Friday, August 31, 2007

Blizzard and Fever 1793 reviews

Blizzard by George Stone
Copyright 1977
Dell fiction
268 pages

On May Day, a series of unusual events occur - Russian satellites cross a specific point from different directions. A fleet of Russian ships halt directly below the crossed paths, just off the Atlantic Coast of the United States.

By December 21, few Americans remember the significance of May Day or connect it to the blizzard beginning on the East Coast. Even fewer have any idea that a scientist working on a top-secret weather project has disappeared. What is going on? Is the storm real or man-made? Are the Russians responsible for the crippling blizzard burying buildings and stranding workers, killing Americans by the thousands?

This is the basis for Blizzard . . . an unprecedented storm, possibly man-made, wreaking havoc with no apparent end in sight (although, there are weather reports at the head of each chapter and every single one says it's supposed to clear up, which adds a touch of humor) and those fishy Russians hanging around, looking guilty. Suspenseful but intelligent disaster writing kept the pages turning. And, the ending?

****Skip this if you plan to get your sticky fingers on a copy of Blizzard****

I'm going to spoil it, so this is your last chance to turn back.

The ending was fascinating because it was so atypical, although it may have been common for the time. Rather than the usual "hero saves the day at the last moment" we've become accustomed to, the book has a sad ending. The unresponsive weather-effecting machines finally react, shutting down after an abyssal bathyscaphe is sent to the floor of the Atlantic Ocean to send a signal that can't be received from above, due to a malfunction. However, it's been theorized that a "Megastorm" could, if it continues long enough, cool the atmosphere enough to trigger a new Ice Age. And, in fact, it's too late - the new Ice Age has begun. In the end, the ceiling of the White House's West Wing collapses onto all the gathered officials, snow is beginning to fall unseasonably in France, and . . . basically it's the end of the line for humans.

****End of spoiler. Did you peek? Just curious.****

I really enjoyed Blizzard. I was so sick of heat that reading about snow that wouldn't quit falling provided a great mental break. And, I liked the fact that the book wasn't as trite as it could have been; it was actually quite thoughtfully written, well-researched (or he did a good "snow job", hahaha), and with believable dialogue. Definitely a terrific book to save for 100+ temps. I wore my snowflake earrings most of the week, as well. Nutty, but true.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
Copyright 2002
Aladdin Paperback Fiction (Young Adult)
251 pages, including appendix

Having cooled off nicely, I warmed right back up when I jumped into reading about sweat and heat, people slapping at mosquitoes and the result of the heat, humidity and mosquito bites - the yellow fever outbreak of 1793 in Philadelphia.

Fever 1793 tells the story of the epidemic through the eyes of Mattie Cook, a 14-year-old who lives with her widowed mother and grandfather above her mother's coffee shop. During an unusually hot summer in Philadelphia, people begin to sicken and die. As disease spreads, panic ensues. Some - particularly the wealthy residents - flee the city. Others feel obligated to stay or become trapped. When Mattie's mother becomes ill, Mrs. Cook insists that Mattie and her grandfather go to a friend's farm. But, it soon becomes apparent that there's no escaping this horrible disease and Mattie must keep all her wits about her to survive in a city where people hide behind locked doors, the market and stores are shut down, and mass burials are held by necessity.

This is a harrowing fictionalized tale based on a true story. Yellow fever did kill thousands of Philadelphia residents in 1793. A few brave souls not only stayed but also helped those who sickened. Hysteria was rampant.

In a way, I could relate to this story because of our experience in a post-Katrina world where people fought over gas and stripped the shelves of food, although the circumstances were completely different. The city of Philadelphia virtually shut down, people began to run out of food, shuttered homes and stores were broken into . . . and nobody knew that yellow fever was all caused by those nasty little mosquitoes. It's a fascinating story and in Laurie Halse Anderson's hands, Fever 1793 is told brilliantly. Mattie is a character who has a sense of humor; sometimes she's even a little bit snarky, but when she's backed into a corner - and the author very skillfully throws her characters into corners, repeatedly - she's resourceful, clever, and determined.

I loved everything about this book - the characters, the well-researched historical setting, the fact that it wasn't entirely predictable. It's simply a very beautifully written book. Highly recommended.

Coming up . . . reviews of Monkey Love and Life on the Refrigerator Door. It would probably be a good idea to change out of my jammies before lunch time, though, so I'll take a break.

Did I tell you it rained? It rained, yesterday!!! Wahoo! It even dropped to the 80's, outside! Granted, it's a temporary thing, but we're receptive to any break in the weather, even if it only lasts a day. Kiddo had his first local swim meet on Wednesday and reached a new personal-best time in the 100-meter freestyle: less than a minute. And, last night was the annual "Red Carpet Bowl" football game, at which he performed. He's going to be one tired cookie, this weekend.

