October 11, 2012

Heroic tales make good autumn reads

Posted in Between Us column, Books at 6:07 am by dinaheng

Going against conventional wisdom is usually risky, and often what we most admire in others.

The heroes and heroines in a trio of new novels find out just how strong they really are when they’re forced to go against the wishes of many around them. Along the way, they face some issues that will be familiar to many.

A world full of “Hidden Things” by Doyce Testerman ($14.99, Harper Voyager) reveals an intriguing mixture of mystery, mystical mayhem, and matters of the heart as Calliope Jenkins, a singer turned private investigator, unravels the secrets behind the death of her business partner and former lover Joshua White.

When she gets a 2 a.m. call from Josh, warning her to “watch out for the hidden things,” Calli has no idea that a few hours later, she’ll be getting another call from the police, informing her that Josh is dead. When she gets a voicemail message hours later from Josh, the question becomes — is Josh really dead, and can she get him back?

To find the answer, the former singer heads across the country to the place Josh disappeared in Iowa, which also happens to be near her estranged family’s home. Traveling with her is a Guide named Vikous, who may look like a clown, but whose mission is deadly serious.

What Calli discovers teaches Vikous that “things don’t have to bind you if you don’t let them.” What she learns about forgiveness and reconciliation gives her the strength to be who she really is.

For Alina, Quinn, and Bea, figuring out who they are and what they must do in order to survive in a world where oxygen has become a commodity will determine whether the teenagers continue to live in “Breathe” by Sarah Crossan ($17.99, Greenwillow Books).

In this dystopian novel, the Earth has lost its greenery and survivors must stay under a glass dome that maintains oxygen levels for survival. When the three teens find themselves walking out of the dome, with only two days’ worth of oxygen in their tanks, they must confront what they’ve always been taught about the Earth’s atmosphere and the way of life that has evolved since the big Switch.

The author tells her tale through the three teens’ viewpoints, exploring today’s issues of the changing environment, corporate greed, and what it means to truly do what’s right.

Most young adult novels today seem to revolve around dystopian themes, which can get boring after a while. Fortunately, the fast-paced action and romantic tension in “Defiance” by C.J. Redwine ($17.99, Balzer + Bray) sets this tale apart from the pack.

In a land where every girl is required by law to have a male Protector, Rachel Adams defies convention by learning the skills of tracking and hunting, rather than sewing and dancing. When her father disappears, Rachel is placed under the protection of her father’s apprentice Logan, a boy who rebuffed her declaration of love two years earlier.

Branded as a rebel, Rachel must fight for her life while outwitting the Commander who rules over their city-state, and confronting her love for the boy who has grown to be more than her match.

With characters like these, we can only hope that it won’t be long before Redwine pens the sequel.

It’s nice to know heroism can always be found in the pages of the right book.

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