Monday, August 31, 2009

Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife by Irene Spencer

From Goodreads:
Irene Spencer did as she felt God commanded in marrying her brother-in-law Verlan LeBaron, becoming his second wife. When the government raided the fundamentalist, polygamous Mormon village of Short Creek, Arizona, Irene and her family fled to Verlan's brothers' Mexican ranch. They lived in squalor and desolate conditions in the Mexican desert with Verlan's six brothers, one sister, and numerous wives and children. Readers will be appalled and astonished, but most amazingly, greatly inspired. Irene's dramatic story reveals how far religion can be stretched and abused and how one woman and her children found their way out, into truth and redemption.

The first part of this book had me cringing as Irene laid out her Mormon Fundamentalist beliefs- things that are so similar to my own religious convictions, but twisted. Those things all sounded so similar but more than a

The rest of the book had me riveted as Irene bore 14 children and tried to survive in ridiculous living conditions as the second of what would eventually become ten wives.

I thought more of the book would involve the infamous Ervil LeBaron, her husband's brother, seeing as he spent many years trying to kill her husband (and her), but he's barely mentioned as Irene details her struggles with poverty, loneliness, and ideas and desires that go against her lifetime of indoctrination. As it turns out, she wrote another book called Cult Insanity about her experiences with Ervil that I think I'll pick up.

This book was bleak and soul-crushing in so many ways but knowing she eventually had a happy ending kept me hooked. I cheered when she finally broke free but I also found a new understanding for those who insist on continuing to practice polygamy. No matter how horrible your life may be, generations of indoctrination are hard to break free from, especially when eternity is at stake.

I was pleasantly surprised by the writing itself. I have to admit to not expecting much from a high school dropout with an ax to grind but she tells her story so well--concisely, with grace and a sense of humor. She sticks to the facts and how she felt and doesn't resort to laying blame with anyone, including the deluded leaders who led her into so much misery and suffering.

This book is a fascinating glimpse into a fiercely secretive world. Totally worth a read.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Airman by Eoin Colfer

From Goodreads:
In the late nineteenth century, when Conor Broekhart discovers a conspiracy to overthrow the king, he is branded a traitor, imprisoned, and forced to mine for diamonds under brutal conditions while he plans a daring escape from Little Saltee prison by way of a flying machine that he must design, build, and, hardest of all, trust to carry him to safety.

I am becoming a serious fan of Eoin Colfer. His books are tightly written, smart, and a lot of fun. And, interestingly, rather varied. The Supernaturalist is quite different from Artemis Fowl is really different than Airman. When you pick up one of his books you're not really sure what you're going to get, you just know it's going to be a great ride.

Airman is a worthy addition to the "Boy List" and my favorite of Colfer's thus far. It has all I could ever want from my fiction: a fantastic beginning, a truly nasty villian, a reluctant hero, a princess, diamonds, several daring escapes, murder, revenge, intrigue, a deep dank prison, and so much more. It's a fantastic story that played out like a movie in my head and now I'm kind of hoping someone does make it into a movie because I'd love to see some of the flying machines outside of my imagination.

Did I mention there's swashbuckling? Because there's swashbuckling.

I loved this book. A hearty recommendation all around.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow

From Goodreads:
Cory Doctorow's Eastern Standard Tribe is a soothsaying jaunt into the not-so-distant future, where 24/7 communication and chatroom alliances have evolved into tribal networks that secretly work against each other in shadowy online realms. The novel opens with its protagonist, the peevish Art Berry, on the roof of an asylum. He wonders if it's better to be smart or happy. His crucible is a pencil up the nose for a possible "homebrew lobotomy." To explain Art's predicament, Doctorow flashes backward and slowly fills in the blanks. As a member of the Eastern Standard Tribe, Art is one of many in the now truly global village who have banded together out of like-minded affinity for a particular time zone and its circadian cycles. Art may have grown up in Toronto but his real homeland is an online grouping that prefers bagels and hot dogs to the fish and chips of their rivals who live on Greenwich Mean Time. As he rises through the ranks of the tribe, he is sent abroad to sabotage the traffic patterns and communication networks in the GMT tribe. Along the way, he comes across a humdinger of an idea that will solve a music piracy problem on the highways of his own beloved timezone, raise his status in the tribe and make him rich. If only he could have trusted his tightly wound girlfriend and fellow tribal saboteur, he probably wouldn't be on the booby hatch roof with that pencil up his nose.

