Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

IMG_0573.JPG

 

Summary (Amazon): Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.
Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox–the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.
Where are these pens? Why are we born? Why do we die? Why do we spend so much time between wearing digital watches? For all the answers stick your thumb to the stars. And don’t forget to bring a towel!

My Review (Spoilers):

Executive Summary: quirky

So I picked this book because A) it was mentioned in Among Others and B) my husband owned it. So I packed it to read on our flights to and from a wedding we went to last weekend. And, to my delight and my husband’s total annoyance, when I opened the cover of the book, there was an old cheesy photo of him and his high school girlfriend. So approximately 327 times during the flight when he wasn’t looking, I would slyly open the book to reveal that photo so that he would glance over and see it looking at him. (I think if he could have gotten a different seat, he might have considered it!)

That was just the beginning of how great this book is.

The book begins with Arthur (who lives in England), whose house is about to be demolished. He had just found out about the demolition the day before but he was assured that all the paperwork had been filed and was placed in the local planning office 9 months prior. So he had plenty of time to file the complaint about the thing that he didn’t know existed. As Arthur is laying in the mud between the bulldozer and his house, his neighbor, Ford Prefect comes by.

Ford is not a human, but no one knows that. He looks human, and he has been on Earth for the last 15 years. In fact, he’s a researcher for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and has been awaiting the time when he can hitch a ride off of Earth and continue his research. The time has come! Ford’s Sense-o-matic has alerted him that the Earth is about to be destroyed. He convinces Arthur to come to the bar with him where they get significantly drunk (relax their muscles) so that they can hitch a ride on the ship that is about to destroy the Earth.

When that ship arrives, the Vogons inform the Earth that the documentation about the demolition has been in the local planning office in Alpha Centauri for the last fifty years, so there’s no use getting worked up about it now.

Elsewhere in the universe, Zaphod Beeblebrox, the President of the Imperial Galactic Government, holds a press conference to introduce The Heart of Gold (the most unique starship in the universe) and then he steals it.

Meanwhile, Arthur and Ford are on the Vogon ship as stowaways. They used Arthur’s Thumb (an electronic signaling device) to catch a ride. Luckily for them, the kitchen of the ship employs the Dentrassis who are more lenient on hitchhikers than the Vogons. (Mostly they just like to annoy their bosses.) Eventually the two are found by the Vogons who put them out the hatch. 29 seconds later (they figured they could hold their breath for 30 seconds), they end up on The Heart of Gold.

It turns out that The Heart of Gold uses an improbability drive, which is basically exactly what it sounds like. The more improbable something is, the more likely the ship is to make it happen. Like, picking up Arthur and Ford, 1 second before certain death, had a probability of 1 in 2^276709.

Zaphod and Trillian, his earthling co-pilot, send Marvin, the depressed robot, to get Arthur and Ford. Upon uniting, they realize that they are all connected. Ford knows Zaphod from long ago. Arthur met Trillian at a party, and she left him to go with a man who told her that he was from a different planet (Zaphod). (Ford was a little perturbed about the fact that Zaphod visited Earth and didn’t rescue him!)

They fly along and come to what Zaphod had been looking for–the most improbable planet that ever existed. Magrathea. (Magrathea used to be the planet where they designed custom-made planets for rich people. But then the economy tanked, and the richest planet disappeared and was forgotten.) They decide to descend, also because Ford doesn’t believe that this is Magrathea, and along the way, missiles are released on them. Arthur switches on the improbability drive to evade them (how convenient), and they land safely on the surface.

Something else improbable that happened during the improbability drive was that a sperm whale appeared several miles above Magrathea, and then, of course, crashed into it.

Zaphod, Trillian, Ford, Arthur, and Marvin begin to traverse across the surface of Magrathea. It’s dull and boring. Eventually they come to the location of the whale impact and find that the crash has created an opening into the underground city. Zaphod, Trillian, and Ford decide to go check it out, leaving Arthur and Marvin to “keep watch” (even though the planet has been abandoned for five million years). Zaphod tells Trillian and Ford that he has a lack of memory that he knows that he created himself. He believes that the previous president, Yooden Vranx, convinced him to steal The Heart of Gold but to accurately pass the brain scans required to be president (and therefore have access to the ship), Zaphod could not know the reason why. So he removed it from his memory.