Okay, I'm dressed, now. Just thought you'd like to know. I'm still going to take a break to begin the laundry and possibly do a few other housewifey things. Later, gators.


  1. We, too, had rain yesterday and are very grateful!

    I have a thing about winter weather, blizzards, snow.... Titles with any of these words often find their way into my hands. One of my favorites is Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale for it's lovely language, especially in descriptions of that particular winter and blizzard.

    Anyway, I skipped the spoiler because I think it is a book I'd enjoy reading. The yellow fever book also sounds like a great read.

  2. Jenclair,

    The only problem is that the sun came back out and the mosquitoes are raging. Ah, well. Life in the South. :)

    I just got a copy of Winter's Tale, not long ago. It might have been the book to read, if not for the fact that it's so huge; I've been deliberately reading shorter books. I'm glad to hear it's a favorite of yours - always good to know!

    Blizzard is fun. I do think you'd enjoy Fever. I felt nicely immersed in the time period.

  3. Anonymous4:54 PM

    I skipped the spoiler section too. Both books sound really interesting. I'm going to start looking for them now.

    Great job, Kiddo! You're right - he's going to be a tired boy.

  4. The 70's were filled with morose endings and ugly men. (that comes from a rant way back then about how there were no cute boys in movies! There weren't many.)

    I remember that chesboard pic! Glad you got a chuckle out of the comment (eventually.)

  5. Lynne,

    I hope you like it. It was such a nice break, reading about snow and soaking up an older thriller.

    Kiddo says, "Thanks." He's sitting behind me, playing computer games. He should be on his face, by now. I forget the kid can still function after 4 hours of swim practice. Where do they get that energy?


    I guess there were good and bad things about the 70's, then. LOL Now, wait - don't forget my old favorite, Emergency! Lots of good-looking guys in that one.

    You have a good memory. It's been almost 6 months since that chessboard pic was posted! Your comment was timeless, though. :)

  6. Bookfool -

    Kids his age have a secret stash of go juice. They get it when they hit 13 from the teen angst goddess and they can only keep it going if they don't share it with adults. I think we should gang up on them and make them share...

    Tell him congrats from me, too. I'm impressed.

    And, both books sound like something I'll check out.


  7. CJ,

    You had me laughing out loud. Yeah, they definitely need to share some of that "go juice"!!!

    I passed on your congrats and kiddo said, "Thank you."

    I'm surprised so many people have decided they want to read Blizzard, from my description! I just figured it was kind of a lark - too hot, need a snow book. LOL My copy is a wreck, but I'm really glad I found it.

  8. I just noticed "scathingly brilliant" hee hee hee!!

    Both of these sound good and Blizzard is available from my library - Yay!

  9. Fever 1793 sounds like a great book. I've added to the wishlist ;)

    Wasn't that rain nice?! We dipped into the 80's here too...and tonight, I sat on the swing on my patio and started Dracula and felt a cool breeze! Can you believe it?! I'm sure that it will be hot as hell when the sun comes back up though...sigh

  10. Suzi,

    That actually comes from an old favorite movie, "The Trouble with Angels." Hayley Mills keeps saying, "I've got the most scathingly brilliant idea!" I always loved that. :)

    Cool; I'm kind of stunned that your library has Blizzard! Hope you like it!

  11. Chris,

    Fever is Young Adult - can't remember if I mentioned that. So, it's a nice, quick read. I really enjoyed that peek into history.

    The rain was wonderful! We did have a pretty nasty day, yesterday, though. The sun came out and it was steamy. I stood outside, taking pictures of butterflies and watching the red wasps beat up on everyone. Do you know what a velvet ant is? There was a red wasp head-butting a velvet ant on one of our pears. It was really entertaining. LOL

  12. A velvet ant?! I've never heard of those, but they sure do sound cool ;)

  13. Chris,

    They're only cool to look at! Velvet ants are also called "cow killers" because they have a sting so painful it's said to be bad enough to kill a cow. Eldest son just told me they're a kind of wasp. I'm kind of afraid to post the photo of the velvet ant and red wasp fighting because it would freak some people out, but it's a really nifty picture.

  14. Bookfool -

    Glad I could make you laugh but there's a scary bit of truth in there somewhere, isn't there?

    And I knew "Scathingly brillant" was familiar but I didn't make the connection. It's one of my favorite movies.


  15. CJ,

    Yes, it's so true!

    Oh, cool! It's nice to find someone else who loves The Trouble With Angels!! It's such a great movie. :)


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