Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Dog Stars

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if some sort of monumental disaster occurred on earth that destroyed all our economic and social systems? How would people behave? How would they survive? Would compassion or self-preservation rule? Writers have been posing these questions for years (think Lord of the Flies). There are many dystopian novels on the market right now, so evidently a lot of people are interested in thinking and reading about a post-apocalyptic life. The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller, is one of these "end-of-the-world" novels, but it is a standout, both in plot and character. As author Pam Houston so aptly puts it, "Leave it to Peter Heller to imagine a post-apocalyptic world that contains as much loveliness as it does devastation." Hig survived the flu that killed everyone he knows. He is a pilot who takes up residence with his dog in an abandoned airplane hangar. He does have a neighbor, an odd character who is always angry and flashing his gun. Hig is lonely but not despairing. He retains an element of hope, and this is what makes the novel so appealing. The reader wants so badly for Hig to live well, not simply survive. In an effort to do this, Hig takes out a small plane and flies farther than he ever has before, past the point at which he won't have enough fuel to return, and hopes for the best. What he finds will both warm you and chill you. This will be the March selection for the Delphi Morning Book Club, so extra copies are available. If you'd like to join us for a rousing discussion, the book club will meet on Friday, March 28, at 9 am.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

First Love by James Patterson

Axi Moore is a "good girl" who comes from the small town of Klamath Falls, Oregon.  Her world has been anything but normal.  Her young sister, Corale Ann, dies from cancer, and Axi also was diagnosed with cancer.  Unable to cope with the situation, her mother runs away and her father turns to alcohol.  It's a family devastated by tragedy in every conceivable way.

While Axi is in the hospital she meets Oscar Robinson.  She starts planning a cross country road trip and tells Robinson he will be going with her.  It is the most beautiful, funny, painful and life changing experience and a dream come true for both Axi and Robinson.   Making the most of the best and the least of the worst, taking their fragile life one day at a time.   But their happiness is short lived as the carefree adventure soon spins out of control.

This is the first book of James Patterson I've ever read.   I have to say it was a page turning adventure, I couldn't wait to read what was going to happen next.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bitter River by Julia Keller

A teenage girl is found dead in car submerged in Bitter River outside a small West Virginia town.  Quickly it becomes obvious that it was no accident.
Bell Elkins is prosecuting attorney for the county of which Aker's Gap is a part.  As she works with the county sheriff, Nick Fogelsong, she discovers that Lucinda Trimble, a sixteen year old young woman with a very promising future, was also pregnant.  Nick and Bell soon learn that in spite of her kooky hippie mother's objections, Lucinda had planned to marry her boyfriend and raise the child.
The boyfriend and his wealthy family come under scrutiny as do Lucinda's friends, her heartbroken mother, and other residents of Aker's Gap.
Keller writes Bell as more than just a prosecuting attorney searching for a killer.  She is the mother of a daughter the same age as the murdered girl and friend to a man that Nick wants out of Acker's Gap. The two main characters and residents of the town must also deal with an apparent sniper shooting as well as an explosion in a local haunt.
The plot may seem familiar, but there are some interesting twists and turns and, most importantly, the characters are ones whose lives you'll become involved in and come to care about as they solve this whodunit.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano

Imagine living above the Earth on a floating city where a king rules the land and nobody is allowed to leave. This is the setting for Lauren DeStefano's new series The Internment Chronicles. The first book in this series is called Perfect Ruin and focuses on the life of Morgan Stockhour, a teenage girl born and raised on the floating utopia of Internment.

A murder of a teenage girl rocks the city of Internment because murder is a crime that is nearly unheard of and has not happened in decades. Morgan becomes obsessed with the murdered girl's little sister and her boyfriend who has been accused of the murder. Morgan begins to unravel the secrets of the government and finds out that nothing is what it seems in her perfect little world. She has always dreamed of life on the outside and what Earth must be like, but now it seems to be a matter of survival to find a way out.

