Title: A Land More Kind Than Home
Author: Wiley Cash
Genre: Contemporary fiction; literary fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: I sat there in the car with the gravel dust blowing across the parking lot and saw the place for what it was, not what it was right at that moment in the hot sunlight, but for what it had been maybe twelve or fifteen years before: a real general store with folks gathered around the lunch counter, a line of people at the soda fountain, little children ordering ice cream of just about every flavor you could think of, hard candy by the quarter pound, moon pies and crackerjack and other things I hadn’t thought about tasting in years.
Goodreads blurb: For a curious boy like Jess Hall, growing up in Marshall means trouble when your mother catches you spying on grown-ups. Adventurous and precocious, Jess is enormously protective of his older brother, Christopher, a mute whom everyone calls Stump. Though their mother has warned them not to snoop, Stump can’t help sneaking a look at something he’s not supposed to—an act that will have catastrophic repercussions, shattering both his world and Jess’s. It’s a wrenching event that thrusts Jess into an adulthood for which he’s not prepared. While there is much about the world that still confuses him, he now knows that a new understanding can bring not only a growing danger and evil—but also the possibility of freedom and deliverance as well.
This was a chilling, heart-breaking story that demonstrates the danger of religious abuse. The church behind the tragedy in this story was truly terrifying, and the pastor one of the most evil villains I’ve encountered in a book in a long time. I had a hard time not being extremely angry at Jess’s mother for her naivete. This was a hard book to put down, and the ending was shocking.
Title: The Pact
Author: Jodi Picoult
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: Harper Collins
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: There was nothing left to say.
Goodreads blurb: For eighteen years the Hartes and the Golds have lived next door to each other, sharing everything from Chinese food to chicken pox to carpool duty– they’ve grown so close it seems they have always been a part of each other’s lives. Parents and children alike have been best friends, so it’s no surprise that in high school Chris and Emily’s friendship blossoms into something more. They’ve been soul mates since they were born.
So when midnight calls from the hospital come in, no one is ready for the appalling truth: Emily is dead at seventeen from a gunshot wound to the head. There’s a single unspent bullet in the gun that Chris took from his father’s cabinet– a bullet that Chris tells police he intended for himself. But a local detective has doubts about the suicide pact that Chris has described.
Talk about a page-turner! I’m so glad I decided to pick this up at the bookstore. I read it in only a few days, reading every spare minute I could find. The story of Chris and Emily’s relationship, and the friendship between their respective parents, unfolds slowly, and the reader is drawn into their lives, wondering how things could have ended up the way they did. Definitely Picoult at her best.
Title: Level 2
Author: Lenore Applehans
Genre: YA fantasy
Publisher: Listening Library
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Jenna Lamia
Audiobook length: 8 hours and 19 minutes
First line: I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
Goodreads blurb: Since her untimely death the day before her eighteenth birthday, Felicia Ward has been trapped in Level 2, a stark white afterlife located between our world and the next. Along with her fellow drones, Felicia passes the endless hours reliving memories of her time on Earth and mourning what she’s lost-family, friends, and Neil, the boy she loved.
Then a girl in a neighboring chamber is found dead, and nobody but Felicia recalls that she existed in the first place. When Julian-a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life-comes to offer Felicia a way out, Felicia learns the truth: If she joins the rebellion to overthrow the Morati, the angel guardians of Level 2, she can be with Neil again.
Suspended between Heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself at the center of an age-old struggle between good and evil. As memories from her life come back to haunt her, and as the Morati hunt her down, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake… but the salvation of all mankind.
I really wanted to love this book more than I did. I loved the premise, and I really enjoyed the memory portions of the story. I liked the fact that faith and youth group were treated with respect and not derision – and I could tell that the author must have had first-had experience with a Christian youth group, because it seemed authentic. The portions on Level 2 didn’t ring as true for me, though – there wasn’t enough depth of world-building for it to be completely believable. I did enjoy the audio, though, as Jenna Lamia is a fantastic narrator. Bottom line: I found it worth reading, but I’m not sure I’ll be continuing the series.