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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Eona (and a Bit of Eon) *Spoiler Alert*

By Alison Goodman
Sequel to one of the most hyped-up books of 2008, Eon, this book was no disappointment. For those of you not familiar with the first, I can offer a short synopsis. Eon is a slave on a brutal salt farm in a fictional world loosely modeled on medieval China and feudal japan, taking the myths and beliefs of both. The world is ruled over by the ruthless Pearl Emperor, his limitless power and divine image reinforced by the twelve Dragoneye Lords in his feudal government. They control the heavenly dragons residing in the invisible energy world, and with these perform miraculous feats of divine power. The empire is divided into districts, each being controlled by their respective Dragoneyes. I should add that there are twelve dragoneyes- each divided by the directions of a compass and the signs of the Zodiac. The Horse Dragoneye, for example, is strongest in the region of South by Southeast and the keeper of insight. Each Dragoneye is allotted a reign of twelve years, one of them as the Ascendant Dragoneye (following the Zodiac), and twelve years of training an apprentice who will "Ascend" at the next year of Ascension for that dragon to the status of a full Dragoneye. All dragons are currently present at court, with the notable exception of the Mirror Dragon, otherwise known as the Dragon Dragon, who has been missing for 500 years.
   Eon's master has been cultivating Eon as a candidate for the rigorous testing for Dragoneye power and control of a dragon. Despite sporting a lame leg, Eon arrives to the testing only to be ignored by the Ascendant Dragon in favor of one of the other competitors. In the end, it doesn't much matter; the Mirror Dragon roars back into the world after 500 years and chooses Eon, who now has to take the Mirror Dragoneye's place in court.
   Thing is, she's a girl. Girls have no place in the rigidly chauvinistic imperial society, and to be found out will mean certain death for her- not even for the lying; for the crime of being a woman controlling a dragon and a position of power in the Emperor's government.
   To make a long story short, she is unable to control or even call her dragon; normally, dragons will tell their lords their names. The mirror dragon is quiet, absent even, after their first contact, leaving Eon to deal with the Imperial intrigue by herself. She eventually realizes an even bigger surprise: her dragon, Eona, is female. She is the Queen of the Imperial Dragons and the only dragon to pass her power down a hereditary line: Eon's. At this point, the ruthless Lord Ido, Rat Dragoneye, executes a seamless coup and revolution with High Lord Sethon, who becomes the new emperor, at least in name. The Pearl Emperor is killed, and his heir escapes into the wilderness with Eona (by this point "out" to him and having changed her name to Eona) and a few royal guards and their friends. End book one.
  Eona takes place a short time after Eon, and it follows Eona's path to controlling and using her power. She discovers that she has both the power to heal grievous wounds with the Mirror Dragon and the power to completely take over the minds of people she has thus healed. She and the new Pearl Emperor, Kygo, form a plan to take back his throne with the rebel armies hidden around the land, but first, Eona must control her power. To this end, they liberate the betrayed-and-tortured Lord Ido so he can teach Eona about her power. As the plot progresses, she is increasingly caught between Kygo and Lord Ido- romantically, and idealistically. As she is forced to make her choices, she risks being lost at every step to Sethon's armies, rogue Imperial dragons, and the dark hua (life force) of all that is twisted and corrupt.
   I strongly recommend this book to those who have read Eon... and I recommend both books to those who haven't yet. It is amazingly written, has a superbly evocative setting, and doesn't hesitate to cross the line in a way that modern fantasies all too often don't attempt. Warnings, though, to the faint of heart; this book is violent and has sensual content.
   I'm not in the mood for an outside-of-the-box review right now- it's a 5, take it or leave it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

I have once again been thwarted from a good book by its deciving title and cover. This book was like a calzone or chicken pot pie: it looks plain, uninteresting, or weird on the outside, but on the inside it has complex flavors, textures, and colors that makes it suprisingly good. Unfortunately, 'don't judge a book by it's cover' does not have much of an affect on me. This story circulates around a blind girl, Cheyenne, who is accidentally kidnapped by Griffin, a poor son of an abusive father who steals and conducts black market car deals for money. Instead of snagging just a cool car that'll impress Dad, Griffin gets snarled inside a complicated national-news kidnapping. The perspective from a blind person is something I haven't experienced until I read this book. It was quite interesting: I would have to pretend that I was blind while reading and that I can't see things that Cheyenne describes. Alternatively, I'd have to remind myself to put color back in place in Griffin's perspective. It created a situation where your creatitity and perspective in the book was challenged and forced you to pay attention to certain details. It had interesting characters, imagery, and plot. This book is worth your time: I rate it 4 out of 5.


