Monday, April 29, 2013

The Apprentice's Masterpiece by Melanie Little

Fifteenth-century Spain is one of the most enlightened cultures on record -- one in which Jews, Muslims, and Christians coexist within an atmosphere of respect. Then the zealous Queen Isabella enacts policies that put an abrupt end to the peace. Violence, mistrust, and intolerance shadow everyone as the Spanish Inquisition takes shape. In this fear-filled atmosphere, fifteen-year-old scribe Ramon Benveniste must hide the family's secret. They are conversos: Jews converted to Christianity.

One day a young man is delivered to the door. Amir wears the robe and red patch of a Muslim. Soon, both Ramon and Amir are caught up in dramatic events they cannot escape.

Little's elegant verse breathes life into memorable characters and captures the turbulence of the period. Drawing on extensive research, she has crafted brilliant, inescapably real story about one of the most politically complex and troubling times in human history.

The plight of Amir, Ramon, and his family is a powerful reminder of the importance of examining the past.

~Print copy (from the library), 409 pages
Published: 2008 by Annick Press

You can kind of tell this is a powerful book by their use of the word "inescapably" up there in the summary. I've never heard a book described with that word, but it fits.

I picked up this book from my school library with a strange feeling. It's not a big book, but it has a weight to it: a feeling that this book contains something very important. It's the sort of feeling I might expect to find if I pick up an ancient tome that reveals the secrets of the universe.

Before you call me a romantic, fantasy-stuffed daydreamer, that feeling proved to be a factor in my reading this. That sort of feeling makes you want to read it, but I was still reluctant. I didn't really want to read 400 pages of dense, historical, important and weighty material.

It didn't turn out that way, though. This is a verse novel. Not what I was expecting, but it suits this book perfectly. It is still weighty and meaningful, but it not so dense and unenjoyable. In fact, it was quite deep. It really changes the way you look at things.

(And, in case you're like me, the 15th century means the 1400s. Specifically, this takes place about 1485-1490, thereabouts.)

This book is told in three parts: the first in Ramon's POV, the 2nd in Amir's, and the 3rd back in Ramon's (four years later). As I said, written in verse; it reads and looks like freestyle poetry. I've always admired verse novels. To fit a whole story in those scarce stanzas, I think modern literature should be proud.

Anyways, the book itself tells of the Spanish Inquisition, and two boys caught up in it. Of course, the Spanish Inquisition was more like three centuries long, much too long for them to be caught up in the whole Inquisition, or even in the starting of it.

Ramon is kind of selfish in the first part. He changes in the third, after an event. But Amir is a slave, given as a gift to Ramon's family by some wealthy client. Ramon hates Amir at first sight; poor scribes have no need for a slave, and Amir is only another mouth to feed.

I don't really want to mention everything else. It's too tied to the ending. But trust me, it's some good stuff.

Anyways, the plot is very thoughtful. Amir and Ramon push things along, not just a product of the plot as you see in some books. Events and characters are equal culprits in this plot.

Overall, it's a good read. I'm glad I read it; it changed how I viewed things. Before, Isabella and Ferdinand were the monarchs who gave Chris Columbus aid to Sail the Ocean Blue. Now, the monarchs are the distant masterminds of an Inquisition that destroys lives.

I didn't know whether to give this a four or a five, honestly. I decided a 4.5, which rounds up to 5 stars. I really would recommend this to most people, but most especially if you love history being brought to life.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Follow Friday #42

[Guess what?! My birthday was earlier this week! I'm seventeen, now! AND, my blog's anniversary passed. My blog is a year old. *fake tears* So, I am mildly happy, despite the ton of review stuffs and the AP exams in two weeks.]

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee!

Q: Is there a song that reminds you of a book? Or vice versa? What is the song and the book?

YES. Absolutely. In case you didn't notice the title of my blog. (I am a musical-linguistic sort of person. I can't help it.)

Here is a list of songs (their artists in parenthesis) and a book to pair with them. Feel free to look these songs up on youtube. Cuz, you know, these songs are cool to me, and I hope you find them cool, too.

New Tail/Short Hair (How to Train Your Dragon soundtrack/Mulan soundtrack) -- Eon by Alison Goodman.*

Any song by Owl City -- The Complete works of Narnia, by (of course) C. S. Lewis.

