Monday, August 31, 2009

Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games took the blogosphere by storm and last spring bloggers traveled from all over the world to get their hands on the ARC of the follow-up, Catching Fire. It's almost impossible to write a review without a little bit of spoiling. But I really don't want to spoil this book for you at all, I think it's best gone into without much knowledge. So here's what I'll say.

Katniss, Peeta, Gale, and Haymitch all make appearances in Catching Fire. The Capital is seriously ticked at Katniss and Peeta and that is going to have consequences for everyone. The book is heart wrenching, the cruelty increases, Katniss still doesn't fully know who she is, and she's got a lot to deal with not least of which is the continuing threat and oppression of the Capital. The stakes are raised in every way and no one is safe. New characters are introduced, people die, and there's more than meets the eye.

And that's all I'm going to say plotwise. Admittedly the book started a bit slow for me, just like the Hunger Games did but once I got into it, I was really into it. And I liked it even more than the Hunger Games. The very last line of the book is sheer perfection and will leave you longing for the third book.

I encourage you to jump on this bandwagon if you haven't already. If nothing else it's loads of fun and I'm so excited to finally be able to chat with people about the book now that it has been released. Michelle and Andrea have announced a YA book club online and they will be chatting about Catching Fire as the first book!

Additionally, you can see some videos of Suzanne Collins over at the Borders media center that you might enjoy.

Have you read The Hunger Games? Catching Fire? Would love to hear your thoughts, but keep them spoiler free!

Rating: 5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: The subject matter is serious. While the content is pretty free of language and graphic sex, the heavy subject matter is something parents may want to take into consideration.
Book Source: I obtained an ARC at BEA, but this is also a buy-in-hardcover-keep-forever-book for me.





Amy

Review Links for the L.J. Smith Reading Challenge



Please post your reviews of the L.J. Smith books, The Vampire Diaries below. Please post in this format Blog Name (book title) i.e My Friend Amy (The Awakening) Please use permalinks only!

PS The button above is our winning button from Heather!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Review: I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This by Jacqueline Woodson

I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This
"I'm whitetrash,' Lena said flatly, as though she had said this a hundred thousand times before, or maybe heard it from a hundred thousand people. 'Whitetrash,' she said again softer as if the words were sinking in, finding a home somewhere inside of her.

Something melted then. It's hard to explain. I felt hot all of a sudden, and itchy. I felt like Sherry was sitting too close and Lena had drifted miles away. I wanted to punch something. I wanted to wrap my arms around myself and holler to the world, 'Chauncy ain't far from nowhere.' I wanted to wipe that broken look out of Lena's eyes."


Marie lives in a prosperous black town. There are few white kids in their town and those that do live there are living in poverty and called white trash. One day a new white girl, Lena, comes to Marie's school and Marie sees something in her brokenness she identifies with herself.

Both Marie and Lena have lost their mothers. Marie's mother left her and Lena's mother died of breast cancer. Marie feels alone because her father never touches her and shows her affection while Lena is harboring a much different painful secret. However their shared loss brings them together in a close friendship they both need.

This is only my second Jacqueline Woodson book, but I'll say it now...I love her writing. Her books are able to be so short because each word is perfectly placed. This is a book about so many things in such short space...about friendship, about seeing people for who they are and overcoming prejudice, about what it means to be known. I find her characters to be realistically drawn, the emotions they experience are so accurately portrayed and heartbreaking.

I pretty much sobbed through this book, but it was an emotional time of month for me. I do recommend it though it has serious subject matter...parents may benefit from reading it and discussing it with their children.

"Yes, of course I wanted to fly. I wanted to cast off feel the ground droop slowly out from beneath me. 'What is air, Mama?' I asked when I was five. Caressing the back of my neck with her hand, my mother waited a moment before she answered. 'Air,' she said, 'is something there isn't enough of here.'"

Rating: 4.5/5
Book Source: Bought it




Amy

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Sunday Salon A bit of This and That

Happy Sunday all! I hope you having a fabulous weekend. Here in Southern California it is HOT. Today it is supposed to be 107 degrees. YUCK.

I took the first part of the weekend away from the computer and it was great! Sometimes it's good just to get away.

I know I haven't posted a link round up in some time. Mostly that's because I fell really behind in reading blogs. I do plan to start it up again but here are a few links of immediate interest!

Eva is planning a sort of book blogger's mentoring program. This is an idea I love, but I think Eva is still looking for ideas so go weigh in! :)

Trish and Michelle are putting the nuts and bolts together of a book blogger con in New York. They are trying to gauge interest now so if you are planning on going to BEA next year and also would be interested in a day of book blogger nerding out, please go fill out the form.

Have you ever visited the Book Blogs Ning site? Lately you might have stayed away due to an increase in spam, but the administrators are working on getting it cleaned up...go check out the new rules and provide feedback!

Okay now on to the other stuff.

I am seriously considering a ban on acquiring books as it seems crazy out of control. But I am always super excited about the books that wind up in my hands! :) A few recent acquisitions include:

Ariel Book Cover

I became interested in this book when I attended Penguin's panel at Comic-Con and the editor there, (can't remember her name!) said this was one of her favorite books. A few people in the audience agreed. Apparently it was out of print for awhile and the rights had reverted back to the author, but since he has recently written a follow-up they were able to reissue the book and the following sequel. So I look forward to reading it. Have any of you read it?

Unbound cover
Unsuprisingly for those that know me, I bought this for Melissa Marr's contribution. This marks her adult debut, hee hee. I'm not all that interested in the others since I haven't read the books by the authors (yet!) but will probably read Marr's someday soon here.



Back when I lived and worked with Australians in Japan, they would often cite these books as their favorite. I always wanted to read them, but forgot the title after returning to the States. But thank God for book blogs, I have rediscovered the title and now have the first and second book waiting for me to read them!

Sadly, I don't think I'll be reading any of these today. I have a few obligations to fulfill first.

Finally to wrap up today's quite random post, I'd like to ask if anyone else spent two hours of their lives watching the completely incomprehensible movie Knowing. Seriously, I thought this movie had some potential but it was beyond ridciculous. I really can't recommend it all. I can't even believe the movie made it so far.

Have a fab Sunday everyone...stay cool! What are your plans? Tell me all!




Amy

Thursday, August 27, 2009

How Important are Likeable Characters?

I recently read a book that I absolutely loved. The writing was outstanding, very perceptive and beautiful. Almost every word was perfect. I haven't posted the review yet...it's coming next week. ;)

But I got on the blogs to see what others thought and was surprised to read negative review after negative review. And the main complaint was that the characters weren't likeable.

I paused to consider. Did I like the characters? No, I concluded, I didn't like them in the way I like Harry Potter. They definitely made choices I would not make. But it didn't really matter, because I believed them. Even if I didn't like them, I thought they were tremendously human, flawed, yes, but real. I could imagine that they really existed and their motivations made sense to me even if it wouldn't have been the same for me.

I was sad to read so many negative reviews of a book I know will stay with me for a very long time. One I will pick up to reread passages and recommend. But there have definitely been times I have not liked a book because I didn't like the characters. The difference I think, is that I actively disliked them. I didn't want to read another page about them! I couldn't understand what they were doing and why and didn't really care how they ended up.

How important is it to you that you like a character in a book? If you don't like the main characters is it a deal breaker? Or do you read for story?




Amy

Back to School Fiction Blog Tour

I'm not going to lie. I feel terrible that I haven't reviewed a Christian fiction title in quite some time. I had the best of intentions to review at least one of these titles, but sometimes life has other plans.

Eugenia Cooper Cover

About the Book: The future is clearly mapped out for New York socialite Eugenia “Gennie” Cooper, but she secretly longs to slip into the boots of her favorite dime-novel heroine and experience just one adventure before settling down. When the opportunity arises, Gennie jumps at the chance to experience the Wild West, but her plans go awry when she is drawn into the lives of silver baron Daniel Beck and his daughter and finds herself caring for them more than is prudent–especially as she’s supposed to go back to New York and marry another man.

