Sunday, September 22, 2013

I Am Number Four Series by Pittacus Lore

image from LibraryThing
This is another "teenagers out to save the world" series, except they are aliens and they are trying to fight off a race of aliens (Mogadorians) who have destroyed their planet and are not set to take over earth.  Sound a bit odd?  It is  - but it is also an interesting read.

Number Four is the first Lorian to tell the story.  He has been on the run his entire life with his Cepan (guide) moving him from town to town across the US. Four (John is his human name) hides in plain sight in small towns until life there becomes compromised in some way and then they move on. They end up in Paradise for longer than usual and it is there that Henri (the Cepan) begins to tell John what his life is really all about - how he was sent from Loric as the planet was consumed with 9 other children and the legacies of Lorian.  These legacies are special talents that grow as the children mature and will be used to defend themselves and remake Loric in the future.
image from LibraryThing

Following a fiery explosion and the heart-breaking death of Henri, Four meets the next of his group, Six.  She is completely different from Four - confident and in control of her legacies in a way he only wishes.  Four, Six and Sam, a friend from Paradise, escape Paradise and hit the road.  They find an abandoned house and heal and train and grow their abilities.

But, the unknown Mogadorians and Sam's missing father haunt them.  As do the scars burned in their legs. Each time one of the original Garde is caught and killed by the Mogadorians, a scar is seared into their legs.

The story shifts a bit in the next book and more of the Garde are introduced - the story telling moves between the characters until they all end up in the penthouse apartment of Six at the top of the John Hancock building in Chicago.  As the Garde gather and train and learn from one another more and more of the story comes out.  It is their responsibility to carry on their legacy.  But, at what cost?  They are after all only children.  All of them have lost their Cepan's and some have lost the chests of their Loric tools. But the end of this book the group is:  Four, Six, Eight, Nine and Ten plus Sarah (Four's girlfriend) and Sam his friend.
image from LibraryThing

The story shifts as Five joins the Garde.  He adds a layer of darkness and tension.  Sam also is able to reunite with his Father who disappeared long ago - he was one of the Greeters who welcomed the Lorian spaceship to earth.  I found this book harder to understand. The storytelling switches between characters - each using the first person. I was sometimes a bit confused by who was talking.  The font is different for each - but not drastically.  I found it distracting from the storyline.

I like parts of these - but get so tired of the teenage angst that is layered in these stories.  They remind me of the Series of Unfortunate Events in that Pittacus Lore is also a character in the story.  He is the one that Sam's father met on earth - but how can that be since only the children made it to the planet.  Each book leaves unanswered questions.  I am not sure how dedicated I am to stick with these though. It would be much easier to just wait and read them all at once...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Under the Dome by Stephen King

image from LibraryThing
This is the first Stephen King book I've read. I HATE horror and tension in books and movies - so I have stayed far away.  Then I caught just a part of one episode of this on TV and thought it looked intriguing.

As soon as I started reading I was hooked.  It is the kind of book I really enjoy - tons of story lines criss-crossing and weaving to create a story.  I kept waiting for the tension and gore and all that I hated.  But, when it came I was so deeply invested in the story that I just kept reading.

The story is a week in the life of a small Maine town after a dome has fallen cutting it off from the world. Life inside the dome could have been fine - but the town is run by Big Jim Rennie - a megomaniac leader who believes that he can do anything in the name of Christianity and National pride.  He runs over anyone who tries to actually improve the town because he was not the one to plan it. And he does have a plan - to line his pockets with money from his hidden industry - one that is completely and totally illegal  - and needs the towns resources to make it work.

The other main character is Barbie - a retired Marine, drifter and short order cook who was on his way out of town when the dome came down. Barbie was leaving town after a run in with Big Jim's completely insane son, Junior and his croonies.  Then the dome came down. Barbie is the voice of reason and reality so of course he is Big Jim's arch enemy. It doesn't help that Barbie's connections on the other side of the dome have delivered a letter from the President naming him the leader of the town.
This is a story of what could happen and what doesn't need to happen.

