Book Review: Life as We Knew It

Life as We Knew It

Susan Beth Pfeffer

Harcourt

360 pages

I don’t think I have been this freaked out by a book in a long time.  Just looking at the cover scares me a little bit.  Life as We Knew It is YA dystopian fiction at its best.  Miranda is 16 years old and in high school when her life changes forever one day.  An asteroid is projected to hit the moon one night–this is not an odd occurence generally, but the asteroid is believed to be large enough so that it will be visible to the naked eye.  Thus, Miranda, her family, and pretty much everyone else has decided to watch the asteroid hit the moon.  What they witness is stranger than anything that had been predicted or anticipated–the asteroid knocks the moon towards the earth, so that the moon is off course.  So now the cover makes sense.  But what other ramifications would this have, you may ask.  Oh, if you only knew!

Straight away coastal towns start flooding.  The moon controls the tides, and with the moon knocked off kilter, the tides are completely wonky.  If you live in a coastal town, you’re as good as dead.  And it only gets worse from there.  Other natural elements starts acting up–volcanoes are erupting, temperatures are cooling drastically.  The world is suddenly in panic mode and everyone is fending for themselves.  As the book continues, people are becoming shut off from one another and everyone is struggling to provide for themselves.  It becomes dangerous to go into public for fear that you may be robbed or worse.  Electricity becomes a thing of the past and as it gets cooler, the possibility of freezing to death becomes inherently real.

And yet, Miranda still keeps some semblance of normality.  She attempts to continue with her schooling.  She still gets typical teenage crushes.  Life as We Knew It is basically a novel about how adaptable people can become when faced with adversity.  I kept thinking as I was reading Would I have done that? or Would I have reacted that way?  A situation like this seems impossible to fathom, and I can only believe that I would not have half the strength of Miranda and her family if I were faced with a similar situation.

Life as We Knew It really is a downright depressing read.  Yes, you can get hope from the perseverance displayed by Miranda and her family, but that still can’t make up for how distraught this book made me feel.  Which is not a bad thing at all, don’t get me wrong!  But for anyone who has yet to read this book, be forewarned.

If you are a fan of dystopian fiction, this is a must read.

Other Reviews:

Becky’s Book Reviews

Presenting Lenore

Bart’s Bookshelf

things mean a lot

The Zen Leaf

It’s All About Books

Books and Movies

Hey Lady! Watcha Readin’?

1 More Chapter

I borrowed this book from my local library

Book Review: A Certain Slant of Light

A Certain Slant of Light

Laura Whitcomb

Graphia

288 pages

My very first book of 2010.  That is a lot of pressure! So obviously the question is . . . did it live up to my expectations.  In short–yes.  A Certain Slant of Light is the story of a ghost named Helen.  She is stuck in a sort of purgatory, meaning that she is not in heaven nor in hell.  Instead, she is still present on earth but she has to have a human host.  At the point the novel begins, she is on her fifth host, a Mr Brown.  As with her other hosts, Mr Brown seems to be aware that there is some sort of a presence, but beyond that there is no recognition of Helen.  She just follows him daily while he goes about his work as a high school English teacher.  Everything changes one day in class when a young man actually notices her.  Helen is taken aback–she is fearful because in the century since she’s died, no one has actually realized her presence.  At the same time, she is hopeful because being so solitary is a lonely way to be.

It turns out that James–who is known as Billy–has been dead for quite awhile too.  He was haunting a park until one day he was given the opportunity to snatch the body of Billy, a drug addict.  Now he is somewhat human, given that he is living Billy’s life.  James and Helen fall in love and begin looking for a body for Helen to inhabit.  Apparently, occasionally souls will leave their own body for whatever reason.  Helen is able to take the body of Jenny.  Happily ever after, right?  Well, unfortunately James and Helen are forced to live the lives of Billy and Jenny.  Billy, as mentioned before, is a drug addict.  His mother is in a vegetative state and he lives in squalor with his older brother Mitch.  Jenny lives with her two parents in a very uptight, religious home.  Both scenarios end up having their downfalls and Helen and James begin questioning their decision to inhabit their respective bodies.

The book started off a bit slow for me.  For the first few chapters I was debating whether or not I should even continue with the book.  Like I said before, I am kind of burnt out on YA fiction at the moment, and I wasn’t sure whether this book could draw me out of my funk.  Before I knew it though, I was completely involved in the story.  By the end, with the bathtub scene (which is depicted on the cover) I was holding my breath to see what would happen.  I wouldn’t say I understood where Helen and James were coming from–their love affair seemed a bit forced to me.  I guess when you’ve been alone for so long though, you’re bound to latch onto the first person that comes along.  Regarless, the story was so good that it didn’t seem to matter that I was unable to connect with either of the main characters.  I would definitely recommend this book–it would be a great choice for the RIP challenge this fall!

Other Reviews:

Fyrefly’s Book Blog

Bookgirl’s Nightstand

The Biblio Blogazine

A Life in Books

I borrowed this book from my local library

1/50

Teaser Tuesday: East of Eden

teasertuesdays31 Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My spoiler this week comes from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.

For those of you who haven’t heard yet, a few fellow book bloggers have started up the Classic Reads Book ClubEast of Eden is the first book and discussion for chapters 1-11 begins January 25, so there is still time to get started.