As Gennie adapts to the rough-and-tumble world of 1880s Colorado, she must decide whether her future lies with the enigmatic Daniel Beck or back home with the life planned for her since birth. The question is whether Daniel’s past–and disgruntled miners bent on revenge–will take that choice away from her.



About the Book: Once a month, the six women of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society gather to discuss books and share their knitting projects. Inspired by her recently-wedded bliss, group leader Eugenie chooses “Great Love Stories in Literature” as the theme for the year’s reading list–a risky selection for a group whose members span the spectrum of age and relationship status.
As the Knit Lit ladies read and discus classic romances like Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights, and Pride and Prejudice, each member is confronted with her own perception about love. Camille’s unexpected reunion with an old crush forces her to confront conflicting desires. Newly widowed Esther finds her role in Sweetgum changing and is surprised by two unlikely friends. Hannah isn’t sure she’s ready for the trials of first love. Newcomer Maria finds her life turned upside-down by increasing family obligations and a handsome, arrogant lawyer, and Eugenie and Merry are both asked to make sacrifices for their husbands that challenge their principles.
Even in a sleepy, southern town like Sweetgum, Tennessee, love isn’t easy. The Knit Lit ladies learn they can find strength and guidance in the novels they read, the love of their family, their community–and especially in each other.

Rose House

About the Book: A vivid story of a private grief, a secret painting, and one woman’s search for hope.
Still mourning the loss of her family in a tragic accident, Lillian Diamon finds herself drawn back to the Rose House, a quiet cottage where four years earlier she had poured out her anguish among its fragrant blossoms.
She returns to the rolling hills and lush vineyards of the Sonoma Valley in search of something she can’t quite name. But then Lillian stumbles onto an unexpected discovery: displayed in the La Rosaleda Gallery is a painting that captures every detail of her most private moment of misery, from the sorrow etched across her face to the sandals on her feet.
What kind of artist would dare to intrude on such a personal scene, and how did he happen to witness Lillian’s pain? As the mystery surrounding the portrait becomes entangled with the accident that claimed the lives of her husband and children, Lillian is forced to rethink her assumptions about what really happened that day.
A captivating novel rich with detail, Rose House explores how the brushstrokes of pain can illuminate the true beauty of life.

Disclosure: I received copies of these books from the publisher for review...I ran out of time to review them.



Amy

What Themes Draw You In?

I was getting teary over a song (yes, I know) on my drive home tonight and thinking about how certain themes in books, music, television, and film always draw me in. I was pondering why there are certain topics or themes that we find ourselves drawn to in art, why do we pick up books about the same subjects, hoping for a little different revelation, a glimmer of insight not found in the last books centered around the same topics.

You may think this doesn't apply to you, but I can certainly pinpoint certain bloggers and their "themes". And if the book isn't directly about this particular topic, they may still discuss how it was presented in the book.

For me, and feel free to tell me if I'm missing some, the big ones are social justice and the importance of pain. (or everything in balance) This is not to say that I don't read books about other things, I most certainly do. But books that deal with these topics are the ones that seem to pierce me or move me deeply or gain my approval. Not because they answer any big questions, but rather, I think, because they are dealing with areas that I feel are unresolved in my own life. So since I myself am asking questions, since the questions are sitting there in my brain and on my heart, a book that is willing to explore them and present some fragment of the story that is life, I am eager to devour, eager to add to my knowledge. Grateful to know that others have asked these questions and processed them through novels.

One day maybe I will be able to fully embrace the gift that is pain. And one day maybe I will feel like I am living a socially just life. But until then, I'm glad for the books that give me a little nudge in the right direction, that remind me, that sometimes sneak up on me.

What are your favorite themes? And don't tell me you don't have one!




Amy

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance: The Frontiersman's Daughter by Laura Frantz

About the Book: ovely but tough as nails, Lael Click is the daughter of a celebrated frontiersman. Haunted by her father's former captivity with the Shawnee Indians, as well as the secret sins of her family's past, Lael comes of age in the fragile Kentucky settlement her father founded.

Though she faces the loss of a childhood love, a dangerous family feud, and the affection of a Shawnee warrior, Lael draws strength from the rugged land she calls home, and from Ma Horn, a distant relative who shows her the healing ways of herbs and roots found in the hills.

But the arrival of an outlander doctor threatens her view of the world, God, and herself--and the power of grace and redemption. This epic novel gives readers a glimpse into the simple yet daring lives of the pioneers who first crossed the Appalachians, all through the courageous eyes of a determined young woman.

I haven't yet read this book, but I did receive a copy from the publisher.



Amy

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Writers or Actors? Who Matters More?

Florinda always participates in the Weekend Assignment and while I'm not quite sure of the rules, I decided to jump in this week because I really like this topic! Also, my brain is fried and I need some writing prompts!

Here it is:

Weekend Assignment: #281: Who has a greater impact on your decision to go to a movie or watch a tv show, the actors you see on the screen, or the behind the scenes writers, producers and/or directors?
Extra Credit: Who is your favorite actor?


The truth is, the writers, producers, and/or directors probably have the most consistent impact. While I am definitely attached to certain actors and actresses, when I hear a certain creative mind is behind a project I am automatically curious. This is especially true for television. For me, the name Joss Whedon inspires ridiculous loyalty. J.J. Abrams, Rob Thomas, Eric Kripke, Howard Gordon, David Fury, Jane Espenson, Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse, Tim Minear, Bryan Fuller....all those names will make me take notice.

I can't think of any favorite directors offhand, but I would probably see anything Sofia Ford Coppola directed. Did you know she is the only American woman to have been nominated for an Oscar for best director? And did you know that only three women have ever been nominated? Hollywood does at times seem quite out of balance.

There are certain actors and actresses I am quite loyal to as well and it usually has to do with them having been in a TV show I loved fiercely. The best example I have is Keri Russell who for the most part has made good choices post-Felicity. But seriously does anyone not absolutely adore her? Kristen Bell, much as I loved Veronica Mars, seems to be gravitating towards those raunchy comedies and Sarah Michelle Gellar has been horribly typecast for B horror movies, it seems.

So my long rambling answer is that the creative minds behind the shows are more likely to grab my attention but yes I will also see some movies for the actors and actresses. I'll probably watch just about anything with Johnny Depp, Will Smith, or Ryan Gosling.

For the extra credit portion of this assignment, I must decline. I haven't got just one.

This was fun!




Amy

R.I.P. IV (but my first!)



Last week I posted about loving seasonal reading pretty much from September through December (though the types of books change obviously from kill me with fear! to kill me with sentimentality!) and this is a challenge I am looking forward to joining as it relatively simple and loads of fun and already fitting in with everything I want to read anyway should I actually have any reading time.

But please do yourself a favor and go read the introduction post from Carl who is a superb writer and will get you all in the mood for the challenge and gaze upon the images for this challenge that I happen to think are absolutely magnificent!

Okay, now that you're back here are some of the books I'm considering:

The Ghost Writer by John Harwood (I neglected to mention that I bought this immediately after reading Melody's review.)
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith (crosses with my challenge!)
Heartsick by Chelsea Cain (been sitting on the shelf for like two years!)
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (bought after seeing prominently displayed in an episode of Supernatural)
Ancestral Shadows: An Anthology of Ghostly Tales by Russell Kirk
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (which I just sort of hope fits into this)
Half-Minute Horrors (A collection of instant frights from the world's most astonishing authors and artists--just showed up on my doorstep today!)
Afraid by Jack Kilborn
Goth by Otsuichi

And I'll probably think of many more! Now I'm going to take on Peril the First and hope for the best. Also, could someone please order some cooler weather for us here in Southern California. I'm still a midwestern girl at heart and prefer my literary chills with...well, real chills. :)

Happy scary reading everyone!



Amy

Elizabeth Chadwick Guest Posts with a Giveaway!


I’d like to thank My Friend Amy for inviting me to be a guest on her blog.

