First published in 2017
My rating: 4 out of 5
I really liked Veronica Roth's Divergent series, and I was excited to read her new release -- especially since it has a significant sci-fi/fantasy bent, which is more and more in my reading wheelhouse these days.
The bare bones of "Carve the Mark" are similar to Divergent: a futuristic society, a tyrannical leader who needs to be relieved of power and a boy and a girl from opposite sides of the metaphorical tracks (who, obviously, fall in love) banding together to do so.
But "Carve the Mark" takes place in space and the battle is planetary, not factions in one city. There are oracles who can see versions of the future and who dole out immutable fates for members of certain families. And the "current" runs through everything, including people. Everyone has a particular currentgift, though Cyra Noavek's is more of a curse -- she's in constant, terrible pain, and no one can touch her without feeling that pain. Her brother is the aforementioned tyrannical leader, and he uses Cyra as chief torturer and executioner, an assignment she's extremely conflicted about but has no real way of rebelling against... that is until Akos comes into her life. He's from Thuve, the sworn enemy of Cyra's Shotet nation. But his currentgift is unique and so are his views. Life quickly changes for both of them, and I can't wait to continue the adventure in the next book.
I will say, though the writing was impressive for a YA novel, parts of the book did drag. At one point I felt like I'd been reading it for-ev-er, but things really picked back up toward the end. And I also wanted more information on the all-important current, but maybe that'll come as the series continues.
Overall, I really enjoyed the new direction Roth went here and I'll definitely be continuing the series.
(Holy wow, I just stumbled onto the huge controversy surrounding this book, which was totally unbeknownst to me. I personally didn't find it to be racist or ableist or full of "unflagged triggers," and I wonder if so many people really did or if they're just happy to be seen jumping on the PC bandwagon, which is the cool place to be these days. Either way, you may be interested in typing it into Google and reading up on the whole drama.)
First published in 2011
My rating: 4 out of 5
I had to read "A Monster Calls" for the adult book club I took over at the library where I work, and I wasn't too enthusiastic about reading yet another young adult book (all the books have been YA so far and it's far from my favorite genre) -- until I saw that it's illustrated by Jim Kay, the same artist who's doing the gorgeous illustrated Harry Potter editions.
The story is a sad one -- it's about a boy coming to terms with his mother's breast cancer. It's also about a monster who takes the form of an ancient yew tree and visit's Conor's house to tell him three stories, after which Conor will have to tell the monster his story -- the deep, dark secret he's been hiding, even from himself. I enjoyed the monster's three stories, which had a fable-like feel and reminded me a bit of "The Tales of Beedle the Bard." And I also liked the monster, who's no match for the horrible monster in Conor's heart and quickly becomes a friend.
Grief, anger, shame and loneliness are all important themes in this heartbreaking story and the beautiful black and white illustrations perfectly enhanced Ness's writing. In fact, they made the book for me and I don't think I'd have rated it quite so highly if it hadn't been an illustrated novel.
"A Monster Calls" is quick enough to read in a couple hours, it'll give you some food for thought and the book itself is beautiful with thick, heavy pages and those lovely, intriguing illustrations. I recommend it, especially if you're planning to watch the movie.