Meanwhile Arthur quickly tires of Marvin’s depressing conversation, and he wanders off for a walk–running into an old Magrathean named Slartbartifast. The man tells Arthur that the people of the planet didn’t die off or move. They merely went to sleep until the economic situation was better, and since it is recovering, they are reawakening. S takes Arthur to the factory floor where they used to make all their planet and reveals that Earth was a custom designed planet (S had won an award for Norway as he was a master of fjords.) and they were in works of creating Earth Mark Two when unfortunately the Earth was destroyed just a few minutes too early.

And it turns out that the customers who bought Earth and Earth Mark Two were the mice. Mice are by far the most intelligent creatures who lived on Earth. Many millions of years previously, a super computer was created and asked to give the answer to everything. It took the computer 7.5 million years to return an answer, and the answer…was 42. Of course, everyone was very disappointed with the answer, but the computer suggested that the answer was valid. They just did not fully understand the question. So a second, more impressive computer was created to answer that question, and that computer was Earth. But unfortunately the Vogons destroyed the Earth 5 minutes before the computer finished.

Then S takes Arthur and they meet up with the others, and the two mice that Trillian had brought with her when she had left Earth. The mice ask Arthur if they can buy his brain and replace it with a computer one. They figure that since he was organically linked to Earth, that he can help them answer the question. Luckily at that moment, all the alarms sound and Arthur, Ford, Trillian, and Zaphod take the opportunity to get out of there before Arthur’s brain is stolen. They are stopped by some policemen who start shooting at them. Eventually the shooting stops, and the group goes out to investigate finding that the policemen have been killed. They take the policemen’s guns and escape to Slartibartifast’s ship which he has conveniently left there with a note telling them how to drive it!

They return to their ship, and find Marvin, still depressed as ever, waiting for them. It turns out that he saw the police ship land and began talking to the ship’s computer. It became so depressed by the conversation that it committed suicide, taking the officers (they had a computer link) with him.

They take off. And the book ends.

Verdict: 4 Stars

My review does little justice to how silly and fun this book actually is. In a lot of ways (the creativity and writing style most specifically), it reminded me of The Neverending Story which I also really loved. The one downfall is the abrupt ending. I had originally rated the book 4.5 but the ending was just such a surprising disappointment to me, I felt like I had to drop the rating some for it. (I do realize that the original formatting was not technically book form and that there are further books. However, I feel like some editing could have been done to make the ending as great as the rest of the book.) I definitely recommend reading this book though. It’s a quick read, a cultural icon, and a lot of fun.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 4 stars, Book Review

The Heretic’s Daughter – Kathleen Kent

IMG_0560.PNG

 

Summary (Amazon): Martha Carrier was one of the first women to be accused, tried and hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and willful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. Often at odds with one another, mother and daughter are forced to stand together against the escalating hysteria of the trials and the superstitious tyranny that led to the torture and imprisonment of more than 200 people accused of witchcraft. This is the story of Martha’s courageous defiance and ultimate death, as told by the daughter who survived.
Kathleen Kent is a tenth generation descendant of Martha Carrier. She paints a haunting portrait, not just of Puritan New England, but also of one family’s deep and abiding love in the face of fear and persecution.

My Review (spoilers):

Executive Summary: intense

This book was really a good read. I have never sought out media about the Salem witch trials on my own because in general, it just really makes me aggravated. But I found this book to not only cover the main story in a really well-written, pragmatic way, but also, I really liked that it had a lot of additional layers to it as well.

The book is written from the eyes of Sarah Carrier, the young daughter (age 9 at the beginning) of Martha Carrier. Martha Carrier has the unfortunate infamy of being one of the first women who was hanged during the witch hunt in Massachusetts.

