End Times: The Prophet Emerges by Anna Schumacher

(Published in 2014 by Razorbill) 

This is a YA book I checked out as an e-book because it was available.  I ended up getting more into it than I thought I would. I will read the next book as well, because I need to know what happens.  Even though I want to know what happens next, that does not mean that I connected with the characters.  All of them, even the main character, feel rather undereveloped to me.  There is a distance. Perhaps this is purposefully done by the author. It made me, the reader, frustrated with the characters at times.  The main character is Daphne, who has had a rather rough life recently, but uses her confidence and strength to get an intense job on an oil rig at age 17.  Her teenage cousin is pregnant and expecting a baby with her not-so-great boyfriend.  Things are looking up in their lives. . . until they are not.  

I do recommend this book (series) to those who enjoy end-of-the-world and/or dystopian fiction.

S is for The Stand

Title:  The Stand       
Author: Stephen King
Original Publication Date: 1978 / 1991
Date I First Read: 1991 / 1991
Basic Category: Fiction / Apocalypse
Basic Summary:  A virus gets out of a government facility (because in this particular version of the world, a creature known as Randall Flagg makes this happen) and spreads through the world in a matter of days. 99% of the world’s population dies.  The survivors pick a side and gather together to fight the forces of evil. 
Note there is the first version, which was heavily edited and published in 1978.  I read this book early in 1991.  Then the expanded “uncut” edition came out the following summer.   I had to wait in line to get that one from the library! I savored it when I finally got my hands on it.  Fortunately it was during the summer so that I had time to read it before school started again. 
What I Remember About the Book: Stu and Fran.   The baby.  Mother Abigail.   The flu spreading.   Nick Andros. (No, I didn’t name my son after him.  I didn’t even think about that until now.)  Harold. 
What I Took Away From the Book:  Worry about what I would do if I would survive (be immune) such a disaster.  My asthma was not very much under control at the time.  I realized that I would have to break into a few pharmacies and take all of the albuterol inhalers I could get my hands on to keep myself alive.
And learn how to ride a motorcycle, even though I dislike motorcyles. 
Rating (1-5 stars):  4.5 (The lack of good well-written women, even twenty years ago as a teen bothered me. However, I still liked the whole story very much!)  

G is for Girl Who Owned a City

(For the 2013 A to Z Blogging Challenge, I will be featuring one book each day, that begins with that day’s letter, that made an impression on me.  This means that for some reason, I didn’t just read that book and forget about it.  No, I still think about it after some period of time has passed.) 

Title:  Girl Who Owned a City
Author: O. T. Nelson
Original Publication Date: 1979
Date I First Read: 1988
Basic Category: YA/Teen Fiction / Post-Apocalyptic 

Basic Summary:  Everyone who is above a certain age dies in a plague/virus.   Lisa and her brother are left to fend for themselves in a Chicago suburb.   
What I Remember (most) About the Book: The kids barricaded themselves in a warehouse or school, I think.   Honestly, it was one of the first apocalyptic books I ever read, and it made an impression on me, though I remember that I liked Children of the Dust by Louise Lawrence better. 
What I Took Away From the Book: Kids can survive in world without adults . . . if they can think like adults sometimes. 
Rating (1-5 stars):  4.0 stars – I would have given it four stars back then.  Now, I don’t know.  I re-read it in 2006 or so.  Portions left me wondering, and asking “Would I have really been able to drive a car at 10?” (I was maybe almost tall enough with the seat pulled up.)  I think I am going to have to find it, if I can, and read it again.   

Teen/YA Fiction Titles Recently Read

First, I do apologize for not updating this blog in quite some time.  We moved 1800 miles from where we were the last time I posted on here.  Life has been busy.  My laptop also developed a severe problem which is still being solved.   This has been a mixed blessing.  Mixed because I’ve had less chance to be on the Internet in general, but good, because I have been able to devote more time to reading!  In 2011, I read 75 books in total . . . a very low number for me.  It is still November in 2012, but I am nearing the 130 mark in my total.

Here are some of the Teen/YA title I have read in the last six weeks or so (with a few comments):

Article 5 by Kristen Simmons – I started telling my husband about this one, and he said that it is good that we have such books.  It reminds us about how fortunate we are to have our freedom.   The US had been decimated in  a war, and now the President/dictator has made everything about “morals” and “family.”  But what is family, really?  And should single parents be punished unfairly for decisions made 18 years earlier?   It is a lot to think about.   I am looking forward to the sequel . . . which, according the cover, might take place in Chicago.

