Voices of Dragons Carrie VaughnKay is a normal teenager: bored of life in a small town, feeling pressured on the sex/relationship fronts, and quietly rebelling against her parents by doing something that either no one will know, or she’ll die doing it: rock climbing on tthe border with Dragon. There’s only been one period of open hostilities between humans and dragons in living memory: right after World War II, the dragons came out of hiding and they and the humans walloped each other before writing a treaty that gives the Dragons several chunks of land in the far north, humans the rest of the country, an agreement to never cross the border, and no ongoing communication between the two factions. As long as Kay doesn’t cross the border she isn’t breaking any laws, and she doesn’t expect to even see a dragon—they rarely come so close to the border.

But, of course, she does meet a dragon, who’s hanging out by the border for much the same reason she is: adolescent rebellion. The two develop a friendship, but it—and their peaceful lives—are threatened when the U.S.military starts encroaching on Dragon territory.

I found Voices of Dragons to be heavy-handed: about the war, about Kay’s best friend pressuring her to get a boyfriend and get laid, about the friendship between Kay and the dragon, Artegal. It tries so hard, but never quite pulls it off. The escalation of the conflict and changing public support was well done, but the military men behind it are charicatures and the politics and political figures behind them are never seen or explored. It’s refreshing and realistic that a straight, sexually active teenage girl would put pressure on another straight girl to become sexually active and Kay’s hesitant, nervous, and thoughtful approach to a relationship fits, but her thinking on sexual contact beyond kissing is unexpectedly flat and simplistic. In her other major relationship, it takes such great pains to give Kay and Artegal similar motivation and to emphasis the ways in which they are alike that it neglects to give Artegal a distinct personality. The strongest part of the book is definitely the middle; the beginning is slow and the ending resolves almost nothing—without being a clear lead-in to a sequel—but the middle of the book contains a powerful and compelling portrait of grief. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to rescue Voices of Dragons from mediocrity.

Voices of Dragons ~ Carrie Vaughn ~ Carrie Vaughn’s blog, Filling the Well


Dreamdark Silksinger Laini TaylorSilksinger picks up where Blackbringer left off, and expands on it. Taylor’s faerie-inhabited world is full of bright colors and half-forgotten history, petty jealousies and firetime stories. Our heroine Magpie is still scruffy and foul-mouthed, questing with crows. In Silksinger, we’re introduced to Whisper, quiet, lonely, and desperate; and Hirik, elitist, awkward, and determined to right a millennia-old wrong. They’re fully fleshed-out, flawed, and lovable characters, and their emotions reverberate throughout the book. The plot itself isn’t treading new ground, but it’s serviceable and it allows a natural exploration of the world and its history as well as the characters. If I had to quibble with such an enjoyable read, it would be that the more we explore the world, the more questions I have: each faerie clan has a particular magical ability and often distinct physical characteristics, but how do they work out in interbreeding? Magpie’s clan is Windwitch, but does that date to her grandfather the West Wind or does it go back further? What is the intelligence level of devils, and how does their intelligence interact with their instincts and pervasive hunger? Luckily for me, there’s plenty of room for sequels and more exploration, so I may yet get answers to my questions.
Silksinger ~ Laini Taylor ~ The Journal of Laini Taylor
My review of Blackbringer

looking for alaska john greeneMiles goes off to boarding school in Alabama looking for the Great Perhaps: adventure, meaning, real friends. He finds the usual assortment of oddballs, including Alaska: hot, confident, exceedingly smart, emotionally scarred, she’s an amazing friend one minute and a selfish bitch the next.

For the first half of the book, sections are labeled “___ days before,” (and in the second half, “___ days after,”) such that we know that Something Bad is going to happen in the general vicinity of Christmas or New Years. Before: booze, cigarettes, pranks, and the study of precalc and religion. After: booze, cigarettes, pranks, and the study of precalc and religion. Also after: trying to figure out what happened, trying to make sense of it, trying to explain it.

It’s not the type of book I usually read, but it came highly recommended , and it’s worth it. Much of the time, when I read books that really throw me into a teenage boy’s head, I feel that I just don’t get it. Excellent books that I enjoy and get a lot out of, but there’s a disconnect. This was just as much in a teenage boy’s head, but it still made sense. A lot of that’s the excellent writing and characterization. I think it’s also partly because so much of Miles’s experience that year involves Alaska; because a girl is so central to everything that’s going on, even the boys’ interactions with each other, it’s grounded in something I do (somewhat) understand.

Looking for Alaska ~ John Green