Books of the Week:
- Splintered, A.G. Howard
- The Testing, Joelle Charbonneau
- Affliction, Laurell K. Hamilton
A.G. Howard’s Splintered is a reimagining of the story of “Alice in Wonderland,” and it’s a dark and unexpected version of the story that enchanted so many of us when we were young. Alyssa’s great-great-great grandmother, Alice Liddell, told her dreams to Lewis Carroll, who was inspired by them to write his classic – and Alyssa, in her teens, believes that her mother’s life in an asylum is due to that circumstance. Alyssa’s always concealed the depth of her secret life, even from her good friend Jeb . . . but when she’s caught up in Wonderland for real, he follows her in. This book is blessed with good writing and a great cover, and though it’s classified for young adults, I thought it was well worth reading.
While we’re talking about young adult books, if you can stand to read one more YA dystopian adventure, let it be Joelle Charbonneau’s The Testing. I read this book far in advance of its publication date, but I’ve been waiting to talk about it because I didn’t want anyone to forget to put it on her list. Teen Cia Vale is chosen for The Testing, the process that determines whether or not you get into college, in a society in which returning the earth to useful production after a war is the main occupation of every citizen. Cia is not only intelligent, but observant and logical; she may not be a weapons specialist, but she knows her surroundings. Less violent than the instant classic The Hunger Games, there are nevertheless big challenges and unpleasant realizations about human nature in The Testing. I galloped through this excellent read; I was in suspense the whole time.
Affliction is Laurell K. Hamilton’s July 2 Anita Blake book. Anita and her boyfriends Nathaniel and Micah must hurry to Micah’s father’s bedside after he’s been bitten by a new kind of zombie, which puts him on the brink of an awful death. While Micah keeps a deathwatch, Anita hunts for the mysterious new zombies who are terrorizing the area. There is a higher proportion of action in this book, which will please many readers of this long-running series. I have always envied Hamilton’s endless energy and inventiveness, and she shows no signs of flagging in this book, which has surprises aplenty for those who’ve followed Anita through so many changes.
I’ve written about my adventures in Hollywood on my Monday Femmes Fatales blogand for Ace’s website, and today I’m thinking (as so many people are) about my father.
My father, mother, and brother, are all gone. Naturally, when I think of growing up in Tunica, Mississippi, I think of them since I am the only one remaining to tell the story. (I am not trying to sound like Little Orphan Annie. I am blessed to have a husband and three children of my own, and a handful of cousins.) My father was a farmer for many more years than he wanted to be; his father had died young and his brother had other career goals, so that left my dad to run the farm for my grandmother.
As the years passed, the farm grew and grew. It started with small additions, like more tractors and other farm vehicles. Then he needed somewhere to keep them and so steel building contractors built large metal sheds for them. From there, the amount of arable land and the volume of crops also increased. Yet, as the farm got bigger, my dad’s smile got smaller. It took me many, many years to realize that he never wanted to do that. I don’t think he had a very happy time of it. When my grandmother passed away, he rented the land, went back to school, and became a teacher.
I believe he was the happiest he’d ever been in his life. And he was a good teacher. But that was a drastic year in Mississippi, and in the wake of integration, and while students in both schools in Tunica County were still trying to figure out what to do, my father was offered the principal’s job at the newly formed junior high school. At least partly to keep me in college, he accepted the better-paying job.
This was a very, very difficult position in those tumultuous years. The principal was the liaison between the parents, the school board, the high school principal, and the teachers. It was a nearly impossible situation, yet my father held it for many years. And I think (it’s hard for a kid to judge) that he was well-liked and respected by both blacks and whites. It was a job that taxed his skills as a mediator and administrator, and he came to know the people who worked both below and above him better than he ever could have imagined he would know people of another race in the era in which he was born. Those years of transition seem almost impossible to believe, now.
I was never as proud of my father as I should have been. It took years of being a parent, myself, to see the sacrifice he had made for me. He was the best father he knew how to be, at some cost to his own happiness. Of course he had failings. We all do. But he never complained. He brought me up to read and love reading, to write and to revere writers, to attend church and live by its moral codes. And though he had trouble saying the words, he loved his family.
I don’t think I could say anything better about Robert Ashley Harris Jr.
Dad, I remember you.