By Cat Patrick
This book was absolutely amazing. It is the story of a girl who wakes up each morning with no idea what happened in her life so far, but 'remembers' the future. It was well written and I
would definitely recommend it.
I would describe this as a kumquat. For anyone who has never eaten a kumquat they are in the
citrus family, about the size of a grape, and when you first eat one it is really sour, but after a minute it becomes sweeter. This book reminded me of them because it was different from
anything I've read in a while, and surprising, but with some familiar themes. It was also a very quick read. At first the writing was a little bit confusing but I quickly started to love it.

For anyone who uses numbers to rate I would say this is a 4.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Best YA movie I've seen in ages

I know this is the YA Galley blog and I should be posting about books but I just have to post about True Grit (the movie, which is based on a book)!

Mattie Ross, played in the Coen brothers version of the movie by Hailee Steinfeld, might just be my favorite YA heroine of all-time. When you take into consideration both the genre of film (Western) and the time-period, she really stands out as such a kick-butt protagonist. I mean, she heads out with a drunken marshal and surprisingly Texan version of Matt Damon to avenge her father's death. How cool is that?

If there's one complaint with YA that I have from time to time, it's the dearth of truly strong female characters. Yes, there are some books with standout characters, but I find that there are a few too many books with Bella Swan type characters, who are so wishy-washy and flighty.

Mattie Ross is none of these things. She has swagger and determination, and she can out-talk and out-wit nearly everyone in town. I know I don't have time to read a lot of grownup books these days, with my second year of being on the YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults committee just underway, but seeing True Grit this weekend sure made me want to revisit the source material.

In the meantime, I sure hope to find more Mattie Rosses in my reading this year. If you come across any, please let me know!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dark Water

By Laura McNeal
    Pearl DeWitt lives a happy, close life with her mother in the warm California town of Fallbrook, "where it's sunny 340 days of the year" and everyone grows avocados. She and her mother live, in her uncle Hoyt's guesthouse (after their own was foreclosed upon), the life of roommates or close sisters. They don't make their beds, watch flicks, and raise silkworms in the living room. Everything seems perfect to Pearl, until, suddenly, everything changes.
    She moves to high school, for one thing. From nowhere, her best friend grows both a splendid chest and a foot taller. Greenie has less time for Pearl, it seems; the time they once spent together is now wasted with older guys, beer and parties.
    The greater change, however, is the introduction of a new worker in her uncle's avocado farm. New workers aren't unusual; he employs over many at his orchards, some for only a season. However, something about Amiel de la Cruz Guerero catches her eye; perhaps it's his inability to speak or his homelessness. She befriends him, slowly, painfully, while he resists her intrusion into his perfectly private life. Just as they click, a romance blooms, and he lets his walls crash down, a disaster strikes.
   Forest fires roar down to Fallbrook from the wilds of California, burning and smashing all Pearl ever held dear. About to evacuate, she's stopped by the crushing realization that Amiel is still in his forest abode, unaware of the danger. Now, to leave the book as the cliffhanger that it is, I'll stop here.
   I strongly suggest reading it to find out the rest. Great book, great writing, creation of an ephemeral small-town clime of warmth, dryness, and tropical flora. Japanese pork tempura- warm, crispy, full of flavor and evocations of warmer times. 4.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Empty by Suzanne Weyn

