Archive for October 2010
Gone by Michael Grant
[Electronic Resource (MyMediaMall eBook)]
Something strange is happening in Perdido Beach. Everyone fifteen and over has mysteriously vanished. An impassable dome traps the remaining teenagers and children inside the city. Some kids have even begun to develop deadly supernatural abilities. Fifteen-year-old Sam Temple finds himself charged with the difficult task of maintaining order as tensions increase and sides are chosen. But Sam’s fifteenth birthday is quickly approaching and he must do all he can to save both himself and Perdido Beach before it’s too late.
Gone is a fast-paced novel that fairly successfully mixes science fiction with dystopian themes. Grant builds an interesting premise that is able to maintain its intrigue and mystery throughout its 400-plus pages. The characters are also pretty decently developed for a novel that focuses primarily on action.
If you enjoy Gone, be sure to check out Hunger, the next book in the series. Fans of Grant’s work might also enjoy Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Peeps by Scott Westerfeld, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Unwind by Neil Shusterman, and Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien.
Pros: A fast-paced, action packed novel that delivers consistent quality and interesting ideas.
Cons: Can be rather violent. Although the violence is appropriate to the situations the characters are in, squeamish or sensitive readers might want to skip this one.
Review by Martha
Summary: Harper Connelly has a gift, granted after being struck by lightning: she can sense the final resting place of the dead, and share their final moments. With her step-brother Tolliver’s help, she has turned this into a career of sorts. When she is hired to find the final resting place of a teenaged girl in the Ozarks town of Sarne, the case seems much like any other. Dark secrets in the town, however, soon have Harper and Tolliver fighting to survive.
Review: Many readers are no doubt familiar with Harris‘ True Blood series, of HBO fame. This is the first book in her ‘other’ series, and it does read a bit like something churned out with too little time. Harper and Tolliver are engaging, as is the premise, but the execution is imperfect. The author repeatedly trips up Harper with silly complications to prevent her supernatural gift from solving the mystery early; the net result is that by mid-book, our hero and heroine are reduced to traditional gumshoe detection with Harper’s skill a complete non-factor. Harris is a skilled enough writer to make her premise work, and I hope that in further installations she does so.
Read-a-likes: There are currently 4 books in the Harper Connelly series available. Readers of the author’s Sookie Stackhouse novels should enjoy these, though the emphasis is more on the suspense than the romance, which is a flip. Fans of Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas novels might want to take a look, though reader beware: at least at the get go, this series doesn’t have the same quality execution.
Availability: This title is available at the Lake Bluff Public Library as a book. Click here to check on the availability.
A Kingdom Strange : the Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke (Nonfiction: James Horn) c. 2010
Posted October 27, 2010on:
Summary: In 1587, John White led 117 men, women and children to Roanoke Island off the coast of Virginia, with the hope of establishing an English colony. A month after arriving, facing diminishing supplies, White returned back to England to persuade the expeditions powerful backer, Sir Walter Raleigh, to evacuate the colonists. War with Spain, however, meant that White was unable to return to Roanoke for another 3 years. He would never see again the family and friends that he left behind. Historian Horn unravels the history of the colonization attempt, and provides theories to account for the colonists disappearance.
Review: As a historian, in particular one affiliated with colonial Williamsburg, Horn certainly knows his territory. He is at his best when chronicling the history of the colony up to its demise. The story falls apart a bit at the end, where Horn attempts to provide an authoritative epitaph for the settlement. Using second-hand tales gathered by later English settlers 20-30 years after the disappearance, Horn presents the reader with the story of the colony’s end. Given the treatment that rumors of gold and riches receive (and rightly so) earlier in the book, it’s difficult to lend a lot of credibility to similar accounts at the books end. Yet this is what the author attempts in conjuring his conclusion, plausible though it reads, out of thin air. It’s not, for the most part, great or earth-shaking research, but it is a fun quick read.
Read-a-likes: For more upbeat reading of the first English settlers, Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick and Jamestown, 1544-1699 by Carl Bridenbaugh are worth a look. For something a bit lighter but set in the same-ish time and place, Deceptions by Marilyn Clay or Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper are worth a look.
