Behemoth, by Scott Westerfeld

I would like to thank my connections at the Twinsburg Public Library for letting me check this book out while I was hanging out at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving. This is one of those books that I can’t find in Jacksonville, and I really wanted to read it, so it worked out quite well!

This is the sequel to Leviathan, which I read a year ago and loved a lot. To recap the basics, it’s the Great War as it would have been fought if only the Axis had giant machines to fight with and the Allies had fabricated animals that did things like fly and poo shrapnel.

Right. In this book, our future archduke becomes a bit of a prisoner of war aboard the Leviathan and decides to escape; our girl-pretending-to-be-a-boy soldier is tasked with a secret mission that works but goes a little bad in that she’s now stuck in Istanbul without a quick way back to her ship. Conveniently, his archduke-ness is also hiding in Istanbul, and they meet up again quickly to help some revolutionaries who might be able to help both of their situations.

I was not as excited by Behemoth as by its predecessor. Deryn, the soldier, is no longer as badass as she previously was… I mean, she’s still fighting and doing awesome things, but she spends less time being like “I’m awesome and you can’t argue with that” and more time mooning over his archduke-ness, Alek. I dislike mooning. I also wasn’t as taken with Alek, though I’m not sure why… I guess I just felt that I didn’t really know what was going on with him, between his men being deceptive and he being really quite daft.

I will probably read the conclusion to this trilogy, but I won’t be waiting as excitedly as I was for this one.

Recommendation: If you liked Leviathan you will want to read this, and I recommend Leviathan to anyone who likes an alternate history or some steampunk.

Rating: 7/10

See also:
[your link here]

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

The Secret Hour, by Scott Westerfeld

I’ve been delighted by Scott Westerfeld‘s writing since I picked up Uglies (though I found Leviathan more to my personal liking). He writes stuff that’s fun and enjoyable and that doesn’t make you think too hard, so far as I can tell. That’s certainly true of this first Midnighters series book, but it took me a long time to really get going with it.

The plot goes like this: Jessica Day moves from Chicago to Bixby, Oklahoma at the beginning of the school year. Apart from being the new girl, she’s also made uncomfortable by a couple of goth-y kids at school who keep looking at her like they know something about her. Which they do. We find out through one of them, Rex, that Jessica is like him and his friends — that is to say, a Midnighter who can walk around in the “hidden hour” that happens right at midnight and which for other people goes by in a blink. This is cool for Rex and company, because they don’t have much fun during the day (the sun is too bright, the light isn’t right, and for one of them everyone’s thoughts are too loud) but Jessica doesn’t have a problem with the day, just the scariness of the night when strange animals seem to come out to hunt her.

I know that this is the first of a trilogy, but really, it took so long to get to the part where Jessica knows what’s going on and she’s being chased and something is actually happening in the book. I almost put it down for good more than once, but it’s such a quick read that I really wanted to find out what happened. And I’m glad I kept with it — the reveal on why the “darkling” animals are out to get Jessica is kind of okay, but the very very end is chilling and more than enough to make me want to pick up the next book.

Rating: 7/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2004, A to Z Challenge, Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
[your link here]

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld (14 November — 15 November)

Um. I loved this book. A lot. I really didn’t expect to. I mean, I read Westerfeld’s Uglies series, and I thought it was pretty okay — entertaining, adventurous, and the like — but this is some seriously excellent stuff!

Maybe I forgot to tell myself that I love steampunk, I don’t know. Leviathan starts right at the beginning of World War I, immediately after Franz and Sophie are assassinated (by poisoning, this time). The usual suspects go off to war, but it’s not trench warfare on the menu today, but a machines vs. nature showdown. See, in this world, there are Clankers and Darwinists (and neutral people, of course, but they aren’t as exciting). The former love their giant walking machines; the latter love their giant whale zeppelins. And when I say whale, I mean that oh, also, Darwin has figured out DNA in this world and the Darwinists evolve their zeppelins and the like by splicing together interesting bits to make battle animals and flying implements that are alive. That’s pretty darn cool. Let’s work on that. 🙂

So the background of the story is excellent, and then the two main characters, who share chapter-time, are pretty awesome themselves. We first meet Alek, the only son of Franz and Sophie, who is whisked away in the middle of the night to go hide from the people who’d rather he be dead. Of course, he’s fifteen, so he’s not too good at the “shut up and hide” aspect of this whisking. Our other protagonist is Deryn, a girl who is passing as a boy (called Dylan) so that she can join the Air Service and go flying. She is also fifteen and a titch full of herself, but she thinks awesome things like, “Hey, all you sods, I can fly and you can’t! A natural airman, in case you haven’t noticed. And in conclusion, I’d like to add that I’m a girl and you can all get stuffed!” Deryn’s kind of a badass.

