Sunday, January 24, 2010

Beautiful Creatures

Click here to view the book trailer from YouTube.

This young adult novel by team Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl first caught my eye because of, of course, its "Twilight" -like elements: the romance between a supernatural being and a human. It got rave reviews, and so I thought I'd try it. I was pleasantly surprised. The main character and narrator in this saga is a boy, Ethan, who falls for the new girl at his stuck-up Southern school. Even before they meet, Ethan has dreamed of this girl, who turns out to be Lena, almost 16-year-old niece of the infamous town recluse.  It also turns out that Lena, too, has been having the exact same dream, which involves a doomed couple who lived during the Civil War. After this discovery, the young couple then dives into the meaty and mysterious task of figuring out what the dream means to each of them, and how this relates to Lena's supernatural family of "casters" or witches.  While Ethan is still painfully human, he does have some power over Lena, which is intriguing.  The historical content is also a nice touch and keeps the reader moving.  The book also has a lovely librarian character, aptly named Marian, who has supreme power over both the mortal library and the "caster" one. Will Lena turn to the dark side on her 16th birthday, or will Ethan's love be able to save her from her own family secrets? You'll have to read it to find out! I think many age groups, from upper grade schoolers through adults will find this one enjoyable. So, if you're having a hard time finding a satisfying read after the perfection that is the Twilight saga, give this one a try!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

This book will be discussed by Elgin's Valley Book Club on Thurs., Feb. 4th. It was recommended for our list by a couple of our members. I was tugged into the book immediately by its wonderful sense of time and setting. Being Norwegian myself, I was intrigued by the translation and style.  The story is told from the point of view of a young boy, and then alternately by the same boy when he is grown and elderly.  The switching back and forth was a little troublesome at first, as there are no visual clues to guide the reader in the switch, but I gradually got into it, and it didn't bother me at all.

The story evolves around the boy and his father who go to stay for the summer at a remote cabin shortly after WWII. It explores their relationship with each other and with the small community where the cabin is and how they are ultimately connected to the father's secret war effort. The beginning holds a disturbing scene of accidental violence that was difficult for me for a while, and while it is the pivotal event in the story, I felt that it was not developed completely. This is also true of some of the other plot lines involving the father, and some of the neighbors. One club member pointed out to me how very Norwegian this is: that nothing sensitive is really, actually talked about by the characters, and we are left to figure things out. This is, indeed, my experience with my Norwegian relatives and friends; i.e. we don't really talk about unpleasant things and hope they will just work themselves out in the end. Conflict needs to be kept to a minimum and denying one's feelings is essential to survival. Hmmm. Something to think about. Overall, I liked the book, and although it's a bit slow in some parts, it kept my attention, and I'm glad that I read it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Well, I'm finally done with this novel about the plague, and I have to say that it was wonderfully written and had strong characters, but moved a little slowly for me. It is the story of a woman who loses her whole family to the plague and her subsequent life in a village that becomes shut off from the rest of the world. The minister believes that if they leave the village, they will spread the disease which is already so prevalent among them. He persuades the population that staying there is the sacrifice they must make, and that they may therefore be spared because they can care for each other. The history of the plague was very interesting, and the reader can't help but feel the villagers' turmoil, pain, and confusion because of the lack of general medical knowledge during that time. Childbirth was also so unnecessarily risky, and it's so hard in our times to understand how surgeons could think bleeding someone would heal them. It was also interesting that it was the women who were trying more natural remedies such as roots and plants to help the sick and to build up those who weren't sick to try to fight off the disease. This had to be a new concept then, and I loved that two women, one educated and one not, really were the only ones who actually did any good to help save the rest of them. Although the entire book, naturally, was quite sad and dark, the satisfying ending (although a bit bizarre)was worth the wait. I'll let you know what the book club says this week about this book, but please post your own comments!