Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Here and Now

I was provided with this book through NetGallery in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own.

Your world is dying.
Imagine living in a world where death by plague is the most common ending of any story, regardless of age, gender, or status. Imagine a world filled with isolation, screens, chemicals, and the fear of a droning buzz that could signal your end. Now, imagine the only way out was to back.

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares is a far different read than what fans acquainted with her Sisterhood books may have come to expect by Brashares.

The premise is intriguing, due in part to the possibility. A world devastated by plague, environmental change, and crumbling infrastructure. A world where children die and bodies are left lest the grief stricken become the next to be grieved. The only plan for salvation? Travelling into the past to establish new lives and maybe change the future.

Main character Prenna was a great character and one I enjoyed watching come to life. While this book has a blend of mystery and adventure, the core of the story, in my opinion, is Prenna's coming of age.  Brashares did an excellent job bringing Prenna from scared refugee to an emerging, confidant young woman. It was the little touches that made this character exude her depth. While some may find the trip to the beach as lazy given the timeline, the touches such as the mosquito, the slow building of trust, the breaking out, were all necessary to move the story along in it's often fast paced sweetness.

That said there were a few things that left me saddened as I turned the last page.
(Warning - here be spoilers sweetie)


I actually know some unique people so his character does not seem as over the top as some people say, with a mind like his and the people he had encountered, his skill set was not surprising. If Brashares hadn't put the time into his character, building up his backstory the physics, the early genius, the ability to spot little details, his networking, most of his skills just naturally flow out of a well developed character.
Now that I've got that out of the way, I was disappointed with how Ethan and Prenna ended up. To have their future ripped away (seemingly) at the very end felt a bit like being robbed.

If I'm honest, the whole ending felt a little short all though I'm torn. If the author's intent was to tell the story of the exodus back through time, she accomplished that fully. The story accomplished it's set goal. However, the characters that were created as the connection point for readers were left hanging with tantalizing heartbreak and promise all rolled into one. I'm still rooting for Ethan/ Prenna, Katherine, and Molly.

Now, mind you, if this book does get a sequel all this could be resolved and I'd be a happy reviewer (hint, hint Brashares)

All in all, I found The Here and Now to be a fun and engaging read which I devoured in an afternoon. I would give this book a 4 out of 5 though due to my reservations about the ending

Thursday, March 13, 2014

For Such a Time

I'm a sucker for historical novels, especially one's centered around the events of World War II. Even in grade school I would exasperate my teachers during lessons wanting to know about the effects of events on people, society, and culture.

That said, I usually lean towards historical fiction based upon true events.

For Such a Time by Kate Breslin does not follow historical events (though drawing upon real places), a fact the author freely admits, but still remains a gem to read.

Paralleling the Biblical narrative of Esther, For Such a Time centers upon  Hadassah and Aric, a traumatized half Jewess and a wounded Nazi kommandant thrown together near the war's end on a road which could save the lives of hundreds including, if they are very lucky, their own.

Personally, I wan't sure how I would receive the book.
I have read other accounts of Terezin or Theresienstadt, and what occurred there (Wildflowers of Terezin being a favourite). Knowing how the story of Esther ended, I wasn't sure how Breslin could maintain the gravity of the town's history.

Happily, although Breslin did stay closer to the Esther narrative, including the adventure, battle, and love carried within the final half, she still produced a riviting novel which will easily hold the attention of most followers of her genre.

Hadassah or Stella is a likable character who is well written. Breslin writes her recovery from trauma with more honesty than I usually see within Christian fiction and gives real depth to the character's struggle as she seeks to choose between safe decisions and following God's call.

Aric was also a surprising character as I was unsure how the Kommandant could be made to fit within an Esther parallel. Here too was a pleasant surprise as Breslin lays out Aric's honest struggle as an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances.

As mentioned earlier this novel does stick more closely to the Esther narrative which means some readers may be unhappy with the happy, tidy ending For Such a Time provides. I just made sure to read it on one of those days where a happy ending was necessary for my own peace of mind. If you're the type of reader who can't overlook historical inaccuracy for good adventure, a bit of romance, some delightful (though mild) suspense, and a chance for the good guys to triumph this book probably isn't for you. Otherwise, dig in.

I received this book from Bethany through NetGallery in exchange for my honest opinion.

4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Reading Joss Whedon

I loved being the "interesting" student.

I took great pleasure in seeing teachers rewrite their syllabus for following classes due to an "out-of-the-box" paper I had handed in or watching them smile as they realized I had incorporate an acceptable but unconventional topic.

I just couldn't help myself. I loved being challenged and I loved getting a chance to incorporate my passions into my mountains of homework.

Every once in awhile, if I was very lucky, I could even incorporate my love of sci-fi and fantasy, a particularly difficult endeavor given I went to Bible College.

Even now in my post school days I still love when I am given the chance to merge my love of academics and sci-fi/fantasy. Which is why Reading Joss Whedon completing called forth that squealing fangirl within (though quietly so as not to wake baby) before I settled into read.

Reading Joss Whedon is a collection of scholarly essays exploring the different themes and connections within the larger body of Whedon's work.  This particular collection focused most heavily on the Buffy verse and Dollhouse era, most likely due to the vast wealth of ethical and feminist topics exemplified within them as well as their strong echoing of ancient mythos. However, other classics including The Avengers, Dr. Horrible, and my personal favourite Firefly are also brought about in varying levels of details.

All things considered, this collection would make an excellent text book for a media class within a formal setting (no academic gymnastics required to make this topic fit), with each essay providing a wealth of discussion and research material from which to launch classroom dialogue.

The structure of the text also makes it easy for readers to pick and choose which topics are of most importance for their reflection, with subjects being categorized by series or overarching theme for easier readability and reflection.

This book would not classify for many as an easy read but that doesn't necessarily make it the wrong one. This collection challenges readers to choose to partake of their media in less passive ways, exploring and examining the intent and messages being portrayed regardless of how the show is perceived. A lesson well worth taking into every day with our media saturated culture.

4.5 stars out of 5

I received this book through NetGallery in exchange for my honest opinion.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

That Heart Dropping Moment

Plans, such simple things that, in an instant, can show you where your priorities lay.

I had originally planned to blog this week. A post about parenting and Peanut, another post about a great new book exploring the academic themes of Joss Whedon's work.

Then Peanut stopped eating. . . and drinking . . . and my heart dropped.

Instead of night filled with baby giggles and kitten snuggles, Hubby and I spent a night filled with ER smells, beeps, and urgency. We learned how difficult blood draws and IV's are to get on babies who haven't ate or drank in 29 hours. We also learned about admissions, pediatric wards, ambulance transfers, and surgeons.

In the midst of our four day adventure, I learned how many times a heart can drop on one adventure

- as you watch your baby cry for food that won't stay down
- as you listen to the doctor say "I don't know"
- as you find out you're being transferred to another hospital while your husband drives behind in a snowstorn
- as you hear the words "surgery" even if it is a routine hernia repair (it's never routine when it's your baby)
- as you stand alone in a hallway watching them wheel your crying child into the OR
- as you walk back to his empty room to wait for word

Apparently, hearts can drop a lot.

I am so grateful that medicine has advanced to the point where, less than a week later, our Peanut is home, in his bed, and recovering.

Blogging will wait for a few more days because this Mama's heart can't wait another minute.