Availability: This item is available at the Lake Bluff Public Library as a book. Click here to check on the availability.
Summary: Former naval doctor Peter Crane is summoned to an oil platform in the middle of the storm-tossed North Atlantic. The platform turns out to be a front for a top-secret government project; a high-tech submerged facility on the oceans floor beneath the rig is conducting an excavation. The secretive scientists and military personnel running the base claim that they are unearthing the lost civilization of Atlantis, though Crane is uncertain if this is the truth. What is certain, though, is that a strange illness is spreading throughout the facilities population, and it’s up to Dr. Peter Crane to solve the mystery before the illness can jeopardize the mission.
Review: It has been oft noted that Lincoln Child and his longtime writing partner Douglas Preston rarely manage to obtain the results as individuals that they achieve as partners. This book is, unfortunately, no exception to that. The characters are a bit cardboard; Crane in particular is, for a lead, not well-defined. The setting is not everything that it could have been either; it simply doesn’t pop. Overall, the premise is solid and the story well-developed. It’s just a theme that has been done better elsewhere, most notably Sphere by Michael Crichton.
Read-a-likes: Fans of the late Michael Crichton’s techno-centric thrillers would, however, be rewarded for picking up this or any other of Lincoln Child or Douglas Preston’s works. There are surprisingly few major authors churning out science thrillers right now, and both authors are reliably entertaining (especially when working together). Fans of Ben Bova and Orson Scott Card’s recent forays away from sci-fi and into science thriller should also take note.
Availability: This item is available from the Lake Bluff Public Library as a book and an eAudiobook. Click here to check on availability.
Mackie Doyle would like the townspeople of Gentry to think that he is just like any other sixteen year old. However, he is a Replacement, a being from under the slag heaps of the old mine at the edge of town. Every year, an infant disappears from Gentry and is replaced with one of these strange beings—things not quite human that always sicken and die within of few weeks of coming up from underground. How did Mackie survive to teenhood? Who is taking the human babies and why haven’t the people of Gentry put a stop to these abductions? Mackie has lived among the humans long enough to want to put a stop to the infanticide and free the people of Gentry from the terror and silence that grips them. When the baby sister of the beautiful and intriguing Tate disappears, Mackie must decide whether to take on the sinister forces that lurk below and face the truth about who he really is. This is a truly original tale, written in the voice of an unlikely hero. The author skillfully and eerily juxtaposes the beautiful and the hideous in this memorable story. Horror/Romance
Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
Widely considered to be Fielding’s greatest work, Tom Jones chronicles the life and adventures of a foundling brought up by a wealthy country gentleman.
It might be more accurate to call Tom Jones a collection of essays on novel writing rather than a true novel. The characters are secondary to Fielding’s narration–they seem to exist solely to prove his various points. The resulting book is interesting and often very funny, but there is a significant emotional detachment between the reader and the characters. I found this disconnect frustrating and thought it made the book somewhat less compelling.
Tom Jones is a good book for readers who are interested in the development of the English novel. I would also recommend reading this novel in conjunction with some sort of discussion group, as it is rather dense and can also provoke some interesting discussion.
If you like Tom Jones, I would recommend trying Don Quixote next. Although it is written in a similar episodic style, I find Don Quixote to be a more entertaining and thought-provoking novel. I would also recommend Don Quixote for readers who dislike Tom Jones, but are looking for an older novel with a more compelling story.
Pros: Fielding is very clever and often adept at building suspense.
Cons: Fielding does not work to build any kind of relationship between the reader and the character. As a result, it’s difficult to care about them or the story.
Review by Martha
Stitches is the graphic representation of illustrator David Small’s life from six years old to adulthood. Small’s first appearance in the book is his six-year-old self drawing on the living room floor. The shadow of his mother looms in the kitchen, introducing the first of many distinctive characters, including Small’s father and brother.
His relatives, the only main characters in the story besides Small, create emotional scenery. Small’s mother is described as having “furious, silent withdrawals” which frightened Small as a young boy. David’s father, a radiologist, is overbearing and unsympathetic toward his son’s pain. His brother plays drums to escape home life. As a result of these, and many other, dysfunctional relatives, the terrors of Small’s personal life begin to create nightmarish visions which overtake his reality. At age eleven, David is diagnosed with a cyst, which, left untreated for three years, turned into cancer. The surgical removal of one of his vocal cords prevents him from speaking and leaves his neck covered in stitches.