In general, the story itself is not unlike most others with regards to witchcraft. A strong, independent woman, is accused of witchcraft because people are scared of her and don’t want the other women folk to think that sort of behavior is acceptable. Martha and her family moved to Andover, Massachusetts, to escape the smallpox epidemic. They live with Martha’s mother, and soon, they realize that they did not escape. Sarah’s brother Andrew was the first to show symptoms, and despite the house arrest, Sarah and her toddler sister, Hannah, were taken to their aunt and uncle’s house in the middle of the night.

While there, Sarah and her cousin Margaret become close friends. Sarah loves her aunt and uncle who are so different from her own parents. Her uncle tells colorful stories, and her aunt gives her affection willingly. Her own parents are very stoic and unemotional. When the time comes to return to Andover, Sarah is upset to leave the family that she has grown to love, and thinks it is terribly unfair that they won’t see each other any more. The separation between the family existed before the smallpox, but now is even greater. Sarah’s grandmother has died, and instead of leaving the farm to Margaret’s parents, she has instead left it to Sarah’s. Roger Toothaker, Sarah’s uncle, would later become one of the people who testified against Martha for witchcraft.

As time goes on, Sarah begins to realize that not everything is quite as obvious as she thought. Her parents, who she thought were so uncaring, do what is necessary to keep their family safe and fed. They teach the children how to stand up for themselves rather than have a parent who swoops in and takes care of them. And as for her uncle who she thought was so wonderful, she sees him drunk at the local tavern, canoodling with one of the barmaids.

When eventually Martha is to be arrested, she says that she will not run. Someone will have to pay for the injustices, and she will continue to deny any wrongdoing (as there was none). However, she instructs her family to do whatever it takes to keep themselves safe. Eventually, the four children–Richard, Andrew, Tom, and Sarah are arrested too. They tell the court that their mother made them do it, and they are eventually let go free. (They weren’t able to see their mother when she died.)

Eventually all things return to something like normal. Hannah stayed with her “adopted family” until she married. The other children married and moved to Connecticut. Their father, who was one of the executioners of the King of England during the civil war, lived to be 109. Margaret’s town was raided by Indians. Her mother was killed (her father committed suicide while in prison due to apparent guilt at getting his entire family arrested for witchcraft), and Margaret was captured and never to be heard from again.

Within five years of the trials, some formal apologies were made for what had happened, but it was too little, too late for the families of those who had been imprisoned or even killed.

Verdict: 4 stars

I found the writing and the nuances throughout the book to be the best part of it. It certainly made the book come alive and feel more real. There were a few parts that were a bit unnecessary (the anti-climactic “red book” for one), but as a generality, it was a great story. It makes me thankful to live in a time where we have the sense (scientific discovery perhaps?) to not fall into that sort of hysteria (although I’m not fully convinced that a similar thing couldn’t happen again). Also it’s a great glimpse into how actions can be misconstrued and also that you can’t always judge a book by its cover.

2 Comments

Filed under 4 stars, Book Club, Book Review

Books Listed in Among Others

So this is the list of books that I have compiled from the book Among Others. It is an amazing impressive list. I have separated the books into 3 categories–children’s/young adult (aka books Mori read when she was younger), sci-fi/fantasy (aka books Mori reads now and loves), and lastly other adult books (aka books that Mori reads in school or that the librarian, her grandpa, etc. give to her). I’ve listed them alphabetically by author. Sometimes only an author is mentioned, or sometimes and author and then later a book written by that author. I’ve tried my best to capture them all.

Children’s/Young Adult Books

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women

Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers

complete works of Angela Brazil

Susan Coolidge’s What Katy Did

Frederic W. Farrar’s Eric, or Little by Little

Martha Finley’s Elsie Dinmore

Greyfriars (presumably the stories by Charles Hamilton)

L.M. Montgomery’s Jane of Lantern Hill

Eleanor H. Porter’s Pollyanna

Arthur Ransome

Dorothy Sayer’s stories about Lord Peter

Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle; The Starlight Barking

Noel Streatfeild

 

Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Poul Anderson, specifically Ensign Flandry (of the Flandry series); The Broken Sword; Guardians of Time

