Cross did something really clever with fairy tales, through her creation of a world in which fairy curses and blessings are real and passed out to people descended from fairies. In this world, the cursed/blessed are destined to reenact the original story from which the curse came.

The heroine, Mira, battles against “fate” and falls in love and finds herself and new friends in the process. All the other characters are great, and I love seeing how they deal with their own curses. Blue (as in Bluebeard) is delightfully snarky and tragic. Freddie Knight, a Prince Charming in waiting, is sweet and innocent, almost to the point being insufferable. And you just can’t help feeling sorry for the Beauty whose Beast is awful and whose father is clueless. Not to mention watching the interactions between Snow White and her Huntsman and how Jewel deals with actual jewels and flowers falling out of her mouth.

I’m sure I could find nitpicks with the story, plot and structure if I wanted to, but I don’t want to. I enjoyed this book almost without reservations, I would probably be willing to read it again someday, and I would totally recommend it to friends of mine who are into fairy tales or urban fantasy.

HOWEVER, I do have one major issue: WHY does NO ONE care that 21 year old Felix is hooking up with a 15 year old girl?! Everyone warns Mira away from Felix because he is also of the Bluebeard get and has embraced his role in the story, but NOT ONCE does anyone say, “Dude, that’s illegal.” I get that the dream of an older, college age boy is alluring to 15 and 16 year old girls: they’re mature and wise in the ways of the world, but it’s still icky. Ladies, just say NO to statutory rape.

Also be wary of men with naturally blue hair.

(Sidenote: Here’s a great retelling/reworking of the Bluebeard story by Ursula Vernon.)

Author’s Website