The Search for Sam by Pittacus Lore
Lorien Legacies: The Lost Files #4
3 of 5 stars
A rogue Mogodorian infiltrates his own society, determined to preserve the memory of the Lorien Garde who has become his best friend.
Well, it turns out a hero’s lot is not glory or reward, but sacrifice. I’m still not sure I’m ready for that.
In this short story, we meet up again with Adamus, the Mogodorian that in The Fallen Legacies turned traitor on his Mogodorian family. I enjoyed following his unique adventure and of all the characters in this series, I think he’s the one that has grown and changed the most; I’ve enjoyed watching his transformation.
My biggest gripe about this book was the title. This was not about the search for Sam, at least not until the last two chapters. Even then, it wasn’t so much a search — they knew exactly where to find him. The title seemed a bit misleading and I had a hard time enjoying the action as it was happening because I kept asking myself “what about Sam!?!”
Nine’s Legacy by Pittacus Lore
Lorien Legacies: The Lost Files #2
3.5 of 5 stars
This novella recounts the back story of Number Nine, a member of the Lorien Garde who is in training to fight the Mogodorians.
In whatever dismal corner of the universe the Mogadorians that manage to escape me gather, this day will be discussed in hushed tones as when the annihilation of their race became a certainty.
I’m going to kill them all.
The of all the I Am Number Four stories, this has been one of my favorites. Although Nine may seem like a somewhat shallow character from Four’s perspective, this book gives him more depth and connection with the reader, which I wasn’t anticipating. His story also can serve as a great catch-up for those like me who haven’t read the other Lorien books in awhile, though it may be a bit tedious to read right after the full-length novels, as many parts to intersect and overlap.
Overall: Another short story that tells Nine’s story and how he came to where we found him in the Lorien saga.
Annabel: A Delirium Story by Lauren Oliver
3 of 5 stars
This novella focuses on the life of Lena’s mother, Annabel as she reminisces about her own teenage years and plots her escape from the Crypts.
Amazing, how hope lives. Without air or water, with hardly anything at all to nurture it.
Oliver’s poetic narrative resonates throughout this novella, and we catch a glimpse into the thoughts and dreams of Annabel, Lena’s mother. I enjoyed the story, and loved the unique perspective of a woman who was ‘cured’ of strong emotions, and yet felt them nonetheless and had to hide them in order to keep the family whom she loved. Very sweet, and gave more insight into how the world became what it was at the beginning of the Delirium series.
I do wish it had been longer, and that it had contained more information that wasn’t already gleaned from the other novels. This one could definitely be skipped without missing any of the plot of the series.
Overall: Beautiful prose showing yet another side of the Delirium world.
4 of 5 stars
This short story collection features strange and eerie tales, including precursors to Shusterman’s Everlost and Full Tilt novels.
He flatly denied the existence of Jim-Jim Jeffries. Marty was convinced it was just a made-up story, designed to keep small children from crossing dangerous streets to get ice cream. Well, he wasn’t a small child anymore. He didn’t believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, or Jim-Jim Jeffries.
Neal Shusterman is one of my all-time favorite authors, but this was my first read-through of any of his short-story collections, and I was not disappointed. Each tale is full of suspense and psychological thrills that are worthy of The Twilight Zone, and together, as a collection, they exhibit a wide variety of imaginative elements, ranging from ghost stories to monsters to tales of revenge. While definitely macabre, Shusterman avoids being gory or overly gruesome; most stories would be deemed more “creepy” than “gross.”
My favorite short story in this collection was Screaming at the Wall, a new look at time travel that’s more strange and bizarre than it is scary.
Readers should be aware, however, that while twisted and strange, these tales aren’t necessarily the things of horror movies, and certainly not one of the scariest books I’ve ever read. Though the warning on the back cover would convince you otherwise — they’re unlikely to induce nightmares, though they certainly may give the reader a serious aversion to punch bowls, chandeliers, and glass bathtubs.
Overall: A compelling and imaginative collection of strange and eerie tales.
‘Twas the Night before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore
A classic poetic tale of Santa’s arrival on Christmas Eve.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…
The first time I recall reading this poem all the way through was in third grade, when our class was given the challenge of memorizing the entire poem for a prize. I’m pretty proud to say that I was the winner, the only one in the whole class that could recite the entire thing from start to finish, and my prize was my very own picture book copy of the poem — a perfect gift for a bookworm like me.
I really love the poetic beat and rhyme of this poem, and — though I’ll be teaching my children that Santa is a make-believe character — I can appreciate the vivid imagery and sense of wonder this short tale inspires.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
2 of 5 stars
When the governess of two small children begins to see strange apparitions around her charges, she suspects there may be evil presences controlling their actions.
