Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jake's War, by John Booth

When we last saw Jake, he was suspected in the disappearance of a young girl named Bronwyn.  Now imprisoned for her abduction.  As the saga unfolds, he determines that Bronwyn wants to use her powers to take over the kingdom of Salice, and she does not care who she hurts in the process.  While dealing with battling Bronwyn, Jake must also balance two pregnant fiances, Jenny and Esmeralda, and prepare for a royal wedding ceremony for the three of them.  The wedding will prove the perfect setting for Bronwyn's attack; will they be ready for her?

Oh Mr. Booth, you have done it again.  This book left me snickering and enthralled.  Because of books as well written as this, my appreciation for the fantasy genre has grown by leaps and bounds.  Booth once again maneuvers us through rich storyworlds, in which we encounter memorable characters.  The story just pulls you along for a fanciful ride, and I loved every minute of it.

I personally like the balance of the "world" as we know it and the different multiverses through which Jake and Bronwyn traverse.  It has enough of the familiar to make fantasy newbies like me feel comfortable, while providing imaginative frolics for long time fantasy fans.  All of the multiverses are easy to conceptualize, something not always true in fantasy writing.  

As with the first book in the Wizards series, Jake proves to be an engaging character.  He is a bumbling wreck of a young man, and he leaves us both cheering for his success and secretly chuckling over his failures.  I quite enjoyed watching him juggle two women.  Bronwyn, on the other hand, is a character that we want to despise, and who has certainly earned our disdain, but in the end I merely pitied.

While the themes are a bit mature, the book is appropriate for older young adult readers, as well as an adult audience.
When a book transports you to a time and place other than the one in which you live, you know it is successful.  Such is the legacy of the writing of John Booth.  

I received a review copy courtesy of the author.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Twice: How I Became a Cancer-Slaying Super Man Before I Turned 21, by Benjamin Rubenstein

Benjamin seemed like an ordinary teenager, but when, at the age of 16, he is diagnosed with cancer, he must summon his inner super hero.  Giving up, and giving in, to the cancer in his body was never an option.  After many hard fought months, it seems as if Benjamin is indeed super human, conquering cancer better than anyone anticipated.  While in his first year of college, he discovers that he has a second form of cancer, quite likely attributed to the chemo and radiation used to conquer his first cancer.  It will take every ounce of super hero in him to battle a second time.

This book is unlike anything I have ever read.  Benjamin certainly tells it like it is.  He is quite the engaging story teller, and his writing is incredibly real.  I find that I have an incredible amount of respect for Benjamin, his story and the way he tells it.  He pulls no punches, and never comes across as a victim.  There are few people who could face cancer so bravely as adults, and fewer still who can do so as a teenager.

I say frequently that my favorite books are those which tell the stories of real people.  I think that is why this book touched me so deeply.  Benjamin never wanted to become the sick kid, never wanted cancer to define his life.  I think he serves as an inspiration to teenagers facing a variety of illnesses and adversities.  While the book is pretty graphic, and the language is a little rough at times, I still find this book quite appropriate to a young adult audience, as well as adult readers.  Personally, I think Benjamin can serve as an inspiration to us all, regarding whatever it is with which we struggle.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

GIVEAWAY- Illusion, by Frank Peretti

Thanks to the generosity of the publisher, I have an Advanced Reader Copy, or ARC, of Illusion by Frank Peretti to give away to one lucky reader!  I just reviewed this book in my previous post, so be sure to check that review out!

The contest us open to any US resident, so be sure to enter.  To enter, you will complete the form below with your name, email, and mailing address.  

You can also gain additional entries by doing various other things like:

Following this blog

Blogging about the giveaway

Posting the contest on Facebook

Tweeting about the giveaway

Following me on Pinterest

Pinning the contest or the original book review

Contest ends at 11:59 pm EST on March 31st, so get busy liking, tweeting, pinning, and voting, and be sure to fill out the form below.  Good luck!

Illusion, by Frank Peretti

Dane and Mandy were a world renown magic act, performing for 40 years, but beyond that they were deeply in love.  When the couple gets into a tragic car accident, it appears to everyone, including Dane, that Mandy dies.  Actually, Mandy, or at least her 19 year old self circa 1970, had awakened in a strange new world.  Gone is the life and the people she knew, and it would seem as if she has gone crazy.  She discovers she has mysterious abilities, and she uses them to build a magic act that eventually catches Dane's attention.  He cannot help but wonder who is this girl who looks exactly like his dead wife, and why has she entered his life?