When I set out to write The Greatest Knight, all I knew was that I had found a great subject – the rags to riches tale of one of the most famous knights of the Middle Ages, a man who has been mostly forgotten by the world at large. Once I began researching, I realised that I had much more than just a good script from history on my hands. I had a story that was destined to be written on my heart.

William Marshal was one of six sons born to a Wiltshire baron who was the senior marshal at the royal court. Among other things, this job involved keeping the court on the move, providing supplies, paying the wages

of the hired mercenaries, and keeping the royal prostitutes in order!

William survived nearly being hanged as a little boy when he was taken hostage during a battle over a castle his father was occupying. Fortunately for William, his captors couldn’t bear to do the deed and he survived. As a youth he was sent away to Normandy to train to knighthood. His uncle Patrick was the governor of Poitou and took William into his household. Here William met and associated with Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II’s famous and infamous queen. When Eleanor was attacked and ambushed by enemies while out riding, William put himself in the path of her attackers. He was badly wounded in the leg and taken prisoner, but his courage gave Eleanor the change to escape.

While William was a prisoner, he had to bind his leg injury with his own garters. A lady saw his plight, took pity on him, and sneaked him fresh bandages hidden in a loaf of bread. An early thirteenth century history

written to celebrate his life says: ‘The noble-hearted kind lady….took a a loaf of bread from her room, removed the inside and filled the crust with fine linen bandages.’ Naturally, I had to make use of this incident in The Greatest Knight, and in so doing found the character of Clara, who goes on to feature as one of the women in his life.

Always someone to pay her debts with interest, Eleanor ransomed William and took him into her household, appointing him tutor in arms and chivalry to her eldest son, Henry. William’s rise from the ranks was well and truly on the way.

William, as earlier proven, was a skilled warrior, and he excelled at the joust. These days he’d have been the world champion or Olympic gold medallist! In William’s day, the tourney was not the kind of sport we see today where one knight charges another with a barrier set between them. The tourney in William Marshal’s time was a full on contact sport and brutal. ‘They manhandled him terribly, turning the helmet on his head by force from back to front, and tug and pull as he might, he could not free it.’ On one such occasion, William actually had to go and have the helmet removed from his head by a blacksmith!

William’s life wasn’t just about the fighting and the glory of the tourney though. What endeared him to me just as much as his courage and strength, was his ready humour, his cheerful open-handedness, his loyalty and his sharp intelligence. He wore a smile, but he was no man’s fool. While writing the novel I was struck by how he faced up to adversity, treating it as a challenge to be overcome and never giving in to self-pity. He was always open to life and to opportunity.

I like to think that his best reward was his marriage to a great heiress, Isabelle de Clare. Certainly at a time when matches were arranged for matters of political interest and love and mutual attraction were seldom part of the equation, William and Isabelle seems to have been fortunate. One of the things that made this a matter of the heart for me was discovering that William had the sensitivity to take his wife away with him on honeymoon. Just the two of them, getting to know each other in an idyllic setting. It may be the stuff of romance novels, but it happened. ‘The Marshal took the lady to stay…at Stoke, a peaceful spot, well appointed and a delight to the eye.’ Of course, life being what it was, there was stormy weather ahead and I follow William’s later career in The Scarlet Lion, due out from Sourcebooks in the spring.

But The Greatest Knight is about the young and eager knight in the pay of Eleanor of Aquitaine, the developing politician learning to survive the back-stabbing of the Angevin court, the proud warrior and husband - and the empowered man. And it comes straight from the heart.

About the Author

Elizabeth Chadwick lives near Nottingham with her husband and two sons. She is the author of 17 historical novels, including Lords of the White Castle, Shadows and Strongholds, A Place Beyond Courage, The Scarlet Lion, the Winter Mantle, and the Falcons of Montebard, four of which have been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Awards. Much of her research is carried out as a member of Regia Anglorum, an early medieval re-enactment society with the emphasis on accurately re-creating the past. She won a Betty Trask Award for The Wild Hunt, her first novel.



GIVEAWAY
Sourcebooks is sponsoring a giveaway of two copies of this book! This giveaway is open to the United States and Canada. To enter, leave me a comment and tell me about a historical figure you'd love to read about. Make sure you leave an email address so I can contact you. I'll pick winners on Labor Day!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Just a Little Bit of Everything

First of all, I am sad to say that the last Summer of Hitchcock discussion must be delayed. I watched The Trouble with Harry while working on BBAW, but I couldn't really concentrate. And because I felt like I would really enjoy it, I have decided to delay discussing it until I can watch it again. If you watched it, leave your link in comments!

Secondly, Faith'n'Fiction Saturday will be on hiatus until after BBAW. I have to realize my own limitations. It's really funny, because I thought BBAW would be easier this year with so many awesome wonderful helpers, but because it's three times the size, it's actually even more work. Part of it is my own fault...I love being part of the different processes, and need to learn to give over some of them so that I can be available to answer questions and see my vision of BBAW take shape. If that makes any sense whatsoever. I really don't know where I'd be this year though without the amazing help of people like Trish, Michelle, Sheri, and the rest of the awards committee. They have really given up a lot of time to see this come together in a short time....and I am more thankful than I can possibly say. I hope you know how much they love you and this community!

In other news, I read that post over at Shannon Hale's (like the only thing I've read all week!!!) that I'm sure many others have already blogged about but I haven't been able to really read blogs. I do have some thoughts on it! Try not to be so surprised. :) Anyway, it seems she's a bit turned off by the idea of reading for pleasure and is concerned that our society is all about gulping down pleasure and not allowing books to make us think. And then it got off a bit on a tangent about ratings, etc.

But I want to address the self-evaluation in reading and reviewing. Reviewing books on this blog has actually made me process what I read more. Do I start writing a review before I finish a book? Yes sometimes. For example, the book I'm reading right now I like so so much and I've been already thinking of how I can express that. I like being able to express it and talk about it. Does it take away from the reading experience? I don't know. I don't think so, and I don't always do it.

But beyond that...I think the best books are the ones that cause you to evaluate yourself, to confront yourself, when you aren't expecting it. Have you ever found yourself crying during a scene in a book and you don't know exactly why until you think about it? Or pulled into a story and then slammed with the truth? I have. When asked what my favorite book of the year so far is, I have unfailing said The Passion of Mary Margaret by Lisa Samson because it was a book that crawled under my skin and lived there. I thought about it when I wasn't reading it, not because I was consumed with the story but because of the ache and void in my own life it revealed. Sometimes when I read a book, I'll read a passage and the words are so beautifully written and so spot-on to what I've felt that I must set the book down, sometimes with tears in my eyes or chills on my arms. And it seems like such an innocent little phrase but it carries the weight of truth.

Perhaps it's become I'm so self-analytical, that I don't need to take extra care to self-evaluate while reading, I am constantly self-evaluating. If someone were to ask me if I liked a book, I would answer honestly and the answer would undoubtedly have more to do than with simple pleasure. I also think it's possible to like parts of a book or appreciate aspects of it without liking the whole thing. And I think that's easy enough to express when asked if you like something.

I'm starting not to make sense and I need sleep. I hope you all have an absolutely wonderful Monday if such a is possible.




Amy

Friday, August 21, 2009

I'm Issuing a Dare!


Now that the bulk of BBAW Awards Nominee Notifications (Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards) have gone out (only those that do not require submission information remain to be notified), it's time to do something I've been wanting to do for awhile.

Dare someone in the I Dare You challenge.

See, the first season of Cheers is currently unopened under my bed but I do foresee a post BBAW Cheers watching party. Apparently I am going to become mad addicted and watch all 456 seasons. And if someone is doing that to me, well I want to do that to someone else! (watching the first season of Cheers was my challenge)

Who could I dare? I labored over this and finally realized...duh! Who hasn't watched one of my favorite TV shows even though pretty much everyone in the book blogosphere has told her she should? Nymeth of course!*

So here's my official dare, written at 12:23 A.M.

NymethAnaThingsMeanALot, I dare you to accept this challenge. I dare you to complete the one and only item on this list.

