Double that Lincoln

Shades of Grey by Jasper FfordeShades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
Shades of Grey # 1
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Number of pages: 434
My copy: trade paperback, from Fully Booked

Part social satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller, Shades of Grey tells of a battle against overwhelming odds. In a society where the ability to see the higher end of the color spectrum denotes a better social standing, Eddie Russet belongs to the low-level House of Red and can see his own color—but no other. The sky, the grass, and everything in between are all just shades of grey, and must be colorized by artificial means.

Eddie’s world wasn’t always like this. There’s evidence of a never-discussed disaster and now, many years later, technology is poor, news sporadic, the notion of change abhorrent, and nighttime is terrifying: no one can see in the dark. Everyone abides by a bizarre regime of rules and regulations, a system of merits and demerits, where punishment can result in permanent expulsion.

Eddie, who works for the Color Control Agency, might well have lived out his rose-tinted life without a hitch. But that changes when he becomes smitten with Jane, a Grey Nightseer from the dark, unlit side of the village. She shows Eddie that all is not well with the world he thinks is just and good. Together, they engage in dangerous revolutionary talk.

Stunningly imaginative, very funny, tightly plotted, and with sly satirical digs at our own society, this novel is for those who loved Thursday Next but want to be transported somewhere equally wild, only darker; a world where the black and white of moral standpoints have been reduced to shades of grey.

* * *

Jasper Fforde is back with a whole new story and a whole new world with lots of color — or sometimes, a lack of it. From Thursday Next, Jurisfiction and SpecOps to Jack Spratt and the Nursery Crime Department, we meet Eddie Russett from Jade-Under-Lime, who’s heading to East Carmine with his father for some Useful Work because he Needs Humility. Yes, all those are capitalized because in Eddie’s world, these things are proper nouns and are a part of their rules, as written in the Word of Munsell.

Eddie just wanted a simple life — he need to earn as much merits as he can, get a good mark on his Ishihara and marry an Oxblood and maybe even become a prefect. But all this changes on the day he and his father, the new Swatchman for East Carmine, saw a Grey parading as a Purple in a paint shop in Vermillion, and he meets Jane, a spunky Grey that he is quickly smitten with.

A lot more things happen after this, and we get to meet a whole lot of new characters that it was almost kind of dizzying. Eddie’s inquisitiveness gets him into a lot more trouble than he thought it would, and before he knew it, he was way beyond the path that he intended to go for, and there’s a lot more to lose now than ever.

Since this was a Jasper Fforde book, I was expecting a very fun read, and it did not disappoint. I loved the little funny quips, the outrageous characters, and the new world that he built up, the one that exists after Something Happened. It was an awesome read, even if it did make me dizzy for a while, and it made me slow down reading — almost like I was reading a classic. It’s just that the world is so new, so different and sometimes so odd that I couldn’t rush reading through it. Unlike Thursday Next’s and Jack Spratt’s whose worlds were almost normal save for the little quirks, this one seemed to operate in an entirely new level. Colourtocracy? Chromogencia (did I get that right)? Pookas? Perpetulite? Attacking swans? Shortage of spoons? Say what?!

I liked it a lot, but I think there was so much world building that was done that I finished the book with a whole lot of questions in the story. But that’s why it’s a trilogy — I’m guessing more will be written about Eddie and Jane and their plans in the next book. Oh, and don’t get me wrong — the book is funny but it touches a lot of political and social issues, all done in satire. There’s the corrupt and power hungry Prefects, racism by colors, and the lack of choices based on how the people were classified. It’s funny, interesting, but it’s also kind of sad to see that they have to live that way: Greys are workers while Purples are honored so much that it’s almost crazy.

The characters did not disappoint, too. Eddie’s a sweet protagonist who’s somewhat confused at first but has a lot of courage inside him. Jane is an excellent female protagonist, and I can’t wait to read more of her. :) There’s also the scheming Tommo who’d bargain anything for you, the cunning Courtland who is such a bully that I wanted to beat him up, and the Apocryphal Man, who is invisible most of the time but will give you answers in exchange for loganberry jam. You’d also get to learn a whole lot of names for the different colors — some of them I didn’t even know existed! — like Gamboge, Cinnabar, Ochre. :)

I can’t wait to see what happens next, but there’s no news on when that will be out, so it might take a while. ;)

Rating:

 

The Dead-Tossed Waves (Carrie Ryan)

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
The Forest of Hands and Teeth #2
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Number of pages: 404
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She’s content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry’s mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry’s generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother’s past in order to save herself and the one she loves.

* * *

The Unconsecrated make a comeback, but this time they are known as Mudo, and the story is told in the eyes of Gabry, Mary’s daughter. Gabry has lived a safe and sheltered life, behind the barriers of Vista, and she’d like to keep it that way. She lived with her mother at the light house, helping her mom decapitate Mudo whenever some of wash ashore from the incoming tide. She knew her mother was not a local, and she was stranger than what the other people in the village, but she was used to it, being that her mother was from The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Gabry wasn’t one to question anything in her life — as long as she’s safe and her family and friends are, too, she’s okay.

