Sunday, June 3, 2012

My Life In Books

Recently Finished:

16. The Syndicate by Shelena Shorts

I received the ARC for review at the Gaithersburg Book Festival. Vasi Petrescu is a member of an elite group called the Syndicate, which eliminates monsters called Hybrids that infect and take over human bodies. This is teen paranormal romance, emphasis on romance. Shorts is an author local to the DC area and this is her fourth book.

Currently Listening To:

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

I took a looong road trip and we managed to go through nine of eleven discs.

Gracelings are people born with special abilities, marked by two different colored eyes. In six of the seven kingdoms, the Graced are considered cursed and their abilities belong to the king, for his use or rejection. In the seventh kingdom, Lienid, the Graced are considered blessed and they belong to themselves.

Katsa is the niece of Randa, king of the Midlands, and she has a very particular Grace-killing. Forced to do Randa's dirty work and feared throughout the seven kingdoms, Katsa secretly forms a Council that works to thwart the abuses of the power-hungry kings. While carrying out a mission, she encounters a Lienid prince, Graced with fighting. Eventually, they become friends, a rarity for her, but she can't quite shake the feeling that there's something he's not telling her.

I love the concept of the Graced and the character of Katsa as she's envisioned-a woman with a gift for violence who must navigate between gender stereotypes and the fears and prejudices that her power brings. The whole world and the characters are truly inspired.

However, this book, especially in the beginning, is mind-numbingly predictable .The simple language and glaring clues as to the nature of relationships, character development, and plot devices take away from what could be a much deeper story. This is what I don't like about some YA books-the writing does not respect the readers' intelligence, it lays everything out in the open with repetitive exposition.

I have not quite finished listening, and I'm harboring hope that there will be some surprises left. The introduction of the character Bitterblue has greatly heightened my interest and investment in the story, especially as her presence changes Katsa into less of a warrior woman stereotype. We need strong female characters, but they need to be robust emotionally as well as physically in order to captivate audiences. Given the style of the writing, I'm also surprised how "adult" Katsa and Po's relationship gets.

In terms of the audio book cast, I don't normally listen to audio books, but I'm not *particularly* impressed. The narrator is fine, but I found the full cast audio unnecessary, and didn't really like the voice for Katsa. Still, it was an interesting experience to listen instead of read and I would definitely listen to an audio book again on a road trip, though probably not otherwise.

Currently Reading:

The Dwarves by Markus Heitz

This is on loan from a friend and I'm only about a quarter of the way through, but this may be one of my favorite reads of the year and is already going on the science fiction/fantasy literature list. Definitely for anyone who wants to know more about the Dwarves, why should Elves, Hobbits, and Men get all the glory?

Next Up:

Silver by Rhiannon Held

I received this for review from Tor Paperback Originals.

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