Watch the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

This challenge must be completed in: 1 year. I think that's terribly generous and full of fairness (and-also-I-hate-putting-pressure-on-people)

If you fail in this challenge you must write a public letter of apology. :)

But if you succeed then I will read any book of your choosing!

If you choose to accept this dare you must follow these rules:

* Blog about your acceptance and log in with Mr Linky on the correct Acceptance Post here.
* Blog about your thoughts after watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer the first season. When you've completed the challenge check in with Mr Linky on the correct Completed Challenge Post on the I Dare You to Accept This Challenge Blog!
Go forth and challenge someone else in order to spread this lovely image around the blogosphere and also evangelize for the things you love.

Oh and one more rule. You have to be patient with Buffy the first season. It takes awhile for her to find her slaying groove.

I hope you love it. I hope we're still friends.

(*She's been getting warm to the idea I think. It's not like asking her to watch 7th Heaven or something)

Anyone want to be dared to watch Veronica Mars?





Amy

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Waiting for Seasonal Reads!

I don't have any specific book I'm waiting on this Wednesday, but I'm definitely waiting on those great seasonal reads! I love reading creepy stuff in September and October and Christmas books in late November and December. Last week, Diane of Bibliophile by the Sea posted a list of forthcoming Christmas books and I can't wait to read them all! I actually got a couple of Christmas books for review last week as well. (hint to publisher and publicists: I'm very open to reviewing Christmas books!)

As far as September and October...well let's be honest, I won't be reading anything much until after Book Blogger Appreciation Week is over. Well, except for other book blogs. :) Which by the way, if I don't get around to comment as much it's not because I don't love you..I do, I'm just swamped pulling together a whole week of love for you. :) But when I do get a chance to breathe, I'm looking forward to:
The Ghost Writer by John Harwood
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith hee!
And so much more! I've been stockpiling books like October is two months long!

How about you? Do you like to read something a bit more mysterious or creepy as the weather turns cooler? What's the creepiest or scariest or moodiest(you know not necessarily scary but very FALL) read you can recommend to me?




Amy

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

From Book to TV: Can Flashforward Succeed?


Apart from the Vampire Diaries, Flashforward is the show I'm most looking forward to this fall. I suppose it has to do with the inevitable comparisons with LOST...time travel, fantastic ensemble cast, etc. While I doubt any show will come close to touching LOST in sheer enjoyment and brilliance for awhile, Flashforward might help fill the gaping hole.

The Flashforward panel was a priority for me when I attended Comic-Con. I was pleased they allowed us to watch the first two acts of the pilot, as it gave me a good idea of what to expect from the show. I loved it! Television pilots seem a bit like mini-movies these days...full of crashes and dramatic events and Flashforward was no exception.

Yesterday, I gave you a review of the book Flashforward, which is the source material for the show. I really enjoyed the book, particularly the thought provoking questions that it raised. I have no doubt that the TV show will also explore these questions in some depth through the eyes of the new characters. So here are some of the differences between the show and the book.

--In the book, the world flashes forward twenty years into the future, which is huge. For example, I have no idea where I'll be in 20 years. When one of the book's characters sees himself in a dead end job, he plunges into depression. In the show, however, the flash only takes place 6 months into the future. This could be rather interesting as we all have a reasonable expectation of what will be happening six months into the future. The individual storylines will likely be quite different. It also goes to show that they really will wrap up the first storyline within the first year. For the people who have no visions a short six months into the future? SCARY.

--The book focuses on the scientists who caused the flash, or time displacement as they call it. It appears the TV show will focus on ordinary characters and how they deal with the flash and what they see. This will eliminate the heavy guilt the characters in the book experienced.

--Book is mostly in Europe, TV show is in the States.

And that's all I know! Robert J. Sawyer has been supportive of the show and will be even writing an episode which I think is really cool.

I think Flashforward has a great chance for success. The creative team behind the show is amazing. The cast is fantastic. I'm really looking forward to it...and I hope you'll tune in, too! Flashforward premieres on September 24 at 8 PM EST/PST on ABC.




Amy

Monday, August 17, 2009

Book Spotlight: Bleak History by John Shirley

Bleak History Cover
About the Book: As far as Gabriel Bleak is concerned, talking to the dead is just another way of making a living. It gives him the competitive edge to survive as a bounty hunter, or "skip tracer," in the psychic minefield known as New York City. Unfortunately, his gift also makes him a prime target. A top-secret division of Homeland Security has been monitoring the recent emergence of human supernaturals, with Gabriel Bleak being the strongest on record. If they control Gabriel, they'll gain access to the Hidden -- the entity-based energy field that connects all life on Earth. But Gabriel's got other ideas. With a growing underground movement called the Shadow Community -- and an uneasy alliance of spirits, elementals, and other beings -- Gabriel's about to face the greatest demonic uprising since the Dark Ages. But this time, history is not going to repeat itself. This time, the future is Bleak. Gabriel Bleak.

(Another blog tour book received too late for review...so review is coming! Hopefully)

Review: Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer

Flashforward Book Cover
Imagine that some scientists are performing an experiment but things don't go as planned. All of the sudden, everyone in the world passes out and has a vision...of their lives twenty years in the future. The visions are less than three minutes long and they are returned to present consciousness. But the world is in chaos--since everyone passed out planes crash, cars crash, people on the operating table die due to doctor neglect. And no one knows what happened or why or what the visions mean.

Armed with some knowledge of their future selves, the characters are forced to make decisions about their present and to grapple with important questions such as...can the future be changed? What should they do with what they know? Should they replicate the experiment to gain more knowledge of the world in the future?

This is the premise of Flashforward. I decided to read this book when I learned it would be made into a television show. I always like to investigate the source material first! The book was published in the late 90's but is actually set in 2009 which made some things very interesting. For example, in Sawyer's 2009, bookstores are little more than coffee shops where you wait for your book to be printed on demand. We're not quite there yet! Also, blu-ray wasn't even mentioned and videos were still pretty present.

This is a science fiction book which means that there are a few sections where the scientific explanations drone on and on and my eyes glazed over. Seriously. But several different theories as to the nature of time and time travel are presented.

I found the first part of the book to be absolutely riveting as each character grapples with what their foreknowledge means. I loved the questions presented and spent a lot of time thinking about them. As I mentioned there were a few parts that got a bit draggy. And I really didn't like the ending much at all. But overall it was a very enjoyable read and I'm glad to have read it.

If you could see three minutes of your future 20 years down the road would you want to? I came to my own conclusion while reading the book but I want to hear your thoughts first!

Rating: 4/5
Things You Might Want to Know: Brief strong language and some sex
Source of Book: I bought it!



Amy

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summer of Hitchcock: Marnie Discussion


Another Hitchcock film based upon a novel!

Marnie is the story of Margaret Edgar, a thief who goes around from job to job stealing money. When she is recognized by one of her employers for who she is, he marries her! Marnie is quite cold to men, has an adverse reaction to the color red, a fear of thunderstorms, and a few other triggers. Why? What is in Marnie's background that has made her the way she is?

I enjoyed this movie. It's interesting to read that there are two camps on this one: Marnie is a failure and Marnie is brilliance. For my part, I found it enjoyable. I enjoyed the use of color, and found Tippi Hedren to be far less annoying than she was in The Birds!

Next week is our last week for Summer of Hitchcock with The Trouble with Harry. I scheduled a twitter night, but I'm curious to know if anyone will actually be watching Friday night at 9 PM Eastern. Please RSVP in comments. If no one RSVPs, I will cancel.



Amy

The Sunday Salon: Randomness

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Sunday! I am going to go over and see my parents new house today. They just moved!

I had a pretty interesting reading week. I have discovered the cure for reading frustration is to pick a few books to read that are super short and read them just because they strike your fancy! I also read Flashforward which I've been curious about since it will be a television show this fall. I hope to have a full review with thoughts about the adaptation to television for you this week. I am now back to the review pile and loving it. Although the book I'm currently reading, Eye of the Whale by Douglas Carlton Abrams, is depressing me. It's an engaging read but very sad about the environment. And whales. :(

Other than that, I totally overindulged in the book acquisition lately. Quit writing such enticing reviews, book bloggers!

