Summary: There are families of sorcerers and sorceresses of sorts, and they do not get along. The recovery of an ancient heirloom threatens to propel the long-standing, passive-aggressive conflict into a tangible, dangerous one. There are flying machines, moody horses, and griffins. It's an all-around fantastical and fun time.
This book was well-written and compelling. Flying makes me nervous and reading the bulk of this book on an airplane distracted me and kept me calm. That's saying a lot. The characters are wonderful, and the humor is delightful. My only complaint is that I read this immediately after another book by Diana Wynne Jones -- Howl's Moving Castle -- and that one is a lot better. This is a great book compared to books in general. As for a Diana Wynne Jones novel, it is definitely enjoyable but not her best.
Moloka'i, Alan Brennert
Summary: A young Hawaiian girl contracts leprosy. After a probationary period, she is exiled to Moloka'i-- an island where the government quarantines leprosy victims.
This is an amazing book. It's easily one of my favorite books. Of course, it is an emotional book. There are a lot of deaths-- which I don't consider a spoiler given the nature of the disease. It's really heart-breaking at times, but I was amazed at the number of times it is also uplifting and heart-warming and just made me feel a greater sense of peace and well-being. I felt really close to its characters -- especially the protagonist Rachel -- and their welfare. There was a bit of the novel where I even felt somewhat maternal feelings for Rachel, and I was proud of all that she accomplished in the circumstances. (That maternal feeling passed when she grew much, much older than I am now. Haha.) It was an excellent, compelling story.
Also, this is a piece of fiction-- but it's based on historical events. I was kind of ashamed about how little I knew about leprosy and the measures that used to be enforced to prevent the spread of the disease (many of these measures being excessive and stemming from a lack of understanding and knowledge). It was really eye-opening. I learned a lot. My copy has a useful appendix called "learn the history" which helped distinguish fact from fiction.