review: A Moment Comes by Jennifer Bradbury

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A Moment Comes by Jennifer Bradbury is the harrowing story of three teenagers living in Jalandhar, India during the Pakistan Revolution of 1947, a turbulant time for Muslims, Sikhs, and the occupying British – who at the time still controlled that region of the world.

Tariq is a Muslim boy who is desperate to quit India and attend university at Oxford – saying nothing of letting his family make the dangerous trek to Pakistan without their only physically-abled son. He is the assistant to a British cartographer in hopes of receiving a recommendation from him to attend the prestigious school.

Anupreet is a Sikh girl who fears the wrath of angry Muslims, but even moreso fears her brother’s anger towards the Muslims after strangers attacked her, leaving her face marred. She wants peace, but doesn’t want to confront what is necessary to acquire that.

Margaret is the daughter of a British cartographer tasked with assisting Lord Louis Mountbatten in carving out a place for the Muslim community – Pakistan – and leaving the rest for the Sikh community. She wants to feed the orphans and aide the sick, but is kept inside by her fearful and prejudiced mother.

These three characters are fictional, as are the specifics of the attacks detailed in the novel – but by no means are the themes made-up. Bradbury conducted extensive research into the culture of India at the time of the divide, even spending a few months living in the country to better understand the customs and familial relationships that made A Moment Comes so authentic. And it is a war story. The novel culminates on the eve of the day the boundary lines are published, so the reality of one of the largest human migrations in world history hadn’t even come close to reaching its peak. I closed the book after the last page and found myself wanting, needing to know more, but I loved that Bradbury ended it where she did. Because from that evening on, no one could have predicted where their lives were heading. The unsureness was palpable, and terrifying.

What I found so engrossing about the novel was that none of the characters were 100% convinced that they and their “side” was the right one. Tariq grappled with being a dutiful son, and making the best future for himself and his future country. Margaret’s father, the fictional Mr. Darnsley, isn’t even sure that he is in fact helping the situation. In contrast, Margaret comes into her own when she is finally called to help, but not in a way she intended.

Recommended for:
Although my two-year committment to the Loudoun County Public Library 1Book 1Community committee has ended, I will recommend this book for the honor come next year when the group convenes. It encases the themes of a book worthy of discussion, and meets the mission of the project; to promote “community dialog and understanding“.

Read-alikes:
I cannot think of a read-alike to this. Truly, I can’t. BUT, the real-life daughter of Lord Mountbatten – the British Lord who led the cartographers in drawing the boundary lines – Pamela Hicks, just recently wrote a book Daughter of Empire: my life as a Mountbatten and I look forward to reading it to compare her story to the fictional Margaret’s.

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Wednesday review

Another week. Another shelf full of books on hold me yours truly. Another sigh as I release that book from my holding to give to the next person in line. So long Cuckoo’s Calling. Farewell Shadow and Bone. It’s not you. It’s me. I’ll come find you when I’m ready for you.

momentI totally judged A Moment Comes by Jennifer Bradbury by its cover, and I am not ashamed to say it! Seriously, the peacock feather is so beautiful, and the intricate details of the orange pattern really drew me in. Until I sat down with it this morning I hadn’t even realized there was an eye on the cover! The book is set in India before Pakistan became its own country in 1971 as part of the Pakistan Movement of 1947. History lesson in a novel? Yeah!

Untitled-1The author of Escape from Eden is Elisa Nader, who lives locally. She gave me 5 copies of her book to give to my Recent Reads Teen Book Club members, and she may be coming to my library for an author event or panel. I am really enjoying this book and Mia and her escape from a cult.

Review: The Elite by Kiera Cass

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I read the first book in this series The Selection last March. I wrote that it “perfectly combines elements of modern reality TV, with a futuristic dystopian society, and the historic ideologies and pressures of being a royal family.” 

But Cass kind of let me down with its sequel The Elite. 

What I loved:
Unlike with most sequels, Cass didn’t spend the entire first chapter revisiting the previous novel. (I hate when authors do that. If you read the first, you don’t need a grade-school summary leading you to into the second. Forgot what the first was about? Re-read the last chapter or the entire thing.) She dove right into the new material, getting to work on reminding us about why we fell in love with Prince Maxon and “bachelorette #6” America Singer.

I loved that America’s ferocious sense of right and wrong was upheld. When her friend is being wronged, despite her own wrongdoings, America behaves the way everyone else should have. Thank you, Cass, for keeping her strong.

What I did not love:
The very thing that earned one potential-princess a spot on the first train out of town in The Selection earned America nothing more than a stern look from the Queen in The Elite. And America and Aspen sneak away less than a day after another princess-to-be is caned for being caught in a compromising position with a guard. I really don’t like that Cass lets America get away with the very things that others were punished for, with no explanation whatsoever.