In other news, I saw two wonderful movies this week. Yes, I see a lot of movies. Especially in the heat of summer when there isn't much on TV. I saw 500 Days of Summer which I loved ever so much and highly recommend. I knew I was in love with it when the main character fell HARD for Summer because she knew his Smiths music. That and the fact that he was listening to The Smiths on the elevator at work. Yeah, it doesn't take much. In any case, it's sweet, it's true, it's bittersweet. See it.

I also saw Ponyo. There aren't words for my love for Hayao Miyazaki. My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away are among my favorite films ever. Ponyo is just as sweet and enjoyable. And to me, they feel so Japanese. I was coveting the ramen noodles they ate in the movie. :) A lovely film. Incidentally, a trailer was shown for Where the Wild Things Are before Ponyo and it made me feel like weeping, which probably means it will accomplish its goal.

One last thing...Kat Meyer of Follow the Reader was kind enough to do a little interview about BBAW. I would love if you would go read it and maybe leave a comment? :)




Amy

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Read the First Chapter of TSI: The Gabon Virus by Paul McCusker and Walt Larimore, M.D.

I read about a chapter of this when the book arrived (a little late), and realized I wasn't in the right mood for it. I do hope to get back to it! :) TSI: The Gabon Virus is available on Amazon, and my copy of the book was sent to me by the publisher.


Time Scene Investigators:

The Eyam Factor




Paul McCusker

And

Walt Larimore, M.D.





[Refer to P4P regarding inclusion of purpose statement.]

Our purpose at Howard Books is to:

Increase faith in the hearts of growing Christians
Inspire holiness in the lives of believers
Instill hope in the hearts of struggling people everywhere
Because He’s coming again!


[Howard Fiction Logo] Published by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

www.howardpublishing.com


The Eyam Factor © 2009 Paul McCusker and Walt Larimore, M.D.


All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information, address Howard Subsidiary Rights Department, Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.


[Add agent line here, if applicable]


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data TK


ISBN-13: 9781416569718

ISBN-10: 1416569715



10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


HOWARD and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.


Manufactured in TK


For information regarding special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact: Simon & Schuster Special Sales at 1-800-456-6798 or business@simonandschuster.com.


Edited by TK

Cover design by TK

Interior design by TK


This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or publisher.










DEDICATION


To Elizabeth, Tommy, and Ellie—for their love and patience.

To Barb— for her lifetime of love

.





PART ONE









[July 15, 1666]

REBEKAH SMYTHE LOOKED DOWN AT HER BROTHER’S LIFELESS BODY, his eyes staring vacantly toward the heaven he had hoped and prayed to inhabit. With a pale and trembling hand, she reached down and closed his eyelids.

She had done the same for her father and three of her sisters—all lying so still now in their shallow graves not far from their home; so silent after their days of suffering and anguish. She could not weep for them. Her tears were spent long ago.

She looked at the makeshift cots on which her mother and youngest sister slept fitfully. They had come down with the symptoms just two days earlier. She dared not hold out hope for their survival. In another day or two, if all went as it had for the rest of her family, they’d be gone and she’d be alone. Alone.

By the grace of God, she had resisted the illness. Yet, the outcome of her survival would be loneliness. In her darker moments, she wondered how far God’s grace could carry her.

Agnes Hull, who lived in the next cottage down, had also survived the plague and claimed that the warm bacon fat she drank was the reason. She left bottles of the wretched liquid at the doors of afflicted families, but unfortunately, it didn’t work for Rebekah’s family.

John Dicken, who worked in the local mines, was also a survivor. Believing himself to be immune, he had established himself as the village gravedigger. He would offer his services the instant he’d heard of another victim. After burying the body away from town, he would return to claim the burial fee—reportedly taking whatever he fancied. Most were too sick to stop him. Besides, what use was their money if they were dead? Few of the men were well enough to take the job from Dicken, and it wasn’t as if anyone new would arrive to challenge him. After all, the village was under a strict quarantine.

Rebekah sat on a stool, staring at the fire. The large black kettle bubbled and boiled. Using a pair of large tongs, she moved the kettle to a small table, pouring the steaming water into a pot. The tea leaves were old, but all she had. She didn’t think of pouring a cup for her mother and sister—they wouldn’t taste it anyway.

Pushing a lock of hair away from her face, she was overcome by a feeling of self-pity. How had it come to this? Who could have foreseen last September that something as unassuming as a box of cloth from London would start such an epidemic? Mr. George Viccars, a traveling tailor, certainly couldn’t have. As he opened the box—wet from a rainstorm—and laid the cloth out to dry, he could not have imagined what he was unleashing upon them all. Within a day, he developed the telltale symptoms of rose-colored spots on his skin and quickly died.

The Earl, the village’s patron, sent his personal physician from the castle to examine the tailor’s body. The doctor’s diagnosis was Black Plague. It had arrived in Eyam.

And so began a year of terror.

The village had rallied together. Catherine Mompesson, the vicar’s wife, bravely visited the sick families. Ignoring the risk to herself and her family, she had brought words of comfort and a bouquet of sweet-smelling posies, believing it would ward off the stench of disease.

As she sipped her tea, Rebekah thought about the rhyme sung by local children:

Ring a-ring o' roses,

A pocketful of posies.

a-tishoo! a-tishoo!

We all fall down.

The rhyme went through her mind again and again—

The knock on the door startled her. Few of the villagers would be out and about at this late hour. Perhaps it was the vicar’s wife or the gravedigger.

She stood and crossed the room to the door. Her hand was poised above the latch when it occurred to her who might be calling.

Him.

Despite the still warm air of the summer night, she felt a chill go down her spine.

The Monk.

He came to the families to aid the sick, comfort the dying, and offer peace to the grieving. The women of the village spoke of him as an angel of light. The men called him a demon, unnerved as they were by the mysterious way in which he appeared and disappeared into thin air. Worse was his appearance. Rebekah had not seen it for herself, but the village gossips claimed that beneath his monk’s cowl, he had skin the color of deep water. Blue, they said. The monk’s skin was blue. A curse, the men said.

She could not believe that a man of God, one so merciful and compassionate, could be cursed.

She lifted the latch and opened the door.









[August 10. The Present.]

THE BLACKHAWK HELICOPTER DESCENDED toward a small flat outcropping near the top of the icy cliff. It had no markings on its matte black paint, an exterior designed to absorb radar signals.

From inside the helicopter, Army Brigadier General Sam Mosley gazed at the frozen valley below—a vast expanse of ice that stretched between two distant mountain peaks. To the untrained eye, it was a wasteland, but the general knew better. What appeared to be a series of ripples in the valley’s floor were actually roofs and camouflage for a large, underground collection of buildings. “The Bunker,” they called it; the only inhabited facility for hundreds of miles.

Icy particles sprang up like a cloud of dust as the chopper nestled onto the snowy pad. This was the emergency landing site, a mile from the regular pad much closer to the facility. The pilot cut the whisper-soft engine.

Mosley swallowed, forcing back the acidic taste in his throat. Was it fear? No, this was the taste of grim determination—the bitter and offensive bile of a tragic duty to perform.

As the ice-cloud dispersed, the general looked across the endless white and remembered the champagne celebration they’d had on the day the scheme to build this laboratory was approved. It seemed like genius—or madness—at the time. Imagine building a lab in the middle of Greenland. Yet all the risk assessments told them the site had the highest probability of safety. Only Mark Carlson, the architect of the entire plan, had expressed doubts. “We’re arrogant,” he said in private, late night meetings. Often the argument took place over day-old Chinese meals. “Eventually we’ll create something that we can’t contain; something that’s too potent. Nature always finds a way of escape. It doesn’t matter how far in the ice we dig.”

Mosley turned to the cockpit. The pilot took off his helmet. “Well?”

“Okay to disembark, General.”

Sam nodded. “Thanks, Tom. Excellent job, as always.”