This book is recommended for fans of dystopian future novels and fans of science fiction. It is a Young Adult book and the first book in the trilogy.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Luminaries

Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker Prize winning novel, The Luminaries, is an intricately woven tapestry of first-person narratives, all bound together by treachery, murder, theft, and opium. Despite being set in New Zealand, circa 1866, the novel eludes genre classification. Far from being a simple period piece, readers of this novel will find everything from romance to suspense as its vast and varied characters unfold their separate, but interconnected tales.
            The story begins when Walter Moody, a high-minded entrepreneur, disembarks at the gold mine settlement of Hokitika. In a stupor, having suffered a harrowing, and mysterious experience aboard a shipping vessel, Walter trudges into town seeking solace and shelter, both physical and emotional. Distracted by his attempts to repress the horrifying incident (at this point, not imparted to the reader), he pays little attention to the motley crew, seemingly randomly assembled in his hotel’s smoking room on that fateful night.  It is not long however, before the agitated attentions of one of these gentlemen, rouse Walter from his stupor. He carefully studies those around him, and determines that this collection of men is far from as unpremeditated as it had first seemed.  After some questioning and a curious revelation on the part of Walter Moody, he is taken into their confidence. The reader is then, by turn, introduced to this assortment of men who have dispositions varying from shipping magnate to Maori tribesman.  
As the novel unfolds, Moody himself becomes part of a tale that involves no fewer than two hidden treasures, one blackguard, two ladies of the night, an apparent suicide, and a suspected murder. Once each of the assemblage take him into their confidence, and reveal their own deceptions and missteps, Moody, along with the reader, attempts to unravel the mysteries abounding in this burgeoning mining town. For example, how did a fortune in gold happen to turn up in the shanty home of a newly deceased hermit? How does the discovery of a prostitute, half-dead from what appears to be an attempt on her own life, relate to the concurrent disappearance of a charismatic and successful gold miner?  And most importantly, how does the novel’s undisputed villain, Francis Carver, figure into all of this?
This novel proved to me to be a very engaging read.  My only complaint was that author had a tendency to describe most of the male characters (generally as self-absorbed, prideful, and insular) in a very similar manner.  Excepting the two female courtesans, and the gaol keeper’s wife, the book has an all male cast (quite a large one to boot!), so this tendency became quite noticeable early in the novel. So, if you like a nice, hefty book (The Luminaries weighs in at 834 pages) with an intricate plot, give it a read!

Monday, February 03, 2014

Dekker Wows Me Again!!

I love Ted Dekker books and many of the ones I have lately read were fantasy. But I have just completed Outlaw, which is not fantasy, and I was absolutely spell bound by it. Dekker is a different writer in Outlaw. I'm not sure why, but it is impressive.

The story only begins casual, because by chapter 3 you are anxiously on the edge of your seat,  looking to how the plot will play out. I caught myself saying many times, "how is he going to do this?"

The story is of Julian Carter. She is telling her story to her son and she is telling her story to us. It is in Chapter 3 we find her and her 2 year-old son on a small boat off the shores of Australia and somewhere near New Guinea.  A violent storm arises which takes the captain's life and eventually the boat.  Julian's son is gone; she can only assume dead. But Julian survives when picked up out of the sea by natives of an unknown and primitive tribe who she hopes to be her saviors but quickly realizes they are her captors.  The plot unravels and unravels more and you are hooked wanting to know how she will survive and how this will all play out. It is not a predictable plot! The stone-age civilization Julian is captured by appears to give her no hope for life; she must be smart and play her cards right. Challenges, trials, terror, personal sacrifice and redemption fills the pages.

As always, Dekker has a deep spiritual message woven into the plot.  And it isn't just simply there, spelled out for us; for me anyway; I have to think it through, "What is he trying to tell us? What is this supposed to stand for?  Oh! Now I get it!" Another reason I love Dekker's stories!  I think you will too!