Posts filed under ‘Christine’s reviews’

Star Wars: The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance by Sean Williams

Pub date: July 2010

Science-Fiction (Adult)

417 pgs.

If you’re at all interested in Star Wars or videos games, you probably know that the much-anticipated online role-playing game, Star Wars: The Old  Republic, was just released.  Fatal Alliance is a tie-in novel to this game, the first of a series of three, with a fourth set to be released in fall 2012.  Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t heard of The Old Republic.  You don’t need to know anything about it in order to enjoy the novel, but you should have at least a basic knowledge of the Star Wars universe.

Fatal Alliance is set in the Old Republic era, thousands of years before any of the films took place.  The story begins on the Auriga Fire, where captain Jet Nebula has just encountered a mysterious ship in Wild Space.  When he attempts to contact the ship, warning that his crew is preparing to board them, the ship responds “we do not recognize your authority” and proceeds to blow itself up.  The Auriga Fire just manages to escape, thanks to Jet’s quick reflexes.

The strange ship wasn’t entirely destroyed, however.  A couple of remains end up in the hands of the Hutts, who decide to hold an auction, knowing that these objects’ value will attract bidders from both Empire and Republic alike.  Meeting at the auction are a Jedi Padawan who is trying to prove himself ready for knighthood, a Republic Trooper who was kicked out of her squadron, an Imperial spy who would much rather stay in the shadows and out of the action, and a Sith apprentice, ruthless and full of hatred for the master who sent her.  A botched robbery attempt soon reveals the true nature of the auctioned objects, and everyone on all sides find themselves fighting for their lives.  A threat is revealed that is far too powerful for either Empire or Republic to face alone, and they begin to realize that they must fight together to save the galaxy.

If you’re looking for a book full of intense sci-fi action scenes, look no further, because this one delivers.  It was definitely un-put-downable at moments.  I’ve heard some criticize it for having shallow characterization, but I don’t think I would entirely agree.  While some fringe characters could use some fleshing-out, I thought the main characters were all pretty well-written.  I could recognize the Jedi’s feelings of failure and his lack of self-confidence.  I enjoyed seeing the directionless and lonely Republic Trooper find a place for herself both in battle and among friends.  I also have to praise the book for having some great, well-rounded female characters, which can be rare in the science-fiction genre.

This book’s aim was to get the reader excited about the video game, and interested in this period of Star Wars history.  In that, the author certainly succeeded.  If the plotlines of the game are half as exciting as this novel, I’ll gladly join in.

-Christine

December 20, 2011 at 3:21 pm Leave a comment

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Pub Date: September 2011

Historical fiction (Children’s)

608 pgs.

You may have heard the name “Brian Selznick” recently.  His book The Invention of Hugo Cabret won the 2008 Caldecott Medal, and was recently made into a movie by Martin Scorsese, which opens this month under the title Hugo.

Like his last book, Wonderstruck is told through both words and pictures.  Its main characters are Ben Wilson, a boy living in Minnesota in June of 1977, and Rose Kincaid, a girl living in New Jersey in 1927.  While Ben’s story is told entirely through text, Rose’s is told entirely through black-and-white illustrations.

We meet Ben first.  He is devastated and confused after being orphaned by the recent death of his mother.  She was the town librarian, and raised Ben in a sheltered world surrounded by quotations from books that Ben has never read.  One night, Ben wakes up to find a light on in his mother’s room, and he sneaks over to investigate.  What he finds there will lead him to run away from home, needing to find the answers to questions he has had his whole life.

Rose’s story is told alongside Ben’s.  When she sees a man arrive at her front door, Rose frantically climbs out her bedroom window to escape, ending up at the local cinema, where her favorite silent film star’s movie is playing.  Rose returns home to a father who is alienating her, and a tutor who tells her she will be incomplete and alone without his help.  Looking for a sense of belonging that has been missing her whole life, Rose runs away to New York City, where the stories of these two children collide.

