Wednesday, March 29, 2017

End of the World as We Know It: The Alliance by Jolina Petersheim

This is a book that seemed to come out of nowhere and quickly became one of the Recommender's favorites.  I've read a lot of post apocalyptic fiction, some of it amazing and plausible and Jolina Petersheim's The Alliance is one of the most original and captivating in this category. Although, it is so good it hardly seems fair to limit it that way. If you're looking for a good story with memorable  characters that you'll care about... then, look no further!
A small plane crashes on the grounds of an Old Order Mennonite community in Montana . The pilot, Moses Hughes, is rescued by members of the community and cared for by Leora Ebersole, a young woman who lives with her grandmother, and younger brother, Seth, and sister Anna who is mentally challenged.
As Moses heals, Leora and the others begin to understand that something has happened outside the community. Something big. There's no electricity at the Field to Table, the community's bulk food store and restaurant. Customers' cars won't start and none of their cell phones are working either. It seems the plane crash and the power outage may be connected. Moses theorizes that it could be an EMP or electromagnetic pulse. He explains it as "a special warhead, probably set off hundreds of miles above earth that wipes out technology because of how the pulse reacts to the earth's magnetic field". This event can throw civilization in the affected areas back a couple of hundred years.
"How do we fix it?" Leora asks. "We don't" is Moses reply.
As the outside world rather quickly becomes chaotic, the Mennonite leaders, including Jabil Snyder, a young man who has feelings for the independent Leora, are pacifists. Their faith encourages them to welcome those without and share what they have. Can they survive in a society that may bring  aggressors into their midst? And what of the outsiders trapped and unable to get home?
 Told in the alternating voices of Leora and Moses who find themselves drawn to each other as they try to help the community deal with this challenging new landscape and the threats it may hold.
Ms. Petersheim has created wonderfully believable characters and a compellingly real world. This is such a thought provoking story and Ms. Petersheim such a great writer I found myself thinking about those characters months later.
And, the good news is, there is a sequel! I was delighted to find that Edelweiss was listing the DRC which, fingers crossed, I requested, and Yay! received it (thank you, Edelweiss!) and read immediately. That review will follow, so, SPOILERS AHEAD don't read that review until you have a chance to get a copy of The Alliance!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Teen Spirit: "My Life As a Bench" by Jaq Hazell

The spirit of 17 year old Ren, or Lauren Bethany Miller, has taken up residence within the tribute memorial bench placed by her grieving family in a London park. There is a plaque attached to the bench with a scan code so when people point their smart phones at it... it opens a website with pictures, remembrances and videos of Ren singing, because, when she was alive, she was an amazing singer, in the style of her favorite, Amy Winehouse.
The next bench over is inhabited by the spirit of Lionel, an older gentleman, who tells her he had died of "boredom". He has been a part of this small patch of land for a long time and he is a comforting presence for Ren, and helps her to come to terms with her situation and what her spirit can and cannot do.
What Ren longs for most of all is a visit from, or even a glimpse of, her former boyfriend, Gabe. She wonders why he hasn't come to visit the bench. Then, she hears some startling information when some members of her family come to visit, that Gabe was charged with her death. As things from her past slowly come back to her she longs to reach out and make things right.
The author, beginning with this unusual premise, turns it into a moving story of a young life ending all too soon. The story cuts between Ren and Lionel's dialogues and Ren's remembrances of her past and the events leading up to her death. It is engaging, funny and also quite heartbreaking. Thank you to NetGalley and Nowness Books who granted my DRC wish! Highly recommended!