Posts tagged ‘graceling’

April 7th, 2011

There’s Something About Surveys…

by Madeleine Rex

(This post is super late. However, it’s currently 11:01, Supernaturally is waiting for me on my lap, and I’m sleepy – so here you go!)

Some people hate them.

I love ’em.

I have this odd fondness for surveys and “fill-ins.” You know that information you have to fill out when you buy something online? My dad detests filling it out and hands it over to me instead. So, naturally, I jumped on the chance to fill out a “The Best of 2010 in Books” survey! (And thanks to Audrey for bringing it to my attention!)

Best Book of 2010:

Oh, gosh. Anything I rated a 5? I’m going with Paranormalcy by Kiersten White for books published this year. As books that weren’t published this year go: Looking for Alaska by John Green and Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta.

Worst Book of 2010:

Dark Song by Gail Giles.*

*Many people have enjoyed this book. Don’t be scared away.

Most Disappointing Book of 2010:

The Thin Executioner by Darren Shan*.

*Same goes for this book!

Most Surprising (In A Good Way!) Book of 2010:

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. It completely blew me away, despite the ridiculousness of the premise!

Most Recommended-to-Others Book of 2010:

There are a few:

  1. Looking For Alaska by John Green because it’s outstanding.
  2. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White because it’s darling.
  3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak because it’s one of the most incredible books I’ve ever read.

Best Series You Discovered in 2010:

Ooh! There are too many!

  1. The Iron Fey by Julie Kagawa because they’re fantastical and gripping.
  2. The Paranormalcy Series by Kiersten White because I’m in love.
  3. The Seven Kingdoms by Kristin Cashore because they’re astounding and surprising.

Favorite New Authors Discovered in 2010:

Debuts

  1. Kiersten White because she’s hilarious.
  2. Lauren Oliver because of Delirium, really.

Other

  1. Melina Marchetta because of her exquisite characters.
  2. John Green because of the same thing. He and Ms. Marchetta are in the same boat.

Most Hilarious Read of 2010:

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White. No doubt!

Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book of 2010:

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. Talk about a heart-wrenching, mind-boggling page-turner! (I like hyphens…)

Most Anticipated Book of 2010:

Ask my friends, ask my loved ones… It was Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.

Favorite Cover of a Book You Read in 2010:

It’s apparent that I’m very indecisive. I’m choosing three – again.

  1. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
  2. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
  3. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Most Memorable Character in 2010:

All male characters whose names begin with a P?

Oh, wait. You want a real answer? Then I’d probably have to go with Evie from Paranormalcy. There’s no one like Evie.

Most Beautifully-Written Book of 2010:

Either Looking For Alaska by John Green, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, or Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, none of which have been or will be published this year, but I did read them this year…

Book That Had the Greatest Impact on You in 2010:

More than one…

  1. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
  2. Looking For Alaska by John Green

Book You Can’t Believe You Waited Until 2010 to Read:

Wow!

  1. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
  2. Looking For Alaska by John Green (and the rest of his books!)
  3. Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore

Goodness! The most interesting thing about filling this out is seeing what books pop up more than once. Those are the gems! They are timeless.

P.S. I’m too lazy to link every book to amazon, but please do look them up! I also have reviews of all of them hidden somewhere on my blog.

September 17th, 2010

Fire by Kristin Cashore; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Fire

Author: Kristin Cashore

Published: October 6, 2009

Number of Pages: 461

Rating: 4/5

Goodness! What is this we have here? Madeleine? Here, of all places?

Yes, yes, it’s me. Finally emerging from the waters of homework, school, and utter exhaustion that I’ve been in the process of drowning under. I’m so sorry that I haven’t been around! I hope to get school under control soon and be able to return to my usual habits. Also, thanks for the wonderful response to my Megalodon of a Giveaway! If you have not entered, please do!

Quote:

“Well then,” Roen said briskly, “are you sleeping?”

“Yes.”

“Come now. A mother can tell when her son lies. Are you eating?”

“No,” Brigan said gravely. “I’ve not eaten in two months. It’s a hunger strike to protest the spring flooding in the south.”

“Gracious,” Roen said, reaching for the fruit bowl. “Have an apple, dear.”

Synopsis:

She is the last of her kind…

It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. In King City, the young King Nash is clinging to the throne, while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. War is coming. And the mountains and forest are filled with spies and thieves. This is where Fire lives, a girl whose beauty is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her.

Exquisitely romantic, this companion to the highly praised Graceling has an entirely new cast of characters, save for one person who plays a pivotal role in both books. You don’t need to have read Graceling to love Fire. But if you haven’t, you’ll be dying to read it next. [From the Jacket]

Review:

As many of you know, Graceling (the companion book – review is here) blew me away. Wow.