“We couldn’t have hoped for a better day,” the pilot said. “The weathermen at The Hague said the conditions would be perfect.”

“Glad they got it right for once.”

Nervous chitchat, Mosley thought. He looked out at the snow and ice and frowned and sighed.

“We don’t have much time, General,” the pilot said.

“No, we don’t.”

“Would you like me to come with you?” the pilot asked.

Sam shook his head. “Better that I do this alone.” He climbed out of his seat and moved to the rear of the cabin. He dressed quickly and quietly donning a bright orange suit designed to protect him to fifty degrees below zero.

He glanced at the second suit—the name Mark Carlson was stitched onto the left breast. The thought of Mark gave him pause. Mark should be here. But that would have been too much to ask. Four years of Mark’s life had gone into making this complex a reality. He’d lost a lot in the process: a wife and a child. Some believed he was now damaged goods as a result of those losses. Sam hadn’t wanted to believe it and continually gave Mark the benefit of the doubt. And yet, he hadn’t invited Mark to this occasion. Why risk pushing him over the edge?

The general put his head cover on last, to give added protection to his face and eyes. Certain he was thoroughly protected; Sam threw open door and stepped out.

A sledgehammer of frigid air hit him. He braced himself against the side of the helicopter, then reached up to the door, but the pilot was already there, sliding it closed. The two men exchanged glances and the Mosley noticed he was wearing a compact Glock 36 pistol holstered to his belt. A precaution. Just a precaution. He bowed to the elements and pressed ahead, ankle-deep in a powdery snow that sparkled like kindergarten craft glitter.

The wind made a mournful sound as he walked toward the edge of the cliff. Sam clenched his teeth—not against the cold—but out of a brutal resolve. He stopped and surveyed the scene once more. As a soldier, he hated these moments. As a general, he knew the responsibility was his. As a physician, this action went against everything he believed—against the oath he had sworn when he finished medical school. He searched for comfort in the sad thought that the people below were already dead.

He reached into his pocket and retrieved a small black cell phone. Opening the protective cover, he carefully punched in a sequence of numbers. When he came to the last number, he hesitated and glanced back at the helicopter. He saw the pilot through a slim open crack at the Blackhawk’s door and knew the pilot had orders to shoot him if he showed any hesitation or attempted to deviate from the plan in any way. The Glock only held six rounds, but one .45 caliber bullet was all that an expert shooter needed to kill him instantly.

Sam’s gloved thumb pressed the final digit and he cursed himself. This was their plan of last resort—the one the experts and the computer models had always said couldn’t happen—wouldn’t happen. They had insisted the lab was foolproof, A breach of its safeguards and a failure to contain its virus was unimaginable. Yet the unimaginable had happened—and now Sam had to do the very thing he’d assured Mark they’d never have to do. From the corner of his eye, he saw the Blackhawk’s door open wider. He was taking too long. The pilot was probably taking aim even now.

The general moved his thumb to the Send button and turned toward the complex. Critical life-saving work had gone on in that lab. Years of effort. Its potential had been so great, yet so unfulfilled, and now there’d be nothing but terrible loss.

With a defiant gesture, he pressed the button. At first nothing happened. Then, far below, the ground heaved in the center of the complex, rising as if a fist punched the underside of the ice, growing larger and higher until the white earth burst open with an explosive roar.

Mosley stepped back. The ice—and everything that had been the bunker—blew upward, followed by a massive fireball. The concussive blast hit him; a surprisingly strong wave nearly knocked him off his feet. He fought it, balancing forward.

In less than half a minute everything was calm again. The secret lab had been incinerated—along with its entire staff and an untold amount of data about all things viral.

Sam stood frozen, his gloved hands clenched. “It had to be done,” he said to no one. Turning on his heel, he walked toward the helicopter. He could only hope that the virus had been completely destroyed.

If even one viral particle had survived, it was possible that the world would not.





[August 11]

THE METAL CORRUGATED ROOF CAUGHT THE BLISTERING AFRICAN HEAT and pushed it downward, past the wobbling ceiling fans, to the meeting room below. The air was heavy with humidity. Even the gathering flies moved sluggishly, lazily, as if weighted by the muggy atmosphere.

David sat on a chair in the center of the small makeshift stage at the head of the room. From here, he could see it all: the flies and the horror before him. He scanned the room. No movement. He turned his head to look out of an open window, out to the compound.

For all intents and purposes, it looked like an average African village—a dirt road down the middle and pathways lined with wooden huts, metal shacks, and a few makeshift cottages. A gray cement maintenance shed sat in the center of the compound with donated equipment and supplies to provide them with running water and, at least for a few hours a day, electricity.

Beyond that shed were the schoolhouse and the cafeteria. The workhouse, with the many sewing machines the women used to make the clothing that helped subsidize their community, sat off to the side. A few yards from there, alone and away from the rest of the structures, was David’s single-room main office. Through the trees, he could see its flat roof and the small satellite dish mounted on a corner.

David’s hands hovered above the laptop resting on his lap. A small icon on the screen told him that he had a strong signal and full access to the Internet thanks to that satellite dish—a dish that he’d fought against installing. It was yet another connection to a corrupt and depraved world—a world he had struggled so hard to escape.

Why else would he create a commune in Gabon, of all places? Certainly not to replicate his life in America. This had been a chance for him, his family, and his congregation to break free. But his no-contact rule backfired when Hank Hillier came down with malaria earlier in the year. Malaria was a common malady and easily treated, but Hank’s had gone to his brain and he developed a near-fatal case of meningitis. Only by the grace of God were they able to contact a local missionary pilot and transport him 150 miles to a specialty hospital in Lambaréné. It was a close call that left him and his congregation nervous about their isolation.

With great reluctance David agreed to install the dish and hardware. Just in time, too. Not long afterward, Sarah McFerran was stricken with appendicitis and, with a single e-mail, they got her airlifted to the pediatric hospital in Libreville.

Both Hank and Sarah lay dead in the collection of bodies before him, and now David would use the satellite dish to send out his last words—not as a cry for help, but to ask for forgiveness.

He groaned and rubbed his tired eyes, squeezing them shut. How did it come to this? How did he get from being a very trendy atheist in college, proud of his intellect, relishing his militant cynicism against any and all believers in God, to the counter-cultural pastor of a Christian commune in the middle of a vast African jungle?

No doubt, when their bodies were finally discovered, the press would pore over the details of his life in a vain attempt to answer that question.

They would simplify the complexities of his faith and conviction; gloss over the corruptions and decadence of American culture that drove him to take his family and congregation to Gabon; and caricature them all as mindless cult members, rather than the thriving and rigorous group of disciples they truly were.

He ached to think of it, and he closed his eyes as he thought of his missteps, his misguided idealism and, in the end, his business naiveté that put the community on the edge of financial ruin and sent him into the arms of The Corporation for help.

The Corporation. They had seemed like an answer to his prayers. The representatives expressed genuine interest in David’s hope and vision, and they were persuasive, offering David a ludicrous amount of money in exchange for some help and cooperation. It had appeared so simple and safe. Only his wife Rachel expressed any deep concern. Something in her heart told her it was wrong. “It doesn’t feel right,” she had warned, but couldn’t explain why.

David looked at the bodies closest to the stage. Rachel was there—along with his two young, precious daughters and his teen-age son—the front edge of a sea of corpses.

The altar sat a few feet from David. It had been hand-carved from an ancient oak tree that had fallen outside David’s first church—such a long time ago. A wooden chalice beckoned him. A scrap of bread sat on the wooden plate next to the chalice. There was just enough left for him.

David looked down at the laptop computer. He blinked. His eyes burned. He began to type. This was his final confession. A last e-mail to his father—a man who never accepted or affirmed him, much less ever indicated he loved him. What a surprise it would be. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d spoken to his father. They were never close.

