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2022 Literary Escapes Challenge

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2022 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

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The 52 Book Club's Reading Challenge 2022

The 52 Book Club's Reading Challenge 2022

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Saturday, September 08, 2012

And It Could Have Been So Intriguing ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After years of war and chaos, things in the U.S. have finally settled down.  As long as citizens comply with the Moral Statutes—new laws governing everything from what people can read to how they're allowed to dress to which religion they're able to practice—they're safe.  Breaking the rules means paying a hefty fine, being sent to prison, or worse.  If soldiers from the Federal Bureau of Reformation (FBR) take you away, chances are you'll never be heard from again.  

Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller's seen enough people disappear to know how serious the government is about upholding the laws, no matter how ridiculously strict they may be.  So, she does her best to stay under the radar, doing nothing that might draw the FBR's attention to her and her rebellious single mother.  It's not easy.  In fact, it's impossible.  Soldiers soon arrest Ember's mother for violating Article 5 (having children out of wedlock).  Now a piece of government property, Ember's taken to a girl's reformatory run by an anti-feminist group called the Sisters of Salvation.  She knows she can't stay there, knows she has to escape and find her mother—but how?  No one's ever made it out of the reformatory before aging out at 18.  Not alive, anyway.  Maybe she won't survive an escape attempt either, but she has to try.

As Ember battles the brutal soldiers of a fanatical government, she'll have to decide who to trust and what to risk in order to save herself and her mother.

Article 5, the first book in a new YA dystopian trilogy by newcomer Kristen Simmons, offers a premise with some unique possibilities.  Unfortunately, the book leaves most of those unexplored, focusing instead on Ember's incarceration and subsequent flight across several states.  So many YA dystopians have this exact plot that it makes Article 5 feel dull and unoriginal.  Intriguing characters can often save the day in such novels, but not in this one—Ember's whiny, selfish and irritatingly naive.  The rest of the cast are flat and/or stereotypical.  All in all, Article 5 disappointed me.  I was hoping for something unique and, although the story could have gone in some interesting directions, it just didn't.  Maybe subsequent books will, but I don't think I'll be sticking with this series long enough to find out.      

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Eve by Anna Carey, as well as Ashfall and Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin)

Grade:  C

If this were a movie, it would be rate:  PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), violence and mild sexual innuendo/content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Article 5 from the generous folks at Tor Teen (a division of Tor/Forge).  Thank you!       

Gentle War Horse Proves That Love Conquers All—Even the Most Painful Wounds of War

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Joey, a gentle red bay colt, is purchased by Mr. Narracott, he gets his first taste of the cruelty some men—particularly drunk men—like to unleash on weaker beings.  The young horse misses his mother, fears his new owner and wonders what is to become of him in the hands of the angry Mr. Narracott.  Then, Joey meets Albert, his owner's 13-year-old son.  Albert is as kind as his father is mean, as soft-spoken as his father is harsh, as determined to love Joey as his father is to break him.  Although Joey still shies away when Mr. Narracott comes for him, he knows that as long as he has Albert, everything will be okay.

Then, World War I bears down on England.  Albert is too young to enlist, but Joey is just what the Army's looking for—he's a strong and healthy recruit.  Mr. Narracott needs the money the Army's offering him, so he sells Albert's horse to them.  After working on the farm, Joey knows all about sore muscles, but the exhaustion he feels on the battlefield is something else altogether.  Along with the other war horses, he has learned to charge the enemy, transport wounded soldiers and carry heavy artillery.  With gunshots roaring in his ears, he must do his duties bravely, even as his friends—both equestrian and human—fall all around him.  Joey is determined to survive the war for one reason: Albert.  He must see his friend again, no matter how impossible that reunion might seem. 

I'm not much for books with animal narrators, but War Horse by Michael Morpurgo has received so much praise that I knew I had to read it.  While I'm not sure the book quite deserves all the attention it's been given, I did enjoy the story.  It's a quick, heartwarming read about an animal's love for his owner, a boy who's also been his kind and loving friend.  With a true and heartbreaking look at how war destroys—and sometimes solidifies—such bonds, War Horse is an uplifting tale that proves love conquers all, even the most painful wounds of war. 

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:  B

If this were a movie (and it is!), it would be rated:  PG for mild language, violence (including animal cruelty) and scenes of peril    

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of War Horse from the generous folks at Scholastic.  Thank you!
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