Selznick’s beautiful black and white illustrations make up 460 of the book’s 608 pages.  The story moves along at a fast pace, and once you become involved in the lives of the two seemingly unrelated characters, you’ll want to know how the two will come together.  Wonderstruck is an imaginative, engrossing read that will leave you…well, wonderstruck.

-Christine

November 21, 2011 at 7:40 pm Leave a comment

Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock

Pub Date: August 1991

Fiction (Adult)

48 pgs.

Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine is one of my favorite books.  My relationship with it is built upon fate: someone recommended the book to me years ago, and strangely enough, just a few days after receiving this recommendation, I found the book lying forgotten on the side of the road.  I promptly rescued it, took it home, read it, and fell in love.

The main character of Griffin and Sabine is Griffin Moss.  Griffin lives in London, where he makes a living creating beautiful handmade postcards.  His life is changed one day when he receives a postcard from a stranger named Sabine, a woman who lives in the South Pacific, illustrates postage stamps, and knows things about Griffin’s art that he has never told anybody.

The two begin to exchange the postcards and letters that make up the entire text of the book.  Their relationship develops, growing into something like love, and twisting into obsession.  The book ends on a haunting note that still gives me goosebumps, even though I’ve read it several times.

The art in this book is gorgeous.  The illustrations on each postcard are created with a mixture of stamping, painting, inking, and collage.  There are even a few decorated envelopes containing folded letters.  Pay close attention to the pictures on each page – they start off harmless and whimsical, but grow darker as the story progresses.

Griffin and Sabine is the first in a trilogy of books about these characters, but I can’t say I’ve read any of the others.  I think this first one ends much too perfectly, and I like imagining what takes place after the spooky, mysterious ending.  However, if you’re interested in reading all three, the second one is entitled Sabine’s Notebook, and the third The Golden Mean.  Just don’t tell me what happens.  I want to preserve that mystery.

-Christine

April 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm 1 comment

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Pub Date: Aug. 1996

Fiction (Fantasy, Adult)

704 pgs.

With HBO’s highly anticipated TV series Game of Thrones premiering this spring, I thought I would write a review of the first book in the series that the show is based on – The Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin.

A Game of Thrones is an epic high fantasy.  While fantasy novels are often criticized for being too formulaic and having too many shallow stock characters, A Game of Thrones falls into none of these tropes.  There is no ultimate good or ultimate evil.  Characters that you hated for their heinous deeds in the beginning of the book have you changing your mind about them halfway through.  By writing each chapter from a different character’s point-of-view, Martin allows you to see the motivations and emotions that may at first be hidden.

A Game of Thrones is split into three main storylines.  The first follows Lord Eddard Stark, Hand of the King, who has gained his position after the recent death (and possibly murder) of the king’s previous advisor.  Eddard leaves his own land to journey to the capitol, where he attempts to unravel the mystery surrounding the previous Hand’s death.  His wife stays behind and soon finds that there is another mystery to solve that is much closer to home – the attempted murder of her own child.

A second storyline takes place at The Wall, where rangers known as the Night’s Watch guard the rest of the kingdom from a now-legendary evil known as the Others.  While whatever mysterious danger that lies beyond the wall is currently contained, its menace grows ever closer, and the people of the Seven Kingdoms still fear it, their fear growing stronger as various signs show that this threat will not be contained for much longer.

The last major storyline takes place on a separate continent, following Daenerys Targaryen, the last living princess of the usurped king, and one of many claimants to the Iron Throne.  Dany begins the novel as a young girl of thirteen, forced by her power-hungry brother into an arranged marriage.  As Dany comes of age and grows more powerful, she begins to realize that she must regain the throne that her brother so hungrily desires.

At about 700 pages, this highly-praised book is a time commitment, and is not for the faint-of-heart.  It is full of political intrigue, betrayal, murder, and civil war, and has so many characters that you may want to make a list of them all to keep track of everyone.  You may be intimidated by its size, but know that one of the most praised aspects of the book is its pacing.  There is always an assassination being plotted, a clue being discovered, or a threat being fought.  Martin manages to keep you interested in every aspect of the plot.  Even when you think you’ve read enough for the day, you’ll find you aren’t able to put the book down.  Luckily, when you’re done there is more to be read.  There are currently four published books in the series, with a total of seven planned.  We’re all patiently waiting for that next one!

