Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Book Review: Seraphina

Title: Seraphina
Author: Rachel Hartman
Teen Reviewer: Kinsey Manchester
Rating: 4/5

Seraphina Dombegh lives in a world of tense peace between humans and dragons. The dragons of her world are shape shifters but despite their ability to communicate with humans, they are looked down upon. Her kingdom of Goredd is under a lot of pressure as the 40th anniversary of the peace treaty between humans and dragons approaches. This time, Seraphina witnesses it firsthand as a new member of the court, the musician’s assistant. She finds herself in a lot of drama in Castle Orison as a member of the Royal Family has just been found dead in the woods. The way he died is mysteriously similar to the way that dragons eat humans, which only worsens the situations of the dragons living in their human forms in Goredd. Seraphina is interested in trying to solve the crime and is paired up with the Captain of the Queen’s Guard, Prince Lucian Kiggs. Kiggs is dangerously observant, which becomes a problem for Seraphina, as she has secrets of her own to hide. Kiggs and Seraphina become friends, but soon he starts to question her past and her teacher, the dragon Orma. As secrets unravel, feelings get hurt and people get in trouble. Seraphina has to deal with a lot of overwhelming responsibilities that her job requires, as well as help out Kiggs, and keep up her own mental health. When the leader of the dragons, Ardmagar Comonot, finally visits Goredd for the 40th anniversary, it is questionable whether or not he is actually safe. Seraphina works to protect herself, the ones she love, and her kingdom’s royals as she tries to solve the Prince’s death.

This book was classified as fantasy, but I think it also had an element of mystery. I liked the secret side of this book and that it kept you guessing until the end about some things. I also liked the relationship between Seraphina and Kiggs, which was a really good friendship. I liked that they knew their boundaries, since Kiggs is engaged to his cousin, Princess Glisselda. I think they work so well together because they are not afraid to just say what they are thinking. I loved all of the supporting roles in this book, such as Lars, Seraphina’s father, and Abdo. I think they really added another layer of depth to the book and complemented the major roles well. Glisselda surprised me with her poise because at first she seemed like just another glamorous Princess. However, she turned out to be very mature in the end and I liked her. Seraphina was a really enjoyable main character and was relatable, despite the fact that she is clearly different. I must admit that when reading this book, the author goes right into using the idioms and slang language of the Goreddis, so it was a little hard to understand at first. Once I got into the swing of things and noticed the helpful dictionary at the back, I was fine though. I would not suggest this book to anyone who can’t handle a little bit of dragons, kings, and dueling, because you can find all of these in here. Although, I think this book surprised me with how good it is and I would recommend it to most people! It’s not a short book, but it is definitely worth the time!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Book Review: The Namesake

The Namesake

Title: The Namesake
Author: Stephen Parlato
Teen Reviewer: Timothy Wood
Rating: 4/5 stars

The Namesake, by Stephen Parlato, is the story of a teenager, Evan Galloway, whose father has just committed suicide. Evan is an extremely gifted student and artist, and everyone expects the best of him. Wanting to be able to understand why his father ended his life, he tries to find the answers. But as he does this he is opposed by a number of different people who try to stop him from getting to the truth of his father's death, and he has his own social life, or lack thereof, to worry about as well. Will Evan solve the mystery of his father's murder and be able to heal from it, or will he never know the full story and have to live with that fact?

This book was an interesting read for me. At first I was suprised at the book's bluntness and did not think that it depicted a teenage boy's life very well. But then, about in the middle of the book, I realized that this is what life is like for someone his age. It can be difficult and confusing. Told from Evan's point of view and from his mind's eye, the book does a great job of thinking like a teenage boy would, though at times it seems a bit random. One thing I did not like about the writing was that on multiple occasions, when the book begins a new section, it starts off after something important happened, then jumps back to what actually happened. This was a bit frustrating, but I got somewhat used to it. Also, the book still seems a bit unrealistic in some ways, but very realistic in others. Despite these shortcomings and even though I did not enjoy the book as a whole, it had a lot of plot twists and fantastic character development, making the book very exciting and enjoyable in spots. Because I found some parts frustrating, I would not read it again, but I am sure a lot of people will enjoy it. I rate this book a 4 out of 5.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Book Review: The Turning

Title: The Turning
Author: Francine Prose
Teen Reviewer: Shannon Finney
Rating: 3/5 Stars

The Turning by New York Times bestselling author Francine Prose is a spooky and entertaining read, ideal for preteens. When high school student, Jack, first arrives at the remote island where he is to babysit two young children for the summer, he feels a little nervous but overall enthusiastic. However, it does not take long for Jack to become very unsettled and frightened about things going on in the house and with the kids, who both at first seem to be polite and friendly. Although the mansion is the only house on the island, and he and the children its only inhabitants, he begins to feel that they are not alone - that there are elusive spirits living among them. Read Jack’s letters to his girlfriend that recount the details of the strange happenings on the island, and witness the turn he takes from an easy-going kid to someone unlike his old self completely.

For the young reader, The Turning is suspenseful and thrilling. The way that Prose uses letter correspondence to tell the story allows you to get inside of Jack’s head, which helps develop the story and show the mental transformation that the events on the island puts him through. The added drama between him and his girlfriend adds to the excitement of the novel, and other unique touches of romance throughout will please paranormal teen-fiction fans. Readers who enjoy mysterious novels will also enjoy The Turning, as Jack’s investigation for the source of the activity on the island uncovers new leads that are not resolved until the end of the book. However, there were some issues with the novel that I could not ignore.
In this short, easy-to-read book, there are some parts that do not exactly make sense. Toward the middle of the novel, the conversation via mail becomes less realistic, as he continues to write extensive letters to his girlfriend even as their relationship goes through a rocky patch. Toward the end, he writes to his Dad about things that he was there to witness, throwing in phrases like “remember that, Dad?” Since everything he says in the letters must be said to tell the story, I think it would make more sense for the book to be written in the traditional style. Disregarding this minor detail, the book is still enjoyable and entertaining.

Overall, The Turning is an exciting, mysterious tale of creepy paranormal happenings and psychological deterioration. The young reader who enjoys a good scary read will enjoy this novel by Francine Prose.