This book is so incredibly complex, it was hard for me to boil it down to a one paragraph synopsis.  That paragraph in no way does justice to the richness of the storytelling at work in this novel.  I have read other books by Frank Peretti, and I must admit, this one feels so much different.  At first, I was confused by the forces at play in this story.  Time travel? Astrophysics?  While confusing, hardly the dark and sinister Frank I was familiar with.  But as I delved deeper into the story, I saw that the symbolism at play was the darkness and pride of which people can be capable, and how one selfish act by any one person can touch, ruin even, the lives of so many.  This book is also an incredible love story.  The romantic angle of this story had me in tears by the end of the book.  

While Mandy's character is difficult to understand at times, that confusion is an important aspect of her character; we are confused because she is confused.  We do really get an intimate experience of connecting with Mandy's character, but it does feel at times as though it is from arms' length, until the full plot is revealed.  My heart just broke for both Mandy and Dane, and again the romance of the story really rocked me.  

For those unaware, Peretti writes Christian fiction.  And while this book is Christian fiction, it is one that plays with great subtleties and symbolism.  It is not explicit regarding the role of Father, Son, or Spirit, but it is hard to miss the symbolism of thousands of doves carrying someone to their final destiny.  I appreciated this soft, gentle form of symbolism, and I think it will make the book appealing to a broader audience than just those of us who traditionally read Christian fiction.  

All in all, I was really blown away by the book, particularly when the story really got moving and things started to make sense to me.  I would recommend it to anyone, do not let the Christian fiction label keep you away from reading what is a remarkable story.

I received a review copy courtesy of the publisher.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Butterfly Clues, by Kate Ellison

Lo has always been a bit odd.  She has always had rituals she must perform in order to feel safe.  Tapping, counting, and whispered words have served as her incantations to summon safety.  Her compulsions have gotten much stronger since the death of her older brother, and she begins to steal and hoard objects, much to her father's dismay.  While in a rough part of town scouting objects, Lo gets entangled in the murder of a stripper, a murder she is determined to solve.  Her journey towards the truth takes her to dark places, both literally and figuratively, and she realizes that she does not know the people in her life as well as she thinks she does.

I found this story to be intriguing and heartbreaking.  Intriguing because it is a well written mystery thriller, heartbreaking because it paints an accurate picture of the difficulties associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  While it is never expressly stated that Lo suffers from OCD, it is painfully clear, due to the nature of her compulsions, and the obsessive thoughts regarding why she must perform her rituals.  The hoarding also plays into this.  I think that having a character with OCD in a young adult book is brilliant, particularly because, while the story sheds light on her issues, it is not about solving her issues.  Instead, Lo's rituals are painted as just an aspect of her, as opposed to a defining characteristic.  For teens suffering from OCD, this can be a powerful protagonist, once that can give them hope that they can still have meaningful lives and relationships.

In terms of a mystery or thriller, I think the story does a good job of keeping the reader engaged.  The story has lots of twists and turns, a few red herrings, and a few surprise revelations at the end.  I really enjoyed watching the mystery unfold.  The subject matter (murder, strippers, drugs, runaways) is a bit dark for teen readers, but an accurate representation of the dangers in the world.  All in all, I was impressed by this debut by Kate Ellison.

I received this book for review as part of the Amazon Vine program

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fu Man Chu's Vampire, by Guido Henkel

Jason Dark is back again, fighting various supernatural boogeymen.  And as always, he is accompanied by the lovely and skilled Siu Lin.  When a couple of mysterious deaths turn up, the authorities turn to Dark for help, since the cases look to have supernatural elements.  Dark and Siu Lin meet up with the evil Fu Man Chu and his various vampiric henchmen.

Oh Jason Dark, how I have missed you.  I honestly do not think I will ever tire of the Jason Dark stories, each one having its own ability to mesmerize me.  This time, I was completely captivated by the way Henkel wove the new story with threads from the past stories.  While each story can function as a stand alone novella, reading all the stories in the Jason Dark series really gives you a much clearer picture of the genius of Guido Henkel.

I was so excited to see this particular story edge ever closer to Jason and Siu Lin developing a relationship beyond partners in crime.  A particular twist of the plot made it clear that there is a strong, emotional attachment between these two.  I also liked that some seriously bad things happen to to duo in this particular adventure.  It really kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading.

We all know I adore these stories, so it was no surprise to me (and probably not to anyone else) that once again, I completely recommend this book to anyone who likes supernatural thrillers, particularly when set against a historical backdrop.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author.