9.12.2012

Currently Reading: Hourglass

Hourglass (Hourglass, #1)"Um... then there was the shaman who thought I needed to be exorcised. That one was fabulous; he claimed he could do it with pickle juice and ashes."

Michael shook his head in disbelief. "Where does your brother find these people? He's clearly a shrewd businessman—why would he hire such obvious frauds?"

"Desperation? My boarding school was in Sedona. No shortage of 'spirtual healers' there. I guess the news that a concerned brother was throwing around a surplus of cash to help his loopy sister spread pretty fast. And none of the people using traditional methods could help me. They all wanted to drug me into a vegetative state or commit me." I let go of the iron bar and bit down on my bottom lip, stopping short of telling him they succeeded, angry with myself for being so honest. If he was a fake like all the others, maybe he would feel guilty and go away before inflicting any damage.

Author: Myra McEntire

Synopsis: Emerson sees dead people, but it's not the normal haunting—it's the manifestation of a genetic gift for time travel. The troubles are: she can't always tell the difference between the dead people and the living, which causes difficulties in company; she's got a magnetic connection to a gorgeous boy with a similar gift, but he's not allowed to date her; and there's an organization who can help her, but they're currently run by an evil scientist. It's a good thing she's tough. But she'll need more than her karate skills and bravery to go back in time and save a good man from being murdered, especially when it's hard to know who to trust.

Notes: McEntire blends the classic science fiction concept of time travel with the fantasy concept of superpowers, and comes up with Emerson Cole—spunky, short, and gifted with an apparent curse. The unusual construct of the supernatural element in Hourglass is one of its strongest points, and while the heroine's first-person voice reads very similarly to that of other YA protagonists, she's engaging enough to carry her tale.

Emerson's world is an odd and frightening place: a small, restored Civil War town in the South, where the old buildings bring out a host of long-dead occupants to mingle with the living. Of course, no one but Emerson sees them. She's got just one friend her age—the one who stuck by her when she held a shouting match with an invisible person in her public school cafeteria. She's also trying to hide the fact that she's weaned herself off her medication, preferring to see the dead people rather than live in a constant stupor.

Into this world comes Michael, who manages to be both mind-bogglingly handsome and the main counterpart to Emerson's gift in ways I cannot describe without spoilers. Along with all his general awesomeness, though, Michael brings a list of appalling revelations for Emerson, and he needs her help for a dangerous time-traveling project.

Generally, comparing even popular books to the mega-bestsellers is a bad idea, but the romance in Hourglass seems purposely formed to echo Twilight. Hyper-attractive male character with superpowers and a magical draw toward the female protagonist, check. Big, solid, down-to-earth young man in decided competition with the hero, check. Lonely, unpopular girl attracted to both but over-the-top obsessed with the one, check. Loving but sometimes misguided guardian uninterested in allowing our heroine to date her one and only, check. Empath character available to help settle the girl's emotions now and again, check. Versions of the earthy-vs-ethereal love triangle pop up a lot, but this is the most obvious I've seen; it was impossible, reading it, to avoid spotting likenesses.

For most readers, the romance in Hourglass will probably succeed, but it unfortunately struck me as more sexy than romantic. Bella's favorite word to describe Edward is 'beautiful', a humanizing term; Emerson's 'gorgeous' is a little more superficial, and Lily's 'delicious' is plainly objectifying. It's true that by the end of the story, Emerson echoes Bella's willingness for self-sacrifice, but it's also clear that while Emerson and Michael would give their lives for each other, neither is open to the sacrifices of chastity.

Emerson also seems designed as the anti-Bella: forceful, independent, and emphatic on the point that she doesn't need a man. That she wants a man is obvious, of course, but she's got to be clear from the beginning that she can kick his butt. While any woman would love the ability to flip a grown man over her shoulder, very few would consistently reject their own man's protective side. Some small acknowledgement of this would have made Emerson a touch more sympathetic as a romantic heroine.

That aside, however, she's likable overall as a character, especially in her desire to live life with her head clear. Her perspective on "being crazy" makes a strong appeal for the reader's sympathy, and her actions toward the end of the book are very comprehensible. Other characters—Lily, Kaleb, Ava, Liam—attract some much-deserved notice, too, with a number of unresolved minor threads left for the sequel.

The book itself is an engaging, readable little supernatural mystery, certainly interesting enough to provide an enjoyable afternoon.

Recommendation: Read it for a light, interesting combination of time travel and romantic suspense.

4 comments:

  1. Hi Jenna, Years ago I got addicted to psycho movies and would search them out until my conscience began to bother me about that genre of, so called, entertainment. I became convicted that there was very little good in it, actually none, and became gradually aware of the dark forces inspiring it. It became clear to me that I had to give it up. So I did. It actually wasn't that hard and,furthermore, I've never been sorry. There is a vast store of wholesome, inspiring and truly worthwhile entertainment and literature available. I just finished reading "In the Shadow of His Wings" and "What's so great about America" But contemporary literature of this nature leaves a lot to be desired, to say the least, and from many points of view, is unhealthy, vile, and just plain indecent. (not fit to be seen or heard) But the greatest objection is that, without doubt, it leaves God out... the true, living God of Love, and introduces "strange" gods in His place. Might we not, from the Christian point of vies, characterize this kind of literature as waste of time, as well as a means of filling our minds, stirring our emotions, and inflaming our imaginations with material that is damaging and dangerous to our innocence and the well being of our immortal souls. Its a cinch that once addicted, we can never get enough of the fare... and what comes next?... more and more weird, provactive, disturbing narratives out of the unhealthy minds of people who have little conscience regarding the ultimate affect... especially on children (ie the Twilight series... and now the Hunger Games) who are reading all manner of disgusting, disturbing, and, ungodly literature. "How will our thoughts be elevated when what we read drags us down and through the mire."

    Naturally, Jenna, you don't have to agree with me, but you might want to think about it, and your blog does invite comments, which I think ought to be honest, so there it is. Maybe this book doesn't fit my objections, but it seems to from your description. I'm trusting you won't be hurt or offended.

    God bless you and best wishes to Lou
    Love and prayers,
    Elizabeth

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    1. Hi, Elizabeth,

      Love and prayers to you, too, and of course you are welcome to comment!

      Young adult literature, while often enjoyable reading, really is not my particular brand of irresistible temptation, and to the best of my knowledge and ability, I read critically and carefully and with a clear conscience. As you picked up, though, this isn't one I would recommend without reservations.

      God bless you all. Give my love to the family.

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  2. Hi Elizabeth~

    I enjoyed you comment. You made a good point about addictions. But I'd like to remind you that in most cases, addictions to books and movies have less to do with subject of the books and more to do with the way those books, or movies manipulate our emotions. We tend to get addicted more to the emotional highs and lows the author makes us feel and less to the subject matter. So Christian fiction, written to create similar emotional reactions, is equally guilty in creating and feeding addiciton.

    I'd also like to defend non-Christian literature, which, if it has any artistic merit at all, does have the potential to elevate the reader, by directing him, (or her) to Beauty. The beauty in non-Christian literature may not be perfect, but in general, neither is the beauty in Christian literature, which has the tendency to sacrifice good writing to a desire to share the faith.

    Many blessing to you,
    Masha

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    Replies
    1. Great thoughts, Masha. I've often wound up contemplating the morality of various forms of emotional manipulation in fiction lately.

      Just saw your last blogalectic post, and it's fantastic. I'll look forward to responding to it. :)

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