Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Conspiracy of Kings (Megan Whalen Turner)

Title: A Conspiracy of Kings
Author: Megan Whalen Turner
Publisher: Green Willow Books (HarperCollins)
Length: 316 pages
Rating: 4/5
  
The forth book of The Queen’s Thief series is from the perspective of Sophos, a character who befriended Eugenides in the first book, The Thief, and who we learned was kidnapped and disappeared in the third book, The King of Attolia. This is his story. Unlike the other books which follow Eugenides from close and afar in what I deemed “limited first person omniscient,” this book is from Sophos’s first person point of view. This narration style is a little more traditional to Young Adult fiction, and a great fit for this book. Whereas Eugenides hides a lot from other characters and the reader, Sophos is open and na├»ve and still learning. The reader can therefore learn with him, as he goes from scholar nephew of the king, to slave, to a king fighting to get his kingdom back. 

There’s a lot of strategizing going on in this book. If I ever need to take over a kingdom, I would study this book instead of Machiavelli’s The Prince. But surprisingly, I was never bored. I was invested in the characters, and I wanted them to succeed enough that I too began strategizing against those pesky Medes who keep trying to invade.

Even though this book was published more than ten years after The Thief, I could see definite foreshadowing and important themes from the first book carried out in this one. It’s amazing how interconnected everything is. And despite everything I learned reading the first three books, and my love for our hero, Eugenides, this book had me doubting him, because I also learned to love and admire Sophos. I guess it’s not easy ruling any kingdom! Amazing conclusion however- I could not have been happier. 

I would highly recommend reading the entire series from start to finish.

As promised in my last post about the series, I did ask the editor about the inclusion of a map, but alas, there was no response. So instead, I will leave you with this book trailer preview: 
Check out trailers for the others in the series at Megan Whalen Turner's website: http://meganwhalenturner.org/
                                                                                                                           

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Clockwork Angel (Cassandra Clare)

Title: Clockwork Angel
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)
Length: 478 pages
Rating: 4.5/5

This is the most exciting/tense/keep you reading/eyes keep jumping to the bottom of the page to find out what happens next book I’ve read since The Hunger Games. And it’s just the prequel to Cassandra Clare’s famous Mortal Instruments series. You know a series is great when its prequel get a series! Although I have yet to read The Mortal Instruments series (the line for the first one, City of Bones, at the library is rather long, but after loving this book and learning the next one in the prequel series isn’t out yet, I requested the City of Bones audio book because its line was shorter. I don’t really like audio books, but that’s how much I liked this book).

Now to focus on the book at hand: Clockwork Angel, the first in The Infernal Devices series. Tessa Gray travels to London to find her brother, the only family she has left. But he’s gone missing and she’s kidnapped by the Dark Sisters, who teach her that she has the power to transform into another person. Because in this Victorian London, magic is real, populated by Downworlders like vampires and warlocks. The Dark Sisters work for the Magister, the shadowy leader of a nefarious The Pandemonium Club, who wants Tessa as his bride. Tessa escapes and takes refuge with a group of Shadowhunters whose duty is to rid the world of demons and protect humans. Among these Shadowhunters are the fearless and volatile Will, and his best friend, the calm yet hiding a deadly secret Jem. Naturally, Tessa would much rather marry one of them than the creepy Magister. Now Tessa’s on a mission to find her brother and take down the Pandemonium Club.

I thought I was over paranormal series for a bit. Turns out, I’m not. Tessa’s got the characteristics I like in a heroine: determination, hidden talent, small amount of wide-eyed innocence, spunk, and a great character arc through the book. The boys Jem and Will are the perfect compliments/foils to each other and to Tessa, and while there was a little romance, it was refreshing that the story didn’t revolve around it. While some of the plot twists were expected, Clare’s suspenseful writing kept me turning page after page, and I was still surprised quite often. And I was left with many questions and an overwhelming desire to read the next book!

If you’re looking for a new series, this is your book. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Jellicoe Road (Melinda Marchetta)

Title: Jellicoe Road
Author: Melinda Marchetta
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 419 pages
Rating: 4.5/5

I usually challenge myself to write a summary that isn’t straight from the flap copy at the beginning of each post. But this book is tough- there is a lot going on…and the flap is so spot-on! But here goes…

Taylor Markham is haunted by the past. She was abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was only eleven and has attended the boarding school there ever since. Now seventeen, she is the reluctant leader of her dorm and of the all-out war that takes place every year between the boarding school kids, the townies, and the cadets who camp out nearby. But while the war rages, Taylor’s past becomes more and more present, especially when the leader of the cadets is the brooding Johan Griggs, the boy she unsuccessfully ran away with to find her mother. And haunting Taylor at every turn are the lives of five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago. Can Taylor put the pieces of her past together before she falls apart?