David began to type. He was determined not to write with sentimentality or melodrama. He recounted in the simplest terms his hopes and dreams with Rachel and how he believed, as a matter of faith, that their community was created to help save mankind, both spiritually and physically. Lofty goals, but attainable. Even now, David believed they could have succeeded if only he had been wiser and more discerning—if only he’d listened to Rachel—if only he hadn’t shaken hands with the Devil.

Now it was all undone. A failure of the greatest kind. A tragedy, just as Rachel had predicted. So now David concluded his e-mail by asking his father’s for forgiveness. It was the last thing he needed to do—the most important thing left to do.

A harsh squawk drew David’s attention to the back door. A vulture landed in the courtyard. Then another. They knew. They were gathering. Soon, there would be no stopping them. Soon, his compound would contain a congregation of scavengers.

David’s eyes filled with tears as he shook off the thought of what would happen to the dead bodies strewn across the meeting-room floor. What were they but empty vessels? God had secured their souls. His gaze fell again upon the men and women, boys and girls who’d put their trust in his leadership.

That morning they had each taken communion, knowing it would be their last. After praying together, they lay down, and went to sleep. David was happy they all went peacefully.

And now, it was his turn.

He finished the note to his father:

We were wrong, Dad. Now it’s cost me my dream, my family, my community, and my life.

It may be a very long time before we are found, since none of the local tribe members come to our compound unless we invite them. I am afraid there will be a cover-up if The Corporation finds us first. That is why I am writing to you. If you can do anything to prevent this evil from spreading, in the name of God, do it.

I love you, Dad. I pray that God will touch you—and you’ll accept Him—so we’ll be reunited in heaven. I’ll be waiting there for you.

Your son, David

He reread the e-mail, knowing there was so much more to say. He pressed the send button. A box popped up, confirming its passage. He leaned back and sighed.

With little energy, he turned off the computer, stood, and approached the altar. He was surprised at the sweet aroma. He looked at the flowers on the altar. I don’t remember the orchids smelling so wonderful. He inhaled the fragrance deeply, then dropped to his knees, his hands pressing against the smooth oak.

A prayer from his days as an altar boy welled up in his memory. “Father of mercies and God of all comfort, our help in time of need, we fly unto thee for succor in behalf of this thy servant . . .” He couldn’t remember the rest of this ancient prayer. So, he drank the last of the poison in the cup. God grant that, in this death, there may be true life eternal.

The poison would work quickly, so he rose and went to his family. Rachel’s arm was thrown over her face, as if she had decided not to watch what would unfold. The girls’ dead eyes stared at nothing—their expressions serene. Aaron was on the floor, his face turned away and pressed into the crook of his arm.

David kissed his wife, but couldn’t bring himself to do the same to his children. Taking his place next to her, he reached over and pulled her close, his eye-catching sight of the telltale red splotches on her arm. Then, as if he needed one last confirmation, he looked at his own arm.

Yes—they were there.

Perhaps he would be vindicated after all. Perhaps they had stopped the horror from spreading.

The numbing poison-induced sleep came over him like a soft blanket. He closed his eyes. Into Thy hands I commit my . . .

And then he heard a voice.

“Dad.”

It came as a whisper.

He opened his eyes. His son Aaron stood over him. David attempted a smile, remembering the stories of others who’d come this way before—of the long tunnel with the bright light—of family members returning to walk “over” with their loved one, and there to greet him was his boy looking as he had not an hour ago, with his sandy blond, buzz-cut hair, and his lean face which had only just lost its boyish roundness as the passage to manhood had begun. It was a passage that David had stolen from him.

David wanted to speak, but couldn’t frame the words. He blinked, trying to clear his eyes.

“I’m sorry, Dad. I’m so sorry,” his son said.

David’s eyes widened, horrified. His son wasn’t an angel. His son was still alive.

“Dad, I’m sorry. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t!” Aaron knelt over him, his eyes wide and wet.

David’s body lay helpless. His paralyzed vocal chords could make no sound; his arms could not reach up. Not even a tear could form. Why was his son alive? Didn’t he know what would happen? He’d been inoculated with the evil along with everyone else. The deadly virus was in his system. His death, inevitable and sure, would be awful.

With a final slow exhalation David knew he had failed—once again.

Darkness circled in his open eyes, moving to the center of his vision, obscuring everything to a single pinpoint as he lost consciousness. Dear God, forgive me.





BRIGADIER GENERAL SAM MOSLEY SETTLED INTO the large leather chair behind his cherrywood desk at The Hague. He swiveled away from the mounds of paperwork awaiting his attention and leaned his head back. He scrubbed his hands over his face, and let out a long breath. He was still weary from the flight back to Holland the previous afternoon.

Damage control. When did my job become nothing but damage control?

He had debriefed his superiors at the Pentagon and the CIA by teleconference. “Mission accomplished,” he’d reported. They had commended him on a job well done. He chewed the inside of his lip and thought, Mission accomplished, yes—if the mission was to bury an unmitigated disaster beneath tons of ice. But what about the cause of the disaster? Whose mission was it to discover that? And whom would they make the scapegoat?

Not me, he decided. Sure, there’d be appearances before top-secret subcommittees to discern what had happened at the laboratory and how to keep it from happening again. And a disaster like this always had budgetary ramifications, but he wouldn’t let them lay the blame on his shoulders.

He groaned and wondered when he’d become such a heartless bureaucrat—thinking about debriefings, subcommittees, budgets, and avoiding blame when so many lives had been lost to the failed experiment.

He had known and worked with some of those scientists for over a decade. They had families who, even now, were receiving the terrible news about their loved ones. Not the full truth, of course. Only a handful of people knew that. But each employee had a detailed cover story. Their cause of death would be explained in noble and heroic terms, as if that would soothe the surviving wives, husbands, sons, and daughters. Hopefully the generous checks they would receive would buy them some comfort.

Sam tried to console himself with the knowledge that the team hadn’t died in vain. They had sacrificed their lives to save untold millions—those who might have died in the future to the fatal viruses with names few in the public sector even knew.

He squinted at a large computer screen on the opposite wall. It displayed a map of the world, with multiple colors indicating outbreaks of viruses and diseases anywhere they had been diagnosed in the past year. Some colors remained constant, others blinked to indicate a new report.

He squinted, tapping a key on the keyboard to highlight any outbreaks of Filoviridae, a family of viruses containing the dreaded Ebola and Marburg viruses. Red dots flickered in parts of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Each dot represented individuals who, even as he sat in the comfort of his office, were dealing with these aggressive and relentless viruses. There were far too many.

Filoviridae were a formidable and fearsome foe. He had seen its effects for himself, seen how the virus moved quickly, passing rapidly from person to person, even spreading through the air to infect those in the immediate vicinity. Unknown to most of the world, the mutations of these viruses were becoming far more dangerous. The chances of regional epidemics—even a worldwide pandemic—increased almost daily. It was only a matter of time before the big one, the Hiroshima of viral outbreaks, would hit some part of the world and begin its horrific spread. Once it began to metastasize, he doubted it could be stopped—unless his teams could find a treatment.

Sam looked away from the map and his eye caught a slip of paper by the phone. The message stated in his assistant’s immaculate handwriting that Mark Carlson had called from a medical symposium in Cairo to find out if there was a conclusion to the Greenland crisis. The message detailed where he could be found only in an emergency. His cell phone would not be working.

There’s a conclusion all right, and you won’t like it.

He held the slip of paper in his hand and dreaded how he would explain to Mark that the lab in Greenland had been compromised—and then been utterly destroyed. How was he expected to drop that into a conversation?

Standing again, he began to pace. What had gone wrong? How had the virus broken free in the lab? How had it killed so many so quickly?

Sam had considered sabotage—a betrayer in their midst. But who? The staff had been rigorously vetted at the highest levels—with extensive psychological testing. No suicide-saboteurs in that crew. More than likely a careless technician had sent the virus into the air where the other employees then picked it up, triggering the crisis.

By the time the first rosy death-mark had shown up on a technician’s chest or arms, the entire colony could have been infected. Excruciating death came quickly—so quickly, in fact, that headquarters had received only one phone call and two urgent e-mails from separate employees. Then silence.