Ashen Winter by Mike Mullins – I also read the first book, Ashfall, earlier this year. I really liked the first book, but didn’t care for this second one nearly so much.  The first one ended much more hopefully, which this second one truly leaves the reader hanging after a lot of truly awful scenes throughout the book.  That said, I will read the third one when it comes out.  The whole story is about a teen who survives a lot of things after a giant dormant volcano erupts and sends the midwest into an ice age.
Here is my brief review of Ashfall: http://ketabgirl2.blogspot.com/2012/03/ashfall-by-mike-mullin.html

Spookygirl by Jill Baguchinsky – After reading dystopian fiction, this book was a nice change!  I think my 13 year old niece would like this book.   A high school sophomore can see and talk to ghosts, while her dad is a mortician.   I really recommend this book for tweens and young teens.  It is a nice blend of the freaky, the scary and family and friendships.  

Courtships and Curses by Marissa Doyle – Historical fiction with a little magic.  It takes place in London during “the Season”.  Sophie has come out in society.   People are surprised to see her, and looking so good, because they heard she’d become less intelligent and “hump-backed” from her illness.  No one know she’s a witch, too, and Sophie thinks this doesn’t matter because not only did her leg (but not her brain or her back, people!) become lame from her bout with polio, but she thinks she has lost her magic, too.   I really, really enjoyed this book.  (I would actually recommend this one to my niece as well.) 
Yesterday by C. K. Kelly Martin – Another vaguely dystopian fiction . . . except much of the book doesn’t really take place in the future.  It is more about time travel . . . Freya now lives in 1985, but she knows something isn’t right.  She still has memories that were supposed to have been wiped, but they weren’t totally gone.  
All These Lives by Sarah Wylie – Not dystopian!   Dani’s twin sister has leukemia.   Dani’s mother always told Dani that she had nine lives because they’ve survived an accident years before.  Now, Dani believes that if she tries to kill herself, that she’d be able to pass her life onto her sister.   She survives every attempt, a little worse for wear.   Obviously, Dani feels responsible for her sister’s life.   Overall, a very well-written book.

A World Away by Nancy Grossman – Amish girl leave Iowa for the Chicago suburbs for her Rumschpringe! She is trying to figure out where she truly belongs in life, with a few surprises along the way.  I really enjoyed this book, and couldn’t put it down until the end.

Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught – Told from the POV of a protagonist with schizophrenia.  It was quite an experience to read this book.   I highly recommend it.

Choke by Diana Lopez – A story about girls who are befriended by the new girl in school who seems very cool and rather exotic.  She always wears scarves around her neck . . . it turns out she chokes to get high.  I had no idea this is a “thing.”

The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle – I thought I would like this book as being a combo Amish/Vampire/Dystopian novel.   I am not altogether sure I liked it at all.  The vampires are very Stoker-ish or maybe they even reminded me more of the vampires in Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot.  Which took me back to my young teenage years when I had insomia due to reading ‘Salem’s Lot at 9 pm.  I read The Hallowed Ones at night, and then was imagining all sorts of odd things . . . and the head of our bed is against a window.   Oops.   Maybe I would have liked it better in the bright light of a sunny day!  Pretty much, there is something like a vampire infection spreading through the country, and the rural Amish community is not safe from it.

Epitaph Road  by David Patenaude – I actually enjoyed this dystopian novel.   The premise is that less than a hundred years from now, a virus will sweep the world – one that only kills males.   Women will be able to rule the world much more peacefully . . . but not all is as perfect as it seems.   I recommend this one.

Adaptation by Malinda Lo – Aliens.  Sort of.   Not zombies.  I appreciate aliens more than zombies, I have discovered.  This is an interesting read.

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

Today [the day I wrote the review and posted on LibraryThing], at the grocery store, I saw vitamin C tablets. My first impulse was to stock up and buy them all . . . which sums up the impact this book had on me this week. Near the end of the book, the local doctor explains that a lot of people had scurvy and the vitamin C was worth its weight in gold.

Overall, this disaster novel was powerful . . . I could not put it down and stayed up half of the night to finish it. Every few years, a disaster (particularly earth science-related) book gets my attention that pulls me in immediately. I look forward to the sequel.

I have to agree with another reviewer, in that I wish we had a chance to get to know the protagonist, Alex, a little more in the time before the disaster (the huge dormant volcano under Yellowstone blows, and Iowa is in the “red zone”). We get hints as to his previous life, but they are brief and fleeting. What we know most is that he is good at tae kwan do, because that comes in handy in his travels to reconnect with his family.

