Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Prophet's Prey

I don't read very much non-fiction, preferring instead to escape into other worlds created by inventive authors. But with Prophet's Prey, it's almost like fiction, so bizarre and other-worldly are the inhabitants of Brower's take on the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints. Secluded and powerful, the leaders of the FLDS have wielded the ultimate power over lives and taken the very best of their followers for themselves. Brower, a private investigator, brings this secretive world to light with his no-nonsense style and his account of the downfall of church leader Warren Jeffs in 2008.

I admit to being fascinated with the psychology that would allow people to blindly follow such a blatantly didactic leader, and Brower is quick to point out the faults of all the FLDS leaders. His intimate knowledge, based on his investigations that began with one ousted member and swept into the very core of the FLDS, illuminates a closed door world where young girls are snatched up for plural marriage with much older men and young boys are banished from the community for trumped up charges (but in reality so that the older men can take whomever they want from among the young girls). Brower writes so that one can understand why people still cling to this faith even with its wickedness; being Mormon himself, he is quick to point out the differences in the FLDS and the LDS, though he understands both denominations.

Brower's storyline features a good deal of jumping around in a timeline, going back and forth to show how Jeffs achieved his position of ultimate power and giving back stories to some of the followers he worked for. While it's understandable as to why he'd write that way, it occasionally gets annoying. I was also eager to get to the "meat" of the story--how Jeffs was ultimately taken down, and that takes a good while to get to. But other than those small problems, this is a highly readable story of a world most of us cannot begin to fathom.



Sunday, March 18, 2012


It's really not that much of a stretch to think of being in love as being "infected", though in general we don't like to think it makes us certifiable. But in this dystopian novel by Lauren Oliver, that's precisely what has happened: love (in all its forms) has been declared the enemy, but not to worry, the "procedure" will make everything right...boring and predictable, but all right. And unless you were unfortunate enough to become infected before your eighteenth birthday, it will be a blessing that all has been laid out before you with no unnecessary emotion to muddy the waters. Here's where it gets tricky for heroine Lena; she's met Alex, a young man who quite suddenly has made her no longer wish to join the ranks of the "cured", but instead escape into the Wilds where the pair can be together with all its ensuing emotions. And naturally there's where everything really goes awry.

Delirium follows Lena, whose mother succumbed to the dreaded infection, as she faces the summer after her senior year waiting for the medical procedure that will provide her with the cure, knowing it will mean she will no longer be friends with best friend Hana and that her future mate will be someone chosen for her after her evaluation by the government boards. Lena is okay with this until Alex's appearance, and when she learns that he is only pretending to be cured, their dangerous relationship takes on further edge. Alex shows her what life could be without the procedure, but Lena is torn...until she realizes that not only will she lose Alex, but her whole life has been a lie perpetuated by those who are supposed to be closest to her. And then it's a race against time to keep from having the procedure, no matter the cost.

This novel is filled with interesting characters, though at times some situations seemed a little too easy for Lena; no one seems to noticed her frequent trips past curfew through the streets of Portand, and her mute youngest cousin is obviously hiding something important. I was able to figure out the twist with Lena's mother early on, and the reliability of friend Hana was very convenient. However, still figuring out where I was headed in this story didn't detract from the excitement of the emotions Lena experiences, and the edge of your seat drama at the end was riveting. If Lena is a bit too naive at times, and then a bit too headstrong, it's fully expected of teens to be just that, especially when faced with critical decisions that will affect not just your own life but the lives of those you care about. Delirium may not be the perfect dystopian novel, but it is fun and engaging, and that's what matters to this reader. Bring on Pandemonium!


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Blood Red Road

The entire time I was reading Blood Red Road by Moira Young, I kept seeing the scenes as though they were playing on a movie screen: hot, crowded, desperate, vivid. From the opening moments when Saba's family is torn apart as her twin brother Lugh is dragged away from the family's home in desolate Silverlake to the desperate measures taken near the end to retrieve him, the words kept painting a picture that burned themselves onto the screen in my mind. I kept thinking this one is destined for a screenplay, and yes, it has been optioned by Ridley Scott. Good move!

But back to the book...Saba is devastated when Lugh is inexplicably taken by four men in black following a massive red dust storm and immediately vows to rescue him, even though the men kill her father and she becomes saddled with her pesky younger sister Emmi. Thinking she can ditch Emmi on an old family friend is Saba's first mistake; this child is every bit as strong-willed as her older sister. The two take off on a rather shaky trail to find Lugh and soon find themselves prisoners of the decidedly weird Pinches; separated, Saba is forced to become a cage fighter, no nearer to her goal of finding her brother. She's sure, however, she can make it on her own, but the fates have other plans and suddenly the reclusive Saba has more help than she'd ever thought possible. And all that's just the beginning!

LOVED this novel, even if it being told in Saba's uneducated voice did take a bit of getting used to at first. The characters just leap off the pages, especially Saba herself, who has to learn to allow others to help and to own up to her own mistakes, particularly where her younger sister is concerned. The Free Hawks--girls who are determined to bring down the King--are well developed warriors, but it is Jack, the silver eyed boy who somehow captures Saba's heart who is the real gem. His sense of humor brings what could have been a truly depressing storyline some much needed levity, and the feelings he evokes in Saba are genuine and sweet. But there are so many more outstanding characters filling these pages: the Pinches, De Malo, the King, even Nero the crow all round out a story that shows the depth of a sister's devotion.