But one night, she tagged along with some of her friends and the boy she likes to go outside of the barrier — and it was the mistake that changed Gabry’s life forever. In an instant, she saw her friends turn into zombies, and the guy she loves, Catcher, runs away into the forest after having been bitten. Gabry manages to run back to the safety of her own home, but not without repercussions of her actions.

The Dead Tossed Waves is a different kind of zombie novel, at least, very different from its prequel. Gabry was very different from Mary — while Mary was headstrong and dreamed big, Gabry was contented with where she was. She was afraid almost half the time. Mary acted with a purpose, while Gabry acted more out of impulse, out of need. Gabry was reactive, doing things because she had to, not because she wanted to, at least up until the last part.

We also see a few characters from the previous novel and even visit Mary’s old village again. There are a lot of new additions in the world of the Unconsecrated/Mudo: a cult, Breakers, and Recruiters, and the Dark City, which I think we’ll see more of in the next book. We get a lot more answers in this book, too, although they weren’t that clear, it’s enough to give an idea why there were fenced villages and why Mary’s village was shut off on its own with the Sisterhood.

This book kept me reading and guessing almost all the time. Just when I thought things were over, it’s not. I hated the part when Gabry comes to realize her feelings but then the guy (I’m not revealing who :P) is suddenly pulled from her grasp. My jaw was hanging open at that time! There was an overall depressing tone in this book’s prequel and this one is a lot better in terms of delivering hope in such a dire situation. It made me root for the protagonists more, and hope that they will come out of this alive and they will all see each other again.

Overall, I liked this book. It has a lot more romance in it as compared to its predecessor, but it wasn’t cheesy or annoying unlike other novels. Gabry wasn’t the best protagonist ever, but she has a lot of room to grow, and I look forward to reading about it in the next book (if there is a next one). :D

Rating:

Enter Stage Right

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa MantchevEyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

Enter Stage Right

All her world’s a stage.
Beatrice Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.
She is not an orphan, but she has no parents.
She knows every part, but has no lines of her own.
Until now.

Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the characters of every place ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book—an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family—and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

If I were to base it all on first impressions, I would not have wanted to read this book. The cover came off too much like a manga, or a novel based on an anime, and it’s really not something I am too keen on reading. However, I read some good reviews on this book, so that was enough to make me pick it up and read it.

Eyes Like Stars is the story of Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, otherwise known as Bertie, who has lived inside the Theater in her entire life. It’s not an ordinary theater, though. Théâtre Illuminata is where all plays are staged. It is like the mother ship of all the musicals/plays ever written, all bound together in something that the cast members call The Book, which is set on its own podium. The different characters of all the plays in the world are there, from Hamlet, to Peter Pan to Ophelia to the little fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The theater is run by the Theater Manager, the stage is set by the Stage Manager, and there were people who takes care of the wardrobe, props and set as well.

But Bertie isn’t a part of a cast or any of the managers, either. She’s just someone who was left at the theater and grew up there. Having nothing to do, Bertie became the cause of a lot of trouble in the theater, causing her to be asked to leave by the Theater Manager.

Eyes Like Stars is a very interesting read. At first, I had a hard time catching up with all the characters since I don’t read Shakespeare and I’m not too familiar with any other classic plays except for the ones I’ve watched. The language was also almost like classic language, with different accents and ways of speaking that sometimes it was hard to keep track. After some time, I was able to get into the flow of the story, and it was loads of fun. It kind of reminded me of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, where book characters come to life, except this is for theater characters.

The story is quite solid, and the characters had their own quirks based on what their role is. Bertie is a fiesty protagonist, sometimes a bit too impulsive, but she’s a smart and strong girl. I didn’t really feel that much of a connection between her and Ariel though, and somehow, I felt that their ending scene was a bit too contrived. Or maybe that’s just because I like Nate for her better?

I guess one reason why I had a hard time getting into it, as I mentioned earlier, is because I’m not a theater geek. It does make me wonder, though — are the characters of the modern plays/musicals, like Avenue Q there too? Possibly. ;)

Apparently, this is a trilogy, and the next book, Perchance to Dream, will be out soon. I wonder if they’ll be able to fulfill their mission…hm. I guess I’ll just have to wait for the next curtain call. :)

Rating:

2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 16 out of 100 for 2010
* Book # 8 out of 20 fantasy books in 2010

→ Get Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev from Amazon.com
→ Lisa Mantchev’s website

Graced

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Graceling Realm # 1
Publisher: Harcourt

Number of pages:  471
My copy: paperback, bought from National Bookstore

Deadly Grace

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 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.

