books, books, books

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I am in the midst of a book reading bonanza! It’s been a while since I’ve read purely for pleasure — not for my book, not for-work books — and I am doing my best to make up for lost time. Most of the books I picked came from Julie Plec‘s reading recommendations that she made during that epic VRO interview: Vampire Academy, Uglies, The Hunger Games, The Book Thief. (Also on her list: The Help, Fallen.) Vee from Vampire-Diaries.net also mentioned Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series in one of her answers in the interview I did with her & Red for Love You to Death. Double-whammy recommendation = must read. Anywho, onwards, to my mini reviews of what I’ve been devouring these past few weeks:

* The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, 2008): Of the group of books, this is one of two that I think everyone should read. Set in a dystopian future, the story follows Katniss Everdeen — a brilliantly written heroine if ever there was one — as she fights for survival in an impoverished colony. I don’t want to say anything, really, about the plot because reading it without much knowledge about the world you’re entering makes everything about it such a revelation and adventure. Part of a trilogy (the third book comes out in a few weeks), I have the next book, Catching Fire, on hold from the trusty Toronto Public Library. My complaint about this book has nothing to do with the content of the words on the page but with the printing. The paperback edition I bought was SO cheaply manufactured with ink barely legible on multiple pages. C’mon, Scholastic, you can afford better production values than that. Especially on a book selling kamillions of copies. Step up yo game.

Uglies by Scott Westerfield (Simon Pulse, 2005): I think if I hadn’t just finished reading The Hunger Games, I would’ve enjoyed Uglies a lot more. But since there are some basic similarities — the teenage-girl in a dystopian future thing — I found it hard not to compare Tally to Katniss and the adventure storyline in both stories. That said, there’s a lot to enjoy in Uglies and it was definitely more captivating than I imagined it would be when I passed it over multiple times browsing thru YA fiction. There are a lot of interesting ideas in here: questions about body image dictating self-worth; the environmental perspective on our present-day society, the “Rusties,” and how we treat natural resources; and how certain superficial concerns can distract us from what’s really going on under our pretty little noses. Definitely worth a read and I’ll likely continue the series, which also includes Pretties, Specials, and Extras. SmartPop books has a collection of essays on the series, Mind Rain, which I may read too!

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic, 2009): Side effect of reading this book — really wishing you had a dreamy werewolf to fall in love with. Poetic, romantic, and strong, Shiver also centers on a strong female protagonist — Grace — who has been fascinated with the wolves who linger in the woods behind her house since she was a child. Sam, he’s one of those wolves. I fell in love reading this book and can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in the trilogy, Linger. The author keeps a very charming and entertaining blog, which includes an interview with the cover designer for her two books in the series. I love these kinds of posts! Again, my only problem, Scholastic, was with the production value of the book. I treat my books rather kindly but as I neared the end of the novel, the cover was detaching itself from the guts of the book, looking to escape from the glue that bound it there. It’s too bad because otherwise it’s a good-looking book — with that cover and blue, not black, ink. Fancy that.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (Razorbill [Penguin], 2007): Doesn’t the girl on the cover look a little like a younger Angelina Jolie? A little? Well, regardless, the thing I like most about Vampire Academy (and presumably the series as a whole; I just started book #2) are the complexities of the world — there are different kinds of vampires, half-human/half-vampires, class systems and a monarchy, and magic! At the heart is the bond between two best friends that bridges some of those divides, and the nature of that bond allows the narrative to move from one girl’s perspective to the other’s in a way I really liked. Also: there’s a simmering romantic relationship for one girl that I can really get behind. There are five books out in the series already, with another coming in January. We’ll see how Frostbite goes, but I can see myself happily hanging out with the gang at St. Vladimir’s Academy for all six. It’s not a series that’s going to change your world or anything, but I really enjoy spending my time in its universe.

* The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Knopf, 2005): Read this book. Please, please do. I generally shy away from historical fiction. I am not attracted to stories set in wartime. I don’t particularly find this book’s cover appealing. But I am so so so grateful for the recommendations to read this book — thanks Julie Plec and KIRBC‘s Jen Knoch! I know I’ll re-read it in my lifetime. The characters are so memorable. The writing is full of life and humor and personality. It’s such a strong story — there are not enough compliments I could pay it. So, give it a try. I was hesitant for maybe the first 10 or so pages. Then I just didn’t want to put it down.

And now I am looking for more recommendations! I have some stuff on hold at the TPL — the next books in these series — but sound off below if you have suggestions to add to my TBR pile. I’m also spending more time over at GoodReads if you care to hang out there. I like seeing what my friends are reading, browsing lists, and following authors. That’s how I discovered Maggie Stiefvater’s charming blog!