Oh. And the illustrations are magnificent. As are the endpapers. Keith Thompson is my new artist-crush. 🙂

This is the first in another trilogy, I think; I can’t wait for the next one!

Rating: 9/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2009)

See also:
Blogging for a Good Book

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

Specials, by Scott Westerfeld (29 May — 30 May)

So you know I liked Uglies and Pretties, the two previous books in this series. And I did like this one, too, but really only because it finished off the storyline and was as engaging as the others.

Because seriously, there was just soooo much in this book! I was okay in the first book, believing in operations and people running away and other people wanting to maintain the status quo at all costs. Sure. Fine. And in the second, believing in “nanos” that can fix brain lesions and tattoos that move and that cutting yourself can make you “bubbly”… well, that last one was a bit much, but okay. Sure again. But in this book, I had to still be okay with cutting and then also with nanos that simply eat things and sneak suits that camouflage and unbreakable ceramic bones and people turning their pinky fingers into snakes and more cures for brain lesions and Tally switching alliances for the umpty-seventh time…. It was just. Too. Much.

Right. Anyway. Basically, Tally is now a part of Special Circumstances as a “Cutter” — the youth brigade. And she wants Zane to be with her, and Shay wants to destroy the New Smoke, so they set out together to lead Zane to the Smoke and kill two birds and whatever. And they get there and find out that part of what they did to get Zane to the Smoke caused a war between two cities, which is bad because war hasn’t happened in forever and also that one city didn’t do anything to deserve getting itself blown up. So Tally, perpetually ruining things and then fixing them, goes off to fix it. Yay.

If you’ve read the other books, you will read this and really should read this, but I wouldn’t go starting the series just to get to this one. 🙂

Rating: 6/10
(Support Your Local Library Challenge)

Pretties, by Scott Westerfeld (12 May — 13 May)

Pretties is the second of Westerfeld’s crazy dystopian series, following Uglies, which I read last month. So, you know, there are spoilers if you haven’t read that other one.

In this go, Tally has turned herself pretty and is, in fact, a total pretty-head. She’s about to be voted into a clique called the Crims, short for Criminals, which Shay (now her bff again) is already a member of. But on the night of the vote, Tally runs into a Smoky called Croy that she vaguely remembers knowing once and who promises to leave her a note before he and the other Smokies run away from Special Circumstances.

The note, which Tally finds with the help of the lead Crim, Zane, is the one that Tally wrote to herself in the last book. It also includes two pills for curing the operation. Tally is too nervous to take them herself but won’t let Zane risk his life, either, so they each take one just seconds before the Specials break into their hiding place.

Now cured, Tally and Zane set to work on getting as many Pretties as possible to realize the ridiculousness of their situation and to breaking out of New Pretty Town. It sort of works, sort of doesn’t, and Tally finds herself in all sorts of trouble all over again. Whoo!

I love how fast these books go and how incredibly engaging they are, and you know I’ll be rescuing Specials from the library just as soon as it comes back.

Rating: 7.5/10
(Support Your Local Library Challenge)

Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld (15 April — 17 April)

Oh, YA brain candy. Fun!

Uglies is a dystopian novel about a world where everyone surgically becomes pretty (or at least, conforms to specific ideals of beauty) at the age of 16 so as to eliminate silly things like not liking people ’cause they look funny. Of course, up until that age the kids are known as Uglies and have the aforementioned ideals beaten into their heads. Lovely. Who wouldn’t want to become Pretty after all that?

Well, some people. Like Tally’s new friend Shay, who, even after Tally espouses to her the wonders of Pretty-ness, runs off to find an enclave of people who have avoided the surgery. Shay leaves behind a note in case Tally wants to follow, but that note ends up in the wrong hands and Tally is forced to go after Shay if looking Pretty is to be in Tally’s future.

And then, of course, there’s adventure and commentary on society and it’s all really fun! I read most of this book in one sitting because I just had to know what happened next, and even predictability and the giant cliffhanger ending didn’t peeve me like such things usually do; I’ll just go grab the next book and devour it, too! Excellent.

Rating: 8/10
(Support Your Local Library Challenge)