So...I read three and a half books this week. This was due in large part to the arrival of an ARC of Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver...yesterday. I won it from the Vault over at YA Confidential and I wanted to get it read this weekend so I could pass it on to my students ASAP. But first I had to finish Finnikin of the Rock. So I read a book and a half today. The other books were Cinder by Marissa Meyer and half of The Glass Collector by Anna Perera, which I had already read half of sometime back in December. Anyway: I read a lot this week. And it was awesome.
What I Read This Week:
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm still in a daze. It was, without a doubt, a five-star read for me. But I can't put my finger on exactly what elevated it above the many other futuristic fantasy dystopias or fairy-tale re-tellings or however else you might define this. I just know that I'm smitten. I can't stop thinking about this. I mean--the world-building definitely stands out, as Marissa Meyer has created not just one but TWO worlds. I've read that this is the beginning of a bunch of stories about fairytaleish characters, and I sincerely hope that this is true, because: I want so much more. If you like strong, realistic protagonists or charming, conflicted love interests or complex, sprawling, tantalizing worlds, or immensely satisfying plotting--well, you have good taste, first of all, and second of all, you need to read Cinder ASAP!
The Glass Collector. Anna Perera by Anna Perera
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
**This is a book I got for free, in advance through Netgalley.** I read The Glass Collector in two halves a few months apart. The story itself, and the detail with which Perera described the life of the Zabbaleen, were fascinating. The Zabbaleen are a community of people who live in a village just outside of Cairo, and who collect and recycle much of the city's trash. Clearly, Perera has done her research, and it shows in the strongest parts of the book, which depict life in the Zabbaleen village of Mokattam. Most of the book focuses on Aaron, a young man whose obsession with glass makes him both a skilled trash collector and, later, an outcast in his own village. Aaron's story held my attention, but occasionally the third-person narration would shift to give the perspective of a different character, and that jarred me out of the story a bit. Overall, though, I would recommend this book simply based on the chance to read about a community I had never heard of--it almost feels invented, like I want to praise Perera's world-building--but it's very real and essential to the functioning of a major city.
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
After hearing raves about Melina Marchetta's writing from many, many bloggers whose taste I trust, I decided to start with Finnikin of the Rock. My verdict: Ms. Marchetta has not been overhyped. Sometimes I forget how much I enjoy fantasy like this--which, really, is historical fiction with just a touch of magic thrown in here and there. This story had all the ingredients I look for in fantasy--a long journey, a hero to root for, a girl who has to repeatedly prove her grit and strength--along with some things I didn't expect (cussing, casual sex talk) that startled me at first but then added to the reality (I've started to take the absence of casual profanity in many novels for granted, just like I don't worry about the inexplicable presence of light in outdoor nighttime scenes in movies. There was nothing in Finnikin that's any worse than the things I hear in my classroom every day, but if you're someone who'd rather avoid dirty talk altogether, consider yourself warned.) It was a dark read, that only got darker as it went along, but that makes sense given Marchetta's note at the end of the book that she was writing from a place of reality--considering the problems in our own world that she feels are most compelling in a humanitarian way--rather than trying to emulate classic fantasy. That said, the entire thing is about finding hope and rebuilding, so it's not as though it's designed to make you want to curl up in a ball and rock back and forth. Also: the characters are often funny, and I found myself tearing up happily more than once. I'm very excited to have received an e-galley of the sequel, Froi of the Exiles, so look for that review some time next week.
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Having won an ARC of this book just a few weeks before its release, I resolved to read it ASAP and then pass it on to my students. Well--I opened the package about 25 hours ago, during which time I had to finish about half of the book I was currently reading, sleep (for about twelve hours--it's been a long week), and go out for lunch. Friends, I devoured this one. It's one of the sequels coming out this year that I was most excited for, and it lived up to my anticipation. The thing I admire most about Lauren Oliver's stories is their structure. She doesn't re-invent the wheel, and it sounds like a kind of basic, boring thing to admire. But she just uses story structure like such a pro. It gives this great experience of familiarity overlaid with breath-stealing suspense: I think I know what's coming--but it can't be true. She did it in Delirium and she did it here. I won't say much about the plot, because I don't want to spoil anyone--but listen, if you don't finish this book desperate for the next one (*sigh* Spring 2013? But what if the world ends this year?!?) then I think you must have been Cured or something. Girlfriend knows how to end a book, y'all.
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Waiting In The Wings:
McNally Jackson! I'm really excited to read this and will report back soon.)