Confessions:
1.      I read this book in one sitting. Sat down, couldn’t put it down, and didn’t get back up until the final page.
2.      I almost cried several times. I did cry at least once. As I’ve said before, I want books that make me FEEL. This book did ten times over, and stuck with me after I turned the final page.
3.      Usually I don’t like reality. I don’t like being reminded that youth is fleeting and we’re not immortal. (This is why I like fantasy so much- it’s reality in an unreal setting.) But this book was real, and it was amazing. Real people, real problems, real emotions.
4.      Mystery, intrigue, a haunting past. Taylor is plagued by all of this. Sometimes she can’t handle people, she has too much to handle with just herself. I can relate.
5.      Not your typical love story. And yet, I read this book because someone suggested Jonah and Taylor as one of the best YA couples of all time. There’s a touch of destiny about everything in the book, including their relationship.
6.      The book takes place in Australia, which means all sorts of British-isms. After studying abroad in England, I’m a sucker for anything remotely British. And it’s nice to read a book not set in either a fantasy world or contemporary America.
7.      It’s a book about lifelong friends and what you would do for them, about the meaning of home, and about accepting the past into your future. Deep, real, and amazing.
8.      I’m still a little confused about certain aspects. So many interwoven storylines and characters. This book may require a second read sometime in the future. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

FFFT

It's FRIDAY!! Nothing too crazy to share with you this week- just a couple articles about how awesome YA is right now:

This one is from Scholastic: Kid lit: not just for kids anymore! (well, YEAH!) I like this because of the book suggestions though- many are going on my to-read list.

This one's from another blogger: What Makes YA Fiction So Hot? A rather lengthy interview of several librarians, but they also have good thoughts about YA right now and lots of book suggestions. Got to love librarians...and bloggers of course.

And because I'm sharing, here's the stack of books I'm going to read for you next:
It looks more precarious turned on its side...








And finally, a happy Friday present for all you Harry Potter fans!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)

Title: The Phantom Tollbooth
Author: Norton Juster (Illustrator Jules Feiffer)
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Length: 256 pages
Rating: 5/5

I’m either fifty years late to this party, or have perfect timing as to finally read this great classic on its fiftieth anniversary. Let’s go with the latter. What can I say that hasn't been said (see this New Yorker article for more about its history)? It’s the American Alice in Wonderland, a book where word-play rules and there is a fine line between imagination and real life.

It was refreshing to read a book with illustrations, and there are so many crazy visuals in the book, the pictures were necessary. Don’t classic children’s books always have the perfect marriage between words and pictures? Even for me, a some-what adult reader, some things were hard to picture because they were so abstract. A marketplace of word! Stairs to infinity! The demons of Gross Exaggeration and Threadbare Excuses!

The English major in me was having a field day with the way words were used, and I thought, every English major should be required to read this. But philosophy majors and even math majors would find something to enjoy. Perhaps every college student should read this.

It’s a book for all ages that reminds us that there are plenty of demons slowing us down, but with a little imagination and determination, even the impossible is possible. 


Favorite quote: “I think I’ll continue to see things as a child. It’s not so far to fall.” –Milo
This is why I love children’s and young adult books. This is why I want to work in children’s publishing. My own version of being Peter Pan.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Unearthly (Cynthia Hand)

Title: Unearthly
Author: Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 435 pages
Rating: 5/5

Clara is part-angel and has just discovered her purpose, the reason she was put on earth. She sees visions of a raging forest fire and a boy standing among the fiery trees. Her family picks up and moves to Wyoming where her visions take place so that she can prepare herself. There she discovers Christian, the boy from her visions who is perfect and conveniently gorgeous. While trying to fit in at her new school, she also tries to get to know Christian to find out how and why she is supposed to save him from the fire. Christian may be her dream boy, but there’s another boy in the picture too: Tucker, who appeals to Clara more and more, even though he’s a distraction from her purpose. By the time fires ignite in Wyoming, Clara faces a tough choice. Christian or Tucker? Destiny or love?

This book was crazy addicting. I only put it down once between pages 50 and 435. And that was for five minutes. There are so many mysteries. What isn’t Clara’s mom telling her about angels? Why is Clara’s purpose what it is? And what is her purpose exactly? As you might have guessed, this book is the first in a trilogy, so even though I was left with a ton of questions, there is still hope for answers in upcoming books. Why isn’t it January of 2012 so I can keep reading?

This book was so enjoyable because even though Clara is super-human, she’s easy to relate to. She experiences high school cliques, the jealousy of friends, first love, and my favorite theme, self-discovery. Clara’s the way cooler version of me in high school. Except that good-looking boys talk to her a lot more. She takes being gifted to a whole new level and I think YA readers will be able to connect to that, as we’re all gifted in our own ways.

Finally, this book is great because it’s easy to see it as a metaphor for any reader’s life. Aren’t we all trying to figure out our own purpose?

Now go and pick this book up- you won’t put it down!

And speaking of relate-able girls, I read a great article about female role models in YA literature. Can I just say I love all the amazing female characters mentioned?! I aspired to be certain aspects of all of them- from Anne's imagination to Alanna's bravery to the March sisters' perseverance- they all inspired me and still do today.