America is a teenaged girl, so her affections for Maxon and Aspen change with the wind…but I found her to be a bit too fickle to be taken seriously. 

Recommended for:
While I will continue to recommend The Selection, I will not be recommending The Elite. :/

Book 77: Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

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Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor is the sequel to last Fall’s stunning fantasy spin on Romeo & Juliet, Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Karou has no family left, and has reluctantly succumbed to the chimaera leader, the White Wolf, and his small but mighty army. She has taken Brimstone’s task of resurrecting the dead chimaera, in an effort to keep the chimaera race alive and fighting. Meanwhile her former lover, the angel Akiva, has re-joined forces with the seraphs in destroying everything and everyone getting in between them and their enemy, even if the “everyone” includes very innocent bystanders.

This sequel picks up where the first left off, with broken hearts and mis-understandings. The two protagonists do what they must in order to survive and help their own people thrive, but keep thinking about the pact they made to each other, to work together to unite the feuding races.

Laini Taylor proves once more than she is a master crafter of other worlds. What she did for Prague and Elsewhere in Daughters she did for Morocco’s kasbah and the mythical palaces and countryside controlled by the seraph emperor Joram. Readers can feel the desert heat on their backs as Zuzana and Mik follow clues that lead to Karou, and can taste the spices Karou smells on her walk through the Moroccan market.

This book is a stunning follow-up to the first, and set itself up nicely to be continued for a third and final installment next fall. I find myself thinking about Karou and Akiva and the palpable rage that is separated only by a thin wall in the underground where the orphaned-seraph and chimaera are reluctantly joining forces in an attempt to end this war once and for all, and before it passes through the barrier into Earth.

You have only to begin, Lir. Mercy breeds mercy as slaughter breeds slaughter. We can’t expect the world to be better than we make it.

I reviewed the first book in the trilogy last September when I received an ARC (advanced reader copy, for all you non-librarians/book fanatics) from a library patron and friend who runs her own book review blog with her best friend and their kick-butt kids (no seriously, they will all grow up to be rock stars). If you are ever in need of a recommendation for your teen reader, head to their site. They will tell you what you need to know, from the parent’s standpoint. I really respect their objectivity. 

Nearing the End/Beginning Anew

I am 2 books away from completing my goal of reading and reviewing 75 books in the year 2012. I am currently reading the following, so expect a review of them within the coming weeks (or, in the case of the second title, December 31st…hopefully):

A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz: Essentially a study of human life, told from the perspective of a sardonic sociopathic narrator and his curious yet lazy son. I am listening to this 21-disc audiobook, and am only on disc 11. Be patient with me.

War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy: I read Anna Karenina in 2009 and have seen the Russian film version twice (the one with the stunning acrtress Tatyana Samoylova). I saw the Keira Knightly version on Sunday, which reminded me that I had yet to crack open the War & Peace sitting on my bookshelf. I hope to have it done by Christmas.

But no worries! I will read others. I just requested the new Jo-Ann Mapson (I just loved her book Bad Girl Creek), and hope that the library gets Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor (sequel to Daughter of Smoke & Bone) in soon.

 

In other news (the “Beginning Anew” portion of this blog post’s title), I read an article in the Nov/Dec American Libraries that really shook me. The article is Terror Has Not Withdrawn: daily life for librarians in Iraq by Leonard Kniffel, and states that although the war is technically over, the killing and daily anxiety are not. But amidst that, many Iraqis are trying to rebuild their lives, and this includes the library and education system.

Because of the security situation, a decade’s worth of children were either not sent to school or were able to attend only sporadically so they need to play catch-up…

This is not just an issue for Iraq. This is a global issue, and a critical one at that. We know from studies conducted on our own criminal justice system that many criminals are uneducated, so if we apply this to the current generation of young people in Iraq, we can expect many of them to lead lives in crime. And the types of crime that young Iraqis can get involved with are, as we all know, deadly on a large scale. An entire generation of educated, poor (because they are uneducated and cannot secure good jobs) Iraqis with no where to go but a life of crime?

So what can we do? Anything? Should Oprah go set up a school for girls? Should we open our public school doors to Iraqi immigrants to try to un-do the damage done to them, educationally and mentally? The article in American Libraries mentions re-building Iraq’s National Library and Archives, but this is not a “build it and they will come” situation. The young people might know a library and archive exists, but do they know how to utilize those materials? Do they have mentors who will help them learn, grow, and push themselves educationally? We helped arm them with weapons, now can we arm them with education and a way to a better future than they are currently looking towards?

Book 68: One Second After by William Forstchen

I read another post-apocalyptic book. Shocking…I know.

But this one is different, I swear!

