Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Favorites! The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum

I accidentally loved this book.

It's one of those times where I picked it up from the library, not remembering I had put it on hold, didn't read the summary, and so began without any idea of what it was about. That certainly helped with the Joyfully Entertained factor. That, and I was lying on Zuma beach in Malibu in the sunshine with a Diet Coke while reading it.

Abby is ready to get out of her hometown. Oh sure, her senior year is going fine. The school play is coming along (though it's quite Stressful), her next door neighbor turned best friend is now her boyfriend (though he's something of a yawn), and her college applications have been sent off (even though she's interested in attending only one). Enter the Italian foreign exchange student Dante Alexander. He's handsome, dark and brooding, and totally Mysterious. That's when strange things start to happen, and Abby's normal life starts to spin out of control. Friends, school, romance - it's all heads south. Nothing about Dante seems to add up, but she can't deny her growing infatuation with him. Ancient Secrets are revealed and Abby finds herself caught in what could be an epic battle over power.

While I did enjoy this book immensely and can't wait to begin the next in the trilogy, The Golden Spiral, I do have some slight hang ups . . .

First. It has some slight echoes to Twilight in the romance department. Apparently we just can't get enough of our Hot, Mysterious And Quite Possibly Dangerous heroes. Fear not though, Dante is no Edward. He is unsure of himself and what he needs to accomplish. He's brave but more of an artist than a fighter. Abby, while not a whimpering clumsy annoying Bella, is likeable but I didn't love her. She's like many a Mary Sue heroine who is pretty mediocre and yet miraculously finds herself to be The True Love of Every Female's Desire. Both are like most YA characters who suffer from the I Am A Teen But I Express Myself In Ways That Make Me Sound Middle Aged syndrome. And, like every other teen romance, they're rife with teen angst, tension and make-out sessions behind the bleachers. For all Twilight haters, this will undoubtedly irk you since there are plenty of flowery similes regarding the perfection of Dante's eyes or back or whathaveyou. But then again, if that sort of thing makes you vomit then you have probably come to the wrong blog. With YA it's just part of the package, and don't pretend you don't secretly love it.

Second. POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT! The Hourglass Door deals with time travel. And while I do love me some sci-fi time dilemmas, rarely do people succeed in attempting to make a comprehensible story involving time travel. There are just too many paradoxes that are confusing and muddy my head. This element has the effect of both 1) making the story much more interesting, and 2) creating confusion that can detract from the story. You'd think that those two would cancel each other out, but I guess it's just another example of yet another paradox.

Now for the pluses. Mangum is a gifted writer. She has good command of language, the pace flows quickly, and the suspense and mystery make it hard to put down. Really, it's just some good ole' storytelling. I appreciated that both the story and the characters were allowed to build. I liked that Abby was dating someone else, someone she really cared about, and thus struggled over how to handle the obvious chemistry with Dante. And while we all knew that What's His Name Boyfriend wouldn't last, it was nice to see her grapple with decisions and repercussions.

I also enjoyed that I was trying to figure out mysteries at the same time Abby was. I really didn't know what was going on, and I loved knowing it had nothing to do with vampires or werewolves. The Slight Twists & Surprises were creative and intriguing, and I was never confused or felt bogged down by details.

I often rank books by how much I think about them when I can't read them. It's probably not the best way to determine whether the book has true merit, but for me it's a good guideline of how entertaining I find the read. And really, I don't aim for much more in life other than finding happiness in reading something enjoyable. I was only a couple chapters into Hourglass Door and was put-out that I had to go to some party or something instead of staying home to finish it. And the whole time I was out, while people blathered on to me about things, I kept thinking about What Might Happen Next in the book.

In all, a Fast & Furious read that I'll probably re-read in the near future.

4/5 stars.

Book source: Local library.

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