The book is chiefly artwork, but the story is both observed and read. Every emotion Small experiences is appreciably presented in his artwork. Small gives priority to his own emotional impressions, tying the narrative down with some well-placed words. Even these he uses to artistic effect: balloons full of harsh sentences spoken by his father seem to crush David within a single panel. Small’s treatment of perspective throughout the book conveys that David is insignificant and his feelings are unimportant in the eyes of others. The use of monochromatic panels emphasizes his isolation.
The book is in chronological order, with gaps in Small’s life depicted by a text-only, introductory page. These do not interfere with the pacing, which proficiently creates anticipation. Due to its skillful layouts and captivating content, Stitches is a notable and engaging read.
If you liked Stitches, try:
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The Wall by Peter Sís
For something a LITTLE different, try:
Escape from “Special” by Miss Lasko-Gross
For something REALLY different, try:
The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
Review by Carlen
By Bernardine Evaristo
(Fiction, 2009, 270 pages)
Blonde Roots was awarded prizes from 11 different literary organizations including the 2010 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and The Orange Prize for Fiction in 2009 – even so I would not recommend this book.
Published in England in 2008, the novel is a satire that flips the story of slavery. The black ‘Aphrikans’ are the masters/slave owners while ‘Europane’ whites are held in captivity. The story takes place in the United Kingdom of Great Ambossa (really the UK) and the West Japanese Islands (Caribbean Islands) over four centuries.
I was attracted to the book because of the rave reviews, the originality of the title, the curious cover art and the challenge of reading about an alternate history. Unfortunately, I was disappointed to find that the plot offered no new insights into slavery, no new challenges morally or emotionally. The story is predictable and safe- focusing on the horrors of slavery and how slave traders and slave holders justified their practices. The racist attitudes and stereotypes were the same whether black or white.
Ms. Evaristo has a passionate love for language and cleverly experiments with language to add humor to the book. For example, the Underground Railroad is literally a dilapidated subway/tube system used for escape by slaves in ‘Londolo.’ The subway walls are covered with posters advertising dramas named “Guess Who’s Not Coming to Dinner” and “To Sir with Hate.” White slaves are called ‘wiggers’ and are branded with their owner’s initials, KKK.
Although the author wanted to turn the world upside down, she only manages to substitute one color for another. Nothing else in the plot is original, surprising or enlightening.
Other Books of Alternative History
Review by Carol
This sharply written book offers great humor and wit! Heidi is a British girl who invents an imaginary boyfriend when her friends mistakenly assume that she is seeing someone. Heidi is so successful at creating an alluring online profile for “Ed,” that her friends soon start emailing him about their problems, including their problems with Heidi! Soon, an emailer, who calls himself “A Real Boy,” says he knows the truth about “Ed.” Heidi is fun, engaging, and smart, and the characters of her friends are well-developed and believable. Intelligent, fun Chick Lit.
Maya is a fifteen year old science whiz whose con-man father has kept them running from place to place ever since she can remember. When the authorities finally catch up with her father and put him in jail, Maya is sent to a halfway house for foster kids. Her father soon relinquishes custody of Maya to the state of Nevada, yet states that Maya has an Aunt Sarah. The authorities brush aside his claims as yet more lies when their search for Aunt Sarah is unsuccessful. Maya decides to find Aunt Sarah on her own, escapes from the halfway house, and suddenly becomes a homeless runaway following a very cold trail to the only family she may have left. During her grueling and harrowing journey, Maya begins to realize that her scientific approach to life does not always take human frailty and needs into account. She becomes aware that not all of life’s circumstances fall into easy categories of black or white, good or bad, right or wrong. Maya’s character and the characters of her two unlikely traveling companions are fully fleshed-out and believable. Don’t let the rather boring title and book cover fool you–this story is fast-paced and well-written! Gritty, yet thought-provoking Realistic Fiction.