Kingdom Come (the Civil Wars) -- Foundling by D.M. Cornish.

Any song by Heather Dale -- The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale.

Beauty from Pain (Superchick), Beautiful Tonight (Krystal Meyers) --  Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas,

There She Goes (Sixpence None the Richer) -- Scars by Cheryl Rainfield.

According to Plan (The Corpse Bride soundtrack), Demons (Imagine Dragons), Carol of the Bells (Trans-Siberian Orchestra), Awake and Alive/Rebirthing (Skillet) -- Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer.**

That is not nearly all of it. The title of my blog is the Inky Melody, after all. This is a small sample, because the full list would stretch around the world a couple times. (Not really; it's digital fluff, you understand -- hard to stretch a youtube video and all that.) And this isn't even including the playlist for my own novel, which I still cling to the hope of publishing some day.

Anyways, look up songs and love music and try new stuffs. And whatnot. How about you? Any special music-book connection? Have a blessed Friday and weekend!

*Yea, How to Train Your Dragon is Viking-medieval-y, not really Chinese-ish like Eon. But I still think it fits. Oh, and I purposely didn't include Eona, the second book, because I didn't like it so much as the first.

**Shush up about my Artemis Fowl obsession. Parts of those songs remind me of the book, and to different characters (though mainly, of course, Artemis Fowl himself). Not like, the whole song. Because that is a pretty hefty list of songs, and not even all of them. And in case you were wondering, it's the confident, suave, epic (and sometimes classical-music) parts of the songs that remind me of that series.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Some race to win. Others race to survive.
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.
Some riders live.
Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connelly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn't given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition -- the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
As she did in her bestselling Shiver trilogy, author Maggie Stiefvater takes us to the breaking point, where both love and life meet their greatest obstacles, and only the strong of heart can survive. The Scorpio Races is an unforgettable reading experience.

~Print copy, 404 pages
Published: 2011 by Scholastic Press

I wasn't really expecting to like this novel.

I'm not a romance fan, as you might can tell if you've been poking around my blog for awhile. And this seemed, from its summary, like one of those books that understates the romantic element in the summary when really, the whole freakin' thing is romance dressed up as magical.

But thankfully, it wasn't like that. The romance was kinda subtle, didn't really pick up until the end. Most of it was the worrying over the water horses and Puck's stubbornness and a worrying lack of money.

Let me go into a bit of detail here. Puck Connelly is a stubborn, family-oriented girl who has never witnessed the Races, despite having grown up on the only island that does the Races. But she feels forced to participate when her brother announces that he's leaving for the mainland. Their parents are dead, and she and her little brother would be left all alone.

So she blurts out that she'll join them, just so he'll stay a couple more weeks. This seems kind of a flimsy reason to join the Races; she could have found a different way, or just accepted that he'll leave, or insist she'll go, too. But she does none of that. She joins a bunch of Races she's never seen for herself. Races that consist of superhorses who eat human flesh if you're not careful racing against each other, right next to the habitat that magically calls to their blood: the sea.

But really, overall, I kinda liked Puck. Whatever her reasons behind it, she still joined the male-dominated Races against everyone's advice, even after the male racers shun her in little ways and big ways. And anyways, she finds out she needs the prize money: without her older brother, the primary money-earner, she'll be kicked out of the house she grew up in. And that's worth fighting for. 

And Sean Kendrick? He's a weird one. He's a cool character -- for some reason, he reminded of Four from Divergent, though I can't pinpoint why -- and his reasons are his own rhyme. Or, in other words, he seemed like a real person, and moreover he seemed like a real person who I might actually be able to stand. He doesn't care about society, sticks up for Puck, loves his water horse a little too much.

This is a real character-oriented novel, really. I can't tell you where this novel took place, other than the romantic vision of an isle of scrubby grass and tough people, all living near cliffs and the sea. I believe, from the references to America and the mainland, that it takes place somewhere around the British Isles, or Ireland or Scotland or... you know the vague area I'm talking about. (I'm not good with geography.)

Overall, this novel was pretty interesting. I finished it a little less than a week ago and I can still give you this opinion, so obviously it was in some shape or form memorable. I wouldn't stick it among my greater favorite books, because it didn't quite catch my spark. It almost did, but it didn't for whatever minute reason. But I think it's a book that plenty of people would love beyond love. It's a fine book. So, I give it four stars.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Follow Friday #41

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.