It was gruesome, as, on Christmas Eve in an old house, a strange tale should essentially be…
True, this novella is not your typical Christmas story. In fact, the only reason it could be classified as such is because the narrator tells others the tale at a Christmas party, which, presumably, is somewhat of a tradition of the narrator’s (though I have no idea why). This book is likely a lot more fitting for Halloween, but undoubtedly falls under the category of a classic I had never before read, so I included it in my list.
I spent most of the time reading this book thinking, “WHAT on earth is going on?” only to come to the end and ask myself again “WHAT on earth just happened?” This is definitely a psychological thriller in the fact that the reader has no idea what is real, what is made-up by the characters, and what is merely in their minds. And in that aspect, it was interesting… except…
There is no real resolution. The ambiguity of this story leaves nearly everything up to the reader’s interpretation, from the ghostly sightings themselves to the children’s part in them, to the concluding events of the story. So much of the ‘suspense’ of the story was built up by nothing happening — but by the governess implying or worrying or thinking that something might be happening or could have happened.
Overall: A classic ghost story with a lot of buildup and suspense but very little of anything evil or frightening actually occurring.
The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry van Dyke
2 of 5 stars
In this Biblical-era short story, a fourth wise man sets out towards Bethlehem to bestowing his gifts upon the Christ Child, but instead ends up spending his life trying to find Him and spending His gifts to help the needs of others.
Should he risk the great reward of his divine faith for the sake of a single deed of human love? Should he turn aside, if only for a moment, from the following of the star, to give a cup of cold water to a poor, perishing Hebrew?
This was an interesting short story that really focuses on Christ’s teaching that “anything you do to the least of these brothers, that you do unto me.” The sentiment is very nice, but the part about Christ’s death lacked the confidence of Easter, and thus ended up turning the story into a rather work-righteous parable; the message seems to be that even if you don’t find Jesus, it’s okay as long as you do good things to others (or perhaps that’s just my interpretation in view of today’s humanistic society?) The language was also rather difficult, with one passage in particular including a single sentence whose words numbered over two hundred — yes, two hundred words in a single sentence — yikes!
Overall: A short parable about doing good to others
I realized the other day that I’ve never read some of the most “classic” Christmas stories in their entirety. Sure, we all know the story of A Christmas Carol, but how many of us can honestly say that we’ve picked up the book and read it? In an attempt to remedy this gap in my reading, I’ll be reading twelve classic Christmas stories this year (hopefully all before the end of December… I make no promises!) and posting reviews for each of them. Most of these are available for download at Project Gutenberg — an excellent resource for free digital classics.
12 Days of Classic Christmas Stories: DAY ONE
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
3 of 5 stars
A short story about a couple striving to give their spouse exactly the right Christmas gift, regardless of the cost to his or her own self.
Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.
Although I don’t recall ever reading this incredibly short story before, it seemed familiar, whether because it’s been retold in other forms many times, or because it was just that predictable. Though the characters are truly — as the author points out at the end — quite foolish in their actions, their motivations of sacrificial love are what make this story worth reading.
Overall: A short, sweet, simple story of selfless love.
Publication date: October 16, 2012
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The stories in this dark anthology are all based on Mother Goose nursery rhymes, taking the well-known lines of our childhood and putting a frightening twist on them, telling the story behind the story. The stories range from bleak gothic literature to downright terrifying horror-movie slashers, so be prepared for mature themes such as rape, suicide, murder, and some just plain evilness.
Linking the stories together with the Mother Goose theme created an interesting set of tales, and showed the authors’ range and creativity. I loved the variety — in this one book there’s dystopian fiction, fairy tales, Egyptian mythology, historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction. No two authors took the same sort of route in connecting the rhyme to their story. Some are very literal to the rhyme (i.e. “Life in a Shoe” — “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe…”), whereas others simply used the rhyme as a plot point within the story (i.e. “The Wish” — “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”). It was fun to start a tale with the rhyme in mind and wonder where the author was going to go with the story to tie it in.
A few of my favorite stories…
– “Wee Willie Winkie” – This one gave the rhyme a clever, dark twist, combining a real-world setting with a terrible mystical element that changes how you read the rhyme forever. The tone is dark and foreboding, but the author avoids getting gory or explicitly violent — in classic horror-story fashion, the most horrible part is “off-screen,” leaving it to the reader’s imagination.
