Monday, January 28, 2013

(6) Arcadia

Title: Arcadia by Lauren Groff
Publisher: Voice
320 pages
Genre: Fiction

Synopsis:In the fields of western New York State in the 1970s, a few dozen idealists set out to live off the land, founding a commune centered on the grounds of a decaying mansion called Arcadia House. Arcadia follows this romantic utopian dream from its hopeful start through its heyday. Arcadia’s inhabitants include Handy, the charismatic leader; his wife, Astrid, a midwife; Abe, a master carpenter; Hannah, a baker and historian; and Abe and Hannah’s only child, Bit. While Arcadia rises and falls, Bit, too, ages and changes. He falls in love with Helle, Handy’s lovely, troubled daughter. And eventually he must face the world beyond Arcadia.

Review: Did you ever wonder what it was like to live on a commune? Lauren Groff gives a good description of what it is like to grow up on a commune never knowing life outside of its boundaries.  The cooperation, the love, the jealousy, the freedom and the prison.  Through the eyes of Bit you experience Arcadia, where he was born and raised until he was 13, when he is forced to flee with his parents.

I loved the description of the first half of this book.  Even after Bit leaves the commune and is forced to live outside the walls the book really captures his struggles but it jumps the shark a bit at the end with unnecessary plagues and apocalyptic themes.  I almost wish the book had stopped when they left Arcadia, instead of leaving me cold in the end.

(5) Shadow of Night

Title: Shadow of Night: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy) by Deborah Harkness
Publisher: Viking Adult
592 pages
Genre: fiction

Synopsis:  The second book in the All Souls Trilogy - Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.

Review: A trip through the past.  When Diana and Matthew go back in time to try to locate Ashmole 782 they get more than they bargained for.  Its hard not to change the future when you spend too much time in the past, but they are doing their best to not cause too many disturbances and ripples.  Luckily you don't have to wait until book 3 to find out what some of those ripples are.  Throughout the book there are short chapters that show snippets about how Diana and Matthew's action are changing the future.

Not only do their actions change the present but entering the past is hard enough but when you travel back to a time when witches are being imprisoned and burned, and you are a witch without control of your powers life can be difficult.  Trying to locate a witch to help you tame those powers is even harder when everyone is suspicious. Matthew has his own demons to fight, when he comes face to face with his dead father who death haunts him in the present.

Despite these trials their main goal is to try to find the book Ashmole 782.  Through a long and winding path through history the courts of London and Amsterdam, they finally locate the book. While I loved the history lesson I think the path to the main goal was a little too long and winding.  The historical descriptions were breathtaking but I could have used a little less of the dressing lessons or how to run a 16th century household and a little more magic, weaving and discovery.

The discovery of the book opens many more questions than it answers and I'm assuming that the 3rd book will address them but in the meantime you are left with more questions.  Are the missing pages still missing? Do they know who has them in the present? Can they solve the mystery of the book before the Covenant finds them?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

(4) Out of the Shadows

Title: Out of the Shadows: Stories of Adoption and Reunion by Linda Back McKay
Publisher: North Star Press
175 Pages
Genre: Adoption, non-fiction

Synopsis: Linda Back McKay's Out of the Shadows: Stories of Adoption and Reunion (North Star Press, 2012) is both a sequel and companion book to the original Shadow Mothers. It shows the real experiences of birthmothers who felt compelled to give up their babies for adoption during the 1960s and 1970s. Following these stories through time, the book also brings to light the profound and challenging aspects of reuniting with a long-lost child. Out of the Shadows includes new and updated stories, viewpoints from all sides of the adoption triad, advice for reuniting families and discussion points for book clubs.

Review: Ms McKay has put together 11 stories of women who placed their children for adoption and have since been reunited with them.  These stories, told in their own voices, are powerful, sad, joyful and real.  There aren't many books out there that tell the stories of the woman who placed their children for adoption, the loss and emptiness they felt and the joy of reuniting.  Not all the stories ended happily, some didn't remain in contact with their children, while some created wonderful and supportive relationships.  None of them would have traded that reunion no matter what the outcome for anything in the world.  Just seeing their children again was positive for all the women in these stories.

