Sunday, November 24, 2013

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

"Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life."

This is a good, traditional, old-fashioned, book. It has fantasy, a royal court, no excessively silly romances (though select quality ones), and a pretty awesome protagonist. It's nice and thick, too. A perfectly wonderful book to take a good chunk of time reading; it's not frivolous, it addresses good issues, and is incredibly smart. I kinda loved all the character interactions too. They're all different, very three-dimensional and believable, and interact in all these really interesting little ways that could be totally true to life. Seraphina is curious, meddlesome, intellectual, sassy, awkward, and direct. She's a refreshing heroine. There's really not much that I have to say critically about this one--I loved it. I have to go now because I have homework, but I bet you'll love it too: go find a copy at Mt. Edgecumbe or Blatchley. Adios!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

A heart-stopping story of love, death, technology, and art set amid the tropics of a futuristic Brazil.

The lush city of Palmares Três shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Três will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die."

Okay, so this one was pretty good. I liked the idea of a futuristic Brazil, because we're always so self-centered and choose America. The giant glass pyramid of a city is a really cool concept, giving a pretty literal sense to the idea of levels of society. I liked June, didn't exactly connect with her for some reason, but was fine with reading her perspective. The characters as a whole were pretty interesting, though some of the futuristic elements and attitudes prevented me from wholly loving everything about them. I think my favorite part was the setting, the description of the civilization and all the vibrancy in it. That alone could easily carry the story, I think.That, and some interestingly out-of-the-box ideas tossed out here and there: the society is matriarchal, thus the disposability of the Summer Kings (which I unfortunately never quite get why they die) and the openness of different sexualities. I think the author had some very cool ideas and themes in mind when writing this book, even if that wasn't expanded in all areas to be completely coherent. Some areas seemed to be touched on and forgotten about, or not explored quite the right way. It's still quite a good book, though, and I'd give it maybe 3.8 stars. Go check it out at Kettleson.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sabriel by Garth Nix

"Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him. She soon finds companions in Mogget, a cat whose aloof manner barely conceals its malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories. As the three travel deep into the Old Kingdom, threats mount on all sides. And every step brings them closer to a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death—and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own destiny."

I really wasn't sure what to expect with this one--it wasn't at first sight the most exciting or appealing book. I figured it had a fifty-fifty chance. It managed to pull through for me, though, gaining my approval. I'm not gonna do backflips for it, but I have to say that it's a very well-written book. The world, its settings and history and characters, was extraordinarily fleshed-out and accessible; I could easily picture the environment, feel what the characters were going through, and get a sense of everything very clearly. The writing was done in the best way to do that; it wasn't overly remarkable when you concentrated on it but it did wonders for fluidly and directly setting the scene. I enjoyed Sabriel, the main character, and the author's penchant for doing things straight--there was no back-and-forth dithering with the plot or the characters. To add to that, any potential romantic interests there are aren't stretched painfully long. There's the believable beginning stages and denial, and the kinda cute falling-for-each-other, but they don't dance around each other for annoyingly long periods of time. I liked that. Overall, the book was undoubtedly done well and enjoyable--no real complaints here. There're copies at Sitka High, Kettleson, and Mt. Edgecumbe.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher

"There’s bad news and good news about the Cutter High School swim team. The bad news is that they don’t have a pool. The good news is that only one of them can swim anyway. A group of misfits brought together by T. J. Jones (the J is redundant), the Cutter All Night Mermen struggle to find their places in a school that has no place for them. T.J. is convinced that a varsity letter jacket–exclusive, revered, the symbol (as far as T.J. is concerned) of all that is screwed up at Cutter High–will also be an effective tool. He’s right. He’s also wrong. Still, it’s always the quest that counts. And the bus on which the Mermen travel to swim meets soon becomes the space where they gradually allow themselves to talk, to fit, to grow. Together they’ll fight for dignity in a world where tragedy and comedy dance side by side, where a moment’s inattention can bring lifelong heartache, and where true acceptance is the only prescription for what ails us."

Dear lord. Okay, I wasn't exactly expecting to love this book as much as I did, but it managed to surprise me. In every single possible way. First of all, it was funny--sure, kind of a dark humor at times, but that's kinda my thing so 
I was into it. Serious humor factor. At the same time, I want to warn you: the author pulled no punches. Whatsoever. With anything. The emotions and back-stories and situations in this book are deep and intense and there are parts that made me just stop for a second and go, "What? Wait, that just happened?" And coming from someone who's seen her share of plot developments, that's saying something. I highly respect, too, the way that everything came full-circle in the end, nothing was forgotten. Reading a book like that is really powerful, especially with the subject matter in this particular book. I'd even go so far as to give this one 4.5 or 5 stars. I can't recommend it highly enough; this is one of the best books I've read in a while. It's hilarious and beautiful and terrible. Read it. Don't ask questions, just do it. It's at Kettleson, Sitka High, and Mt. Edgecumbe.