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China Miéville has won many adult fans for his intelligent & outrageously weird novels like Perdido Street Station, The City & the City, & Embassytown which is currently up for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. He also wrote an urban fantasy for middle readers called Un Lun Dun. His new book, Railsea is not so much a retelling as an affectionate parody of that bane of many a high school student's existence, Moby Dick. It is quite literary but playful, with vast molehills of imaginative worldbuilding & lots & lots of ampersands.
Railsea takes place in a distant and unrecognizable future. Humanity clings to survival beneath a poisonous upper atmosphere on rocky outcrops separated by the railsea, an ocean without waves & whales. Endless railroad tracks of mysterious origin loop & crisscross over the soil constantly achurn with enormous burrowing predators. Mr. Miéville has helpfully included his own illustrations of some of these cthonian terrors. How do you feel about naked mole-rats? Now imagine a colony of them, each one the size of a German Shepard & with the table manners of pirhana.
All sorts of trains ply the railsea; driven by steam, diesel, sail, clockwork, or good old-fashioned galley slaves. Some of these salvage buried technology from civilizations long past or incomprehensible artefacts left by alien litterbugs. Other trains hunt the giant moles and other beasts for meat and hides. Captain Abacat Naphi is famous throughout the railsea for her pursuit of the ivory-furred Great Southern Moldywarpe that left her with a cyborg arm and furious purpose. She will sacrifice anything and anyone to find and destroy Mocker-Jack, the Mole of Many Meanings.
Aboard Captain Naphi's moler, the Medes, is Sham Yes ap Shroop, assistant to the wise & gruff train's doctor, Dr. Fremlo (my favorite character). Sham is not satisfied with the excitement and adventure of moling life & moons over how wonderful a career in salvaging must be. After experiencing his first moldywarpe hunt the crew comes upon a wrecked train. On it Sham finds a camera memory card that sets him on a quest as single-minded as his captain's. Sham is physically & socially awkward, simultaneously eager & terrified of the great wide world opening up before him. His new friends, the Shroake siblings bicker constantly in a manner reminiscent of any family roadtrip, yet this brother and sister salvor team are ferociously loyal to each other. The three of them and Captain Naphi are set off to the ends of the railsea seeking to make sense of their impossible world. Nope, nothing allegorical for teens there.
There are tons of brilliant ideas and deep thoughts to be mined here but I never felt beaten over the head and shoulders with A Message. It felt like spending the day with an utterly mad, brilliant, & dear friend playing with his train set. The language & structure are more challenging & weirder than most YA books. Perhaps teens who cut their teeth on Thomas the Tank Engine, then Lemony Snicket & Scott Westerfeld's <em>Leviathan<em> & are ready for something more bizarre & complex have been waiting for a wild ride just like this.
--Reviewed by Chris from our Airport Store (Compass) in Terminal 2 of SFO. You can find him across the hall from the Kiehls! An EVEN longer version of this review was posted on Chris's blog here.
I absolutely became smitten and adored The Selection the moment I finished the first chapter. The whole idea of The Selection had me so intrigued. I loved what Kiera Cass created within the book. The way she tied in old ways with new and modern ones was simply marveling. There was the royal family, the other people in numbered caste system and rebels attacking the palace that made this book really enjoyable.
As a main character, America Singer really stood out for me. Before the being Selected, I already saw the strength in America and her overall rebellion and knack for not following the rules. She thinks for herself and she’s stubborn as hell and has a temper to match. She’s really talented, being able to speak in three different languages and the fact that she can sing and play various instruments really made me love her more. After being Selected, I was amazed at how America stayed true to herself. Even with the beautiful clothes and excellent food, she doesn’t change who she is inside. America even tries to befriend the other girls despite being each other’s competition, she takes some of their mean comments in stride. It’s not hard to like the other characters in the book, especially Maxon. At first, I saw him only the way America did: handsome, yet stiff and formal. As she got to know him, I did too. He may be a prince, but he’s just a normal person. Deep down, I could see that he had his own doubts about being the future king. He has fears, hopes, dreams and things he’s afraid he’ll never have no matter how much he desires them. The relationship that America had with Maxon was unusual, but so nice. I liked how they slowly became friends and then little by little they started to like each other more than that America and Maxon just fit so well together. Their relationship is easy, satisfying and never forced. They learn to trust each other allowing America to open up to Maxon, telling him about the world outside the palace and in turn, Maxon tells her about his duties, hardships being prince and his thoughts on the state of the country. I also liked Aspen. He was charming, a romantic and passionate person. He was also admirable and selfless, but his pride got the best of him. He’s only apparent in the beginning of book and again in the end and I think his absence ultimately hurt him in my eyes and heart. Other memorable characters was America’s cute little sister, America’s maids: Anne, Lucy and Mary, but also a few of the other Selected such as Marlee and Kriss were a few of my favorites.
The Selection was downright amazing and brilliantly written. It’s no wonder I completely immersed myself within this book, flipping through each page without hesitancy. I really wanted to live in this world and experience what America went through. I didn’t expect to love The Selection as much as I did and I’m more than happy to have read such a lovely book. It was everything I hoped it would be and then some. There is no denying that I’ll be looking forward to more of America and her journey as a Selected in the next book to come."
--Jessirae of Words, Pages and Books blog
Who else can you trust when your own heart could be your worst
enemy? The Cahill girls are among the pretties & smartest young
women in their status driven, old-world society but with that acclaim
comes scrutiny of the highest level. Scrutiny that could very well
expose them for what they really are: witches. Witches who could be hunted, trapped
& exterminated. Unless they can find the courage to guard the one
thing that might also be their only salvation: their hearts.
Jessica Spotswood has woven a taunting, mesmerizing tale into this delicious new world of duty, love & witchcraft. In one night, I sat down with this beautifully crafted novel & couldn’t put it down until the last page!
--Reviewed by Colleen from Books Inc. Palo Alto
For the vampire aficionado who is looking for something a more substantial than Twilight, ages 13+.
--Lori From Books Inc. Palo Alto
On the small island of Thisby, each year in November they hosts The Scorpio Races. Men from the island ride capaill uisce, carnivorous horses that come from the sea. These horses are vicious, fast and almost impossible to control. It isn’t unusual for men to be attacked, killed and eaten during training. Due to bad family fortune, this year’s race will see its first female rider Puck Connolly . Sean Kendrick is the returning champion, and one of the few trainers who has some control over the capill uisce. Neither one is prepared for the friendship that comes during training, too bad only one of them can win the race.
Having never read one of Stefvater's books, I was pleasantly surprised with how great this was. I was hooked in by the characters and the capaill uisce. Told in alternating voices between Puck and Sean, you get insight into what motivates both characters to participate in a potentially deadly race. The way this story is written you really feel like you can take a boat to Thisby and watch these gory races; this is magic realism at its best. Another high point for me is the friendship between Sean and Puck. It is clear that there is a mutual love interest brewing but it has its foundation in a strong friendship. Don’t be fooled by the cover, this book is accessible to both guys and girls.