Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Seraphina Review

Summary: 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.

My thoughts: I did not expect to finish this book with tears in my eyes. I’d expect that kind of reaction from a John Green novel or some other contemporary story, but not a book about dragons. Because as impressive as Hartman’s take on dragons are, it’s strange to find that my favorite parts weren’t the fantastical beings or the greatly imaginative world, but the emotional, intimate moments.

Seraphina is so delightfully layered and spellbinding without even trying and it’s because of the characters more than anything else. Do you want to know how you can have a story that includes basically any concept in the world? You get us to care about the characters. When you start with that kind of solid foundation, something to hold on to, readers will follow you anywhere. Even more so if you can make them relatable.

In so many ways, Seraphina is a product of two worlds. And yet she feels separated from both. She longs for things she thinks she can never have, and if that isn’t relatable I don’t know what is: The need to belong, to feel accepted and loved.

Not to mention that while she learns more about herself, the “peace” between humans and dragons threatens to come undone. But simply replace the words human and dragon with two new distinctive groups, be it by race, sex, or anything else, it’s easy to see how this equates to real life. We often separate ourselves in so many ways, producing the temptation to hate what is different, rather than to celebrate it and try to understand it.

So as Seraphina works to accept herself and to be open to the love she deserves, her two worlds must decide whether they can continue to coexist and learn to accept each other. The former issue is addressed throughout the story, in a coming-of-age way that made me more emotional than I thought I’d be. The latter issue is still being worked on, with enough deep-rooted problems to see why a second book would be helpful.

I look forward to continuing Seraphina’s journey. To see her sacrifice for what she believes in, to see her grow, knowing that she’s good enough, that she’s loved, and that she has a gift. One that might help bring real peace between her two worlds.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Blacklist Review: The Babysitter

General information: My current dream/goal is to be a screenwriter, but I’ve been pretty bad at following one of the cardinal rules of writing. If you want to be a better writer, read a lot. I’ve fallen off in that department, so this is a way to publicly announce and hopefully fix my problem. I’m going to read through the 2014 Blacklist screenplays (in no particular order) and review as many as I can here. Starting with--

Blacklist Review #1: The Babysitter
A lonely twelve year old boy in love with his babysitter discovers some hard truths about life, love, and murder.

To be honest, I’m not sure how The Babysitter ended up working as well as it did. But it was quick, simple, and a whole lot of fun, finding a way to be playful yet self-aware, regardless of the rules the writer decided not to follow.

The way screenplays are generally structured, something out of the ordinary has to happen around 15 pages in. But nothing like that happened until the end of the first act. And I didn’t mind it at all. Setting up Cole’s world and the dynamic between Cole and Bee carried me the entire first 30 pages. You got a feel for Cole’s unease with himself as well as Bee’s self-confidence and what that should mean for his growth during the following pages. It’s still a coming-of-age story despite the murder.

The first act was like the beginning of a roller-coaster. That slow crawl upwards that gets you going just off of the anticipation. And just like a theme park ride, once it takes off, there’s no going back. After page 30, the story is at full speed. And since it takes place in one night (I love those kinds of movies), it feels like one continuous, epic scene.

The writer does a great job of ignoring what a lot of my teachers have told me not to do. Giving background info in the action lines in a way I don’t mind. Skipping some of the structured steps found in most scripts, because he doesn't seem to need it. Plus his dialogue could have become annoying and too wink-at-the-camera snappy, but he makes it clever and laugh out loud funny. Not to mention all the small moments he sets up that seem to have no relation to the plot, but comes back around in the most satisfying of ways. He breaks some rules. But it works. Plus, if you can get me to care about the character and keep the movie interesting, you have a good chance of keeping me entertained.

I’m pretty impressed with my first script read of this series. Well done Brian.

Side note: normally, when the bad guys are up to something, I eventually want to know what it is. I still know next to nothing regarding why the bad guys DID what they DID, and yet, it doesn’t matter.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Review

Summary: Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship- the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

My thoughts: There are stories so simple and to the point that it's startling. No dragons to slay. No princesses to rescue. Just your standard contemporary novel. Except that although it’s not a fantasy, maybe there is still something to defeat. And maybe there is still someone that needs to be rescued.

To say Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is about two best friends as they grow (sometimes apart, sometimes closer) into something more than boys, doesn't seem to do this story justice. This is about love and everything that that can mean. But that seems too vast of an explanation.

Like every single person in this book, love takes on a different form depending on who's expressing it. For every moment Dante wants to feel and acknowledge aloud, Aristotle wants to store away and ponder. To keep close and analyze. Ari's dad loves in silence. You can see the way Dante's mother feels just by a look. Ari's mother and Dante's dad through their words and in the way that they talk.

So out of all the secrets in the universe that need discovering, like what Ari's dreams mean, or why his parents won't talk about his older brother, the biggest secret of them all seems to be about self-discovery. Who am I? And what does that mean?

It's weird growing up and learning who you are. Whether you're becoming more of yourself or less. I'm not a teenager anymore, but I can remember how fragile you can feel when everything about you seems unclear, especially your feelings and who you feel them for. But when you see these characters grow and change and learn to accept, it's a reminder. Some secrets are meant to be shared. Some discoveries are meant to change you. And when they do, those who love you will still be there.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...