Because I just started the book moments ago, my teaser is the opening two paragraphs of the book.

The Salinas Valley is in Northern California.  It is a long narrow swale between two ranges of mountains, and the Salinas River winds and twists up the center until it falls at last into Monterey Bay.

I remember my childhood names for grasses and secret flowers.  I remember where a toad may live and what time the birds awaken in the summer–and what trees and seasons smelled like–how people looked and walked and smelled even.  The memory of odors is very rich.

Book Review: The Observations

The Observations

Jane Harris

Penguin

416 pages

What a fun book.  The Observations is the story of Bessy Buckley, fka Daisy.  You would expect Bessy to be a hardened young girl because although she is not even sixteen, she has lived beyond her years.  Bessy was originally prostituted by her mother until she is finally able to escape into the arms of an old man who becomes her beneficiery.  Unfortunately, after only a few years, her beneficiery dies, and Bessy must find somewhere else to go.  She refuses to go home to her mother for fear of being forced back into prostitution, so instead she finds work as a maid for Ms Arabella Reid of Castle Haivers.  From the start, Arabella had Bessy doing strange things, such as a repition of standing/sitting exercises.  She has hired Bessy only because Bessy is able to read and write–one of the conditions of her employ is that Bessy must keep a detailed journal of the daily goings on at Castle Haivers.  Bessy is curious as to Arabella’s motives, but goes along with the odd requests anyway, until she discovers in Arabella’s desk a manuscript called “The Observations”–apparently Arabella has been keeping a record of her female servants in order to publish a document that examines the lives and biology of servant girls.

Bessy is very hurt to find out Arabella’s true motives, because up to that point, she had believed that she and Arabella had a true friendship going on.  She ends up conspiring against Arabella in order to get revenge.  From then on, the situation got stranger and stranger–Bessy ends up losing control and the ramifications of her prank end up completely snowballing.

From what I have written so far, the average person would likely conclude that this is a dark and depressing book.  It certainly sounds that way, given the circumstances.  However, such was not the case with The Observations.  It was more charming and funny than anything else.  Bessy’s character was especially entertaining–given her age and her circumstances, she comes off as quite naive.  She had a grittiness about her but was, for the most part very comical.

There was no sign of any cook or maid, so I cut myself a slice of oat bread from the table and ate it and then I cut another one and started to eat that and while I was eating I cut a 3rd slice and tucked it down my frock between my two titties.  The bread lacked salt but I would have ate the snibs off the windows I was that hungry.  As I threw the bread into me, I was wondering how difficult can it be to milk a cow.  You grab the two dangler bits and pull, for dear sake I had seen it done manys a time as I had swanned about on market day only not close at hand.  I was a city girl, milk came in a pail and went in your tea, I did not even like milk, and now because of my own stupid pride I would have to squeeze it out a cow.

The above passage is only a small glimpse at Bessy’s indignant nature.  She is one of the most intriguing characters I have read in a long time.  The Observations is Jane Harris’ debut novel, but I hope not her last, because if this book is any indication of her talent, she will be a success.

Other reviews:

Eve’s Alexandria

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia of The Printed Page.

Last week I was singing my own praises–tooting my own horn, if you will.  Saying I had been so good about not buying books.  Well . . . I had a relapse.  Need I say more?  Here’s what I bought:

Anyone else get anything good this week?

The Sunday Salon–on Friday!

I know, I know—it’s not Sunday yet. My fiancé and I are taking a small excursion this weekend for his daughter’s birthday. She is having a birthday party this weekend so we will be out of town attending that. Thus, I figured it would make more sense to post my Sunday Salon early as opposed to Sunday night when I get back.

This week, I read Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton, for The Classics Circuit. Check out my tour stop here. I also started Girl in a Blue Dress, by Gaynor Arnold. I just realized this book was long-listed for the Man Booker prize in 2007 and I can definitely understand why. It is the compelling, fictionalized account of the spurned wife of Charles Dickens. I am telling you, I cannot put it down. I hope to finish it over the weekend but with all the birthday activities going on, it may not be possible.

So, speaking of the Man Booker Prize one of the challenges I am most excited for this year is The Man Booker challenge. I can’t really explain why I have been anticipating it so much, but for whatever reason my appetite for challenging literary fiction has been whetted for the past few weeks and it’s all I want to read. I chose to participate in the Winners Circle , which means that I will (hopefully!) read six winning books. I have already bought a few of the winners, including the 2009 winner Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel. I got to thinking that maybe I should read some books from other challenges as well. So I perused over the list of winners of the Orange Prize for Fiction and then I decided What the heck, I should read six Orange winners as well. So that’s what I have decided to do. I have already chosen five of the books I will read. These five books are books I have either been wanting to read or having at least heard about. The sixth book will be decided at a later date. The five books I have chosen to read are:

Home, Marilynne Robinson

Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

On Beauty, Zadie Smith

Property, Valerie Martin

Bel Canto, Ann Patchett

There is actually a blog, The Orange Prize Project, devoted to the perpetual challenge of reading all of the Orange Prize winner. If you are interested in reading some of the winners, or some of the books shortlisted/longlisted, it’s a good resource to check out. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!