Q: If you could hang out with any author (living) who would it be and what would you want to do?

Tamora Pierce, for starters. She's an awesome fantasy writer; I remember loving her Circle of Magic Quartet in elementary school (though I can't remember if that quartet is MG or YA). I sort of imagine that we're sitting in the Starbucks section of a Barnes and Noble, chatting about our favorite books.

I'd kinda like to meet Eoin Colfer, the author of the Artemis Fowl series. I believe he's Irish, and Irish people are awesome. (I've never understood how America and Britain could treat the Irish peoples so terribly over the centuries. Seriously, Ireland is possibly among the world's Absolute Coolest Places ever, according to me.) I have to find out what happens after the last book! And Artemis's fate is a lot more authentic when it comes from the author's mouth, not my own speculation.

J.K. Rowling, of course; everyone wants to meet the Harry Potter Author. But for some reason I can only picture us talking when we're walking through Flourish and Blott's.

There are a ton more authors (*cough*of-every-book-I've-ever-read*cough*) that I'd love to meet. But since I'm typing this up during the commercials while I watch Law and Order (Special Victims Unit), I'm leaving it at that.

How about you? Who would you like to meet? Where would you be? Have a blessed Friday and weekend!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hi, Sorry.

I meant to do a book review today. It was going to be a good one, too -- The Scorpio Races by Maggie  Stiefvater. But I haven't gotten around to finishing it. Because I haven't done enough reading and writing and I've done too much staring at my ceiling.

Right now, it's like, 9:30 at night and I still haven't done my homework. I'm shorted out on sleep. There's barely enough sweet tea in the fridge for waking me up tomorrow morning. I didn't finish my book. I'm not having too good a Monday.

But, let's look on the bright side... uhmmm... The world hasn't run out of books! And tomorrow I can watch TV all day if I want to. And... my handwriting is really pretty. (Not my blog post handwriting, or computer writing, obviously -- they're digital fluff. There's pretty much the one font for the internet.)

Anyways, this is a post to tell you that I apologize for not doing what I'm supposed to. Even now, I'm considering just taking a C on my homework. Just telling you.

Have a blessed day today/tomorrow! Here's a picture quote, because I feel this post is too short.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Follow Friday #40

[40! A somewhat odd even number, pardon the oxymoron. Half of 40 is twenty; half of twenty is 10. But then half of ten is 5. This is going nowhere -- I'm just moving on to the post now.]

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee!

Q: We are about to see a lot of posts and tweets about reader conventions, RT, BEA, ALA, and many more starting soon. Which one would you love to attend? Where and why?

Um... honestly? I've never attended a conference. I rarely actually leave my home. I sit on my computer all day. (Well, not literally. I mean I listen to songs on youtube and read internet articles on writing, book reviews, and the news. I don't mean that I close the lid of my laptop and sit on it like a mother bird sits on her eggs. That would be weird.)

I would love to attend one, though! It would have to be up here in the Border states, though: Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland. And it would have to be next year, when I actually have my driver's license so I can get there.

I'd love to attend one eventually, though. Anyone have news on conferences (writer's or reader's, really) in this area? I know ALA is in Chicago and BEA in NYC, but how about around here?

I'd love some news! How about you? Where are you attending, and where is it? Have a blessed Friday and weekend! :)  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mood: Aggravated

Here's a list of things that aggravate me:

1. The length of my to-do list. Seriously, I made one and had to cut off at least half of it so it would fit on the page.

2. Swear words/overt slang. I hear them every day at school, and I hate hearing such a disrespect to Language in General. (aka corrupting the English language).

3. How little time I seem to have to watch TV, despite the fact that I don't so much more than go to school, come home, read, and write. I don't do extracurricular activities or hang with friends, and there's still no time.

4. That I also can't manage to remember to do chores. Until the laundry's piled so high, it almost touches the ceiling.

Yea, this is a quick post on random things going on in my brain right now. Lovely, ain't it? Not really.

