I didn’t catch this virus

51ugifn7pglVirals, by Kathy Reich (2010)

Opening line: “A gunshot is the loudest sound in the universe.”

As is frequently the case, this is not a book I would have picked up to read, but the audiobook gods provided it. so voila. We have it in my library, so I figured, why not? And since then, I’ve been successful at giving it to several happy readers.

It’s an easy sell. You can tell from the first line that this sucker is packed with action. There’s a generation-old murder mystery and a science experiment gone wrong and a team of creepy dudes following and shooting at our main characters,  AND an adorable puppy. Plus, it’s a spin-off of the author’s adult Temperance Brennan series (the inspiration to FOX’s Bones). Sure hit!

It’s got a similar feel to Maximum Ride, with shortish, sometimes choppy sentences and chapters, and main character Tory reminds me of Max (independent, rough around the edges, part of a science experiment). Unfortunately, I didn’t really like Maximum Ride that much. While it was an entertaining mystery, with some endearing elements, I just didn’t find I cared very much. I’m glad I read it, because it’ll help me with my job, but I don’t feel the need to read the next ones.

1.5 stars

I just could not come up with a title for this one. Oops.

Graceling, by Kristin Cashore (2008)

When I bought this book at the Scholastic Book Fair last December for half price (in preparation for YA Lit this semester), I was pretty pumped. The reviews on the back (“…a knee-weakening romance that easily rivals that of Twilight…” “…gentle passion and savage kindness, matter-of-fact heroics and bleak beauty…” “Fantasy and romance readers will be thrilled.”) only excited me more. Let’s be honest, I’ve read Twilight more than twice. Hunger Games had me disregarding homework like it was my job. This sounds just up my alley. I could be ashamed, or I could embrace it. And I embrace it.

Here’s the plot. Well, the beginning of the plot, because really, if I tried to tell you the plot it would take 471 pages. So here’s the beginning of the plot.

Katsa lives in her uncle’s castle in Middluns, one of the seven kingdoms on the land, and acts as her uncle’s thug. This is because since she was a young child, Katsa could kill any person she wanted. Katsa is graced, giving her the ability to win any fight she ever encounters. Those who are born with a grace are set apart from the rest by their two-colored eyes (Katsa has one green and one blue) and are usually collected by the kings of the region to use as they see fit. Katsa’s uncle Randa uses Katsa to kill and injure whoever crosses him. Although Katsa has created an underground organization that works to correct the world’s wrongs, she never thinks to challenge her uncle.

Until Po comes around.

On one of Katsa’s missions to save someone who was kidnapped, Katsa comes across another graced fighter, this one with one silver eye and one gold. Katsa knocks him out so as to complete her mission, but is surprised when he shows up in Randa’s court a few days later. Po enters into her life and suddenly Katsa is questioning everything she ever knew about herself, the world, and her role in it.

That’s as far as I’ll go so as not to give any spoilers. It would be really easy to do. There’s a new surprise practically every chapter. Which is, of course, why I devoured this book in about three days (despite class, work, homework, friends… sleep). And also it makes a point of asking some challenging questions. Can a woman be a successful leader? Can sex outside of marriage be a good idea? Are we defined as others define us or as we define ourselves? Can companionship destroy independence? Although Cashore tends to obviously answer these with her opinions, I tend to agree with her.

I like it, I like it.  (Three stars)