Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Sapphire Flute by Karen Hoover

It is with great pleasure that I review The Sapphire Flute Book One, The Wolfchild Saga, by Karen E. Hoover. The reason I'm finding pleasure in doing it is because I really, truly enjoyed the book. When I do reviews, I like to do them in bullet points, because it helps me think clearly and boil down what I thought of the book to its essence. So first, I'll include the book's backliner from Valor Publishing's site and then I'll tell you what I thought.

"It has been 3,000 years since a white mage has been seen upon Rasann.

In the midst of a volcanic eruption miles outside of her village, Ember discovers she can see magic and change the appearance of things at will. Against her mother's wishes, she leaves for the mage trials only to be kidnapped before arriving. In trying to escape, she discovers she has inherited her father's secret--a secret that places her in direct conflict with her father's greatest enemy.

At the same time, Kayla is given guardianship of the sapphire flute and told not to play it. The evil mage C'Tan has been searching for it for decades and the sound alone is enough to call her. For the flute to be truly safe, Kayla must find its birthplace in the mountains high above Javak. The girls' paths are set on a collision course...a course that C'Tan is determined to prevent at all costs."

What worked for me:
* The premise. I love the idea of a world in danger of destruction and not one, but two girls/women are destined to save it.

* The setting. The world of Rasann is full of magic and wonder, shapeshifters and mages. The physical settings are beautifully described and full of good imagery.

* The cast of characters. I liked the two main characters, Ember and Kayla. They are different, with varying strengths and weaknesses, and in this book they are fledglings. The potential for growth is evidenced right away, and it was clear to me as the reader that we will see these characters evolve throughout the series.

* The bad guy. Or woman, rather. There are a few bad guys to choose from, but I liked that although C'Tan is evil, there's a tiny spark of regret that surfaces every now and again. That makes her seem more real to me.

* The old-fashioned feel of the story. I like the use of horses and carriages. The absence of electricity is made up for with magic, which I was totally able to go with. Lights, for example, are "mage lights," lit with the use of magic.

* The author doesn't spare her main, likable characters from pain. Snapped bones, people nearly plunging to their deaths at the hands of a sadistic bad girl and her dragon--call me sick, but I appreciated this. An author needs to raise the stakes and put her characters through the wringer- Karen does that.

* The quick nature of the plot, once the story and characters are established, especially in the last third of the book. I was nearing the end of the story and picking my kids up from school. I waited for my daughter to come out of the building, and when she got in the car, I told her she had to keep reading to me while I drove to the next school. That's the mark of a good story, to me. If I don't want to put it down, that means I like it. :-)

* The overall skill of the writer. I found myself not wanting to rephrase things, or "fix" segments that I felt would be better expressed in another way. I felt as though I was in the hands of a good writer.

Possible issues with the book:
Now, admittedly I had to search for some, because nothing is perfect, right? That said, the things I had issues with are minor.

* I didn't care for Ember's mother. I understand her motivation, but just had a hard time warming up to her. That was probably the author's intention, though.

* There's a familial tie between the two girls that was never defined fully; I'm sure this will be delved into in the next book, though, which leads into my next point:

* I wanted the girls to meet! Also something that will occur in the next book of the series, I'm sure.

* I don't like that I'll have to wait a year to see what happens next. :-)

My final opinion of the book is that it is very well done, creative, and delivers a satisfying, climactic ending with enough resolution to hold the reader over until the next installment. There's an anticipation for the sequel, but the characters are in a good enough place...for now. It was a good reading experience, and I look forward to the next book. Now I'm passing it on to my kids, who saw it on the table and said, "Hey, what's that?"

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Toyota, Black Mamba and The Pants!

I've been watching the news and reading the paper with interest. Here's some of what has stuck out to me lately:

*The suit that O.J. Simpson wore when he was acquitted is going to be offered to the Smithsonian. My sincere hope is that the Smithsonian will say, "No, thank you."

*Toyota is being raked over the coals, among other things, for failure to alert the public for possible problems with their cars. Now GM is doing a recall on cars that may not steer well when driving under 15 miles an hour. Presumably, this will make the most-accidents-happen-within-two-miles-from-home statistic skyrocket. I'm thinking I should invest in a tandem bicycle for my family of 5. Might make school carpooling a bit of a challenge...

*My kids' school district sent home a notice that "Black Mamba" is now being banned from the schools in spite of the fact that it's not a illegal substance. Yet. Supposedly it has the same properties as marijuana. Now, I may not be remembering correctly and I threw the paper out, but I believe it can be burned as incense. Methinks school attendance would triple if teachers were allowed to use this in the classroom. ;-)

*The Norwegian Curling team's pants. Oh, how I loved those pants! The daily Facebook updates were a joy. I am a solid one-half Norwegian; I claim a special affinity to the pants.

*Lindsey Vonn is too unbelievably cute. Shouldn't be allowed.

*Kim Yu Na is the most amazing thing on ice I've ever seen and was a joy to watch. I did so with my mouth hanging open.

*Joannie Rochette is a beautiful example of grace and perseverance under extreme pressure and grief. What a lady. And a strong one.

*Gerald Imber wrote a book on William Halsted, America's "first" surgeon, entitled Genius on the Edge. In the book, Imber talks about how in the early days of anesthetic during dentistry, cocaine was used as a local. Um, yeah. Something tells me people didn't mind going to the dentist in those days. ;-) On a more serious note, though, the book looks absolutely amazing and I'll be buying it soon. Here's a link, if you're interested.

*First Haiti, then Chile. I am mindful of the fact that I live, literally, on a fault line. My home was built in the 40s. I hope to be able to find a sturdy doorway that will shield me...otherwise, please remember me fondly. (And may it not happen until both of my daughters are paramedics. I like to think of them as rescuers.)

*The Ogden Temple is going to receive a facelift over the next couple of years. I am ok with this, because the original design of the building has been totally botched, anyway. The architect designed the Provo and Ogden temples to be symbolic of the Lord leading the children of Israel out of Egypt. They were led with a "cloud by day" and "pillar (of fire) by night." The body of the temple's building itself was to represent the cloud, and the spire, which was originally painted gold, to represent the pillar of fire. Well, a couple of years ago a statue of Moroni was added to the spire, which was fine, of course, but THEY PAINTED THE SPIRE WHITE. Totally ruined it for me. I now look at the redesign pictures with anticipation. It's going to be beautiful.

Well, now that I spewed all of that, I feel better. Please feel free to agree or disagree. And have a fabulous March! I'm so glad we're done with January and February. Spring is in the air! My five-year-old said this morning, "Mom! The birds are back!"

So true- hallelujah, the birds are back!