Thursday, April 29, 2010

White Horses by Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite writers for her beautiful use of language and haunting storylines of tragedy, love, and spirit. While the subject matter is not for the faint of heart and is quite disturbing in parts, White Horses is a wonderful novel that reveals the terrible fight for love that abused children go through their entire lives. It is the story of Teresa, a young girl who hates her do-nothing father, is mystified by her angry mother, and who, most of all, worships her handsome, hoodlum brother. It is this last relationship that is her undoing. Her brother Silver is like a hero to Teresa and her mother, much like the "Arias" who ride on white horses, have a supernatural mystique, and who are in all of Teresa's bedtime stories and in her dreams. She knows that Silver will never leave her, as her father does, and that he will defend her, as her mother has not. But her undying love of Silver, and his twisted sense of manhood and selfishness lead them both into a desperate love/hate chase that leaves them both isolated from the world and ultimately from each other.

The language of this tragic book carries you along like an ocean breeze, and I couldn't stop reading, hoping Teresa would finally find herself and tear away from all the self-destructive behavior she clings to. And while the ending was satisfying, it still left me wanting to hear more; wanting Teresa to finally be empowered after being put down for so long. I won't give away the ending for you, though. Read it, and let me know your opinion.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

I grabbed this little gem off the young adult shelf before I could even get to my blog, but I wanted to tell you about it now that I'm done. It's about a time when the world has pretty much ended because of the influx of creatures called "The Unconsecrated" which are essentially zombies. Yes, I said it. Zombies. But it's not as crazy or stupid as that sounds. Just as Stephenie Meyer has made vampires totally believable to the masses, Ryan has done a great job with these gross and hateful zombies. She describes them more as creatures that are created sort of like vampires but who instead of being immortal and totally invincible, their power simply lies in their numbers and the fact that they are "damned" or already dead. They hunger for humans, and to keep them out, the few humans left on the planet have put up an elaborate system of fences and paths. The village where Mary, the main character, lives relies on a strict social system and many rules to keep everyone safe. But when a "breach" happens and the unconsecrated get inside the fence, it's everyone for themselves. Mary manages to escape with the two men who love her, her brother, and her best friend, but is unhappy because she "knows" that there is something else out there - the ocean and more humans. It is her driving quest to find them and this dream drives a wedge between her and the others.

This was a quick read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I truly cared about the characters, and the ending was very excitig. The various social aspects of the village and the symbolism of the unconsecrated would also be lively topics of debate, just as the Twilight characters are.

So, if you want a good story, a quick read, and a little romance thrown in with the zombies, this is the book for you. Enjoy!

Heresy by Parrish

This historical thriller is set in 1583 Oxford, England. It's the story of a fallen monk called Bruno who wants others to try to embrace new scientific knowledge without it necessarily damaging their faith in God. He goes to Oxford to debate the fact that the earth revolves around the sun, but he ends up walking into a murder ring made to look like the ancient Christian martyrdoms. The rector at the college asks him to step in and investigate, which puts him up for ridicule from the higher-ups as well as putting him in danger from the stealthy killer. The blame is passed around from likely person to likely person, until Bruno is led to the truth, and almost to his untimely death.

This book was beautifully written and full of intrigue, but it did drag a bit for me in the middle. It picked up again at the suspenseful end, and I found it well worth the read. Let me know what you think!

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett

As I've said before, I typically don't read much nonfiction. But a fellow book-lover handed this to me (and granted I picked it out for the library but didn't really know if I'd read it), and she said "You should read this. You love books as much as I do, and well, this guy is really interesting!"

She was so right! I couldn't put this book down! Allison Bartlett was able to talk to John Gilkey, a book thief who told her his story of "acquiring" rare books. How did he do this on a part-time Saks sales clerk salary? He stole them, of course! How did he get caught? With the help of a wily rare book dealer named Ken Sanders and a complicated network of book store owners and dealers. Why did Gilkey steal them? Well, that is where the real interest in this story lies. Gilkey says he deserves them. Why should the ability to acquire books, knowledge, status, and education be left only to those who can afford them, he says? Why can't an average Joe like him have some of them? Why not?

While you and I might say something logical like, "Because these books cost thousands of dollars and others really love them just as much, and I can't pay for them," Gilkey just rejects this kind of thinking as unfair and not very creative. He wants these books, and therefore, he should have them. And that's it.

So, check out this slim volume of intrigue, character analysis, and some wonderful facts about the rare book world. It's a hoot!

Escape by Carolyn Jessop

The Brady Bunch It's Not
Here's the story
of a lovely lady,
who was living with her 8 kids on her own.
There were 4 wives living all together,
yet they were all lone.
Then one day when this lady's finally fed up,
she decides that her God is surely dead.
So she leaves the man
who only wanted,
More women in his bed.

And that about sums up this tragic, heartrending, horrifying, stupifying, thought-provoking, faith- questioning story of a girl born into paligamy in Utah and pretty much forced into a marriage with someone 20 years her senior. She tries to live her life the way everyone says is God's way, only to find a life filled with hypocracy, abuse (both physical and mental), and the loss of her soul. Carolyn Jessop finally escapes with her children from what she calls the "cult" of the FLDS church (Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints). This group started out as a peaceful, God-fearing bunch of Mormons, who happened to believe in "God's plan" to reward faithful Saints who live the paligamist life and have as many children as they possibly can pop out. With the coming of Warren Jeffs as their prophet and leader, the FLDS took on a new, more terrifyingly fundamentalist mentality and practice that is now getting them into trouble with the government and other more local law officials.

Yes, to answer the one question I always asked before I read so much about the FLDS, paligamy is illegal in this country. And yes, Utah, is indeed a part of our country, the United States. Why then aren't all these men in jail and all these children being cared for by Social Services? Well, is it illegal for a man to live with someone he is not married to and have children with her? Nope. The FLDS men only legally marry one wife, and the rest of them are simply married within the church, which are not legally recognized. Then, is there a limit on how many kids can live in one house? Apparently not in Utah.

There is so much to talk about in this book, that I can't go into it all here. The reason I liked the book and am so interested in these extremist Mormons is because they make me so angry. These Mormon men are using God to create a place that they can be respected for having a home filled with sexual slaves. Because that's what these women are, and they truly believe that they will not have an afterlife in heaven or anywhere else if they don't do as they are told and have as many children as their bodies can produce. How they come to believe this is not a result of some kind of rare mental retardation; it results from their birth into a world that is totally dominated by abusive men. By reading and listening to Carolyn Jessop's story, we can all learn something about the role women play in society, even if our worlds are not as extreme as Jessop's former world. It's a cautionary tale about how many, many women in their daily lives must fight against abuse and powerlessness and find a better way for themselves and their children, and that it is possible to do so.