Sunday, May 29, 2011

Uncommon Magic by Michelle Scott

Uncommon Magic by Michelle Scott

Kindle edition, published 2011. Apparently 232 print pages.

I'm not sure where I heard of this book, but I had a sample on my Kindle, and I finally got around to reading it. I read the sample in the morning, bought the book around 5pm, and finished it that night!

The book has an intriguing premise. Copied and pasted from Goodreads: In Mira Meadowmarsh's world, Magicians have complete control over ordinary people like herself. Magicians rule with iron fists, levying taxes, seizing property, and meting out harsh punishment to those who break the rules. But while the un-magical commons cannot defend themselves against the Magician's magic, there is one thing that Magicians fear: inventions. So when rumors spread that the un-magical are building machines and planning an uprising, the Magicians retaliate with even harsher laws.

At first, all of this means nothing to Mira who doesn't give a fig about politics. She's in love, and life is sweet. But when she discovers that her brother is an inventor who's suddenly the most wanted man in the country and that the boy she loves, her companion since childhood, is really a Magician, Mira finds herself in the middle of a brewing revolution.

It's an interesting setup! Very creative. Personally, I would have liked to see more magic, but the focus was on the commons most of the time, not the Magicians. It was a really nice read; I didn't want to put it down until I was done. the writing flowed really well; it wasn't full of action every page, but something made me want to keep reading.

I liked Mira. I thought she could have been a little bit more active. Throughout the whole thing, she was mostly the girl on the outside of everything that was happening, but it was kind of a coming-of-age story for her. She grew up, she made some hard decisions. Some of them, especially towards the end, I was thinking, "No! No, don't do it!" But it played out pretty well. It was almost too simple, and I wanted it to keep going. I wanted the author to explore Mira's relationships with Quentin and Jess, but I'm sure it wouldn't have made a very good book. The main conflict was over, I get that. As a reader, though, I was loving the story and the characters and dying to know more about them! Especially the boys and Liam, who I felt weren't explored well enough.

Other small things: I'm sure it was the translation from .doc to .html/.mobi, but there was a lot of words that were missing spaces. Likethis. Some typos or weird sentences, but it didn't stop me from finishing it and enjoying it! I'd recommend it to people who like fantasy stories that aren't too complex and would like a fun read.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fire by Kristin Cashore

Fire by Kristin Cashore.

Hardback, published 2009, 461 pages. Library copy.

I picked up this book after reading Graceling and enjoying it. I read bits and pieces of the beginning, then read nearly 300 pages last night, and finished it today.

Fire is a monster in the Dells. She has bright red hair and looks that make monsters and men attracted to her, sometimes dangerously so. Fire becomes involved in the political moves of the royal family of the Dells when they realize her mental capabilities to get information she needs. Honestly, the book doesn't have one single plot but rather a collection of subplots, all intriguing.

The main difference between Fire and Graceling is the pace. Though both are fairly slow-paced compared to most YA fantasy I've read, Fire has a slower pace than its counterpart. It has more focus on the politics of the Dells: the king who left behind a messy kingdom and the two Lords rebelling against him. Fire also has much of the shame that Katsa had from her ability and also from her father, who ruled the past king with cruelty. Fire feels like an object and refuses to be used for malicious means. Unlike Katsa, however, Fire rarely physically defends herself. She relies on her mind and her control over other people's minds. It would have been nice to actually see her not get rescued, but she kept getting into pretty horrific situations and she was not physically strong aside from her bow and arrow.

Fire goes through a lot in the book. In the beginning of the book, she's very solitary with about as many friends as she has fingers on one hand. Later when she travels to the King's City, she's faced with the reality of her blood. Monsters hunt her, some men want to overpower her, others want to marry her. She slowly rises above this shame to help the royal court with the spies and forms special relationships. Ultimately, it's a story of her development as she uses her powers for good, comes to accept who she is, and forgives herself for things she's done in the past.