Piers Anthony’s Vicinity Cluster; Chaining the Lady; A Spell for Chameleon

Isaac Asimov’s The End of EternityThe Foundation Trilogy

John Boyd’s The Last Starship from Earth

Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Spell Sword

Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara

John Brunner, specifically The Shockwave Rider; Stand on Zanzibar; The Whole Man (Telepathist); Times Without Numbers

Arthur C. Clarke’s Imperial Earth; Childhood’s End; 2001: A Space Odyssey; Forgotten Enemy

Hal Clement’s Mission of Gravity

Michael Coney’s Charisma

Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising

Samuel Delaney’s Empire Star; Triton; Babel 17; The Einstein Intersection

Phillip K. Dick, specifically The Man in the High Castle

Sylvia Engdahl’s Beyond the Tomorrow MountainsHeritage of the Star

Nicholas Fisk’s Space Hostages

Lord Foul’s Bane

John Fowles’ The Magus

Alan Garner’s Red Shift

Randall Garrett’s “Lord Darcy Books” specifically Too Many Magicians

Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room!

Robert Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit, Will Travel; Time Enough for LoveGlory Road; Waldo and Magic; Citizen of the Galaxy; The Number of the Beast; Starship Troopers; The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Zenna Henderson’s Pilgrimage

Frank Herbert’s Dune

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World

Judith Kerr’s When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

Ursula Le Guin’s The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, Volume 2; The Lathe of Heaven; City of Illusions; A Wizard of Earthsea; The Dispossessed; The Eye of the Heron; The Word for World is Forest; The Left Hand of Darkness; The Farthest Shore

C.S. Lewis specifically Out of the Silent PlanetThe Last Battle (The Chronicles of Narnia)

Anne McCaffrey’s Weyr SearchDragonflight;  Dragonquest; Dragonsong; Dragonsinger; The White Dragon (the Pern series)

Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz

Ward Moore’s Bring the Jubilee

Larry Niven’s The Flight of the Horse (not as good); RingworldA Gift from Earth; World of Ptaavs; The Mote in God’s Eye

H.Bean Piper, specifically Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen

Christopher Priest’s I Dream of Wessex; Inverted World

Mary Renault’s The Bull from the Sea; The Charioteer; Return to Night; The Persian Boy

Keith Roberts’ Pavane

Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon; Telempath

Robert Silverberg’s Dying Inside; Born With the Dead; Up the Line; Stepsons of Terra; Voyage to Alpha Centauri; The World Inside

Clifford Simak’s City

Cordwainer Smith

Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave

Theodore Sturgeon’s A Touch of Strange

James Tiptree, Jr.’s Warm Worlds and Otherwise; The Girl Who Was Plugged In; Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death; Houston, Houston, Do you Read?; And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side

J. R. R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings; The Hobbit; The Silmarillion; The Adventures of Tom Bombadil

Kurt Vonnegut specifically God Bless You; Mr. Rosewater; Cat’s Cradle; Breakfast of Champions; Welcome to the Monkey HouseThe Sirens of Titan

John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids

Roger Zelazny’s Creatures of Light and DarknessNine Princes in AmberThe Guns of Avalon; Sign of the Unicorn; The Dream Master; Isle of the Dead; Doorways in the Sand; Roadmarks; This Immortal

Dangerous Visions (an anthology edited by Harlan Ellison)

 

Other Books

Isaac Asimov’s The Left Hand of the ElectronGuide to Science

W.H. Auden’s Selected Poems

Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre

Winston Churchill’s A History of the English-Speaking Peoples

Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend

T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets; The Waste Land

Robert Graves’s I, Claudius

Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd

Ted Hughes’s Crow

John Keats

H.D.F. Kitto’s The Greeks

C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity

Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto

Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind

Plato’s The Symposium; RepublicThe Laws; Phaedrus

Mary Renault’s Purposes of Love; The Last of the Wine

William Shakespeare’s The Tempest; Romeo and Juliet; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Winter’s Tale; Richard II

Nevil Shute’s An Old Captivity

Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Tey; Brat Farrar

Virgil’s The Aeneid

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Books

Among Others – Jo Walton

IMG_0550.JPGSummary (Amazon): Startling, unusual, and yet irresistibly readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled–and her twin sister dead.

Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…

Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination in the manner of novels like Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, this is potentially a breakout book for an author whose genius has already been hailed by peers like Kelly Link, Sarah Weinman, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

My Review (Spoilers):

Executive Summary: magical

This book was actually a recommendation from my husband who read it earlier this year (not sure who recommended it to him though or I’d give them a high five). It really appealed to me in a variety of ways. The book is a fantasy book, but it’s also a “real” story of a girl going about her life with a crazy mom, a dad she never knew, and a physical disability. And she’s a bit anti-social and loves to read, specifically science fiction and fantasy. (I can relate). As an aside, throughout the story, she talks about all the books that she is reading, and I have a separate post coming with a list of those books. It’s impressive.

The book starts off with twins Morwenna and Morganna at the Phurnacite factory. The girls throw flowers into the pool outside the factory because the fairies told them that it would kill the factory. Nothing happens, and they reluctantly return home. However, the next day in the newspaper, they read that the Phurnacite plant is closing.

The book then shifts to Morwenna (Mori) at a later age, with her father and her father’s 3 sisters who are impossible to tell apart, getting ready for school. Her father had run off on her mother shortly after she and her sister were born, and she had lived with her mother ever since. Something bad has happened involving her mother, her sister, and her, but the reader doesn’t fully know what until much later in the story.

Mori is prepping for her start at a new school, Arlinghurst, where her aunts went. They are buying her all her gear for school, and things get a little awkward when it comes to shoes. She has to buy special orthopedic shoes after the accident, not the approved ones that her school wants. She walks with a cane, one that she got from her “Grandpar”, and she’s worried about how school is going to go, specifically as the school is focused on a lot of sports.

Mori and her mother’s side of the family is from Wales, and that’s where she grew up. Her school, and her home where she is currently living with her father and aunts, is in England.

As Mori never really grew up with her father, she knows almost nothing about him. No one in the family spoke of him, and her mother cut him out of all of the photos that she had of him. Mori discovers that Daniel (her father) really likes books. He reads a lot of science fiction, and most of their relationship actually centers on that. Daniel is actually the half brother to the aunts. Their father was the rich one, and his father was a Polish Jew that their mother met helping during WW2. Daniel manages their estate, but the sisters give him some money, and they are the ones paying for Mori’s school. He’s been living there in that situation since he left Mori’s mother. Mori realizes that the situation is pretty awkward for all involved.

Arlinghurst is in a field. It’s not beautiful like the Welsh valleys (which I haven’t seen but the description sounds enticing). There were lots of fairies in Wales, but there don’t seem to be any in Arlinghurst. On top of that, school is pretty miserable, especially for the new girl who is foreign and crippled. Mori makes a few friends with other “outsiders”–Deirdre (Irish) and Sharon (Jewish) and a girl in her chemistry class, Gill, who is in a different house (Mori switched her schedule to get chemistry with a different house. The whole house thing just reminds me of Harry Potter because I have no other British School system references!). And Mori befriends the librarian, Miss Carroll, as she spends a lot of time there when the other girls are doing gym and sports.

During a break at school, Mori wanders around the ground to see if she can find any fairies. She concentrates and manages to attract one who warns her of “Danger!”. Soon she begins receiving letters from her mother with pictures inside where Mori has been burned out. Just like the childhood photos with her father.

On Saturdays, they are allowed to leave the school and go into town. Mori discovers that there is a library there that will do interlibrary loans (which her father signed for her for), and she maximizes that as much as possible since the school library does not have as much science fiction as she would like. Also, Mori orders books the same way that my dad does. He takes that page in a book he likes that lists a bunch of other books and then he orders those.

School in general proceeds fairly consistently bad, and then it is time for half-term. Mori spends some time with her father and meets her grandfather, Sam. He lives in London, and Mori likes him very much. After the trip, she took the train back to Wales to visit her Auntie Teg and her Grandpar, who is in a nursing home after his stroke that he had after “the accident”.

While back in Wales, Mori went to some old ruins she and her sister used to visit. While there, she saw the fairies she knew, specifically Glorfindel. He convinces her that she needs to go to Minos’s Labyrinth (an old iron mine) the following day, which is Halloween. She abides, collecting many oak leaves along the way. She put the leaves in front of the entrance, and suddenly many ghosts appear, picking up a leaf like a ticket as they passed into the entrance. Mori recognized an old man from her grandfather’s nursing home, and then she saw her sister. They clung to each other but Glorfindel convinced Mori to let her sister pass over. Reluctantly, she did.

The twins’ mother tried to gain control of the fairies before the accident. She didn’t succeed but that doesn’t mean she won’t try again. Most people don’t see the fairies because they don’t believe in them. And some children stop believing in them and then stop seeing them.

Mori returns to school, and it’s more of the same. Deirdre returns to being her friend, but everyone else still thinks she’s a communist (due to her Russian-sounding name), a lesbian, or a witch. And I thought my junior high experience was rough.

Mori starts using some magic. She creates a protection around herself because she felt her mother visiting her one night.

Gill misconstrues Mori’s friendliness as something more, and creates an awkward situation between them.

And then, because she already did some magic and she’s lonely, she does some magic to create a karass for herself (a karass is from Cat’s Cradle by Vonnegut and is a group of people who are genuinely connected to each other). But then she feels guilty for doing magic because it upsets the balance of things.

The following Saturday when she goes to the town library to pick up her loans, the librarian tells her about their SF (science fiction) book club that meets every Tuesday as he sees that is most of the books she requests. She is delighted but also worried about her use of magic.

She doesn’t get her dad’s signature before the following Tuesday (because it’s 1979 and there’s no internet yet), but the school librarian agrees to take her to the book club. Mori has a great time and meets some others her own age including a very handsome boy!

The following Saturday in town, she runs into the other girl from the SF club, whose name is Janine. Janine gives her the scoop about the others in the book club. Janine used to be dating Pete, not the other boy Hugh, but they broke up because of a situation involving the handsome boy (whose name is Wim). Wim was thrown out of school and is now doing college part time. There was a scandal involving him getting a girl pregnant, and she had to have an abortion. (Janine and Pete broke up because Pete defended Wim and said it was the girl’s fault.)

Mori continues to hate school and love book club. They decide to do a Christmas meeting of The Dark is Rising which I loved when I was younger. I must reread it though because I don’t remember much about it. She meets Janine and Hugh in town the following Saturday so that Janine can loan her the books. Hugh waits with her for the bus back to school, and Gill looks at her with contempt. School’s winding down for the semester, and Mori gets good marks in everything but math, but really she only is caring about the book club. They meet to discuss The Dark is Rising and then head to the pub after where she begins to talk to Wim while the others are discussing Star Wars. They begin to realize they have very similar tastes, and Greg, the librarian, tells Mori it’s time to leave.

Mori passes out all her presents for Christmas break and heads to her father’s. Her Christmas gift from her aunts is that she is to have her ears pierced, but Mori somehow knows that getting her ears pierced will stop her from being able to do magic. And with that, she realizes that the aunts know that and they are magical. They have been casting some sort of spell over her father to keep him there, and as Mori is never allowed in the kitchen, she realizes that is probably where the magic is happening. She manages to make it to her Aunt Teg’s house unscathed (albeit not without some valiant attempts by the aunts). She tries to find fairies while in Wales to ask about the karass magic, but she doesn’t see any, but she does see her sister’s ghost. Mori talks to her for a while and learns that the fairies are taking care of her. A fairy appears and tells her, “Doing is doing.”, gives her a new cane,  and then both the fairy and her sister disappear.

Mori returns to school. At the book club, she agrees to meet Wim the following Saturday to borrow a book from him. Then Mori goes to the hospital for an outpatient appointment for her leg and the doctor has determined it’s too bad, and she needs a week in traction. She only has a few books with her, and no one knows that she is in there. Eventually Miss Carroll tracks her down and lets everyone know, so many of her book club friends turn up to visit her and bring books. Wim eventually turns up and reveals that his girlfriend works in the laundry at Arlinghurst. Still, Mori reveals to him that her mom actually is a witch and that magic is a real thing that she will prove to him when she gets out of the hospital.

Daniel comes and takes her home to recover. Mori calls her grandfather who comes to see her. He suggests acupuncture for her, and her first session goes well and she returns to school. She has a lot more friends when she returns to school (kids are weird). The next book club, Mori arranges to meet Wim the following Saturday to show him the fairies. Before they go to see the fairies, he tells her the situation with the girl that caused him to be kicked out of school. She told everyone that she was pregnant before even telling him, and when she got the pregnancy test, she wasn’t even pregnant. Mori doesn’t seem that upset about it, and they go to see if they can find any fairies. Fairies tend to like areas of human ruins so they find a nearby location. Wim can see them when he holds her cane–the one the fairy gave her. Mori also confesses to doing the spell for the karass, and tells what happened with her mother and sister. FINALLY!

Their mother was trying to do some large magic to get power to take over the world. The fairies told them what to do to stop it. Their mother used illusions to convince them that things were coming at them, and they thought that the car that hit them was just one of their mother’s illusions. It wasn’t. Mori was injured, and her sister was in a coma until their mother took her off life support. Grandpar had a stroke, and then Mori ran away.

Mori and Wim meet one Saturday in town, and Karen tells Mori that she saw him with the girl from the kitchen dancing at a disco. (Hehe disco.) It turns out that Wim set it up so that Mori would be confronted about whether to stay or leave him. When she realizes that she has a choice in the matter, she realizes that it wasn’t the magic of the karass that brought them together. They plan to ride the train together to her acupuncture appointment later that week.

But surprise, her dad shows up to drive her, and she has to confess that she is dating Wim and see if her dad will also drive him. But luckily everything goes pretty smoothly. They talk about books mostly, and Daniel admits that he approves. School break begins the following day, and Daniel suggests inviting Wim to tea. They go for a walk around the house where a fairy tells Mori to “Go. Join”. She leaves the following day for Wales sans Wim.

Upon arrival in Wales, Mori goes looking for Glorfindel and finds him. He tells her that some of the fairies are ghosts, but some of them are “being”. He needs her help to open a gate which she has to do using blood. He also tells her that her mother won’t be able to hurt her after she opens this gate. She goes up to the location at sunset and finds her sister’s ghost and all the fairies there. She begins to cut her thumb, but she is stopped. It becomes apparent that the fairies expect her to sacrifice herself and join her sister. She considers it but realizes how much she has to live for now, and is able to resist. She hurls her sister into the gap she has made, which presumably allows her into her appropriate place in the afterlife.

Mori begins her walk back toward Auntie Teg’s and comes across her mother. Her mother tries to convince her to  join her, but Mori is exhausted by what just happened, and just walks away. Her mother starts tearing pages out of Lord of the Rings and throwing them at her. As they are thrown, they become spears, but Mori is more offended by her mother’s destruction of the book. Mori used her own magic to turn the spears into trees, so that every one her mother hurled at her became a tree. She continues walking away from her crazy mother, turning the spears into trees. When she reaches the bus stop, she finds Wim, Daniel, and Sam. She realizes that she has made the right decisions, and will continue to live her life as best as she can.

Verdict: 4 Stars

I’m not sure this book is for everyone, but it really related to me. I read a ton as a kid. I was also hospitalized regularly. Also I found Mori’s no nonsense attitude to be very entertaining.

One of my favorite bits of the book: “We finished early and all went to the pub. ‘I’ll buy you and orange juice,’ Greg said to me. I didn’t say I hate Britvic orange, I said ‘Thank you.’ Who says I have no social graces?”

I have compiled a list of books that were listed in this book, and I have three already in the queue to read because of this. And I’m definitely bringing this to the book swap we do at book club.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 4 stars, Book Review

Innocence – Dean Koontz

photo (1)Book Description (Amazon):

In Innocence, Dean Koontz blends mystery, suspense, and acute insight into the human soul in a masterfully told tale that will resonate with readers forever.

