Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Days of Blood & Starlight

by Laini Taylor
New York : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012.

*** Second in series warning - possible spoilers for Daughter of Smoke & Bone***

The battle between seraphs and chimaeras continues, the war taking on new heights as each side escalates the violence, drawing further and further away from Akiva and Karou's dream of peace. Indeed, now that Karou's memories are intact, even peace between the former lovers appears impossible. Can any hope be found in the midst of desperate war?

Laini Taylor crafts a fine story. I can only figure out some of her plot twists, and Akiva and Karou's struggles to deal with betrayal and do the right thing are compelling. Nearly every chapter left me hanging, needing to turn pages instead of put the book down. An entertaining read that will leave fantasy fans impatient for the next book.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Under the Never Sky

by Veronica Rossi
New York : HarperCollins, 2012.

Aria lives in the Pods, where the "real" is gray and everyone's hooked up to Smarteyes that allow them to visit the Realms, a sort of immersive Second Life. Peregrine is an Outsider, one of those whom Aria's people believe to be savage and wild, living in a world that they cannot survive in. When Aria loses contact with her mother, she ventures outside the Pods with friends and finds out that everything she knows about the Outside is wrong.

Shifting back and forth between Aria's and Perry's points of view, the reader gets to see each character's preconceptions change as they travel together and learn about each other. Because most of the action takes place on the Outside, we don't really see much of Aria's world except through her memories and the quick glimpses of technology for the portions that take place in the Pods. If you've read a lot of young adult dystopias, you may not find the plot directions all that surprising, but this is a fast-paced story with two characters I couldn't help but root for. I would hand it to teens who are impatient for the next book in the Divergent series.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


by Marilynne Robinson
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004.

Reverend John Ames nears the end of his life in Gilead, Iowa in 1956, and begins writing reflections for his young son to read after he dies. He touches on family, faith, and much more, meandering as old people will from one subject to the other. Throughout, we see a lovely picture of a man who is the son and grandson of preachers, lived through two world wars, and yet loves this messed up world.

I'm not sure I can adequately describe the sheer pleasure of reading this book. It's more of a character study than a plot-heavy book. The writing is poetic, lyrical, and thought-provoking whether one happens to share John Ames' faith or not. The narrative flow from subject to subject felt completely natural to an old man thinking of one thing after another, with the start and stop of many days of sitting down to write as long as he could manage each day, yet it was perfectly crafted, not one word wasted. I was sorry to leave Gilead behind.

Monday, March 11, 2013

How to Read Literature Like a Professor

by Thomas Foster
New York : Quill, c2003.

Ever had an English class where you wondered, "How on earth does the professor come up with this interpretation stuff?" Though Thomas Foster himself is a college professor, he clearly remembers what it was like to be a high school or college undergrad reader. In short chapters, he engagingly and clearly explains some of the motifs, symbols, and patterns one can look for and expect when reading.

I truly wish that I had read this informative and entertaining book when I was in college. I was an English major, but I didn't buy a good fourth of what I wrote in my papers, feeling like I was reading too much between the lines. The main issue for me was "How could the author have possibly meant ---- or been reacting to ---- ? How do you know?" I never felt that my English professors answered this satisfactorily, but in one chapter, Foster does: since stories are, at their core, interconnected, an author may have read (and reacted to) one book that was informed by a previous one. Even if the author never intended the connection to the original story, his or her writing has indeed been affected by it because of that later book the author meant to refer or react to (I'm not explaining this very well, but trust me, Foster does).

I may never read quite like an English professor (I think it would take multiple readings of any text to do so). But, his attitude that it's OK to enjoy the story at its most literal level and not pick up on every nuance or have exactly his interpretation made me think that I could be a better reader than I have been, and has inspired me to read more texts that take a reader's effort to fully appreciate.