But that is what is happening inside the dome.  But there is also the story of the dome itself...That is a story of the potential of cruelty and callousness of all of us.

It isn't all grim. There are moments of great love and caring.  There are people who are willing to give up everything for the good of others.

And that is what makes a great story - the good and the bad in all of us and how it comes together.

Wow!  King can tell  a story!

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Fiction Class by Susan Breen

image from LibraryThing
This book was recommended to my by my high school English teacher who happens to be my daughter's English teacher.  It was the perfect book - short, sweet and interesting!  Thanks, Mary!!

The premise is a NYC adult ed Fiction class - the kind that would be offered in the late afternoon in various locations across the city. It is a haven for would-be-writers and the teacher, Arabella, understands them - because she is one herself.  Her novel is waiting for the final chapter and has been for the last 7 years!  Arabella is a nice enough woman, but her mother is quite the lady. She is in the nursing home with Parkinsens Disease and still running Arabella's life.  And to be honest - Arabella could probably use some help.

And then there is the class. Each chapter in the book is a new writing assignment - and the chapter closes with a copy of the assignment.  As Arabella presents plot and voice - the characters in her class seem to demonstrate with their lives.

The most poignant part of this books though, is Arabella and Vera (her mom's) relationship. Each Wednesday after class Arabella travels to the nursing home to be with her mom.  And as she relates stories of her class and the assignments her mom begins to write.  Her story Fortune works miracles between the two.

I really enjoyed this book - and it certainly made me want to write!!!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne

image from LibraryThing
I seem to be on a history kick with my reading.  This is another book following two story lines. One in 1981 and one in 1917 - both following Georgy Jachmenev, a Russian peasant whose life changes with one moment of bravery.

As a young man, Georgy saves the life of the Tsar's cousin and finds himself Alexi, the Tsar's son's, bodyguard and confidante.  The second line of the story follows Georgy's memories as he deals with his beloved Zoya's diagnosis with cancer.

As a reader I guessed the connections early on. But, I am not a history buff and admit to being very shady on Russian history.  So, the story was able to take me on a historical ride of Russian history.  And because of that I had never heard of "The House of Special Purpose." 

Although the historical part of the novel is key - it was the love story that drew me in.  Catching glimpses of Zoya and Georgy as they move through the years was sweet and endearing.  This is a story of a couple facing the problems of post WWI Paris and WWII London as well as the death of their only daughter first and foremost. That they were also key historical figures seemed secondary.

It took me a little to get into this book.  The story of Georgy's early life did not hook me.  I didn't really care very much about his father or his sister. But as Georgy moved into life in St. Petersburg, I began to really care about his naive outlook on life.  And I am a sucker for royalty  - so the Romanovs were great!!

This was another great read!

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

image from LibraryThing
This is a classic Gothic Novel complete with a castle, a mystery and a clueless heroine - at least that is my description of a gothic novel!

Edie and her Mom, Meredith, have a tangled relationship. There are sections of Meredith's past life she refuses to share with Edie - and the strains of that taint everything. Then a letter arrives 50 years late, a letter from the end of WWII. It deeply affects Meredith  - but she again refuses to let anyone in to that part of her life.

Edie, a co-publisher for a small literary company, finds herself lost in the edges of the English countryside and Milderhurst castle looms.  Seeing the castle stirs an ancient memory of standing at the gates with her mother. But how could that be?  When Edie asks her mum - she denies it. 

That starts Edie on the quest to figure out what in the world is in her mom's past that so effects her.  It seems to stem from Milderhurst castle and the old tale of the Mudman.  On a historical tour she meets the three spinster sisters who inhabit the castle and is mistaken as her mother by one of the sisters. 

And it is then that Morton begins the second tale of this book - one that slowly unravels the history of the sisters and the young girl, Meredith who they took care of during the Blitz.  The reader finds out the secrets behind the withered women and their endless hold on the crumbling castle.

I really enjoyed this book.  I love English novels and the depth of history woven into the stories.  I also love the restraint of the characters - their hidden agendas and their commitment to peace and propriety.  There is something refreshing, puzzling and foreign about that attitude.