But first, I’d like you to meet our new yard guest, the Pleasant Pheasant. On New Year’s Eve, I came back from Skowhegan and there he was in our driveway. After I bribed him with unsalted sunflower kernels, he consented to have several pictures taken from three feet away. Truly an exciting experience
Next up is Gertie, the cat we adopted right after Christmas. She had been living at an animal clinic, but with two other cats sharing the waiting room, things were getting a bit tricky at times. She arrived while Tater, our daughter’s shelter dog and Bernie, our fluffball were still tearing around the house, but has adjusted quite nicely. She likes to slide her paws under my neck at night and sleep beside my ear. It took an adjustment, particularly when she wants to walk across the keyboard while I’m typing, but she has a perfect ‘cat’ personality which I very much like
HURT: The fourth book of the Solitary Tales / by Travis Thrasher
To recap from previous posts about the series: I was offered the opportunity to review Solitary, the first book in the series when I was a regular reviewer at www.tcm-CA.com. I became an immediate fan, both of the series and the author. I’m not a fan of Christian fiction, but the books Travis writes, while considered part of that genre, have real bite, real depth and real people (many of whom I’ve met in different bodies and using different names as part of my journey through life). When I learned that book two: Gravestone was coming out, I immediately ordered it. After finishing the last page, I was as satisfied as I had been at that point with book one. Many series suffer from what I call bridge letdown in the second book. Gravestone did anything but. Travis was able to keep the story going and create an atmosphere of evil surrounding the good characters that was far more effective and sinister than the one surrounding the characters in the Harry Potter books.
I was very eager to read Temptation the third book, because by that point, I had grown close to the major characters. The book didn’t disappoint, but ended in the classic ‘slam your face into a brick wall’ cliffhanger with Chris Buckley learning from his very strange Uncle Robert that his mom has been kidnapped and he better haul tail back to Solitary, NC from Chicago where he and Kelsey, the girl he discovers has stolen his heart, are visiting his father.
In Hurt, Travis Thrasher does a stellar job of creating incredible tension as Chris goes through his senior year, knowing that on Memorial Day, the evil controlling many of Solitary’s citizens plans on forcing him to go through a ceremony that will transfer the power to open an incredibly evil portal from Kinner, the very ancient and evil man whose connection to Chris is revealed early on in this book. There are several story lines running through the final book including the developing relationship between Chris and Kelsey, the extent of the role Pastor Marsh plays in the impending ceremony and what really happened to Iris, the benevolent lady who hired Chris to work for her at the inn which burned, but not before she started him thinking about the power of God and how to begin the road to faith and belief. Add in the questions of who among the many mysterious people in Solitary he can truly trust and how to begin a real relationship with his chronic alcoholic mom after she is released from rehab where the bad guys stashed her. In addition, as Chris begins to realize that faith and a real belief in God and things unseen are probably the only way he’s going to have any chance to derail the impending ceremony, he reevaluates his estrangement from his attorney father who underwent a spiritual awakening of his own.
The first three books had so many things happen that needed explanation in the final book that it would have been very easy for Travis to close out the series and miss a couple loose ends. Instead, he packs an amazing amount of action into the final entry, answers all the questions and creates a denouement that I found to be incredibly satisfying.
In between book three and four, Travis asked his Facebook followers to share the things they wanted answered in the final entry. I posted that I wanted to know what happened to Poe, the last of the three girls befriending Chris on his first day of high school, to leave the story and I didn’t want Kelsey to be harmed. I got what I wanted, but not in anything like a straight line.
Some readers might feel put off by the way Chris arrives at his embrace of faith near the end of the book. I found it fit perfectly. This is an amazing YA series and I wish more libraries in Maine owned it. If you haven’t read them, I encourage you to put them on your TBR list.
The Darkest Minds / Alexandra Bracken 9781423157373 Hyperion Dec, 2012.
It’s been years since I listened to The Golden Compass series, but I still remember the sense of sadness that overcame me when Will and Lyra realized they couldn’t stay together. That was one of the aspects of the series that made it so memorable for me. I just finished The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken and closed the book with much the same feeling. This is an absolute winner in the YA dystopian genre. It has all the elements one expects in such a story; overarching evil (in this case several varieties), an appealing female protagonist, two possible romantic rivals, a future world in shambles and an appealing and well-developed cast of minor characters. What sets this one apart is the skill with which Alexandra Bracken weaves all of them together. There are times when even the most gifted reader will be shaking their heads at the way the plot twists so unexpectedly.
Short synopsis: On Ruby’s tenth birthday, she awakes and is horrified to discover her parents no longer recognize her. In short order, she finds herself at a camp filled with kids, some who were taken like her, others whose families have discarded them because they feared they were infected with IAAN, a mysterious brain affliction that has swept through kids between ages 9-14, killing most, but leaving the survivors altered in ways that scare the hell out of the government. Classed as green, blue,yellow, orange and red according to their new psychic abilities, they are tested, supposedly to see whether their powers can be controlled or reversed. At the same time, The United States has fallen into anarchy and fiscal ruin, leaving it walled off in quarantine by the rest of the world.
When Ruby and another boy, both orange types, are sprung by what they believe is an organization that is interested in helping them, they are thrilled, but it doesn’t take Ruby long to discover she’s simply swapped evil captors. She escapes and joins Zu, Liam and Chubs, three other kids who fled another camp and are driving around in a decrepit car, looking for the mysterious Slip kid, a mythical escapee supposedly able to help any kids who have gotten free. One of the best parts of the story is how these four get over major mistrust issues and develop a real bond. Their efforts to find the Slip Kid comprises the second half of the book and is replete with plenty of action, intrigue and plot twists.
The ending can easily be described as sad and probably pretty shocking, leaving just the tiniest crack in the door for a sequel. If one happens, I’ll be thrilled, but if not, I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I read one terrific book.