Book Review: Children of the Darkness

The-Children-of-Darkness-CoverOfficial description: But what are we without dreams? A thousand years ago the Darkness came–a time of violence and social collapse when technology ran rampant. But the vicars of the Temple of Light brought peace, ushering in an era of blessed simplicity. For ten centuries they have kept the madness at bay with “temple magic,” eliminating forever the rush of progress that nearly caused the destruction of everything. Childhood friends, Orah and Nathaniel, have always lived in the tiny village of Little Pond, longing for more from life but unwilling to challenge the rigid status quo. When their friend Thomas returns from the Temple after his “teaching”—the secret coming-of-age ritual that binds the young to the Light—they barely recognize the broken and brooding man the boy has become. Then when Orah is summoned as well, Nathaniel follows in a foolhardy attempt to save her. In the prisons of Temple City, they discover a terrible secret that launches the three on a journey to find the forbidden keep, placing their lives in jeopardy. For hidden in the keep awaits a truth from the past that threatens the foundation of the Temple. If they reveal that truth, they might release the long-suppressed potential of their people, but they would also incur the Temple’s wrath as it is written: “If there comes among you a dreamer of dreams saying ‘Let us return to the darkness,’ you shall stone him, because he has sought to thrust you away from the light.”

Review

David Litwack’s Children of the Darkness offers a lyrical, well-structured, and well-written dystopian story about the power of truth and lies. In the manner of stories like Veronica Roth’s Divergent and Hugh Howey’s Wool, the world has regressed to a  simpler time and simpler style of living without any technology and governed by their religion. At first, it’s hard to determine in what period of time the story takes place in and it’s fun and interesting how the author places clues here and there to let us know that we are far in the future from our normal reality.

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Book Review: Ruby

Ruby by Cynthia Bond is about Ephram Jennings who in his 40s finally finds the strength to go against the sister that raised him and the community that  supported him to pursue his childhood love of the local crazy Ruby who is shamed as a godless whore corrupting the good men in a small black town in Texas during the 60s. Through various character vantage points and flashbacks, we learn the harrowing and complicated history of the central lovers and their community, which includes unflinching accounts of child rape, murder, and physical abuse, set within a spiritual war between Christianity, a form of Voodooism, and simple human decency.

I am so glad that I read Ruby by Cynthia Bond. Given the subject matter of the book, “glad” would seem like the wrong word, but this book fed a piece of my soul, and for that I am grateful and, yes, glad. Given the subject matter of the book, it would seem like a “hard” book to read, something I wouldn’t easily consume, something that would take me a long time to get through. But Cynthia Bond has a way with words and a way with story and she wrapped her words and her story around my mind and my heart and my soul and took me down this path, little by little, until I couldn’t turn away from the horror, but became a witness and therefore part of a possible solution. What is the solution? Hope. Acceptance. Not turning a blind eye. Not shying away from truth.

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Writing Wednesdays: The Last Book Ever Written Review

tlc tour hostThe Last Book Ever Written is a cautionary tale that reads like a 1950s noir novel. Despite its thoughtful and well-thought-out characters and plot, it suffers from the earnestness of its social commentary. The writing itself is very formal and straightforward and reads like a report. While this is functional in terms of relaying the action and information, it lacks poetry and makes the reading itself tedious. It reminded me of reading Ayn Rand’s Anthem, but I have to admit I appreciated Anthem more than The Last Book Ever Written in part, I think, because the main character in Anthem has no knowledge of the past, and that past seems very very distant. Whereas the main character in The Last Book Ever Written does know his history, yet he remains a very naïve character and I had a hard time sympathizing with him. The book’s themes too – that creativity is needed, that we should talk to each other more than look at our iPhones – felt overly simplistic to the point of patronizing. I applaud the author for writing the book because it is well done overall, I just wanted to like it a lot more than I actually did.