As a musing on the future, Doctorow's extrapolation seems entirely plausible. And, not only is EST a fascinating mental leap it's a witty and savvy tale that will appeal to anyone who's lived another life, however briefly, online. --Jeremy Pugh

I was hoping Eastern Standard Tribe would be similar to Little Brother, which I LOVED. And the concept is fascinating. To quote above, "As a member of the Eastern Standard Tribe, Art is one of many in the now truly global village who have banded together out of like-minded affinity for a particular time zone and its circadian cycles." Basically, in a hyper-connected and rather homogenized global village, our most meaningful relationships are based on when we're awake.

Both Little Brother and EST have concepts that are a bit complex and a little difficult to grasp if you're not a cybergeek (me) but while Little Brother explained things in terms that were easily understood without making me feel stupid and then completely changed my perception of hacking, EST left me in the dust, assuming I already knew what on earth it was talking about. Which I didn't. A decent explanation of the "tribes" and the ideas I wrote in the paragraph above finally came about 3/4 of the way through the book, long after I had become annoyed at the stupid book and its air of smarty superiority.

Plus, the writing was so-so, the plot was meh, and I didn't care much for any the characters. The book was mercifully brief so I was able to plow through it in an evening but I really just didn't care for it.

In the book's defense, because of where I found it in my library I thought it was YA. So I was totally judging it through the curse words and one rather lurid description of a breast and wondering what on earth made people think it was a book fit for teenagers. I just double checked though and it looks like it was just in the wrong place but thinking it was YA while reading it made me dislike it that much more.

Overall: don't bother.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Can You Keep a Secret by Sophie Kinsella

From Goodreads:

With the same wicked humor, buoyant charm, and optimism that have made her Shopaholic novels beloved international bestsellers, Sophie Kinsella delivers a hilarious new novel and an unforgettable new character. Meet Emma Corrigan, a young woman with a huge heart, an irrepressible spirit, and a few little secrets:

Secrets from her mother:
I lost my virginity in the spare bedroom with Danny Nussbaum while Mum and Dad were downstairs watching Ben-Hur.
Sammy the goldfish in my parents’ kitchen is not the same goldfish that Mum gave me to look after when she and Dad were in Egypt.

Secrets from her boyfriend:
I weigh one hundred and twenty-eight pounds. Not one eighteen, like Connor thinks.
I’ve always thought Connor looks a bit like Ken. As in Barbie and Ken.

From her colleagues:
When Artemis really annoys me, I feed her plant orange juice. (Which is pretty much every day.) It was me who jammed the copier that time. In fact, all the times.

Secrets she wouldn’t share with anyone in the world:
My G-string is hurting me.
I have no idea what NATO stands for. Or even what it is.

Until she spills them all to a handsome stranger on a plane. At least, she thought he was a stranger.

But come Monday morning, Emma’s office is abuzz about the arrival of Jack Harper, the company’s elusive CEO. Suddenly Emma is face-to-face with the stranger from
the plane, a man who knows every single humiliating detail about her. Things couldn’t possibly get worse—Until they do.

My lovely friend Catherine loaned me the book on cd when I complained that I had no idea what to read next. She's a good friend like that.

I LOVED the narrator. She had this lovely British accent that was a total pleasure to listen to. Except when she did the guy's voice. Then she reminded me of a zombie. But otherwise I loved her and the way she said Lizzy like Lissy which I found strangely appealing.

The book started off really strong. I laughed my behind off through discs one and two. Like snorting while cleaning my kitchen sort of laughing. It was hilarious and very Bridget Jones and Aaron kept looking at me funny because I would be like, *snort* "orange juice!"

I felt like it lost momentum and humour (British spelling in honor of the English setting) in the second half though. It was still a perfectly fine fluffy chick-lit type novel but after such a hysterical first half I was kind of disappointed when it didn't finish quite as strong.

Overall though, a perfectly lovely beach read which is totally worth reading if only for the scene in the plane with the confessing. Hilarious.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

From Goodreads:
In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would "unwind" them.

Connor's parents want to be rid of him because he's a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev's unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family's strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can't be harmed -- but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.

In Unwind, Boston Globe/Horn Book Award winner Neal Shusterman challenges readers' ideas about life -- not just where life begins, and where it ends, but what it truly means to be alive.

Either I have a thing for futuristic dystopian novels or they're really common, because I've read a whole lot of them this year.

The concept of Unwind is absolutely horrifying. Unwanted teens are "retroactively aborted" and sent to "harvest camps" where they are dismantled and their pieces are farmed out to those who need them. It's organ donation on crack and there's a scene told from the point of view of a kid being unwound that's probably the most deeply unsettling thing I've read in a long time.

