Sunday, June 13, 2010

Readathon book reflections

Last weekend, I participated in the 48hr Book Challenge, and I feel like I spent this week recovering. I never quite realized how particular I am about how often I read, how often I prefer to read, and how much I can read at once. I've noticed in the past few months of Reading Recaps that I average about 3,000 pages read each month, and this seems like a good number for me. I am definitely a slave to routine and balance, which keeps me sane most of the time. :)

Anyhow, since I haven't done much reading this week, I thought I'd mull over some of last weekend's reads.

Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder
published December 2008 (c2006?) by MIRA
448 pages (paperback reprint), YA

This is the second book in Snyder's Study series - I absolutely loved the first, Poison Study. If you haven't read the first, then spoilers are inevitable, but if you're anything like me, you won't remember them by the time you read it anyway, so please continue.

Yelena is en route to her supposed home in Sitia, but she has no memories of her childhood or family. She is exiled from the only home she's known as well as her former mentor and current love, Valek. With Master Magician Irys' help, Yelena adapts to life in Sitia, reluctant but willing to learn to control her magic. She briefly meets her family--mother, father, brother, and a clan filled with cousins, aunts, and uncles--then immediately sets off to reach the Magician's Citadel where she can begin her magic training. At the Citadel, a rogue magician is on the loose, murdering innocent girls in a way that is all too familiar to Yelena. Of course, Yelena leaps in without thinking, providing much-needed assistance but also revealing a little something about herself that she had yet to discover on her own.

What can I say? It's a complicated book. And I'll admit that I was most interested in the parts where Valek made an appearance. I was shocked at how different this book was from the first, and it took me a little while to get into it. I feel like the first book focused very much on Yelena's character, and this one went for the action-packed approach. Yelena doesn't have much time to reflect on all that she's learned about herself and her past because she's chasing a crazy, serial killer magician. I'm almost halfway through the third book, Fire Study, and my interest is waning because it seems that the same is happening in this book - less about the characters (and so many new characters!) and more plot-based, which is a little disappointing. I think Poison Study is great as a stand-alone novel, and the next two can be considered optional companions.

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
published March 2010 by Random House
416 pages (hardcover), YA

I won't say much about this one. It is the companion novel (second in a trilogy) to The Forest of Hands and Teeth, in that we are introduced to Mary's daughter, Gabry, who this story follows. I've read tons of criticism that Gabry is weak and annoying, afraid and whining, and I suppose that's fine because, well, she is, but that didn't really affect my enjoyment of the story. Not all main characters are strong. They're not all invincible. And they're not all perfect. I'm okay with the fact that Gabry is terrified of breaking the rules, is paralyzed with fear at encountering a Mudo - in a world where zombies roamed the earth, I'd be constantly afraid too. What I didn't initially enjoy was the ridiculous love triangle, but I did eventually get over it because I could see it happening. You love who you love until you don't (or can't) anymore and someone else comes along. Especially in extreme circumstances, this is common. All in all, I liked this book, and I'll probably read the third, The Dark and Hollow Places, when it comes out next spring.

A Spy in the House (The Agency #1) by Y.S. Lee
published March 2010 by Candlewick
352 pages (hardcover), YA

Goodness, how I loved this book! Think Enola Holmes for YA. This is a new Victorian mystery series, with criminal-turned-lady Mary Quinn as our main character, who has joined the exclusive and elusive Agency, an organization of women spies, after completing her education at its cover, Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls. Her first assignment is to be a lady's companion to the daughter of a merchant who seems to be losing a few too many cargo ships at sea. She is merely to acquire useful information about the potential fraudulent claims, but Mary is a take-action kind of girl, so she sets out to do some detective work of her own. She finds herself in some sticky situations, with a love interest in a partner in spy, James Easton, who is also investigating this family for his own reasons. This was a delightful read! Mary is anything but a lady, though she does try. She's clever and headstrong with a blossoming flirtatious side. I'm looking forward to more in this series, with The Body at the Tower coming out in August.

The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler
published February 2010 by HarperCollins
245 pages (hardcover), MG

You know me, I'm a sucker for retold fairy tales. Can you guess this one? Yep, The Twelve Dancing Princesses. In which there is a thirteenth princess named Zita who grows up as a servant in the castle, unknowing of her true parentage until she's twelve years old. When she finds out that she too is a princess, she's elated and she immediately attempts to get to know her twelve sisters, who embrace her and welcome her into their room at night, when the king won't see. Because the king is furious to have thirteen daughters, not one son to be his heir, and not even willing to acknowledge his thirteenth daughter. After all, she is the one who killed the queen in childbirth. While Zita is discovering her new life, the princesses begin to fall ill. They are exhausted and confined to their room, with worn out slippers each night. It's up to Zita and some new friends to find out what's going on in the palace, where magic has been banned but is clearly at work. 

I've recently read Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, which is also a retelling of this tale, so I thought that I would be bored with this one. Not the case at all. Introducing a thirteenth princess was such a clever idea that really worked with this story. I was happy for all of the background information at the start of the book and still wanted to find out how the princesses would be lifted from their spell.



Jan von Harz said...

Love, love, love all your reviews. I just finished the second book in Snyder's Glass trilogy, Sea Glass and can't wait for Spy Glass's release in Sept. I guess I will have to hit the Poison Study next. I am also very interested in reading A Spy in the House as I have heard other rave about it too.

I am also finding that while I can read a lot of books in a week that I have more trouble finishing reviews when I read too much. So after this week I am going to slow it down some and try to be more productive with the reviews. I must say though it seems to come so naturally for you. Wish I had your talent.

NatalieSap said...

Thanks so much, Jan. I hope to read the Glass series too, but maybe not this summer. As for writing reviews, yikes, it does not come naturally to me! Hours of staring at the computer screen, writing rubbish, revising, and finally throwing my hands up in the air, this is what you get. Which is why I certainly don't review as often as some other bloggers. I try not to put too much pressure on myself to review - I read much more than I can write about, and I'm okay with that. But I thank you for your kind words. :)

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