Title: Children of the Dust

Children of the Dust by Louise Lawrence. (Copyright 1985)

I read this book in early 1988. I was almost 13. I saw a classmate reading this book. (Megan, I think.) I saw the mushroom cloud on the cover. This was also around the time I had become familiar with Weird Al’s song “Christmas at Ground Zero”, and these lyrics: “We can dodge debris while we trim the tree / Underneath the mushroom cloud.” So naturally, I wanted to read it. At the time, if I remember correctly, we were nearing the end of the Cold War, but the possibility of mushroom clouds still seemed very real.

I found the book in the school library in my junior high. The Media Librarian was Mrs. Page, who was previously my fifth grade teacher. I loved her, and in jr. high, she would often save me books that she thought I’d like. However, this one I found on my own. Also, it again points out the power of peer influence, even when it comes to reading selections. Note: It was most likely this book that really gave me a taste for “disaster” fiction. I have to admit that it was already there (e.g. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder), but the disaster in Children of the Dust is man-made. This really woke me up to the idea that people could really be crazy enough to be this destructive.

Seven things about Children of the Dust:
1) The story is told in three parts – “Sarah”, “Ophelia”, and “Simon”. They are each essentially a different generation.
2) It takes place in England, in Gloucestershire. The book opens with a line about how perfect the day was: “It was such a perfect day, a promise of summer with cloudless blue skies.”
3) Sarah does not get along well with her step-mother Veronica. They get along better as the end nears for them. They work together to save Catherine, Sarah’s little sister.
4) Their dad, unbeknownst to them, survives when he is invited to an underground bunker. He pairs with another woman to conceive another child (Ophelia) to help carry on the human race. They mistakenly think that no one will survive outside.
5) Years later, when Ophelia is a teen, she, a friend, and her dad to go out to warn the people in the outside world that the men in the bunker are going to come to steal their cattle. It is then that they discover Catherine. Catherine is covered in radiation sores, but has managed to have two children who survive – they are mutants: the Children of the Dust. They have adapted to the new radiated environment. Ophelia looks so much like Sarah that Catherine thinks that Sarah survived.
6) Thirty some years later – Ophelia’s son Simon has been out with an expedition and is injured. He is taken to the healer in the local mutant settlement where he meets who turned out to be his cousin Laura (granddaughter of Catherine – also known by now as Blind Kate). Laura is a mutant, and at first he finds her repulsive, and then later beautiful as he get to know her and her people.

7) The mutants have mentals powers such as telekenesis that humans always has access to, but never used, and then forgot over time. The mutants have reclaimed these powers. Simon begins to see how the mutants and their powers, and the science that the people in the bunkers have can work together to create a wonderful new world.

Favorite lines from the book:
“They ate by candlelight – fish sticks, crinkle-cut french fries, and green beans, with thawing ice cream for dessert. . . food that Veronica had taken from the freezer and had to be used up quickly” (12).

“Sarah coughed and smiled. Bright blood flecked the back of her hand and she did not worry. Johnson was part of the plan, a man with a vision that she herself would never share. Her part was over, her purpose played out. She had lived for Catherine and now she gave Catherine to him. Finally satisfied, Sarah turned away, leaving man and child together in the rainy darkness” (61).

“From the inner room came a thin baby wail and an echo of girlish laughter, laughter that went on and one, a maniacal glee. Dwight was talking rubbish! Of course the human race was going to survive! Catherine had just given birth to a live healthy child and Ophelia was going to see. . . Gently she opened the shawl for Ophelia to see. The baby was naked, a pale little thing, completely covered in white silky hair, soft and thick as fur. Tiny fingers gripped when Ophelia touched her, and her eyes opened wide. They too were white” (11 7-18).

” ‘Government?’ said Johnson. ‘What government is this? I wasn’t aware we had a government, and I certainly didn’t vote for them. None of us did. You can’t just walk in here, Allison, and expect me to believe you represent some government I’ve never heard of.’
‘I do have credentials.’
‘Credentials don’t count,’ said Johnson” (122).

” ‘Psychic,’ said the girl, as if she had read his mind. ‘I’m a water diviner, among other things, and my name is Laura. You had no need to shoot that dog, you know. I could have controlled it. My mind is stronger than an animal’s mind. Stronger than yours, too.’
Simon sat on the crumbling edge of the windowsill.
There was a throbbing pain in his leg.
He did not believe what she told him.
Laura laughed teasingly.
‘Once people believed that nuclear holocaust would never happen,’ she said” (136-7).

If you liked this book, there is a movie from the early ’80s that you should see titled The Day After. I watched this two or three years ago after a colleague suggested it. It takes place in the US, and does not go into future generations of those who survive, but it tells a story that is very scary, and would be at least as scary as this book. I do have to admit, though, that Children of the Dust really ends very positively for the characters involved who go on to create new societies after the destruction.