This book tackles some really heavy issues: pro life vs. pro choice, the power of propaganda (the government argues that unwinding isn't death, rather a chance to live on in a "divided state"), the existence of the soul and what happens to it when a body is divided, parental responsibility ("storking" is almost as horrifying as unwinding), and so much more. Shusterman even takes a jab at those obnoxious standardized state tests when a character mentions that his class never got around to learning about the Heartland War, something that fundamentally changed his country and affected his life since the "Bill of Life" that ended it legalized unwinding, because they had to do state testing.

Shusterman also preys on some deep seated fears. The teenage fear that adults don't actually see you as a person. The worry that, in receiving an organ or other tissue from a donor, you are accepting a foreign consciousness into yourself that could infringe on your autonomy. The terror brought on by suicide bombers. The fear that you might not own your own body and that some large nebulous governing entity could take it and your freedom from you at will.

There was just so much to think about in this one. I found myself wishing I had read it as part of a book club or something so we could discuss all this stuff.

I could barely put Unwind down while reading and, several days later, I haven't put it down mentally either. A good, strong read all around.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

From Goodreads:

Eoin Colfer describes his new book, Artemis Fowl, as "Die Hard with fairies." He's not far wrong.

Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is the most ingenious criminal mastermind in history. With two trusty sidekicks in tow, he hatches a cunning plot to divest the fairyfolk of their pot of gold. Of course, he isn't foolish enough to believe in all that "gold at the end of the rainbow" nonsense. Rather, he knows that the only way to separate the little people from their stash is to kidnap one of them and wait for the ransom to arrive. But when the time comes to put his plan into action, he doesn't count on the appearance of the extrasmall, pointy-eared Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaisance) Unit--and her senior officer, Commander Root, a man (sorry, elf) who will stop at nothing to get her back.

It's pretty clear that I have a passion for reading and I've been worrying about how to share that passion with my children for years. Since my first (and thus far, only) baby is a boy, I've started to keep my eye open for books that might appeal to 8-18 year old boys since that seems to be the hardest age to find good books for. My little brother loved Harry Potter but pretty much lost interest in reading after the series ended because very little interested him after that and books sort of became lost to him. Sad.

He did mention liking Artemis Fowl when he was younger so I picked it up.

I was ridiculously and pleasantly surprised by Artemis Fowl. I was expecting a main character much more like Harry Potter in temperament so I was pretty surprised that Artemis is a rather cold, calculating, nerdy, unsentimental criminal mastermind. It says something about the author, Eoin Colfer, that despite these rather unfuzzy personality traits, I still loved Artemis and wanted him to succeed.

The story is a great combination of fairy folklore (fairies! Leprechauns! Trolls!), modern technology (command centers! Night vision goggles! tracking devices!), and general good old fashioned evil genius. I started this book with an 11 year old boy in mind and ended up losing myself in it and just enjoying it without sparing another thought for whether or not a 6th grade Wes would enjoy it.

It's definitely going on my "Boy List" and I'm excited to see if the rest of the series measures up!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sorcery & Cecilia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

The Goodreads description of this book sucks so I'll just tell you a bit about it myself.

The two authors started writing letters to one another in character without any design beyond their own entertainment. They did not discuss the plot outside of their letters. They simply wrote to each other as two cousins, Kate and Cecelia (Cecy), who lived in England in a slightly alternate universe soon after the Napoleonic Wars. After the letters got more and more awesome and finally came to a lovely conclusion they looked at what they had done and said, "hey..this is kind of like a book."

I have been really lucky this week because this was yet another really really awesome book that I can unashamedly recommend to people.

I am indebted to Katy for recommending this book on her own book blog because I spent an incredibly pleasant evening on the couch ignoring my family while totally absorbed. It's just so lovely and charming and wonderful and I was totally grinning like an idiot most of the time. It felt a bit like a Jane Austen novel in a world where magic exists and what could be better than that?

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo

From the book flap:
This is the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in darkness but covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl with a simple, impossible wish. These characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and ultimately, into each other's lives. And what happens then? Reader, it is your destiny to find out.

I was prepared to love The Tale of Despereaux. I finally got around to picking it up because the author, Kate DiCamillo is going to be at the National Book Festival in September but I was looking forward to it because I saw a little blurb about the book on tv once right before the movie came out and it sounded so wonderful.

And then, for me, the book fell totally flat.

