Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy
Where I Got It: Paperback Swap
Why I Read It: Quite a few people raved about it
My Rating: 4 stars
Brief Description: In the land of Seven Kingdoms, Katsa is a Graceling (a person born with a special talent that is signaled by two different color eyes). Although a person’s Grace might not reveal itself right away, Katsa’s Grace became clear when she killed a man with her bare hands at age 8. With her talent for killing, she quickly caught the attention of her king and is now used as his enforcer/assassin. However, Katsa is growing weary of the punishments she is asked to enforce for a king she doesn’t respect. When Prince Po (who is graced with exceptional fighting skills) comes to the court searching for his kidnapped grandfather, Katsa discovers an unlikely friend. With Po’s encouragement, Katsa declares her independence from the king and travels with Po on his quest for the mysterious King of Monsea—who might not be the benevolent ruler that his reputation makes him out to be. But as their journey unfolds, Katsa and Po discover new aspects to their Graces and their friendship deepens into something else.
My Thoughts: This book kicked butt! If you want grrl power, just look at Katsa. She’s strong, powerful, opinionated, independent and stubborn. I loved her! Although this book felt like “fantasy lite” at times and I was surprised to find it was a standalone book, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also loved how Cashore made Po the perfect partner for Katsa—strong in his own right but respectful of Katsa’s power and her need for independence. There is a lot of adventure and swashbuckling and fighting that moves things along, and I imagine that this would be the perfect introduction to the fantasy genre for young people. (Note: If you’re on the conservative side, you might want to know that Katsa rejects marriage in favor of having a lover. If this doesn’t sit right with you, you’ve been warned. However, I thought it was true to her character and handled tactfully and tastefully by Cashore.)
Update: Bitterblue (a sequel to Graceling taking place 6 years after the events of this book) is now available to read. You can bet I’ll be reading it.
Divergent written by Veronica Roth and read by Emma Galvin
Genre: Fiction, YA, Dystopia
Where I Got It: Audible
Why I Read It: I just can’t quit reading these YA dystopia books
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Brief Description: Beatrice Prior lives in a dystopian version of Chicago (which is cut off from the rest of the world for unstated reasons) and populated by five factions. All citizens are born into a faction and, at age 16, can choose a faction according to their personality and interests. Although born into Abnegation (who value selflessness), Beatrice has always struggled with the tenets of her faction. She finds herself drawn to the Dauntless (who value courage). [The other factions are Erudite (who value learning), Candor (who value honesty) and Amity (who value peace).] As her choosing ceremony draws near, Beatrice has an unusual result during her aptitude test (which helps identify the faction that best suits you). She is Divergent—a result that she is warned not to reveal to anyone. After choosing Dauntless, Beatrice (who rechristens herself Tris) finds herself in a strange new world—where proving your bravery and courage seems to take a backseat to sadism and cruelty. With the help of a sympathetic instructor named Four, Tris tries to make sense of her new faction, the uncomfortable things that are happening around her, her feelings for Four, and the discontent that is rumbling under the surface of a world she always felt was placid and safe.
My Thoughts: As you might suspect, this is the first book of a planned trilogy, and Roth does a good job of getting the series off to a running start. I dug the whole faction thing for some reason and liked that Roth didn’t feel she had to explain everything right off the bat. In addition, the relationship between Four and Tris felt believable and wasn’t too whiny. The book is pretty violent, and though it isn’t quite Hunger Games brutal, it is up there. People die or experience really nasty “accidents.” If you’re a fan of YA dystopia, this was one of the better ones I’ve read, and I look forward to the next installment, Insurgent.
About the Narration: Emma Galvin did the narration and she was a good fit. She sounded like a teenage girl who had some backbone yet was still filled with uncertainty (just like Tris).
A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
Where I Got It: Paperback Swap
Why I Read It: A few reviews from bloggers I can no longer remember made me put this on my wish list
My Rating: 2.5 stars
Brief Description: Peter Dizinoff is a successful doctor in ritzy little New Jersey town. However, Pete’s life is starting to fall apart and, as he struggles to make things right, he only succeeds in making them worse. His beloved only son Alec is living at home after dropping out of college and has entered into a relationship with a “friend of the family”—the oldest daughter of Pete’s best friends. Aside from being older than Alec, the girl, Laura, has a past that Pete can’t come to terms with. His wife Elaine doesn’t understand why Pete can’t accept Alec’s choices or stop punishing Laura for her past. Pete’s friendship with Laura’s parents (who happen to be his oldest and closest friends) is strained and threatened as a result of all this. In addition, Pete’s professional life is under fire when a patient’s family threatens to sue him for malpractice. Will Pete be the instrument of his own doom or he can save himself and his family from ruin?
My Thoughts: ACK. I really didn’t like Pete at all. In fact, I thought he was a bit of a stubborn and jerky jackass who caused most of his problems and then couldn’t fess up when things started going wrong. For that reason, I ended up not really liking the book. To be honest, I didn’t care what happened to Pete and thought that Grodstein was juggling so many different plot points that they started to unravel a bit and none felt resolved satisfactorily. Although I finished the book, I didn’t really like it all that much and was happy to be done.
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