Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Report: Blood Red Road

Blood Red Road (Dust Lands, #1)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I listened to the audiobook of Blood Red Road, and when I didn't like something in the narration, I often asked myself, "but would I appreciate it or understand it more if this person's voice wasn't bothering me so much?" So, this review may be unfairly lopsided, especially since I heard such great things about this book (and it's sequel, Rebel Heart). I heard Hunger Games comparisons mentioned. I'm sorry to say that Hunger Games for me this is not, but it's still an interesting (and fast paced) post-apocalyptic journey.

I did really like how the novel starts; it showed exciting promise. Our heroine, 18 year old Saba, lives an isolated existence in a shack made of tires with her twin brother, Lugh, her dad and her little sister. The author does a really great job of subtly hinting at how food and water have become increasingly hard to come by for this family in a place once appropriately named "Silverlake". Young also establishes the dynamic of the family deftly, just in time for a big, red, menacing dust cloud to blow "into town" and cause all sorts of turmoil. Lugh is abducted by black robed riders under mysterious circumstances that hint at some cult-ish, quasi-religious world beyond Silverlake in a very intriguing way. And so Saba hits the road, hell bent on finding her twin.

Great start, right? And there's plenty of non-stop suspense, action and even romance (!) to come. So what's my problem with not loving this book? I feel like Young didn't reach 100%, though she showed awesome promise. There were some characters and situations that just fell flat for me, or (worse), weren't consistent. Let's just say there were a couple of "oh, come on!" moments for this reader. The thing that bothered me the most was the evil king that supposedly rules just about everything in this area (whatever area it may be) of what was probably once North America. He is a total wiener, and I just could not realistically believe that people would obey him, or that someone wouldn't overthrow him the first second they had. I can't go into much detail without spoilers, but he was the worst, and it just didn't jive for me that all this woe would be caused by such a total loser of a monarch. I did, however, really like how grotesque he was both physically and mentally. King of the creeps, for sure.

Other than that, I did like this book. If I decide to read the sequel, I'm definitely going to read the print copy to give Saba's real voice a second chance.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Book Report: Seraphina

Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I struggle with enjoying high fantasy. For example, I slogged through LOTR (though was ultimately glad that I did). That said, I barely struggled with Seraphina, which is a huge accomplishment in my reading habits.

It's no wonder this book is on several best lists for 2012. First off: the world building is awesome and awesomely achieved! Dragons who can transform into human form? Yes, please. But Hartman doesn't just stop at unique ideas; she really goes all-out in describing through her characters the differences between humans and dragons, AND creating an air-tight fantasy world and a history in which they both dwell. Our narrator and protagonist, Seraphina, is half-dragon, and I thought it was masterful how Hartman subtly depicted the characteristics of both species in her. (Did you know that dragons can swiftly calculate distance, velocity and time in their heads? Well, they can. They also love to hoard coins [shocker!] and only have to go to the bathroom about once a month.)

Even the language and the settings are intricately created. I loved Seraphina's frequent exclamations of shock, surprise or frustration, in which she utilizes a bevy of made-up saint names. There is no lazy writing to be found in this book. Plus, the intrigue and the romance are suppressed, secretive and simmering, as they should be in any medieval court worth its salt. Mandatory reading for those of you who love high fantasy, and highly recommended for those (like me) who are on the fence about it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Calling All Canandaigua Teen Artists--TBF 2013 T-Shirt Design Contest

To all my budding Canandaigua-area teen artists out there, here's your chance to put your stamp on something BIG. Submit your entries for the (Annual Greater Rochester) Teen Book Fest T-shirt Design Contest. Your design could be worn by hundreds of fellow teens and TBF volunteers. How cool is that? Details are linked below:

Don't know what TBF is? Stop missing out!

Visit and be amazed.

And stay tuned for more opportunities to get involved with TBF, where 30+ awesome YA authors will descend on Rochester in May 2013.

-Kelley, (your) Teen Librarian

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Book Report: Days of Blood and Starlight

Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #2)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Days of Blood and Starlight is the sequel to the super excellent Daughter of Smoke and Bone, one of my favorite YA titles from last year. If you haven't read the first book, I highly recommend that you do so... now.

The first book was all magic, atmosphere, swoon and mystery. We meet our blue haired heroine Karou in modern day Prague, where she spends her days filling her art school sketch books with fantastical half-animal creatures so vivid and detailed you believe they are real... which, of course, they are. They're Karou's chimera family, living on a portal between our world and another, sending their "daughter" out around the globe to gather teeth from nefarious sources (for mysterious purposes). Into this picture comes one smoking hot seraph (see: angel), propelling Karou into a chaos of self-discovery. THRILLING. Intrigued? GO READ THIS BOOK.

Now on to the sequel, an excellent middle-book in a planned trilogy. Daughter of Smoke and Bone ended in destruction and loss, but also realization and awakening for our protagonist. The sequel finds Karou and a small band of warrior chimera attempting to recover from the destruction of their home, camping out in a kasbah in the middle of the desert in our world, building a resurrected army. In the world of Eretz, Akiva reluctantly aids the seraph forces in the emperor's attempt to wipe the decimated chimera off the face of the planet. The "blood" in the title belongs there. We gots-lots of death, pain, violence and fear going on here; lots of longing, sorrow and regret. Both sides seem hell bent on mutual destruction. Yet Taylor excellently teases out the scantest threads of hope for survival. (Personal note: due to the violence, themes, and sophistication of the writing, I would recommend this to my high school readers and up; I just don't think the middle school set is ready for this one). 

While our main characters suffer and struggle, the secondary characters from the first book are more fully flushed out and explored. The scenes with Mik and Zuzana especially provided necessary doses of tenderness and beauty in the otherwise bleak landscape. I also loved watching the humanity bloom in Akiva's sister Liraz, hereto depicted as a steely, unbending warrior.

I was so excited for this to be published and was not disappointed in the least. Taylor has such excellent pacing, her images are so evocative, and her writing so uniquely poetic. I can't wait for the third book, especially thanks to a particularly smoldering cave scene in the last few pages. There is much to look forward to. Whatever will I do to pass the time until then? :)

-Kelley, (Your) Teen Services Librarian