A-Z UPDATE

The A-Z Challenge, one I resumed in January, starting with the letter “N,” continues. In January, I read Nightbird, a YA novel with Hoffman’s touch of the supernatural, and The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jamisin, described by Brainfluff’s blogger as a “mashup of both fantasy and sci-fi. Jamisin’s novel is the second in the “Broken Earth” series, which describes the “way the world ends …for the last time.”  The book begins with the ash falling, the sky darkening as the cold and darkness approach. “Essun–once Damaya, once Syenite, now avenger–has found shelter” inside the earth. She has not, however, found her daughter Nassun, who was taken away by her father after he had bludgeoned to death her younger brother. The book alternates between mother and daughter, as each grows in power, each in her own setting. Alabaster’s life/spirit finally comes to an end, and Essun seeks revenge on those who take him away from her. Hoa is still faithful but hides secrets to his identity, which were hinted at in The Fifth Season, Book One.

February brought “P,” a short inspiring book The Prayer of Jesus by Hank Hanegraff with an introduction by Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ. It is a description of Jesus’s prayer life. One of the most interesting points, which was new to me, was that the verse often translated, “Lord teach us how to pray” more accurately translated is “Lord teach us now to pray”, adding urgency to Peter’s request.

Also in February, I used a Christmas Barnes and Noble gift certificate to buy a paperback copy of John Burley’s psychological thriller, The Quiet Child. It started out a bit slow, but in the last three or four chapters made up for that with several rapid-fire twists and turns. The author describes the book as “a story about the complexities of family…” and it also has a surprise ending that will curl your hair.”

In three days March will roar in, and I will begin Reading with Patrick, a non-fiction book by Michelle Kuo, which has been sitting on my TBR shelf for at least a year. I do not know if I will make it by year’s end, but I am sure I will enjoy every moment of reading through the alphabet!

SATURDAY MORNING FOR KIDS

The kids who would respond well to the novel(s) I am reviewing today would more likely be sleeping in, scrunched up under the covers, on Saturday mornings than watching cartoons.  Alice Hoffman has written some wonderful YA novels along with her outstanding adult novels, which turn something ordinary into something extraordinary, using a “touch”of the supernatural. The double novel, Green Heart contains two novellas, Green Angel and Green Witch.

As with Faithful (reviewed earlier on this blog), the protagonist is a fifteen year old girl. Like Faithful, Hoffman’s sophisticated novellas could be labeled “coming-of-age stories.”  This double novel is  a “two-fold story of loss and love.” The fifteen-year-old Green Angel maintains a wonderful garden which bears plants, vegetables, and flowers that her family takes with them when they go to town to market. One October weekend, her whole family goes off to market and are lost in a terrible fire that consumes the market and the town. Ashes from this disaster even cover the countryside farm where she had stayed behind. Also, the young man she loved is missing. Has he betrayed her, or has he been betrayed? Her only consolation is working in the ruined garden where nothing will grow. Slowly, over years, she resurrects the garden, with Hoffman’s signature touch of the supernatural, touch of magic.

Over time, she begins to heal. She learns the truth about love, hope, and magic. One day, the Green Angel, “branded [by her neighbors] for her mysterious powers,” and called a witch by little children, begins a quest to discover what became of the boy she had once loved.

The exciting end of the quest and the “battle” that ensues demonstrates the Angel/Witch’s craftiness and dedication to love. The ending is quite satisfactory.

Interestingly enough the metaphor of tattoos prevails throughout the novel(s). The first,vines, inked in green and self-inflicted by the devastated young fifteen-year-old, foreshadow many more tattoos of growing things and becomes a major theme of resurrection, life and change.

To me, this was a magical, beautifully written book, one of Alice Hoffman’s best. I give it five stars out of five.

First Line Fridays (on Thanksgiving night–Thursday)

I promised the first line of Alice Hoffman’s Nightbird, my Tuesday Teaser choice for Friday’s post:

“You can’t believe EVERYTHING YOU HEAR, not even in Sidwell, Massachusetts, where every person is said to tell the truth and the apples are so sweet people come from as far as New York City during the apple festival. There are rumors that a mysterious creature lives in our town. Some people insist it’s a bird bigger than an eagle; others say it’s a dragon, or an oversized bat that resembles a person.”

Whatever it is, “Twig,” the young protagonist is determined to find out.

STEPHEN KING’S DR SLEEP: A Review

 The scariest Stephen King book I have read is It, hands down.  But on its heels, at a close second, is King’s more recent novel, Dr. Sleep. King is at his best drawing a picture of Evil Incarnate in both novels. In the author’s note at the end, King tells his readers that at signings, he is often asked what became of the little boy, Danny Torrance, of The Shining, a terrifying novel in its own right. This book answers that question.

Dan has hit rock bottom, involved in drug use and an alcoholic in his twenties, as he stumbles off a Greyhound bus in a little town in New Hampshire. The people he meets in town encourage him, and there he is contacted supernaturally by Abra Stone, a twelve- year-old girl whose gift of the shining is far stronger than his own. The two of them, with assistance from more minor characters, confront The True Knot, “murderous paranormals,” vampirish creatures who live off the “steam” (the shining) of young children like Abra and “the baseball boy.” One catch is that The True Knot must torture and ultimately kill these special children to feed off them.

Because Dan has taken on the job of orderly in a nursing home/hospice to make ends meet, a job no one else wants to do, he finds a way to use his “gift” for good, helping elderly end-of-life patients to transition from a suffering life to an eased death. No, not euthanasia of any kind, but a gentle, loving, vigil in the residents’ last moments that assures them it is ok to “let go.” Thus, Dan earns the title, “Dr. Death.”

Like most of Stephen King’s novels, the theme is the epic war between good and evil, and there are many hold-your-breath moments as the reader is pulled along by the story. Happily, the ending is a satisfactory one, and leaves things open for even another book about Dan and Abra if the author wishes.