To my list of largely inexplicable mini-phobias, add the aversion to writing book reviews. Whatever the reason or lack thereof (a psychiatrist would have so much fun with me…), it is what it is. But when two super-nice authors give you their books for free (explanations here and here, for those who care) and you sincerely enjoy them, you can’t in good conscience keep that information to yourself. …Or maybe you can; but my conscience is sensitive.
For the sake of literary honor, then, I shall hereby “write or give a critical report on” a pair of recently-read books and attempt to trick myself into thinking it’s no big, scary deal (‘cause, let’s face it, it really isn’t) by being all soothingly systematic about it.
Book 1: “All Good Children” by Catherine Austen.
Genre: Dystopian YA.
Blurb (because I seem to be incapable of just saying, “It’s about X and Y, and then Z happens.” Oh, no, I’ve gotta be all authorial about it. I think I’ve found part of the reason I dislike trying to write reviews…): All the kids around Maxwell Connors are turning into unnaturally compliant, personality-dead shells of their former selves – a town full of zombies too terrifyingly well-behaved to even eat his brains – and Max has no intention of joining the ever-swelling ranks. But if Max can’t withstand the pressure of lying low enough to avoid the mandatory drug behind the horrible change, losing his brain to the drug could become a secondary concern: He might just lose his mind instead.
My Thoughts: As a general rule, I’m not a fan of dystopian fiction. (I dislike being horrified!) Even so, I immersed myself in Max’s nightmare ungrudgingly. Why? Because I really, really like Max. He’s smart and a smart aleck, which made for really sharp narration and dialogue. (The whole book struck me as being quite well-written, by the way; always a massive plus.) He comes off like a jerk – and, well, partially is a jerk – but mixed in with the obnoxiousness was a really decent kid, and within I-don’t-know-how-many pages, I found that I’d grown to love him like a brother…or at least like a good protagonist.
HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): The more you like dystopian YA to begin with, the closer to “absolutely” my answer goes. If you don’t tend to like the genre… well, if you made yourself read “The Hunger Games”, you may as well give this a try, too; I’ve read both, and I think I like “All Good Children” more. (Hard to be objective; “H.G.” 1 and 2 were good, but the third installment left a bad taste in my mouth. On a purely protagonist level, though, I personally prefer Max to Katniss Everdeen.)
Book 2: “The Legend of Eli Monpress” by Rachel Aaron. (Technically three books for the price of… well, less than three, so a definite bargain: “The Spirit Thief”, “The Spirit Rebellion”, and “The Spirit Eater”.)
Genre: Fantasy adventure.
Blurb (etc.): In a world where everything from doors to swords to grains of sand has a living spirit… they all adore Eli Monpress, rogue wizard and self-proclaimed greatest thief in the world. With a legendary-weapon-bearing swordsman and demon-powered girl at his side, and a gutsy, ghosthound-riding, spirit-wielding nemesis on his heels, Eli skips merrily from high-profile crime to high-profile crime in bold pursuit of a madman’s goal. And he may just be mad enough to pull it off.
My Thoughts: Condensed version? I swoon for Eli Monpress. Yes, I’m also driven breathless by the hair-raising action, the hairpin plot twists and turns, the hairy situations from which surely there can be no coming out alive! What’s more, many of the characters, including a number of the spirits, are epic, amazing, and twenty kinds of cool. (Rachel Aaron can write some boss characters, y’all.) In truth, this oft-mentioned omnibus contains much to love. But even if it weren’t all-around awesome (which, I repeat, it is), I’d still probably cuddle the book and coo sweet nothings at the cover, because Eli has charmed me as he has the lion’s share of his world. And once I get attached to a character, I get attached hardcore.
HSYRT?: Um, YEAH. And the Ink Caster wholeheartedly concurs. What are you waiting for? Go buy the books! Support this woman! She created Eli Monpress!
So, the overall takeaway, here? Write a worthy character, and I’ll read anything to get to him. (…Or her. But frankly, the quickest way to my heart is a literary dreamboat.)