Monday, September 6, 2010

The Dead & The Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer

This book is a follow-up to Life As We Knew It (see previous review), but instead of being a prequel or a sequel, it takes place at the same time. This story focuses on 17 year old Alex Morales who lives in New York City with his family. Busy with work and school, Alex is unaware that an asteroid is going to hit the moon until it happens. Alex's parents are missing and presumed dead so he is left with the care of his two teenage sisters. Parenting siblings would be difficult enough in normal times, but when every day is a fight for survival, one mistake could be fatal.

This book is even darker than the first one and really highlights the differences between the classes. The rich and powerful are being evacuated to "safe towns" while everyone else is being left to fend for themselves. Alex is also a more compelling character since he had already had a harder life than Miranda of Life As We Knew It before the disaster occurred. This author has opened a door which allows her to explore this devastating event through the eyes of numerous different characters. She has at least one guaranteed reader if she does.

BEST FEATURE: The choice to tell another version of the same story. It's an exciting concept and I want more.

WORST FEATURE: Alex's oldest sister, Brianna. This character seemed too unrealistic for this story... the one piece that really didn't seem to fit.

PARENTAL WARNING: no real sex or violence to speak of, but death is a constant theme; appropriate for teens

RATING:  4 - This is an absorbing series.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Do you slow down to look at an accident as you drive by? Do you watch The Weather Channel with excitement as a large hurricane bears down on a coast... and get disappointed if it loses steam before it hits? Are you a fan of disaster movies? Were you bummed when they cancelled Jericho? Did you stock up on canned goods for New Years 2000? If you can answer yes to any of the above, I have the series for you.

Miranda Evans is 16 years old. She's a normal teen looking forward to summer and getting her drivers license. Nothing much exciting happens in her Pennsylvania hometown so everyone is excited about the asteroid that is supposed to hit the moon. Teachers are giving moon-related homework and most of the town is planning to be outside to watch it happen. The astronomers are saying it's no big deal. Asteroids hit the moon all the time. Except this time... something went wrong. The impact forced the moon even closer to the Earth and all hell broke loose... tidal waves, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions.

The book is written in journal style by Miranda and reminds me very strongly of Anne Frank. Although this is a fictional story, you can't help but see the similarities of two naive girls fighting for survival as the world falls apart around them. It also makes you think long and hard about the what-if's. Could this really happen and, if so, would I be prepared? Also food for thought... the harsh reality of the survival of the fittest, the have's versus the have-not's, family before strangers, where is the safest state to live, and is it ok to steal to survive? Who knew the moon could be this important? I know I'll never look at it the same way again.

BEST FEATURE: The plot. It sucked me in so hard I actually contemplated stocking some extra canned goods in the basement. You never know.

WORST FEATURE: Miranda's annoying habit of reporting what each meal was. When starvation is a real threat, food is obviously going to be an obession. Although mentioning it helped contribute to the realism, there could have been less of it.

PARENTAL WARNING: no real sex or violence to speak of, but death is a constant theme; appropriate for teens

RATING: 4 - Totally addictive.

The Lady Chosen by Stephanie Laurens

The first book in a series, this story introduces seven of London's most eligible bachelors (all former spies recently returned from the war) who form the Bastion Club. The purpose of this gentlemen's club is to provide a refuge from society and support for their search for acceptable brides on their own terms.

Tristan Wemyss, Earl of Trentham, has a more urgent need to marry than his comrades. If he doesn't marry within a year from when he inherited his title, he will keep the title, estates and numerous elderly dependents, but without the wealth to maintain them. Although he could care less about the title and its associated perks, Tristan's genuine affection for his relatives leaves him no choice but to honor the stipulations of his inheritance. As luck would have it, Tristan quickly discovers an appealing candidate living next door to the Bastion Club's headquarters where he is overseeing its renovation.

Leonora Carling is intelligent and independent. Past disappointments have taught her how to manage on her own. She wouldn't know how to ask for help even if it occurred to her to ask for it. That all changes after a series of attempted break-ins at her home cause her to seek assistance from Tristan. He is more than happy to help since he doesn't like the idea of Leonora being in danger and it offers him an opportunity to press his suit for her hand. Leonora may be stubborn, but Tristan excels at getting what he wants.

I like this book a lot better than the other one I've read by this author (Captain Jack's Woman). If you can get past the way too convenient plot device of seven men inheriting titles after the untimely demise of the title holders and/or their heirs, this is a promising series. When I compare it to the other book, the plot is better and the characters are more likeable. The writing style is still pretty jerky which is annoying, but sticking with it to the end was worth it.

BEST FEATURE: The mystery behind the break-ins. Who was the thief and what was he trying to steal from Leonora's house? The answer was never really obvious.

WORST FEATURE: The writing style. There were too many half and incomplete sentences which made reading difficult. Examples include:
- She hauled her gaze back up to his eyes. Blushed.
- Faint light from the distant hallway reached him as he closed the door, turned, straightened.
- Knew absolutely that it was only partially due to surprise. Sensed his own response to that fact. Ruthlessly reined it in.

PARENTAL WARNING: minor violence, but sexual content explicit enough to be considered adult only.

RATING: 3 - A solid start for a romance series.