Blood Red Road does have a few faults, including Saba's voice/lack of spelling, but overall the faults are far outweighed by plain good old story telling. There's not a lot of extraneous detail and yet Ms. Young can place you in the middle of a cave or on horseback so that you can actually feel the setting with just a few sentences. I have a feeling that future installments will find Saba finding a way to restore order in a lawless land, but there could also be many other ways the storyline could play out. I'm along for the ride.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Yeah, It's Another Titanic Book...Obsession Is Completely Admitted

I admit it--I read all things Titanic, whether for adults or children. This book caught my eye in a store display last week and the added bonus of an interactive CD sealed the deal for purchase. And what a great little resource it is! It doesn't go very deeply into the entire story, instead focusing mostly on the actual ship itself--the construction, the areas of the ship, and the ship's final moments. There are anecdotes from crew and passengers, with vintage photographs and artists' representations making it gloriously eye-catching. I especially appreciated the fold-out pages that made it easier to see the layout of the ship; all of the pages are high quality and filled with information. The CD is a 360 degree tour of various areas of the ship, including deck areas, the swimming pool, and the first class dining area. I would have liked to have been taken inside a cabin but overall I cannot complain with the sharpness of the CD and the way it makes one feel as though you're standing aboard the ship. In a sea of Titanica, this book is one to be savored by both children and adults.


Thursday, March 08, 2012

Titanic Lite

The book The Titanic for Dummies can be summed up in its title, which is not to say that anyone who picks this book up is, indeed, a dummy; no, it simply means that this book is chock full of facts, figures, and fates, but it mostly gives just the bare minimum, enough to familiarize the unfamiliar with the infamous ship. And that's not a bad thing at all.

The author suggests that this is a book not to be read at one sitting, and I highly concur. It's best if sampled a bit at a time, since there are a ton of facts and it could become overwhelming otherwise. It's also a good book to pick up when you have a spare minute here or there and are just wanting something interesting to read without getting overly involved. While it covers pretty much the basics, highlighting the famous people and the known facts, it also throws in some tidbits of speculation and adds in new information that has come to light in the recent past. I haven't learned anything new from this book, but that hasn't stopped it from being a good resource for Titanic buffs such as myself. With the 100th anniversary of the sinking rapidly approaching, this is a winner if you're wondering what all the fuss is about.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Death Comes for Lex...

...or maybe it's Lex comes for Death, or something similar. Any way, it's all good fun, not to be taken too seriously, at least right up until the end of this highly satisfying, definitely different young adult book.

Lex has become a problem for school and her family; she's been going around pounding on people, and in desperation, her parents decide to separate her from her twin sister Cordy and send her off to summer with the mysterious Uncle Mort. Lex is sure the summer before her senior year will be dull and awful working on a "farm", but imagine her surprise when she finds herself a resident of Croak...and becoming a Junior Grim, trained by her uncle to be a Killer. Given a scythe and paired with Culler Driggs, Lex's new job is to scythe into someone's life at the exact moment of death, "kill" the person with a touch, releasing the spirit so the Culler can capture it and take it on to the next plane. Now imagine her surprise that she actually loves what she does, and loves the town of Croak with its death-sensing jellyfish, odd inhabitants, and the first real friends Lex has known in ages. Her only regret is that she is separated from Cordy, but even that is eclipsed when mysterious deaths begin happening with frightening regularity and Lex and the other Juniors begin investigating. All of which leads to the chilling climax, and a loss Lex cannot bear.
I totally loved this book! It doesn't take itself seriously at all, and the author's awesome sense of humor is evident in every page. Of course it's a bit over the top, but it works without trying hard at all, and I could absolutely believe that a town such as Croak really exists, despite the sense of whimsy and teenage angst that permeates the story. For once it's a breath of fresh air to read a story that knows it's fun but yet still engages with its characters. Seriously, if this is what exists after we die, we should all be excited. Great fun!


Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Problem With Books

I've been reading, although once again, life has a way of intruding its ugly little head into my valued reading time. But I've actually finished a couple of books since my last posting, both for review for the Historical Novel Society:  The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis and Echoes of Titanic by Mindy Starnes Clark and John Campbell Clark. So while you won't see those reviews here on this site for a while, it's not as though I've been spinning my wheels in regards to books. It's just that, for every book I do manage to finish, at least two more somehow find their way into my house. 

The other night, youngest dear daughter and I were on our way to a concert by the oldest dear daughter when we realized we were going to be more than 30 minutes early for the meet up. We were passing a Barnes and I looked at her and said, "Ten minute B&N run?" She didn't even have to think about it. Within the allotted ten minutes, we were checking out, each with two new books in hand. Neither of us *needed* a thing, yet we were unable to resist the pull. 

I'm wondering if those of you out there understand how devious books can be...calling out to you when you've got ten thousand other things to be doing, stealing time that *should* be devoted to actual money making pursuits, hindering you from those projects you've been needing to do for quite a while? Not sure when I discovered this evil side of books, but as I gaze at the mountain beside my bed, I'm fairly certain I'm a victim with no means of a cure.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.