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Review: THE BALLAD OF A SMALL PLAYER

The Ballad of a Small Player is vivid in the way a dream is when you first wake up, before it disappears from consciousness. A novel about the thrill of losing, and the impenetrable wall between opposites that sometimes vanishes in an instant of luck. RATING: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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Book Review: PUSHING THE LIMITS

I have to admit, I was embarrassed to buy this book because the title and the cover looked so…cheesy.  But my own YA novel “pushes limits” on things like sex and I wanted to see what was out there in the market.

Honestly! I bought this for research…and then I fell in love with it.

The synopsis of the story, below, is not why I fell in love with the book. The plot is fairly weak, a framing device to push the characters closer or to heighten tension. But what McGarry does in between those little nudges takes us on a journey from darkness to light, confusion to understanding. The character descriptions aren’t even that unique but there’s a strong and definite arc that is believable and is well-supported by the events in the story.

What is most impressive about the writing, and the reason why I fell in love with the book, is that McGarry is able to give distinct voices to Echo and Noah as they alternate chapter POVs. I could hear them, practically see them in front of me. The depth of what they are feeling, thinking, and doing, felt so real and honest. It’s a coming-of-age story fraught with the complicated nature of becoming independent from your parents and learning to cope with tragedy and the inexplicable nature of life. Even the side characters are three-dimensional and jump off the page. Little details help flesh out what could be a smarmy teen drama.

So it’s almost an injustice to break the book down into a description of parts, because the way it comes together is beautiful and satisfying and even cathartic.

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BOOK REVIEW: PURE series

PURE by Julianna Baggott follows several characters but the main heart of the story belongs to Pressia, a young girl turning 16 in a world that’s been obliterated by an atomic bomb 10 years prior. Everyone on the outside of a Dome which served as protection for the “pures” are considered “wretches” and have some kind of fusing. In Pressia’s case, one hand has been covered by the doll’s head that she was holding at the time of the blast. Another character is fused with birds that are still alive and implanted on his back. Other characters are fused with other people like Siamese twins. It’s grotesque and part of Pressia’s arc is to figure out whether she can accept herself for who she is or if she is better off finding a “cure” for her deformity. When a pure escapes from the Dome on a mission to find his mother, Pressia saves his life and the two of them start a journey discovering the truth about the Dome, the outside world, what happened, their families. Like WIZARD OF OZ, they collect newcomers along the way who become integral to the overall story.

PURE (followed by Book 2 FUSE and Book 3 BURN) is an excellent series that offers a true sci fi world, variety of character, and something more complicated writing than than the young heroine in a dystopian/apocalyptic society stories we have seen in other series such as HUNGER GAMES, DIVERGENT, LEGEND, MATCHED… Baggott’s use of changing POV within a selection of main characters but not ALL the characters offers the reader an opportunity to at times be complicit in wrongdoing, something not seen in these other series. I found myself uncomfortable with at least one of the main characters who kept disappointing my expectation of becoming the hero and rising above external manipulation. It was enlightening to see/read/experience characters from a direct POV who ultimately failed in their character arc. It was expertly handled by Baggott.

I highly recommend it. I’m not sure it came to a full resolution at the end of BURN, but endings are always hard and in such a rich and complex story, I am not sure what I would have done differently.

In all, I’m not sure I understand why it hasn’t done as well as the previously mentioned series’ like HUNGER GAMES.  When I wanted to purchase PURE, I had to order it online, no store carried it.  I wonder if it’s because the love story is not as central as it is in the other series, though it’s certainly there.  It’s a more difficult read and I didn’t get caught up in the same passion and urgency to continue reading the way I did with the other series.  However, I think that’s a testament to its writing and characters that it couldn’t be treated as pulp.  I can see how it may have benefited from more action and a different style of description for the dramatic conflict scenes.  As a writer, it’s an interesting question.  Thoughts always welcome!

Book Review: ALLEGIANT (DIVERGENT series)

I just finished ALLEGIANT, the third and final sequel in the DIVERGENT series by Veronica Roth.  It would be a disservice to give away anything that happens to the major characters, but I have to say that Roth’s writing is as brave and convention-shattering as her main characters.  She demonstrates that Young Adult fiction does not have to be safe and comfortable for its audience.

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