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Review: Sanctuary

Wicked Lovely (Desert Tales Vol. 1): Sanctuary Melissa Marr

This is the first part of a story (parallel to the books, not a retelling) about Rika, one of the girls who came before Ash in the long line of humans that Summer King Keenan tried to make his curse-breaking Queen.  After being released from her part in the game by the next in line, Donia, she retreated to the desert to hide from the faerie courts and the cold.  Now she likes to invisibly follow around a handsome human boy.  But he gets tangled up in faerie politics when she makes herself visible to save his life.

I am comfortable with the visual language of most comics, but not so comfortable with manga, and this book (published by Tokyopop) was often visually difficult for me to follow.  Also, and maybe it’s just more of my biases showing, I thought this skewed younger than the series it’s connected to but don’t think it has much appeal other than to readers of Wicked Lovely.  I think one of Marr’s strengths is at constructing secondary characters, but this ultimately feels like more of a cynical marketing ploy than a true story expanding her world.


Reminder: 20 Boy Summer

Reviewed the ARC of this earlier in the year, but it was listed as being available today.  Go forth and buy that book I gave a lukewarm review to!

Review: Wicked Lovely

Wicked Lovely – Melissa Marr

I’d been wanting to read this for awhile, but there were never any copies on the shelf. Now that it’s on the Summer Reading Club list, there were some new copies floating around. I took one with me on my Memphis trip.
And it was such a refreshing change from Need. On the surface there were similarities: faeries, a human girl who gets mixed up in it all and is destined to play a big part in their games, a not entirely evil faerie king who’s looking for a queen. But Aislinn, a teenager living in a disintegrating Steel Belt city so that she can try to avoid the faeries only she can see, is so much cooler and more resourceful than Zara. And the romance is the most fun I’ve read about since Graceling (which I just noticed is discounted to only $6.75 at Amazon, I’m buying a copy).

I think I’m most impressed by how well Marr straddles the difficulty of making a modern teenager’s strength in the face of ancient power both relatable and realistic. I genuinely like Aislinn and how she accepts the things she can’t change but forces everyone else to accept her on her own terms 90% of the time.

There’s a related novel already out, and a sequel coming before too long. And I’m there. I’m totally buying into this storyline. Which is a little unusual for me with books about faeries. I like them in theory more than I do in actuality, and I’ve rarely read beyond the first in a series. Maybe it’s just because I think Seth is dreamy, too.

Review: Eon

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn – Alison Goodman

*I’ve been sitting on this post for almost two weeks.  I think I’m just going to post it as is, because I’m never going to be able to get down everything I thought about.*

In a vaguely Ancient Chinese world, spirit dragons hold great power that they are willing to share with designated humans.  Eon(a) will be competing for the honor of being a Dragoneye, but faces an uphill battle because of her crippled leg and because she’s secretly a girl.  The only person who knows this secret is her master, but if they are found out they will both be executed.  Things don’t go as planned, of course, and Eon’s position and power ends up being both greater than imaginable and more precarious.

There is a lot going on in this book.  TV night it became a joke that everytime something was mentioned, I would pipe up that that thing was a major element of my book.  And they were such disparate things that it seemed like I was lying.  There’s dragons and magic and swordfighting and lots of gender issues (even a MTF transsexual who is handled respectfully as is her romance with a hunky eunich) and politics.  The first third of the book is the most exciting, the pacing is so fast that it was making me anxious for a big presentation at work, I couldn’t separate my own adreneline from Eon’s.  There is some annoying, unstatisfying stuff that happens in the middle, where you want to shake Eon for not figuring it out fast enough, but it passes without too much head-banging-on-desk.

This, like Hunger Games, is a book that has tons of action and excitement but never shies away from the fact that its protagonist is a girl.  And like Hunger Games, it’s cover is designed to trick boys into reading it.  Some will be mad at the trick (like one amazon reviewer whose son could not handle the menstruation references) but most will get caught up in the story.  If it ever sits on my shelf for more than ten minutes, I don’t think I’ll have any problem getting kids to check this out (certainly not if it gets picked up as soon as I put it on display).

Review: Octavian Nothing

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol 1: The Pox Party – M.T. Anderson

Octavian is a slave in pre-revolutionary Boston with a pretty cushy life.   His cage, such as it exits, is a velvet one.  He lives with his mother in a scientific commune where he is treated well and receives a classical education that is second to none.  If he realizes that he is the subject of scientific inquiry, it doesn’t seem strange since it’s the only life he’s ever known.  The men around him have genuine affection for both his mother and him, and their aim appears to be to prove that an educated African is no different than an educated European.  But his happiness relies on a shaky foundation and it doesn’t take much for it to collapse.  “Rational inquiry” isn’t without its horrors while the American’s war for freedom does not apply to everyone.

I was about halfway through this book before I decided that I liked it.  It’s a difficult book and its plot and ideas build slowly.  And then I was in love with it.  And then I got bored for awhile.  And then I liked it again.  It’s been a long time since I read a book about slavery, and this is a shocking and horrifying story, but it’s often told in such a clinical way that it doesn’t feel manipulative.  The readers eyes open to the situation as Octavian grows from a small boy to a young man, as his do.  But there is incredible subtlety and nuance to all of it, including the war.  I think its best hope for finding teen readers is as a school assignment, both because of the history and its amazing writing.

Review: Scott Pilgrim

Scott Pilgrim Vols 1-4 – Bryan Lee O’Malley

Scott Pilgram is tough, for a guy from Canada.  But if he wants to date Ramona he’s going to have to take out all of her evil ex-boyfriends first.  And they’ve got superpowers.

I read the first volume of this awhile ago and liked it fine, which meant everyone around me thought I was crazy because liking it fine isn’t how you’re supposed to feel about Scott Pilgrim.  With the movie eventually coming out, and the intense love all of my friends have for this, I thought I should give it another shot.  And I enjoyed it a lot more this time around.  It’s silly and sarcastic and breaks down the fourth wall to pretend it’s a videogame a lot.  Scott is equally appealing and appalling, definitely the kind of manchild the media loves to rage about so much these days.

The fifth volume is just now available.

Review: Love Curse of the Rumbaughs

The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs – Jack Gantos

The Rumbaughs are a creepy sort, undertakers and taxidermists sure, but the worst of it is their genetic predilection for “mother love,” an all consuming need to never be separated from their mothers which has plagued generation after generation.  Now Ivy is feeling its first stirrings and even at seven she is beginning to plot ways to keep her mother with her forever.

This book deals with really gross things in such a matter-of-fact way that I wasn’t grossed out by them.  But I think it’s just me.  Everyone else, whether they liked it or not,  has found this book to be the absolute creepiest.  I felt like it needed to go further?  And the ruminations on nature v. nurture and hereditary v. free will weren’t that exciting or necessary.  But that may just be a place where I diverge from your average teenager who might really be wondering if they’ll ever escape their awful family.

But I think older teenagers, especially if they’ve read other gothic stories, might like it.  I think I heard it called a cross between Pyscho and Coraline, which isn’t that far off.