Camera footage—sent over the security system’s satellite feed—showed the carnage. The scenes were abhorrent and repulsive. There was no choice but to incinerate the base in the hope that every mutant virus within would be destroyed.

He glanced at his watch. It was nearly time to debrief his executive team on all that had happened. His assistant came through the doorway, tapping on the door as he entered.

“Excuse me, General,” Colonel Kevin Maklin said in an apologetic tone.

“What is it, Kevin?”

“I’m sorry, but there’s an inspector from Interpol here to see you. Martin Duerr.”

“Am I scheduled to see him?”

“No. He said it’s urgent.”

“Urgent? How?”

“He wouldn’t tell me. He said he must speak with you personally.”

Mosley looked at his watch again. “All right. I’ll give him a few minutes.”

His assistant stepped out and a short man with a round face, round wire-framed glasses, and wild white hair came in. He wore a tan suit that on anyone else would have looked crisp and sharp. On him, it hung like bad curtains.

“General Mosley?” he inquired in a low voice that came as a rumble from somewhere deep inside of him. He had a French accent.

“If it’s about those parking fines . . .”

The man chuckled politely. “No, sir. That’s the police. Parking fines are not within our jurisdiction.” He handed Mosley his credentials: a picture I.D. and gold badge with the blue insignia of a sword and globe overlaid with the letters OIPC/ICPO—the French and English acronyms for the International Criminal Police Organization, the world’s largest international police organization. “I’m an Inspector for Interpol. I’ve been sent from our headquarters in Lyon.”

“Beautiful city. What can I do for you, Inspector Duerr?”

Duerr looked as if he wanted to sit down, but Sam didn’t offer him a seat. “Have you ever heard of the Return to Earth movement?”

Mosley thought about it. “No. Should I have?”

Duerr shrugged, then produced a notepad from his pocket. Without looking at it, he said, “The Return to Earth is an extremist group—a combination of fanatical environmentalists and animal rights activists who’ve joined forces.”

Mosley gazed at the inspector but didn’t react.

Duerr cleared his throat. “They believe that humankind has lost his right to govern the earth because of his abuse of the world and of animals. In essence, they believe that humans should be returned to the earth, as in dead and decomposing, so that the earth can return to its natural state, in harmony with the animals.”

“I see.”

Duerr closed the notepad. “To be blunt, General, they’re terrorists—suicide bombers for Mother Earth. They will do anything to take mankind out of the equation. Anything. They’ll target individuals, families, industrial plants, factories, polluters, pharmaceutical companies, biochemical research sites, cosmetic companies, and any other entity they deem worthy to put on their hit-list for testing on animals or hurting the earth.”

“Am I on their hit-list?” Mosley asked. “Is that why you’re here?”

“Not in the way you think. But your name did come up in one of their meetings.”

Mosley scowled. “What meeting?”

“A cell meeting in Switzerland. They have cells worldwide, a loose network that supports and encourages one another. But they maintain enough distance to keep us from effectively tracking them. The individuals often don’t know who the other members are. There might be two or more working on the same project and they won’t know it. So, when we grab one, the others disappear back into the woodwork.”

“If you can’t track them, then how do you know I was mentioned?”

“One of our agents has infiltrated a cell in Basel. This is a significant breakthrough for us, as you can imagine. We have access to some of their activities as never before. Our agent flagged your name—in connection with some top secret facility in Greenland.”

Sam felt a cold hand squeeze his heart. He pressed his lips together to keep from speaking.

The Interpol agent nodded. “Yes, I know. I do not have the clearance for you to confirm or deny the existence of any top-secret facilities, but I want you to know that they know about it—and my agent was led to believe that they were going to take some sort of action against it.”

“What sort of action?”

“We don’t know,” the inspector replied. “Their modus operandi is usually centered around destruction, sabotage, intimidation.”

“Hypothetically speaking, if we were to have any sort of facility or facilities, and of course, I’m not saying or even insinuating we do or would, why would they target us?”

“Any facility that experiments on animals is suitable for attack. Or perhaps you were doing something that posed a risk to the environment. Or you may have been working on something that would accelerate their efforts to erase mankind from the earth. Pick one.”

Pick one, or all three. Was it possible these fanatics knew what they were testing and believed they could unleash a pandemic by infiltrating and sabotaging the facility? He swallowed an unnerving feeling of fear.

“How strong are they?”

The inspector pursed his lips. “They’re, shall we say, resourceful. Not only do they seem to have endless funding, but their ability to find out what a government or company is doing and where they are doing it is astounding. They seem to have followers buried deep within the most guarded enterprises. They insulate themselves anywhere and everywhere. Some of their members are experts in various fields, working at the highest levels. Or they plant an employee with, say, an outside contractor for a security firm, the military, or a government on one or more highly secure sites. Or, perhaps an employee of a janitorial service works at a secret site. You get the idea.”

“What do you need from me?” asked Mosley.

“I want you to be aware, to warn your people in a discreet way, so as not to jeopardize our operation.” Duerr thought, then added, “I need access to you in case we need your help. And, of course, I will keep you informed as best as I can.”

Sam thought about Greenland. How different would things have turned out had he spoken to Duerr earlier? “All right, Inspector. I’ll help in any way I can.”

Duerr waited as if something else should be said, then bowed slightly. “Merci, General.”

Once the Inspector had left, Mosley called Macklin into the office.

“Sir?”

“Get the team in here. We’ve got a problem.”

“Yes, sir.”

Mosley sat down in his chair, his mind working on how he could alert their research facilities about Return to Earth without alerting the terrorists.

A gentle chime sounded behind him and he swiveled the chair around to face his computer screen. An e-mail alert. He clicked on the message box.

His body stiffened when he saw the sender’s name. The message loaded and the text appeared. As he read, his hands became sweaty and his mouth dry.

It began, “Dear Dad . . .

My Name is Amy and I Read YA

I didn’t have much interest in reading YA books once I was past the age of 15. After all, I had pretty much started reading them when I was in elementary school. I thought I was too old for it, beyond that.

What I didn’t understand then and what has taken me awhile to figure out is that YA is not a genre, it’s a marketing technique.

What makes a book a young adult book? Lack of violence? No. Lack of profanity? No. Lack of sex? No. All of those things can be found and at times in abundance in young adult novels.

Simplified language? No. A dumbed down plot-line? No. Young Adult novels contain some of the most beautiful language I’ve read as well some of the most riveting heart-wrenching plots.

What makes a book a young adult book? One simple thing. A teenage protagonist.

In fact, many authors do not set out to write a book for young adults, they write a book, and later on learn that it can be marketed as a young adult book. Others, of course, do have teenagers as their primary audience in mind. So there’s a quite a mix in what you’ll find shelved under Young Adult.

When asked what the appeal of YA books is to me, and why I think so many people are reading them as adults now, I’ve tried to express that there’s something about those years…something about the high stakes, the intensity of emotions, the forming of oneself that resonates with us no matter where we are in life. But I think Ali (go read the whole post, it's great!) really said it beautifully when she said,

Adolescence is a crucial and fascinating stage of life--teens are an archetype of our power as humans to transform. I don't want to be sixteen again, but the challenges people face at that age still have relevance to me as an adult. My response to them is different than it would be if I were younger, but no less legitimate.



Having said that, I’ve been mulling over this idea that popped up recently that adults should leave YA books for the teens. While I disagree with that based on the understanding that young adult novels are nothing more than novels with teenage protagonists, I do sort of understand why it might freak some teenagers to have adults reading “their” books. In fact, I’ve even heard that the distinction between YA and teen fiction is that Young Adult implies a sort of adult approval over the books whereas Teen Fiction are books with adult style content and no "lesson" attached.

In any case, I cannot be shamed from reading books that are marketed as Young Adult or books that were written with a teenager in mind. I owe it to myself to read all good books, the books that speak to me, the books that remind me what it is to be human, the books that teach me, the books that make me laugh. And hopefully by being willing to read all sorts of books, I can find a way to connect with all sorts of different people.





Amy