Sunday, February 23, 2014

2014 YALSA Hub Reading Challenge Check-in #3

My reading experience was kind of hit or miss this week. Starting out with something utterly visceral kind of made the other books pale in comparison. I'll start with the star of the week:

Scowler by Daniel Kraus

Nineteen year old Ry is stuck on a dying farm with his mother and younger sister. Through flashbacks, we gradually learn about Ry's abusive father and how he finally ended up in prison.  Thoroughly traumatized by his violent father, Ry survives with the help of three imaginary friends--light-hearted Mr. Furrington, kind and wise Jesus, and bloodthirsty Scowler. Just as Ry's mother, Jo Beth, is finally ready to leave the farm behind, a meteor strike and a very bad man conspire to make sure that no one will ever leave.

The writing is horrifyingly beautiful and utterly atmospheric. These words and images will stay in your head longer than you'll want them to. That said, I had a few issues with the ending, which is why I went with 4 stars rather than 5.

The scariest part of this book was being inside Ry's head. He hates and fears his father, but at the same time seeks his approval. He's afraid to truly live his life; he's so damaged by the events of his childhood that he fears who he is and who he might become.

This is horror at its finest--gritty, realistic, gory, psychologically creepy, and incredibly disturbing. Squeamish readers of any age should step away from this book. Mature readers who like to be scared to death, enter at your own risk.  Try the audiobook for an extra dose of scary--Scowler's scritchy insect noises are even more frightening when you hear them.

William Shakespeare's Star Wars:  Verily, a New Hope by Ian Doescher

Star Wars retold in iambic pentameter with lots of humor and Shakespearean references galore. Never having been a huge fan of Star Wars (I'm definitely more of a Trekkie) there were sections of this book where I lost interest. It was mainly the battle scenes where I found myself skimming or zoning out. That said, this was a clever idea that was, overall, well-executed. I particularly enjoyed the references to Shakespeare's plays and the robot humor. 

A favorite quote:

“A plague on 3PO for action slow,/ A plague upon my quest that led us here,/ A plague on both our circuit boards, I say!" R2-D2

 The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu

Tao is an extra-terrestrial who has survived on Earth for thousands of years by sharing the bodies of many sentient beings. He and his brethren crashed on Earth during the time of the dinosaurs and can only survive by sharing a host's body. Over the years, they have influenced the development of human society in order to bring these humans to a technological point where they will be able to send the aliens home. Two alien factions are at war because they have different ideas about the best way to accomplish this goal--culture or conflict. 

After his latest host dies, Tao is on the run and desperate for a new host who can help him escape his pursuers. He runs into (literally) Roen, an overweight, angsty IT guy. Tao and Roen end up being good partners, and Roen gradually shapes up and gains confidence. 

There is lots of action here and some good humor sprinkled in amid the fight/chase scenes. I think this story has good potential, but could benefit from an editor to help the author flesh out the characters and to smooth out some rough plot points. I found it moderately entertaining and would probably recommend it to boys who enjoy action.

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