One Second After by William Forstchen is not about zombies, the second coming of the Lord, a natural disaster, or some science fiction-like event. No…this “end of the world” scenario is so plausible that I have (kindly) instructed my fiance to read the book so we can be better prepared for the situation if it were to occur…and not in some over-exaggerated Doomsday Preppers kind of way. I am (dead?) serious. And it didn’t help that Newt Gingrich wrote the Foreword to the novel, describing his decade-long fascination with and fear of American technology being obliterated by an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). No one does that with zombie books because the realm of possibility is so small (read: nonexistent). But attack by EMP? That is a whole lot more likely.

The novel is narrated by retired Army colonel John Matherson; a widower, father of 2 girls, and history professor at the small Christian college up the road. John enjoys his simple life in Black Mountain, North Carolina, but one Spring night the lights go out, and John’s experience with the army tells him that this is no power outage, no storm, not even another 9/11. No, this is a foreign attack. An EMP.

John goes into soldier status and with the help of the mayor, town public safety officer, and doctor, corral the community. They collect and ration out food, medicine, and protection. The community comes together (though not without a few problems…this isn’t a fairy tale story) and an army forms out of the students at Montreat College. The story, though, is just a catalyst for the author to make his case that an EMP attack could be the worst thing to happen to this plugged-in country. With everything we use relying on battery power, and our excessive use of prescription medication, Forstchen claims (through the novel) that 80% of Americans would die in the first year following an EMP attack, due to our inability to get things back up and running. Inability to cope, disease, lack of medicine, lack of running water in some areas, food shortages, and more would lead to the destruction of the country.

But Forstchen isn’t all gloom and doom. If we take his novel as a case study, to learn from what the fictional characters of Black Mountain, NC went through, then we, as a nation, could be better prepared for an EMP attack or other attack, natural disaster, or that totally possible zombie thing. The author’s website has a detailed list of items we should all have stowed away, and situations we should be prepared for in case such an event occurs. I encourage you all to look at this list, if not read the book, to better understand what total darkness (from electronics) could mean to this country, and how we can be better prepared. Proper preparation could mean the difference between life and death.

Dystopian or real life?

Dystopian literature: a story set in the future, of a town or community led under the guise of Utopia

I read a lot of dystopian novels. I love them. Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Lowis Lowry’s The Giver, Joseph Cronin’s The Passage are among my favorite books. They are dark, scary, and eerily believable. In many of these stories there are lies, deceit, and zombie-like creatures that symbolize the death of the rest of the world, that reminds the protagonist and his or her followers that they are alone in the world. Yet while I gain pleasure from these books, sit and read for hours about the world of Panem and the thirteen Districts, of post-apocalyptic North America, a real dystopia is occurring. A real secluded world with no way out, with dangerous enemies right on the other side of the fence. And more often than not, that fence is breached. Welcome to the Congo.


In a cover story of today’s New York Times I read the headline “4-Day Frenzy of Rape in Congo Reveals U.N. Troop’s Weakness”. The article begins with a description of an 80-year old woman’s rape, and then tells readers that at least 200 women (of unknown ages, so we can only assume the worst) were also raped over this four day period. The children that were with the women? Slapped and thrown down, and who knows what else. What’s worse? U.N. peacekeepers were stationed on the street.

I can’t even stand the idea that while I am wearing my cute little dress, sitting in my air-condition office, reading books of pleasure, reading the newspaper at my convenience (with no one censoring my reading materials), being able to say “NO!” and have that stand up in court…someone else not too far away is being tormented and repeatedly raped for absolutely no reason other than to inflict pain and suffering and scarring (and perhaps the permanent illness of AIDS). I honest to God do not understand it. I cannot wrap my head around a world like this. I watched Hotel Rwanda over the summer. I cried, felt hate, but inevitably did nothing because what can I do? I mean really, what in the sam Hell can I do besides read these articles, pray for the innocent people, and write a letter to my Congressman? I am not a billionaire singer like Bono, I am no ambassador like Angelina Jolie.

Next I ask the question of who to blame. Who is at fault? Obviously the disorganized and corrupt Congolese army. (But really, could you focus your efforts on your country while also trying to keep your family safe? At least American soldiers don’t have to worry about their wives and children being brutally abused by their own countrymen.) And then there’s the U.N. They have been there for over a decade, but no good has come of it. Has the world just thrown up its hands and said, “We’ve done all we can,”?? Or does it ramp up its efforts and go in fighting? Perhaps out Secretary of State should go to the U.N. to ask that more reinforcements be sent, but where will those reinforcements come from? America? We may have many of our soldiers back from Iraq, but the war in Afghanistan isn’t over. We have hundreds of thousands of mentally and physically wounded soldiers who we just cannot send back. We need to give them the care and attention they deserve. So whose job is it to help Congo? What can I do? What can we do? What the hell can Bono do besides sing a song?