And then you have Fire. The friend (Harmony) that originally recommended Graceling to me has yet to read it because she is afraid it will somehow ruin Graceling.

No need to fear, Kristin Cashore’s apparent awesomeness is here!

Fire is magnificent. The beautifully written passages with concise and clear descriptions hold strong. Characters with depth and an uncanny ability to make you love them scuttle throughout the book. A gripping plotline involving war and deception is simply a plus.

Parts of this book – as parts of Graceling did – remind me of The Hunger Games trilogy. Only in small and hardly noticeable ways, however. Fire can certainly hold its own.

As can the main character (also named Fire, incidentally). Fire is instantly likable. I have very few problems with her character or personality at all. The conclusions she comes to, her feelings – I can respect them all. I love it when I have so little to say against a character, so little to find flaw in. My only issue is one I’ll discuss later. Essentially, Fire is a headstrong, lovable, and remarkable main character with a voice that seeps through the pages of the book.

Fire’s story is a long and life-changing one. So much happens in this book that I can hardly fathom how it fit within about 460 pages, yet somehow it doesn’t feel like it’s been constrained. Like the plot was wrestled and bound in order to make it fit within some desired page count. No, it moved flawlessly from scene to scene, conflict to conflict, conclusion to conclusion. The environment and world that Fire lives in fascinated me and made me wish I lived there. Such beauty and contention simultaneously – all wondrous.

I found the history and very existence of “monsters” to be quite interesting. Their vibrant colors and  incredible beauty (even in the case of the human monster, Fire) manage to put people under a spell. Their power to control minds certainly doesn’t do harm to their wonderful qualities. The way Fire could walk into a room and immediately have both people’s attention and occasionally their minds (even if she doesn’t mean to) was awesome. Some men would throw themselves at her feet simply because of her presence and looks. Despite how great it might sound originally, there’s no doubting that being a human monster can be a curse as well as a blessing.

The love story is different from most of the many, many love stories I’ve read. I mean, it doesn’t get much weirder than a seventeen year old and a twenty two year old. There are some other facets of their reality that make the circumstances even more out of the ordinary. Cashore must have worked some sort of magic to pull it off without making it seem freaky. Believe me when I say that the development of it will keep you reading even if the plot doesn’t (which I can’t imagine).

The colorful array of characters that are the foundation of this book will hold your attention from minute one. Amazing. I love the people in this book! Graceling and Fire introduce you to so many new friends and people to wonder at. I read books often to find more things to love. Actually, that’s why I write them, too. What better thing is there in this world than love? None. This book satisfied that requirement perfectly.

Another thing that struck me about Fire was the totally unexpected and odd number of illegitimate children. I’d read about another crazy story and think: Okay, we’re done with the “Hey, look! There’s this baby over here that you didn’t expect”s and the “Hey, whoops, we had a baby and weren’t supposed to”s! But Cashore must have a thing for surprise kiddies popping up out of nowhere. I felt like there’d been a dozen by the time the book was over, but I might have been exaggerating (only a little…).

A factor that might have had something to do with the number of illegitimate children is that the characters seemed to have very little problems with sleeping around and teenage sex/mommies. My post on this hasn’t been written yet (and will be part of a week-long bit on love in YA), but I’m not a huge fan of teenage sex. (Uh, at all.) What was with the young parents and the lack of parental worries over their children’s sex lives? I don’t know about you, but I’d have problems with my seventeen year old sleeping with a friend of hers. (Archer and Fire have a peculiar friendship…) I could rant forever on this part of the book, but I’ll leave it be with: It was weird.

Overall, I loved the book. I couldn’t get enough of it. Infatuated is an understatement. I can’t encourage people enough to read both Graceling and Fire*. Kristin Cashore constructs sentences and chooses words in a magnificent way, encompassing me (at least) in a web of characters, plot, and setting that gripped my attention and threatened never to let go until the book was finished with. The third companion book, Bitterblue is on its way. Needless to say, I’ll be pre-ordering.

Because there’s something sort of kinda amazing about these books.

*I just want to remind y’all that both Fire and Graceling are in my blogiversary giveaway!

August 17th, 2010

Graceling by Kristin Cashore; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Graceling

Author: Kristin Cashore

Published: September, 2009

Number of Pages: 471

Rating: 5/5

Another mega-long review. I apologize.

Quote:

Katsa raised her eyebrows.

“I’m not going to wear a red dress,” she said.

“It’s the color of sunrise,” Helda said.

“It’s the color of blood,” Katsa said.

Sighing, Helda carried the dress from the bathing room. “It would look stunning, My Lady,” she called, “with your dark hair and your eyes.”

Katsa yanked at one of the more stubborn knots in her hair. She spoke to the bubbles gathering on the surface of the water. “If there’s anyone I wish to stun at dinner, I’ll hit him in the face.”