Empty had great potential. It was a quick read, only 183 pages. It is set "ten years from now" according to the first page, and there is pretty much no oil left in the world. Everything in society quickly went downhill. People started using electricity as little as possible, gas went from $30 a gallon to $40 to $80. The U.S. went to war with Venezuela, the last place with oil. There isn't enough gas to ship supplies around, so the malls, pharmacies, and food stores are shutting down. It's told from the point of view of three high school students, Gwen, Tom, and Niki. Gwen's a goth girl who has lived alone with her brother in a rundown house ever since her mother ran away. Tom is a football player, though not the best, and works hard to keep his family together. Niki's a rich cheerleader, but her family ends up broke and she learns to deal with it. The book kind of reminded me of Life As We Knew It, in that end of the world type way. This book was kind of a message shouting out about how we are running out of fossil fuels. No one can drive, plastic is rare, everyone's fighting over what's left. And that bit was kind of interesting. What made it not so much fun to read was the love triangle. Tom, naturally goes for Niki, the cheerleader, but he also has an unexplained crush on Gwen. Gwen and Niki both like Tom. He asks Niki out, kisses her, then goes and kisses Gwen. It was all so shallow. Tom seemed to be a good person, not the type that would do that. And I always get frustrated with love triangles in books. I liked Gwen and her brother best; they were the only ones who seemed realistic.
Overall, I found the book to be like french fries. They never taste as good as I think they will. The book didn't draw me in, I just kind of read it. So it gets a 2.5.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Accomplice by Eireann Corrigan

It seemed like a good book when I first looked at it. Two girls want to get into college, so they fake a kidnapping to make them special and give themselves a unique experience to write about in their essays. A little unbelievable, but interesting. However, it got a little dull. It is told from the perspective of Finn, the one who did not disappear, and who hides the other, Chloe, in her grandmother's basement while she's away on vacation. The inside cover hinted at complications. So I sat through the book waiting for something to happen (this is why you shouldn't read inside covers). Maybe Chloe would actually get kidnapped or seriously hurt or something. Nothing. It was mostly about Finn's trouble with lying, trying to pretend that she had no idea what had happened to Chloe. It all got bland. Yes, okay, Chloe's parents are horrified, distraught, whatever, can we please move on? Endless pages of hearing Finn's mom worry about Chloe's mom really makes the book drag. So then, the book gets a chance to be exciting. It's time for Chloe to miraculously reappear, and, to make it seem like she was really kidnapped, she has Finn whack her on the head with a wooden board. Maybe she could get really hurt and not find her way home and get kidnapped. But no, she comes walking across the yard, acting all confused, and everyone's happy. And then Finn and Chloe's friendship falls apart. Okay...
I give it a 2.3 for an anticlimactic ending and too much drag. It was like ordering a salad, and then it came, and the only thing that came in it was lettuce.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: 2010

You can call 2010 the year of the book. At least, that was the case for this librarian, who set herself a New Year's resolution of reading 300 books. The goal was slightly surpassed; 311 titles were read. Here's the breakdown.

20 adult titles
267 YA titles
245 children's titles


295 works of fiction
7 nonfiction
9 graphic novels


5 audiobooks
4 e-books
302 old-school books

Whew! That was a lot of books! I don't want to limit my favorites to just those that were published this year (something I got into a bit in the Printz post). Truthfully, when I look over the long list of what I read this year, I realize that I read a lot of books I didn't love. Perhaps that is the "work" of being on a committee. That said, I exposed myself to so many authors I never would have gotten around to reading if I hadn't been forced to read their books. In that way, I learned so much this year.

But anyway, according to GoodReads, where I evaluated each book on the five-star rating system upon completion, here are my FIVE STAR titles:

Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams
Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Crazy by Han Nolan
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt
Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri
Annexed by Sharon Dogar
Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper
The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman
Smile by Raina Telgemeier
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler
Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford
Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord
Butterfly by Sonya Hartnett
Sorta Like A Rock Star by Matthew Quick
Once by Morris Gleitzman
Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, plural. If my life weren't complicated, I wouldn't be Ruby Oliver by E. Lockhart
By The Time You Read This I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters
Sleepwalk and Other Stories by Adrian Tomine
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Split by Swati Avasthi
Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs by Ron Koertge
Nothing by Janne Teller
Who Will Run the Frog Hospital by Lorrie Moore
How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Fat Cat by Robin Brande
Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern
Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur

Wow, I felt like I was being stingy. Now it looks like I can't stop loving books. My most favorite ten titles are bolded.

And then there's the ugly (we'll skip over the bad for now; let it be known that bad books get published all the time!).

These are my least favorite books of 2010 (the one stars). Some are truly terrible. Others were just a struggle to read in their entirety. Here we go:

The Line by Teri Hall
A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner
Griff Carver, Hallway Patrol by Jim Krief
Alchemy and Meggy Swan by Karen Cushman
I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Absolute, hands-down least favorite book of the year, well, it's also bolded.

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