* * *

I am in awe of authors like Kristin Cashore who could think of things like this. I am sorely deficient (at least, I think I am) in the supernatural/fantasy realm, so I am always in awe of people who can think of awesome story concepts like these. Don’t you think?

To those unfamiliar, here’s the basic premise of Graceling: Gracelings are humans who are born with an extraordinary skill. These skills don’t manifest until sometime later in the human’s life, and the clue to see if a human is a Graced is if they have two different colored eyes. Graces can range from the most useless — like reciting things backward or staying underwater for a long time — or useful, like sensing storms or like Katsa’s Grace, killing.

If a Grace is found useful, the Graceling will be acquired by the King to serve his court. This is what Katsa grew up in ever since she accidentally killed her cousin who tried to touch her during a party when she was young. Convinced that her Grace was killing, Katsa was trained to be a killer so she can serve her uncle, King Randa’s court. Simply put, Katsa was a thug, who threatens and kills people who the King of Middluns feel like punishing.

But Katsa soon grew tired of this life, and she secretly started a Council. Together with some of her closest companions — they weren’t friends because Katsa never considered them friends — they helped other people secretly. They arrested bandits, protected people and saved Prince Tealiff of Lienid, who was kidnapped and hidden in Murgon.

On the rescue mission, Katsa meets Po, another seemingly Graced fighter. Pretty soon, Po becomes a part of Katsa’s life, and thus started Katsa’s personal struggles. She soon learns to face her rage, stand up for herself, find love and realize an important thing about her Grace that she never thought was even possible.

If you think the summary I posted there was already good, well I tell you, the book is really way better than that. I loved every bit of the book. I thought I’d find some parts of it slow, like what a friend told me, but I never thought it was slow at any part. I was surprised with the discoveries that Katsa made about Po and herself. I felt that I was really in the story, like I was with Katsa and Po in their travels and fights to find out who was behind Po’s grandfather’s kidnapping.

Now, I don’t know if I would have had an entirely different reading experience with Graceling if I didn’t read Fire first. I was slightly spoiled about who King Leck really was and what he can do because of what I read in Fire. There were no other mentions of Gracelings in Fire so I don’t think it’s a really big effect in my reading experience, but I wonder if I would have been more surprised with what Leck could do in the novel.

Oh, but just thinking of Leck makes me think of a creepy man. Ugh.

Kristin Cashore is writing a third book, which is Bitterblue, who also appeared in this novel. I wonder if Kristin will somehow bring back the monsters from The Dells in this third book — that would be really interesting, I think.

Graceling is definitely one of the best YA fantasy books that I read this year. Awesome story, strong characters and a very satisfying ending. :)

Rating:

Here comes the Unconsecrated

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie RyanThe Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
The Forest of Hands and Teeth # 1
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Number of pages: 308
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

In Mary’s world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

* * *

Altogether now: FINALLY. I finally got to read this book.

I’ve been trying to think of how I should dive into reviewing The Forest of Hands and Teeth, because I really have no idea how. I guess I’ll jump into it?

I’ve read a lot of reviews about this book and all of them told me to waste no time and read it. I was curious because I’ve never really read a book with zombies in it. Zombies are kind of a joke to us, you see, for several reasons: friends from NaNoWriMo use zombies (together with ninjas) to propel our plot forward when we have run out of things to write for our 50,000 word novels, and Plants vs. Zombies. I’ve never really thought that there’s a zombie book out there, and YA, no less. I’m curious.

Interestingly, the word “zombie” was never used in this book. In Mary’s world, the zombies are known as the Unconsecrated. There was little explanation on how their world became that, so the reader would just have to accept the truths that was presented in the context of the book. You can’t go near the fence. The Unconsecrated thirst for blood. The Sisterhood protects the village. You have to follow or else you’re dead.

But after Mary’s mom falls to the hands of the Unconsecrated and everyone leaves her behind, Mary starts questioning these “truths”. She wonders of the outside world, if there was an outside world at all. When things fall, she and her friends had no choice but to get out of the village and try to see if they can survive outside.

This book had a generally depressing mood, so it’s not a  book I’d recommend to be read when you’re already down. There’s a feeling of doom in the story, and you just know that not all of them will make it out alive. Even so, I couldn’t help but be sucked into the story and hope for more revelations about why the world came to that, and hope for the best for the main characters.

I had mixed feelings after I finished reading this — it was really good, but it was also very depressing that I don’t really know if I really like it — after all, I choose fluff over anything. :P But it is one of the best books I’ve read this year for sure. I’m not sure if I’d like to re-read it as often as I do for the other books I like. Did that make sense?

Oh, and the sequel to this book, entitled Dead Tossed Waves is coming on March 9, and I can’t wait to get to read that, too. I hope it sheds more light on the other unanswered questions in the first book. In the meantime, stay within the fences. :P

Rating: