Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I am Number Four...and I want a Legacy!

Originally part of my A-Z Reading Challenge, though removed because I was on a long waiting list at the library, Pittacus Lore's I am Number Four was worth the wait.  The story follows the life of Lorien Garde "John Smith" and his Cepan (keeper/trainer), Henri, as they try to evade the Mogadorian race who are hunting the remaining Garde down one by one.

John's been on Earth for ten years after escaping, along with eight other Garde members and their Cepan's, the total annihilation of his planet and has done well staying hidden and blending into society, but when he and Henri move to Paradise, Ohio, things change in unexpected ways.  Having moved constantly since arriving on Earth, John's become socially isolated and doesn't make the effort to meet people when he settles into a new place.  Queue the entrance of Sam and Sarah.

Of course this wouldn't be very entertaining if the novel just followed the nomadic life of John; so he's given a love interest, Sarah, a new friend, Sam, a school bully, Mark, a unique pet, Bernie Kosar, and a fight to survive against the Mogadorians.  There are significant loses that John must deal with throughout the story, one that weighs heavily on both him and the reader, and several that deal with growing up and identity.

The novel left me wanting to know so much.  What's in the letter?  What's in the Loric chest?  Where does John go from here?  What's Six's story?  What role is Sam going to play now?  Will we see Sarah again?  Where are the other members of the Garde?  Needless to say I can't wait for the release of The Power of Six and the continuation of the Lorien Legacies!  Now to see the movie, which stars one of my favorites, Timothy Olyphant!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Free World...Sure Costs Alot (Book #11)

I had to check David Besmozgis's The Free World out twice just to finish it (stinking two week limit and other responsibilities).  I just got it back this past Thursday and finally finished the last 200 pages or so and I have to say that I really enjoyed this book.

The novel centers around the Krasnansky family; three generations of Russian Jews.  Their goal throughout the entire book is to escape the Iron Curtain and make it to the West and the "Free" world.  The story is told from several different perspectives; mainly Samuil, the patriarch of the family, Karl, the straight-laced oldest son, Alec, the charismatic playboy and youngest son, and Polina, Alec's wife.  There are other members of the family who've made the journey:  Emma, Samuil's wife and Karl and Alec's mother, Rosa, Karl's wife, and Zhenya and Yury, Karl and Rosa's sons.  The journey they go on eventually lands them in Rome, Italy.  It is here that the majority of the story plays out and truths are discovered within the family.

Samuil becomes increasingly introverted and anti-social as the family's stay in Rome is continually increased and he takes to writing his memoir and wandering the streets of a town outside of Rome alone.  Karl gets a job working for a corrupt Italian auto mechanic and becomes more standoffish toward everyone in his family.  Alec continues his playboy ways and starts seeing another emigree, a much younger emigree, behind his wife's back.  Polina takes a job as a saleswoman at a leather shop and continues to write letters to her sister who is still in Riga, Latvia.  Emma, Rosa, and the boys become extremely involved in the local Jewish community and spend most of their time acting in plays and attending other activities.

As the novel progresses, and the time in Rome increases, all of the relationships within the family become more strained and hostile.  Truths are discovered about the true nature within and between the members of the family.  Some characters are forced into situations and actions that would normally not be part of their makeup.  Towards the culmination of the novel there are deals gone wrong, hospital visits, infidelity issues, and a funeral.  The story ends with a letter from World War 2 that told Samuil about his brother, Reuven's, death.  It's read by Alec and it's the only letter written in a language that he can read.

The novel definitely leaves the reader wondering if the family will ever make it to the "free" world, but there is the glimmer of hope that the funeral has given them that leads the reader to believe that it is only a matter of time before they are granted their visas and are able to leave Italy for good.  In the end I have to say that I really enjoyed this book.  Well done Bezmozgis!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Vernon God Little (Book #10)

It took me quite a while to finish this book.  I don't know if it was the style, the language, or the story in general that kept me from getting settled and engaged.  DBC Pierre's Vernon God Little was the 2003 winner of the Man Booker Prize, the award for the very best literature written for that year.  Somehow I don't think I agree with this decision.  Yes, the book is good, but I did not think that it was great.  There were so many great novels published in 2003, and, forgive me, but Pierre's isn't the best. 

The novel centers around Vernon Gregory Little and the aftermath of a school shooting, of which he is accused of participating, in small Martirio, Texas.  The reader is taken on a journey encompassing Vernon's thought process, attempted escapes, border crossings, and eventual incarceration.  All of these segments are separated into five acts that chronicle the events leading up to the conclusion of the story...the trial and it's consequences.

Yes, there are several instances that cause the reader to gasp or yell out in indignation, but for the most part I found the story to be uncompelling and unbelievible.  The language used is intended to be colloquial, yet at times there are terms that slip into the vocabulary that are definitely not indigineous to American English.  Perhaps this is a reflection on Pierre's own upbringing (Australia, Texas, and Mexico City).

The one aspect of the language that I did enjoy was the evolution throughout the book.  There is a definite shift in tone and maturity that Pierre showcases brilliantly through Vernon's development as a character.  For this alone I applaud the writing.

Ultimatley I would rate this book as a C...maybe a B- if I'm in a giving mood.  It will be interesting to see how they develop this into a film...because they are.