I'll try to post more next Wednesday. It's been a weird week for me -- on the one hand, I got my learner's permit! On the other, I scared stiff at the thought of driving! (I feel absolutely no yearning for a driver's license; I just realize I can't get to the library on my own without one.)

Also, I have a test tomorrow and Friday that I have to study for. And homework that I should have done over Spring Break. And I have to hope to mercy that I didn't miss anything too important in chemistry class and math class. Yikes.

So, have a blessed Wednesday! Keep calm and carry on, as they say. (Or did; I believe that was a WW2 propaganda message, posted in train stations to keep people from freaking out.)   

Friday, April 5, 2013

Follow Friday #39

Follow  Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.

Q: Have you ever read a book you thought you would hate -- ? Did you end up hating it? Did you end up loving it? Or would you never do that?

Well, I have and probably will in the future. I'm going to take this to mean not merely that indifferent feeling, like you don't really feel like picking up the book but you don't really have anything against it. I believe you mean, you really, truly think you're going to hate this book.

I really like to avoid this situation, if possible. Self-fulfilling prophecy, anyone? You go into a book already knowing you're going to hate it, so you end up proving yourself right. You end up hating it simply because you thought you would hate it when you picked it up.

But, of course, being a student, I simply have to read books I hate sometimes. And, because I'm also a reader who still likes to cling to the belief that all books are beautiful, I also have to come across books I hate sometimes. Fact of life: beauty is subjective, so not all books are beautiful to me; but they might be beautiful to other people.

Take Twilight. I went into this with that iffy, already-kinda-hating-it-from-the-summary feeling. I forced myself through the other three, as well, out of pure stubbornness. Hated them, with the possible exception of New Moon. And I only liked that one because I liked Bella's pain. (I know, I'm a mean reader.) On the upside, I can say that I don't hate them just because of the hype; I hated them because I've read them. They start off kind of iffy and they don't get any better.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne? Had to read that a couple years ago for an English assignment, and I hated it when I saw it. Of course, I hated it plenty more ten pages in, twenty, a hundred... and that was before I did the assignment attached to it. Bleh.

I'm trying to think of a book that I thought I'd hate but ended up liking it... I suppose there's I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter. It was one of those books that I didn't really like the sound of, but I randomly promise to myself that I'll read it and I just have to keep that promise. So, I ended up doing so -- despite it being a romance -- and it's still on my greater-favorites bookshelf, along with the next two books in the series. I can't remember if I loved it that much, or if I'm simply too lazy to take them off the bookshelf.

Anyways, that's my list. Do you read books that you're sure you'll hate? If so, what books? Did you end up liking or hating it?

Have a blessed Friday and weekend!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

"Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch."
In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina's father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.
Lina fights for her life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive.
It is a long and harrowing journey, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?
Between Shades of Gray is a riveting novel that steals your breath, captures your heart, and reveals the miraculous nature of the human spirit.

~Print copy, 338 pages
Published: 2011 by Philomel Books

[First off, happy 1st day of April! My birthday's this month. And it's spring break. Meep!]

This novel... is most certainly riveting.

It starts off with Lina, along with her mother and brother, getting kidnapped by the Soviet police. It's the beginning of World War 2, and the Soviets have captured Lithuania, where Lina and her family live. For that, and because her father helps some people escape to Germany, Lina and her family is deported.

Lina can be a bit of a selfish girl, a bit young and immature. I sympathized with her, of course, overlooked her flaws over the course of the novel, but I really liked her mother and some of the other, secondary characters more. Those were the adults, who took care of everyone; they felt more rounded out, more alive than Lina, who only in flashbacks could see why they were captured.

But the premise... the setting... the details... All of it's sort of breathtaking. In a breaking-your-heart sort of way. I pictured it all so clearly, felt the hunger and despair and almost smell the stench and feel the lice. The details are unapologetically honest.

The middle-to-end sort of upset me. I was expecting it, but hoping for something different. I don't know, I guess I still wanted a happy ending. But it couldn't really have a happy ending, and it didn't have one. It's kind of emotional.

I haven't really picked up any new book since I finished this one on Friday. That's how much this book impacted me. It's a really honest novel, and most certainly a worthy read; I'm not sure how I feel about it, though. I think it's more a 4 star novel than a 5, simply because it impacted me too hard. I recommend this to anyone looking for a serious read.