Christmas is always exciting for me because I can ask for books. I LOVE books. You can use them repeatedly, share them with others, and get through boring winter days with their stories.
In January, I read three books that I was given from my Christmas list and two books that I bought with a Target gift card.
1. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult.
This story was made into a movie with Cameron Diaz and Abigail Breslin a few years ago, but I never saw it. I had heard it was great, though, so I thought I would read the book. It focuses on Anna, a 13-year-old who is suing her family to have medical emancipation because she is a genetic match for her sister, who has cancer. She is continually used for her sister’s treatments, and this story explores the delicate balance that is saving one child at the expense of the other. I really liked it, but I found it pretty sad.
2. I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore.
I really enjoyed reading books from the young adult genre last year (Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, etc.), so I blindly picked books from that genre for some of my reading. This was one of those books, and I really enjoyed it. They’re actually making a movie about it, and it’s due out very soon. This book is written to have a sequel, so it leaves a lot of unanswered questions, and I am looking forward to The Power of Six, the sequel.
This book follows a teenage boy from Lorien, a peaceful and somewhat magical planet that was taken over by a murderous race (Mogodorians) that deplete Lorien of its resources. All the people of Lorien were killed except for 9 children with special abilities, their keepers, and the pilot of their spaceship. Human in appearance, they come to earth and split up, but only after casting a charm that will make it impossible for their enemies to kill them unless they are killed in order or if they come back together. Each time one of them dies, a scar appears on the ankles of the others, so they know where they stand. Our hero is number four in line, and he has just received a third scar. That’s where the story begins.
It’s a fun read, and it’s hilarious reading about this boy who, though extraordinary in many ways, still thinks and acts much like most 15 year old boys. I laughed a bit, and I enjoyed the action involved in the story as well. There’s a bit of everything alien in this- Superman, X-files, etc.
3. The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers.
This was an interesting one for me. The whole concept of sin eaters was something I had never heard of before. Apparently a long time ago in Scotland, there were people who served as the “sin eaters,” or scapegoats, for communities. Their role was to eat bread and drink wine placed over a dead body at its funeral in order to take those sins from the person and into themselves. They would do this for all who passed away until they, themselves, died. Then they would go to hell for everyone. At least, that was what they all thought would happen. This person was chosen by casting lots and then they were pretty much treated like they had the plague after they were deemed to be a sin eater. No one would even look at them.
Some people who came to America brought that tradition with them, and it eventually died out. The Last Sin Eater takes place in the 1800’s in a small mountain community in North America, where the Sin Eater tradition was still taking place. One little girl, Cadi, the heroine of the story, is curious about everything and starved for attention after the death of her little sister warps her family into a sad shadow of what it once was. She ends up trekking out on her own to visit others or to places she likes in the mountains during the daylight hours, and through her adventures she meets a missionary who leads her to Christ as well as meets the sin eater that she both pities and fears.
Her new faith causes her to see the way that her people are mislead in their thinking about sin and the afterlife, so she and a friend set out to change things- against some pretty high odds.
I continued to get distracted by the way that what the characters said was written as Rivers thought it would be pronounced by someone with a Scottish accent instead of as the word is truly spelled. The book could probably have done without that since everyone in the book (except the missionary) had the same accent.
Other than that, the book was okay. I like other works by Rivers more (The Mark of The Lion trilogy, for example).
4.Radiance by Alyson Noel.
Radiance was another book that I picked up from the young adult section without knowing anything about it other than the price (cheap). It was alright, but I saw that it is in a set of books called The Immortals, so I wish I had gotten some of the others as well.
The main character, Riley, was introduced in the first book, which I haven’t read yet, called Evermore. (It’s about Riley’s sister, Ever.) I plan to pick that one up sometime.
Riley is about 12, and she’s both sassy and funny. She’s also pretty bullheaded and brave. The story starts with her death, and it’s all told from the perspective of her in heaven.
Radiance reminded me of The Lovely Bones in that it is told from the perspective of the dead person, and it’s also got a very humanistic view of heaven (aka not very Biblical). The characters never see God, feel the full range of negative emotions they felt on earth, are sarcastic, miss their life on earth, and they can make pretty much anything they want to happen or appear in heaven. So yeah. Pretty secular.
But if you can get past that, it’s still a pretty entertaining book. Riley is assigned a job in heaven (as all spirits are, in this story), and hers is to convince reluctant souls lingering on earth to cross over. She befriends a teenage soul that is her teacher, and she meets some interesting souls along the way. Her dog is with her for these adventures too (he died when she did).
5. Hero by Mike Lupica.
I was pretty excited about this book. Although it was another blind pick-up from the young adult section, I thought it looked fun. It’s all about a 14-year-old boy named Zach whose dad works for the government and is killed by bad guys. These same people want Zach alive so that they can turn him to their side. Unbeknownst to Zach, he and his dad shared some pretty supernatural abilities. After his dad’s death, Zach begins to realize something is different about himself, and as his powers grow, he meets various people that confirm that his dad was murdered and that he is, at 14, about to be thrust into his dad’s role as a hero protecting the US. He just has to decide who to trust.
It sounded like a fun read.
It was not.
Not only did Lupica try way too hard to sound like he was hip and “with it” for 14-year-old-speak (the kid would say he was “amped” or call the bad guys “bads”), which was lame and super distracting, but the story itself was just weak. It explains very little, you find out RIGHT at the end who the bad guy is, and that’s pretty much it. It literally leaves you with Zach leaving his own home with the bad guy in it after having a confrontational conversation, and him just going for a run through Central Park. Umm…what?
I guess there might be a sequel, but there was just too much wrong with the first story for me to waste my money on the sequel. Spare yourself. This book’s not worth it.
And now I’ve picked up Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows again. It’s one of my faves and is dangerously close to parting with its spine from overuse. I like to fall back to it when I want to read something I know I will love. It never disappoints.