Overall, I really liked Fire, but I wished more could have happened. The romance was so underplayed compared to Katsa and Po, and I kept thinking, "When are they going to get together??" I can't deny the politics were very interesting, but I'm left hoping more could happen with the characters I've grown to love.

Note: I read the hardback with the above cover, but isn't this one beautiful??

Monday, May 9, 2011

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.

Hardback, 2010, 470 pages. Library copy.

In this book, Samantha Kingston dies. She then relives her last day on earth six more times. Through the week, she learns new things about her friends and her school, she talks with people she never would have before, and she changes from a mean girl to a happier, more accepting person.

This is such an interesting premise. Seriously, how did she think of this? I know that's kind of a lame question because when people ask me the same questions, I don't have an answer. The human mind is just so creative, and Lauren Oliver has loads of creativity and talent. You'd think that Sam living one day over seven times would get boring, but the author really takes the characters and shakes them around. Something new happens each day, and as Sam struggles to find closure, you can see her changing.

I loved the varying characters in this book. There are a lot of minor characters, and occasionally I couldn't tell them apart, but for the most part, they're all unique and interesting. Sam's friends, too. I think Oliver fell into that "high school royalty vs. everyone else" stereotype a few times in this book. I only went to a public school for one year, and while there are obvious differences, popularity levels, and cliques, I really don't think it's this extreme. I have other people who would agree, but it's a setting that works in many novels, including this one. It still makes you think about your actions, about the way you treat other people, about the reasons behind your attitudes and behaviors.

After reading this book, I still felt like there was something missing from the story. It took me a while to realize it, but when I read a review on Goodreads, I realized it was Sam's friends and their redemption. Slight spoilers: Though Sam goes through a transformation from the beginning to the end of the book, Sam's friends are kind of left as mean girls. Yes, we see some of their motivations, and Lindsay is definitely more explored than Elody and Ally, but I was still left wondering if they realized the wrong of any of their actions. I don't think people change quickly, though. I like how the author didn't make Juliet's story simple, and I know if Sam's friends were to change, we wouldn't see it within a week. Maybe that's the point, that this is Sam's story. But I still would have liked to see someone other than Juliet call out Lindsay. End of spoilers.

Lauren Oliver has a great way with language, especially with repeated metaphorical images such as birds in flight. This was the type of book where I was reading it so quickly to get to see what would happen, and I had to force myself to slow down to enjoy the beautiful language of it. I highly recommend it and I will definitely check out Delirium. I put a hold on it at the library already!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

I read a hardback copy with the right cover, but I LOVE the left cover. I checked this book out from the library.

Graceling is set in a world where certain people are born with Graces. The Grace of deception, the Grace of fire, and more. Katsa's Grace is killing. She found out about it at a young age when she accidentally killed a man trying to touch her, and her uncle King Randa soon began using her as a thug. This is Katsa's story as she grows into her own woman, investigates a mysterious kidnapping, and falls in love.

I've seen this book around, but when I saw it at the library, I decided not to put off reading it anymore. I really liked it. I haven't read a lot of stand-alone fantasy novels, so it was nice to see one. It doesn't have the constant action and adventure I was expecting, but it is a thrilling read. The story was fascinating, especially Graces and the Council. I'd like a sequel about the Council's doings around the seven kingdoms, but Bitterblue will do.

The romance was just right. I like how compatible Katsa and Po are from the beginning. At times, I thought Katsa was too invincible. The fact that she could survive absolutely anything brings down the suspense. But I enjoyed reading about her inner turmoil as she was used by her uncle, as she decided to step away from him, as she was falling in love with Po. I wasn't a huge fan of the anti-marriage, casual sex attitude, but I understood Katsa's point of view.

I'm looking forward to Fire, which I put a hold on at the library. I'd like a more vulnerable female character, but I guess young adult literature (and literature in general) has plenty of those. For every Katsa, there are a thousand Bellas. And no, the similarity between Katsa and Katniss was not lost on me. ;)