Sunday, April 5, 2015

YALSA 2015 Hub Reading Challenge, Update #4

Yay for Spring Break! Not only have I had a chance to get away from the den of contagion that is a public elementary school, but I have also had a week to kick back and read, read, read. I tried to limit myself to YALSA titles, but I did have to add in a few related reads. It's probably a touch of OCD kicking in, but I couldn't read Carriger's Curtsies and Conspiracies without rereading the first book in the series. And after rereading Lyga's I Hunt Killers, I could not resist going on to book two (and ordering book three) to keep the chills coming.
The Shadow Hero by Gene Yang and Sonny Lieu

This origin story of the first Asian American Superhero (the Green Turtle) is so well done that even people who don't normally read this genre should give it a try.

Hank is a normal boy who loves his dad and enjoys working in the family grocery store. All he wants is to grow up and take over the store, and to eventually train a son of his own to follow after him. His mother, dissatisfied with her life, has other ideas. One day, she meets a superhero and decides that he's got nothing on her son. She pushes Hank to train and even makes him his own superhero suit.

Finally, tragedy strikes and Hank discovers a long-held family secret that leads to some actual super powers.
In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

Shy Anda starts playing an online role-playing game after a woman comes to her school to talk about the importance of more women and girls getting involved in gaming. Anna starts earning real money by completing missions to kill gold farmers in the game. When she eventually becomes friends with a gold farmer, she feels conflicted about her behavior and tries to help. 

Like Anda herself, there were good intentions behind this story. Sadly, it never really grabbed me. I did enjoy the artwork, though.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I spent about three fourths of this book hating the characters and the writing. It's about a family of privileged, bored, white people. The adults spend all of their time jockeying to be the favorites of the old man who uses his money to control their lives. They fight with each other constantly and sabotage each other. I kept thinking, "If this is how rich people really live, then I'm actually glad to be poor." The kids are all blond and beautiful, bored and boring. I hated them all. Gat, the outsider who never had a hope of realizing his dreams, was the only one I could stomach.

I liked the use of fairy tales to frame some of the story elements, but the e.e. cummings style of writing was more off-putting than captivating for me. The ending was pretty powerful, and could have been better if I'd felt any connection with these characters.
The Young Elites by Marie Lu

The Young Elites, book one.

Can I first say that I'm so happy that this is going to be a series? Wow! I LOVED everything about this book.

Adelina survived a mysterious fever as a child and has grown up scarred and tormented. She is a malfetto, a survivor who has been irrevocably marked by the disease and who may potentially have some kind of power as a result. Her father torments her throughout her childhood in an effort to bring out her powers and, in turn, profit from them. 

She is such a complex character--just brilliantly portrayed.

When her powers finally emerge, her situation gets even worse. She is plucked from the fire (literally) and thrown into the frying pan (figuratively). She joins up with the Young Elites, but unless she can learn to focus and control her newfound power, she is no safer with them than she was with her father.

The best part of this book is the complex, interesting characters. No one is good or bad. They are all damaged, secretive, and trapped by their own choices.
Skink--No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen

When Richard's cousin leaves town, he is sure that she's in some kind of trouble. Did she run away? Was she kidnapped? He mets the crazy ex-governor/eco-warrior, Skink, and they set off on a road trip to locate Malley. This book was uneven. I absolutely love Skink, but at times the story dragged and the environmental messages were a bit heavy-handed. Overall, an entertaining read, but not Hiaasen's best.
Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

Finishing School, book 2.

Sophronia is back, this time attempting to discover who keeps trying to kidnap her best friend. The fight for control of the prototype continues, although the players remain in the shadows. Another fun and fluffy mystery from Carriger. The world-building is creative and tons of fun, and the characters are witty. That said, they are pretty flat and lack the complexity that would really make them interesting.

This was a fun read, but not much about the characters or the plot was especially memorable. 


Related to the challenge books, but not on this year's list:

Game by Barry Lyga

Jasper Dent trilogy, #2.

When a serial killer known as the Dog-Hat Killer begins terrorizing New York City, an officer from the NYPD comes to Lobo's Nod to ask for Jazz's help with the case.  Jazz, still struggling not to give in to his darker impulses, joins the hunt for this new killer, all the while looking over his shoulder for Dear Old Dad, who is newly escaped from prison and sure to be in touch--sooner or later.

I read most of this 500-ish page book in one sitting. It was taut, suspenseful, and just very well done. The body count is high and the murders are gory (penectomies and enucleations abound). Connie and Howie are more fully developed in this one and have bigger parts to play as well. Unfortunately, this also ups their peril. 

This book ends on a HUGE cliffhanger, with several lives hanging in the balance, so have the third one (Blood of my Blood) queued up and ready to go.
Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Finishing School, book one.

Sophronia has no interest in becoming a proper lady.  She'd much rather climb things and fiddle with machines. When she is shipped off to finishing school, she is sure she is going to hate every minute of it. But at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, the learning goes beyond etiquette.  But only the best students will master the fine art of espionage and be truly "finished."

I'm not generally a fan of Steampunk, but I did find this world interesting. As the first in a series, there was more of a focus on world building than plot, but it was a fun, quick read with quite a lot of humor. The audiobook is marvelously well-done and I enjoyed it much more than when I read the hardcover version for last year's challenge.

My favorite quote:

“Really, Sophronia, it makes me most uncomfortable how you manage to sort everything out every time I faint.”