He lives in solitude beneath the city, an exile from society, which will destroy him if he is ever seen.

She dwells in seclusion, a fugitive from enemies who will do her harm if she is ever found.

But the bond between them runs deeper than the tragedies that have scarred their lives. Something more than chance—and nothing less than destiny—has brought them together in a world whose hour of reckoning is fast approaching.

My Review (Spoilers):

Executive Summary: weird

I have never read a Dean Koontz book before, and it seems like this might not have been a good one to start with. This was our “New York Times Best Seller” for the year (which essentially balances our classic). I had no idea where this book was going for most of the book, and when the ending finally happened, I was sorely disappointed.

The story begins with Addison, possibly human, who lives alone after “Father” has died. I say possibly human because there’s something different about him that makes people fear and attack him. A disfigurement perhaps but what sort of disfigurement would cause people to do that?

Addison lives in some sort of bomb shelter of sorts–a secret home below the city. He was born and lived his early life in the country with his natural mother (his father was worthless and left her before he was born). When he was born, the midwife tried to kill him, but his mother pulled a gun on her. Addison’s mother tried very hard to love him, but she spent less and less time with him as he aged (and also spent more time with drugs and alcohol). Luckily he was a mature child as she told him to leave the home at age 8 and then she subsequently killed herself. Ouch.

He found his way into the city where he luckily came across “Father”, another like him in the midst of a fight. Father showed him some of the lays of the land including welcoming Addison into his home (where he had been welcomed in by another many years before). They lived in relative peace until an accident involving some police officers led to Father’s death. (This is technically where the story begins. Addison’s history was pieced together throughout the story with awkward flashback chapters).

Addison, now 26, is in the library one night after hours (he knows when/how to enter buildings at night so he won’t be seen or caught) and there is a girl in there as well. She is being hunted by a man but manages to evade him. Addison knows the library well and seeks her out of her hiding spot after the man has left. Her name is Gwyneth and she is dressed like a goth. She’s 18 and has a similar social anxiety to Addison. Addison hates to be looked at, whereas Gwyneth hates to be touched.

They become friends seemingly out of necessity. Gwyneth’s mother died in childbirth and was raised by her loving father until he was poisoned to death by the man who had been chasing her in the library. She lived alone after that, moving between a series of apartments that her father set up for her.

The book continues in an overly descriptive manner but honestly nothing really happens. They spend their time trying to avoid Ryan Telford (the man from the museum) who is hunting them. In the end, Telford tracks down the mysterious secret girl who Gwyneth has been hiding and kills her guardians. Addison and Gwyneth appear in time before the girl is killed, and they find that Telford is dying due to some genetically engineered Ebola+flesh eating bacteria. They take the girl back to Teague Hanlon’s. Teague had been her guardian since her father died, and it is revealed that he is also the priest who allowed Father, and then Addison, to shop in the food pantry and thrift store after hours.

It turns out that Gwyneth and the young girl whose name is Moriah are both the same as Addison. And it isn’t that they are disfigured; it is that they are devoid of the original sin. The reason people fear and resent them is that when they are looked upon, people see all their sins revealed to them which makes them very angry.

So then Addison and Gwyneth get married. They take Moriah and three other children, given to them by “the clears” who presumably are angels and they leave and go to the country while everyone else dies from the plague. The end.

No, I’m serious. That’s how it ends.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

This book was so strange, and not in a good way. The entire middle 80% or so of the book was nearly impossible to get through, and in the end, the plot lines that occurred during that section didn’t matter anyway because everyone died. In addition to that, this book actually had potential to be a good religious novel, but not by killing off all the “regular humans” (because, we as readers would fall into the “regular human” category even those of us who aren’t pedophiles (there was an unusual attraction to that particular sin in this book)). The characters in the book who were perfect already did not attempt to help any of the “normal” humans either physically or by teaching them how to be better people. This paints a pretty bleak picture that unless you are born without sin (which is no one) you cannot be saved. Yikes.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2.5 stars, Book Club, Book Review