– “Sea of Dew” – based on the “Winkin, Blinkin, and Nod” rhyme. I enjoyed this creative, though horribly sad tale of four teenagers who are awaiting rescue on a lifeboat after their ferry capsized. The characters were realistic and despite the brevity of the story, the reader becomes attached to them, making the ending all that more sad.
– “Tick Tock” – based on a rhyme beginning “There’s a neat little clock…” (another new one for me). This short tale is the kind of horror story that you’d tell around a campfire — a bit gory, perhaps, but I could picture being completely freaked out over it while sitting in a dark, wooded campsite.
– “A Pocket Full of Posy” – based on “Ring around the Rosy,” this one takes the tale and breaks it down literally, telling the story of a teenage boy whose girlfriend, Rosy, is found dead in a field of flowers, with him as the main suspect. Though this story was definitely one of the more gory ones, I appreciated how the author kept to the rhyme and yet changed how the reader views it.
As with any anthology, there are obviously going to be stories that the reader doesn’t like. My biggest issue was that many of the stories that I found to be lackluster all came at the beginning, so for awhile I really had to talk myself into diving back into the book, though once I hit the latter half of the book, I found the stories much more enjoyable and interesting, and could hardly put it down. In the stories that I didn’t like, the biggest problem seemed to be the lack of development, especially the development of the characters. I understand this is a particular challenge with short stories, to make your characters memorable and make the reader feel connected to them, despite the story’s brevity, but there were a number of stories where I found I simply didn’t care what happened to them, which is a shame.
A few of my LEAST favorite stories…
– “As Blue as the Sky” – Based on the rhyme beginning “Taffy was a Welshman,” this was an unfortunate beginning of the anthology. It’s not a well-known rhyme, so it’s unlikely to grab the reader’s attention right away, and the story seems to have missing pieces, as if the reader had picked up a book partway through. Having no development of the protagonist, I didn’t feel connected to the story and there were strange elements in the first half that didn’t make any sense at all until the very end.
– “Blue” – Based on “Little Boy Blue,” this story lacked enough context for me. Both the narrator and the boy are characters about whom little is known — even at the end, I’m still not really sure what the narrator is or what her purpose is — and the plot is really lacking in development and excitement. Looking back, I’m not even really sure what happened.
– “Pieces of Eight” – Based on a rhyme beginning “Sleep, baby, sleep” — again, another rhyme I had never heard before. Though obviously going for some sort of fantasy adventure spirit, the boy Marnum’s quest and motivation weren’t very clear. The rhyme served as a riddle for him to solve, but it turned out more literal, which only added to my confusion. I felt disoriented by the lack of background knowledge and unclear setting and found myself disinterested in the story itself.
– “The Well” – Based on “Jack and Jill,” this one tells the story of twins who seem to them to be the sole survivors of a universal plague, whose hatred for one another leads to their downfall. The characters in this one were wholly unlikable, and there were parts of it that seemed really unnecessary and just made me go “huh?” It’s like the author really wanted to tell another story, but then had to somehow work in the part where they fell down the hill — it was too forced and unrealistic.
Overall, I’d recommend this book to mature readers. The tie-in to the Mother Goose rhymes is really what makes this book unique and interesting, and the dark elements make the stories full of mystery and intrigue, which fans of the suspense/thriller genre will appreciate.
Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book!
Number Six (current alias Maren Elizabeth) is part of an alien race introduced in the Lorien Legacy’s first book, I am Number Four. When she meets up with four at the end of that novel, there are a number of unanswered questions which are now revealed in this ebook short story, detailing her life up until that point, how her Cepan was lost, and how she came into her own legacies.
I really enjoyed reading the background story on Number Six. Although her story is similar to Number Four’s, the different perspective was interesting, and her experiences that led up to her Cepan’s death were really essential for understanding who she is in the Lorien series. Because it’s a short story, the action moves fast, but there’s still enough introspection and reflection for the reader to really feel connected to Six.
In some ways, though, I felt Six’s story was a bit too similar to Four’s — they are constantly on the move, don’t get to settle down or make friends, and when they finally do let their guard down, the Mogs are there to take advantage of their slip in vigilance, and the end result is the Cepan’s death. I’d have actually been more interested in Six’s life after her Cepan’s death — how did she get by without a guardian/protector? She essentially went from a twelve-year-old girl to a solitary adult without any sort of normal transition, and I’d have liked to hear more about that adjustment.
This is a great bonus novella for those reading the Lorien Legacies. Keep in mind that I have only read the first book; I’m not sure how this one fits in with the subsequent books, but as a “prequel” to I Am Number Four, I think it works well.