While most of these stories were from women who place their children in a time when out of wedlock pregnancy was forbidden and hidden and open adoption was unheard of the stories are still important.  By learning about these women’s stories, open adoption becomes that much more understandable. To be able to keep that connection open for helps both the birth parents and the children feel whole. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

(3) A Perfect Blood

Title: A Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison
Publisher: Harper Voyager
560 Pages
Genre: Fantasy

Synopsis: Ritually murdered corpses are appearing across Cincinnati, terrifying amalgams of human and other.

Pulled in by the FIB to help investigate, former witch-turned-day-walking demon Rachel Morgan soon realizes a horrifying truth: others want to create their own demons, and to do so they need her blood.

She’s faced vampires, witches, werewolves, demons, and more—but this time Rachel’s toughest challenge might be humanity itself.

Review: I love Rachel Morgan, whether she is a which, a demon familiar or a demon, it doesn't matter to me.  Her and her eclectic group of friends, Jenks the pixy with an attitude, Ivy the Vampire, Trent the Elf and Al the demon all love her in their own way too.  These books are pure mind candy.

Rachels life is never dull and she always seems to get herself into a whole mess of trouble.  Maybe this time instead of being the one creating the mess she will be the one to fix it.

This book is a fun way to spend a day, an afternoon or however long it takes you to fly through it.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

(2) Gotcha Day

Title: Gotcha Day: A Carried In My Heart Adoption Story for Children by Rebecca Tabasso
Publisher: Carried in My Heart Books
34 pages
Genre: Adoption, Children

Synopsis: A very special day is coming up—only Suzie isn’t sure which one… When Suzie’s mom tells her a special day is coming, Suzie is very excited and begins guessing.Suzie’s mom can’t resist letting Suzie make guess after guess as Suzie’s imagination journeys through many possibilities trying to figure out which special day her mother is so excited about.

Review: Suzie tries to figure out what the big day they will be celebrating soon is and she runs through all the holidays including the historic holidays on the US calendar.  This book has bright, exciting illustrations and is a great way to express how much your adoption and your child mean to your family.A very sweet little book.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

(1) The Passage

Title: The Passage: A Novel by Justin Cronin
Publisher: Ballantine Books
912 pages
Genre: Dystopian - fantasy, sci-fi

Synopsis: Cronin imagines the catastrophic possibilities of a vampiric bat virus unleashed upon the world. Discovered by the U.S. Military in South America, the virus is transported to a laboratory in the Colorado mountains where it is engineered to create a more invincible soldier. The virus’ potential benefits are profound: it has the power to make human beings immortal and indestructible. Yet, like Prometheus’ theft of fire from the Gods, knowledge and technological advancement are gained at great price: After the introduction of the virus into the human blood pool, it becomes clear that there will be hell to pay. The guinea pigs of the NOAH experiment, twelve men condemned to die on death row, become a superhuman race of vampire-like creatures called Virals. Soon, the population of the earth is either dead or infected, their minds controlled telepathically by the Virals. As most of human civilization has been wiped out by the Virals, the few surviving humans create settlements and live off the land with a fortitude the pilgrims would have admired. Only Amy, an abandoned little girl who becomes a mystical antidote to the creatures’ powers, will be able to save the world.

Review: This book reminds me of World Enough & Time by James Kahn in that humans once again ruin the world they live in because science outweighs thought.  Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.  I guess in words of Stan Lee "with great power, comes great responsibility"

Justin Cronin takes you on an epic journey from one man effected by the death of his wife who discovers a way to prevent it, to the man who is effected by the death of his daughter and despite his help with this project struggles to protect the youngest subject. The aftermath of these experiments is the demise of the world as we know it.  Now living in a small protected camp a few people survive, fighting off the virals, and trying to stay alive.  Most of what we know has been lost, but one girl may hold all the answers.

This is not just a story of doom, it is the story of hope, of rebuilding, of survival. Of figuring out who you are, what you are capable of in the face of the most horrific and deadly situations and who you want to be.

I may have finished the book but its one that will stay with me for a long time.  Its almost a haunting cautionary tale of what we are capable of and what we should never allow to happen.
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