Synopsis:

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight — she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme, and in her case horrifying, skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug. When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace — or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away… a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone. [From Goodreads]

Review:

This book astounded me. While incredibly gripping and nicely paced, it’s thoughtful and insanely detailed. Kristin Cashore is officially one of my favorite authors because not only can she weave plotlines like magic, but her character’s feelings are palpable. That translates into: Madeleine cried.

Katsa is an intriguing main character, a girl who embodies the concept of a strong but sensitive person. I understood her and somehow related to her predicaments though I’d never gone through anything at all similar. I respected many of her decisions and easily cheered her on. Her flaws, her temperance, her worries, her better qualities – they all combine to make a remarkably lifelike person. She’s one of my favorite female main characters.

I have to give a shout-out to Harmony, who first brought Graceling to my attention. Her enthusiastic review made me so excited to read it. One bit especially caught my attention: “I’m also skeptical of “journey stories”. Those are like traveling stories and they’re hard to achieve without it getting boring. But Kristin Cashore was amazingly at making me flip the pages faster and faster to see where Graceling would take me.”

And that was a phenomenal part of the book. I never once felt it was lagging. Every page was as engrossing as the last, either with actual action or the promise of it. The thought process behind this book must have been excruciating. I know for a fact that creating a set, even, and eventful pace throughout this book must have been a feat, but, as a reader, I was privileged enough to reap the rewards. The journey through the kingdoms and over the mountainous border between Sunder and Monsea held my attention despite the tediousness of it all. I can’t say that there was a single moment in this book that felt forced or, worse yet, lazy. From page ten, I was hooked – particularly by the strange and startling appearance of Prince Po.

Oh, Po. What is it with boys with odd P names they’d be ashamed of in real life? What is it with our reality that disapproves of weird P names? Po is the Graceling equivalent of Peeta, in my opinion.

And any equivalent of Peeta rocks.

So, although Po reminds me of the red Teletubby, I loved him. He’s a bit cocky and arrogant, but just the right amount of those two potentially-irritating characteristics to avoid the potential irritation. His general understanding and kindness make him someone incredibly fun to be around. He’s the sort of person I would love to know in real life, simply because he’s pleasant and naturally good. Toward the end, he was a bit moody, but this was all understandable, given particular circumstances that I refuse to reveal. Why? Because you really ought to read the book.

There was an array of bright and dull side characters – the dull ones being the characters you love to hate. Quite honestly, the villain of the book is fabulous. He’s immensely frightening and I somehow managed to dread and be eager for any scene in which he acted out his clever ruse. I imagine most people will find the power he holds to be terrifying and intriguing simultaneously.

Due to the fact that I don’t want to scare people away with a horrifically lengthy review, I’ll touch on only one more character – Bitterblue. How wonderfully adorable is she? As the ten-year-old, frightened girl we meet originally, she doesn’t seem particularly outstanding, though pitiful. However, as the story moves on and Bitterblue’s hilarious sophistication begins to make itself evident, there’s no way not to love and appreciate her. She makes a mighty little girl, and she’ll make a jaw-dropping adult someday. I could find no possible way not to feel for her and admire her.

The relationship between Po and Katsa seems inevitable once their friendship blooms, and I loved watching as they seemed to grow up together. I didn’t notice the transition, but somewhere along the lines, I was struck by how adult and mature Katsa’s voice was. Po and Katsa seemed to mature and learn and become more adult-like along their journey, and it was a treat to watch them shed a few of their weaknesses and grow as characters and people. In one sense, I wasn’t all too pleased with their “adultness,” and I was immensely uncomfortable with one scene – to the point that I set down the book for a few minutes before continuing.

I can’t say I’m entirely okay with the “compromise” they made, and I definitely had a few problems with the way Katsa made marriage out to be some sort of slavery. In my opinion, being married does not mean you’ve signed over your sense of self and individuality, it just means you love someone enough to make a real, hardy promise to them. However, in the end, nothing could really fog over my appreciation and love of this book.

And it sure as heck didn’t hurt that the writing was beautiful. The descriptions were flawless. I’m a sucker for fairy-tale like settings – with castles and kingdoms and whatnot, but Cashore’s world is new and undoubtedly different.

There’s one surprise nearing the close of the book that made me tear up and lean into the book, as though I might fall into their world if I pressed my face up against it for long enough, and I treasure moments of that sort – the moments when you truly feel as the character’s are feeling, to the point that you think that you must belong in the book with them.

The ending of the novel isn’t vague, as I heard one person put it, but strangely simple. I’m talking the very end here, as in the epilogue. I thought the few scenes were wonderful in that they left a bit to be imagined and gave me a sense that the characters’ lives really did go on.

Graceling is an exceptional novel, full of adventure, hardships, and most importantly, a few astoundingly unique characters you will either want to hug or punch.