-Christine

February 7, 2011 at 7:28 pm Leave a comment

Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss, and What I Learned by Judd Winick

Enjoy another review from our graphic-novel expert, Christine!

Pub Date: Sept 2000 (re-printed April 2009)

Non-Fiction Graphic Novel (Young Adult)

192 pgs.

If you’re a pop culture junkie like me, you may recognize the name Pedro Zamora.  Pedro was an HIV-positive AIDS educator who starred on MTV’s The Real World: San Francisco in 1994.  If you haven’t heard of him, don’t be discouraged – you don’t need to know him, or have ever watched an episode of The Real World to enjoy this book.

Pedro and Me is a graphic novel, written and drawn by Judd Winick, one of Pedro’s housemates on the popular reality TV show.  The book is an autobiography, but speaks just as much about Pedro as it does the author.  When Judd first learns from the producers of The Real World that he’s going to be living with someone who is HIV-positive, his gut reaction is “why me?”  He’s uncomfortable with the idea, but feels guilty about his discomfort.  All he knows about HIV and AIDS comes from the media – stereotypes and pictures of end-stage AIDS patients in hospitals.

After meeting Pedro, Judd begins to see past these images.  As his friendship with Pedro grows, he realizes how strong and caring Pedro is, despite his HIV status.  Pedro is an AIDS educator – he travels the country giving speeches to young people and appearing on talk shows in order to educate the public about HIV/AIDS and how it can be prevented.  He sees The Real World as an opportunity to educate millions of Americans at once.  And he certainly succeeds.  His story continues to touch lives, even after his death.

This book is exceptional for its inspiring story of friendship, growth, and an important and all-too-often taboo topic.  It teaches practical information about HIV/AIDS and its prevention, while at the same time teaching about the humanity within all people.  Pedro is certainly praised, but he is not lifted on a pedestal.  He is human, just like the rest of us, and he gets angry, scared, and frustrated like we all do.  This book is sentimental and emotional, but also funny and informative.  You’ll probably be crying by the story’s unavoidable ending.       –Christine

December 8, 2010 at 7:56 pm Leave a comment

Featured Contributor Friday

Today we’re excited to have another brand-new writer for the blog: Christine, who works mainly in the Reference department and has a special interest in YA titles. Also, she’s helping this blog branch out by contributing our very first review of a graphic novel. Enjoy!

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Graphic Novel (Young Adult)

Pub Date: Nov. 2008

436 pgs.

Summer is over, and that means that Masconomet High School’s summer reading books are slowly making their way back into the library.  Here’s a look at one that holds a soft spot in my heart: one of the suggested titles for the 12th grade elective course “The Graphic Novel.”

Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons was the only graphic novel on Time magazine’s 2005 list of All Time Greatest Novels.  It is part superhero comic, part science-fiction, part alternative history, and part political intrigue.  The book takes place in an alternate 1980’s New York City, where “costumed vigilantes” have recently become outlawed.  When a vigilante named The Comedian is found dead, fellow former-superhero Rorschach suspects a plot to destroy all vigilantes, and begins an investigation on his own…outside of the law.

Watchmen is noted for its deconstruction of the superhero archetype, showing heroes who are incredibly flawed, and incredibly human.  The Comedian is a cynical, ruthless killer employed by the US government.  Rorschach is extremely right-wing, possibly mentally ill, and sees morality in black-and-white.  Doctor Manhattan, the only character with actual superpowers, feels like an outcast because of them, and sees the world so differently from the rest of humanity that he no longer cares at all about the human race.

This book requires a suspension of disbelief from its reader, but if you stick with it, it will reward you.  You may have heard of the movie, which hit theaters last March.  It’s visually stunning and a great adaptation, in my opinion, but you might want to both read the book and watch the film.  Doing one will enrich your experience of the other.  -Christine

September 17, 2010 at 7:51 pm 1 comment


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