It felt a lot like The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, actually. Sparse, with two-dimensional characters that left me bored and just chugging through to get to the end. Except I felt like the ending of TBitSP redeemed it a bit while the ending to The Tale of Despereaux just felt really abrupt and unsatisfying.

Plus, the book would be all charming and then there would be random bits of darkness and violence. I don't mind dark fairy tales, but this one felt a little uneven and I wasn't expecting it at all. Most dark fairy tales thoroughly acknowledge they're dark, but this one still sort of tries to pass itself off as a shiny happily-ever-after type story, even when the ending isn't actually all that happy.

The illustrations were gorgeous though.

I'd still like to see the movie...maybe it will play out better for me on screen than on the page.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

From Goodreads:
Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesn't like Holling—he's sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behavior: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivation—the Big M—in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself.

I was worried about choosing my first post Catching Fire book. After you read something that really absorbs you and is just really well done it's hard to go on and read something fluffy or mediocre. You want something just as awesome.

It's a bit like comparing apples to oranges, but The Wednesday Wars is just as awesome. I'd heard lots of good things about it but still had to make myself pick it up. For some reason, the blurb just didn't capture me and I wasn't excited about reading it. But so many glowing reviews couldn't be wrong and by ten pages in I was hooked and I couldn't put it down.

The story has a perfect mix of silly 7th grade antics and touching coming-of-age type experiences mixed with all the wonderful volatility of the 60s. There's Shakespeare and Vietnam and escaped classroom pets and Bobby Kennedy and first love and the falling of heroes and Martin Luther King Jr. and the horror of being seen by the whole school while wearing yellow tights with feathers on the bum. There is so so much good stuff in this book and I laughed and cried and laughed and cried some more.

The Wednesday Wars just easily marched itself into a well deserved spot in my top 10 favorite books.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

From Goodreads, as per usual:

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

I don't even know what to say about this book. If you read Hunger Games then you already know what Suzanne Collins is capable of and this was every bit as good as its predecessor. It's 400 pages and I sat down and read straight through it in an evening (I'll admit to taking a doughnut break in the middle, but I was totally pondering the latest development over my chocolate raised).

The hardest part is, I can't talk much about it without giving stuff away. But there was this like..devastating development that caused me to frantically text Janssen (again with the secret ninja channels. She got her hands on an ARC and is passing it around to those she loves most) like, "CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING" and there would be a flurry of texting book discussion.

And um..that's all I can really say because I try to be spoiler free so, go forth! Read this book when it comes out on September 1! And then we shall discuss! But rest assured that the story is strong and totally absorbing and it's a worthy addition (HA I typed addiction first and it kind of still fits) to the Hunger Games series. Speaking of which, does anyone know how many books there are supposed to be? And has anyone read her Underland Chronicles books? Are they any good?

Oh, and remember how the last book dropped off at the end and you were like, 'BUT WHAT HAPPENS???' Ya. It's like that again.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

From Goodreads:

Berlin 1942

When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

I've heard very mixed reviews on this one. Some people loved it. Some hated it. But most people argue that the whole premise of the book was totally implausible.

I disagree with the people who thought so many things about this story were so unlikely. Very few people knew about the concentration camps until they were liberated, plus it was a time of greater innocence for children in particular and people in general, so it's entirely possible for Bruno to have no clue what was going on right outside his front door. I don't know if you've ever met a 9 year old boy, but they're kind of clueless about a lot of things and that kind of horror was likely beyond his wildest imaginings. It's also possible that the Commandant would not have placed his children in Hitler Youth. Eva Braun was never an actual member of the Nazi party and she was sleeping with Hitler himself, so it kind of seems like sometimes those who are closest to the action were the ones who were most shielded.

Also, the use of "Out-with" and "the Fury" are literary devices. Get over it.

I thought the ending was perfect. The book needed some kind of redemption and that was the only way to get it.

Now, having defended it, I will tell you that I thought The Boy in the Striped Pajamas was kind of boring.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

According to the back cover:
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

I got an ARC of this one from the publisher (thanks to Janssen's secret ninja channels, once again) and I was really really excited when it showed up and then it sat. And sat. and sat. on my bedside table for like 2 weeks. Because I have a huge stack of library books with a time limit and I had to work through some of them first.

I FINALLY got around the reading it over the past couple days and, despite the fact that it has a ridiculously high rating on Goodreads, I just felt kind of meh about it. But since pretty much everyone else who has read it seems to disagree with me, take my opinions with a grain of salt. You may love it, who knows?

Pros: I really loved the setting and the Southern gothic touches. It made it different from anything else I've read lately and I could totally smell the damp and see the swampiness and the busted down old graveyards and houses and whatnot. The story itself is fine. The supporting characters were really enjoyable...I loved Macon and Link in particular, but even the nasty kids at school and Lena's family members who showed up in small scenes were fun. I loved that I couldn't figure Amma out..she was this God-fearing crazy voodoo person and I loved her. Plus the cover is really pretty.

Cons: It was about 200 pages too long. 626 pages is a long freaking book and I'm really not sure how those pages were filled. It's Twilight length but lacks the Twilight relationship development. Granted, Twilight was ridiculously heavy-handed, but you GOT the relationship. I didn't GET Lena and Ethan. A little more development there would have gone a long way in helping me love the main characters together. Also, I felt like there were several rather big questions left unanswered but the ending implies that this might be the first in a series? So maybe those will get answered later? I don't know, but these were things I waited like 550 pages to find out and then there was no satisfactory explanation. Which was annoying.

If you really like YA fantasy, this is probably worth a read. If not, don't bother. It won't convert you to the genre or teach you any grand life lessons or anything.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Enna Burning by Shannon Hale

Again deferring to Goodreads:
Enna and Princess Isi became fast friends in The Goose Girl, but after Isi married Prince Geric, Enna returned to the forest. Enna's simple life changes forever when she learns to wield fire and burn anything at will. Enna is convinced that she can use her ability for good--to fight Tira, the kingdom threatening the Bayern borders--and goes on secret raids to set fire to the Tiran camps and villages. But as the power of the fire grows stronger, she is less able to control her need to burn. In her recklessness she is captured by the Tiran army and held captive by a handsome, manipulative young captain who drugs her to keep her under his influence. Can Isi and her old friends Finn and Razo rescue her without sacrificing themselves? And with the fire still consuming her, will Enna find a way to manage the gift that threatens to destroy her?

Here's the thing with me and fantasy:

I like fantasy but I need a lot in the story that I can relate to. Like little bits of fantasy in a larger story that contains lots of normalcy. Which is why I really enjoyed Goose Girl...sure, there was that wind talking thing, but it felt like such a small footnote in the overall story. In Enna Burning, the fantasy is a much larger part and I just felt overwhelmed by it. I still enjoyed the story and think Shannon Hale is pretty much awesome, but I didn't enjoy Enna Burning as much as its predecessor.

That's totally personal preference though because some people like large doses of fantasy. Plus, even though it's not much of a love story, there's this scene in a tent where Finn thinks Enna is sleeping and he kind of declares his love for her and it melted my stone cold heart. So there's always that.

Fire by Kristin Cashore

I'm not super great at writing summaries so I'm going to defer to Goodreads:

Fire, Graceling's prequel-ish companion book, takes place across the mountains to the east of the seven kingdoms, in a rocky, war-torn land called the Dells.

Beautiful creatures called monsters live in the Dells. Monsters have the shape of normal animals: mountain lions, dragonflies, horses, fish. But the hair or scales or feathers of monsters are gorgeously colored-- fuchsia, turquoise, sparkly bronze, iridescent green-- and their minds have the power to control the minds of humans.

Seventeen-year-old Fire is the last remaining human-shaped monster in the Dells. Gorgeously monstrous in body and mind but with a human appreciation of right and wrong, she is hated and mistrusted by just about everyone, and this book is her story.

Wondering what makes it a companion book/prequel? Fire takes place 30-some years before Graceling and has one cross-over character with Graceling, a small boy with strange two-colored eyes who comes from no-one-knows-where, and who has a peculiar ability that Graceling readers will find familiar and disturbing...

Janssen got an ARC of Fire because she has secret ninja channels that allow her to get the year's most anticipated books early and then she shares them. Because she's awesome like that.

This book was 461 pages and I finished it in well under 24 hours. It was just. that. good. I really enjoyed Graceling but you could kind of tell it was a freshman effort. The story was great but had a few pacing problems and I had a couple nitpicky issues with the writing. And then Kristin Cashore all went and grew up on us and that stuff was remedied in Fire and the whole thing just flowed so much better.

Also, a lot of people have mentioned this, but this book is just so pretty. I read an interview with the author somewhere and she gave mad props to her cover person because, seriously. PRETTY.

Also, fair warning: everyone in this book is having sex (in an "off screen" sort of way) and the relationships are all crazy and you will need a flow chart to figure out who is related to who in name and who is related to who by blood because those things are frequently different.

Overall, I give it an AWESOME.