Monday, June 29, 2015

The Scarlet Crane

Title: Scarlet Crane by J.E Hopkins
Media Source: E-book: Kindle
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Recommendation:  There is a lot about the book that is predictable and needed to be smoothed out a little more.

Dr. Beniot and partner Stony Hill are investigating the death of another agent, an agent sent to China to investigate the disappearance of children across the world.  The children being kidnapped have one thing in common they are all approaching the period of time of one month at the onset of puberty where they can perform magic.  But there is one deadly catch, if the magic is not unique enough, the child will die.   There are rumors about an organization using these children in an experiment as war weapons.  The investigation takes the team all across Asia trying to find answers to their questions.

This was an interesting and unique story.  Intermixed with the story about the investigation were stories of children trying to use transition magic for one reason or another.  Most of the time the children's requests were not unique enough, which makes the readers wonder what would make it unique enough for the children to survive?  Is it in the wording they use and how is it decided whether or not the request is unique?  Despite those questions and more the novel does a great job at describing everything down to the scenes where everything takes place.  There are moments when what happens seems predictable and slow going.  The novel does take a while to pick up pace, some of the characters even seem to be a little bit predictable, but that seems to add a quality to the novel.  Hopkins weaves a tale of intrigue.  Some questions do arise throughout the novel like what will happen to the kids who use magic and survive, will they be able to use it past that one month? 

The characters are one dimensional.  There isn't much back story to any of the characters, what is the background to Stony and Benoit?  Why is he reluctant to work with her?  We get a small glimpse into the personal life of Stony and Akina, but it seems out of place and inappropriate for the storyline.  Then as the novel progresses readers wonder why Akina is involved in the conference calls, what is her role in the program?  However there are moments throughout the novel when readers anticipate what will happen next and can't wait to find out if Scarlet Crane succeeds in their experiments, if one child performs the ceremony correctly to use magic or if Beniot and Stony will be able to find out the truth behind Crane and other programs like it.  While there are things about the novel that bring the rating down lower than some other books, it does have good aspects to it and is an enjoyable read.  It is a novel that can take your mind off of everyday stress and allow you to escape into a different world.  Give it a try you might like it better than I did.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Suicide Forest

Title: Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates
Media Source: Ebook - Kindle
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Recommendation:  Such a creepy story, don't read it at night.  I highly suggest this novel to anyone who enjoys a great folklore and creepy story.

 Aokigahara forest lies just outside of Tokyo.  Several travels expecting to hike Mt. Fuji get stranded by the rain and decide to camp out in  Aokigahara instead.  They learn the legend of  Aokigahara forest being a popular site for people to commit suicide.  Many in the group decide they do not want to spend the night, while others don't believe the legends and convince everyone to spend one night in the forest.  They walk off the trail deep into the forest to find a good spot, and notice there is no sign of life, not even birds chirping.  The next morning one of their group members is found hanging in a tree.  The try to find their way out only to get lost deeper into the forest.  While they try to work together, personal feelings and emotions begin to get in the way.  Will they be able to find their way out, will they survive the legend of Suicide Forest?

Jeremy Bates does a phenomenal job at writing a spell binding story.  I honestly could not put this book down.  The story unfolds through Ethan's eyes, an American living in Japan teaching English.  His backstory is slowly unraveled throughout his interactions with other members of the group, as well as their stories.  The story is told at a steady pace, with the group responding to their situations according to their personalities.  Bates takes the time to use things at add a cultural sense to the story with his descriptions of music, food even reading material as well as Tomo's (a psychology major) language and attempts with American slang.  While the group come from various different backgrounds, they all share thoughts about suicide or even death, which is revealed throughout the novel.  Not that they think about committing it per say but rather their individual thoughts on the subject.  Suicide Forest holds intrigue for each person, and as the story unfolds it holds intrigue for the reader as well.  One which may cause the reader to contemplate their thoughts on the subject as well (again not thoughts on performing the act, but general thoughts).

There are several twists and turns leading up the to climax of the story which will take readers off guard.  This is definitely a book that is NOT predictable.  The shocking end to this story will leave readers not only satisfied with the story, but also pondering who the real monsters are.  There is always some sense of truth to every legend.  Jeremy Bates takes folk lore and makes it his own.  He adds his own touch to the truth behind Suicide Forest.  The story really drags you in and holds you captive until the very end.  Then it leaves readers craving more from this exceptional author, I know I want more. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Water for Elephants

Title: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Media Source: Paperback
Rating 4 out of 5 stars

Recommendation:  I highly recommend reading the novel rather than watching the movie.  This novel is captivating and full of action.

Jacob Jankowski is a 93 (or 90 he can't remember which) old man content with his life in the nursing home in which he lives.  Memories of his past have been shoved back into the recesses of his mind.  That is until one day a circus begins setting up in the lot across the road.  He begins to remember the events that led up to him climbing aboard a passing train only to realize the train housed the Benzini Brother's Most Spectacular Show on Earth.  He finds himself the veterinarian for the show as well as learning what it truly means to work in the world of circus performers.  A world that is both salvation on hell on earth.    The show takes on a elephant who cannot perform and steals lemonade.  Marlena (the star of the equestrian act), Augustus (director of the animals) and Jacob must come up with an act for Rosie to perform with Marlena. 

I devoured this book in one day, that is how spectacular it is.  I could not put it down.  The is so well crafted that the reader can picture everything happening before their eyes.  I particularly enjoyed having the story flawlessly going back and forth between present day and his memories.  It added a certain quality to the book and  kept as a reminder that he tried so hard to forget everything that happened.  Gruen weaves a tale of intrigue, love, humor and distress.  She creates characters that remain with the readers long after they finish reading the novel.  Jacob is the most loveable character as well as Rosie.  One couldn't help but laugh when readers find out that Rosie stole lemonade.  When Walter looses his dog Queenie, your heart breaks for him and rejoices when she is returned to him.

The story depicts the bond and love between animal and human as well as hatred that can form when the animal is not treated properly.   The novel also depicts the social hierarchy of circus performers and circus workers.  This is one of those novels that can be read time and time again and still be entertaining.  There was a movie made based off the novel, and honestly the novel is far better than the movie.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

This Time Together

Title: This Time Together by Carol Burnett
Media: Print: Paperback
Rating 5 stars

Recommendation:  I cannot recommend this book enough, it was wonderful to read.

I grew up watching the Carol Burnett Show and Mama's Family.  Carol quickly became one of my all time favorite actresses.  On each show she was funny, had command of the stage, and just had this presence about her that made her audience simply love her.  When I stumbled across her book, I needed to get it and read it.  And I loved every minute of it.  Her book discusses her time in show business from meeting Jimmy Stewart who was her inspiration to her show and the friendships she made during that time.  Each anecdote takes you back in time to when each even occurred.  She reminisces about the times spent with her friends as well as the sadness's she endured as well. 

I gobbled this book up and finished it within a day.  As she was on the stage, she is class and beauty throughout her novel.  As I was reading it, I could hear her unique voice telling each of these stories. Everyone she speaks about, she speaks with respect and admiration for, she never once says a mean word about anyone.  Once again showing her class and dignity. It was a pleasure getting to read these stories, now I need to get her other memoirs, as well as those written by some of my other favorite actors and actresses.  Pick up this book today.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Devil's Grasp

Title: The Devil's Grasp by Chris Pisano and Brian Koscienski
Media: Print; Paperback
Rating 5 out of 5 stars

Long ago an evil wizard enchanted 5 gemstone, granting them different powers to call forth and control various demons.  This wizard is defeated during battle and the gems hidden across the earth so no one can use their powers again.  Presently the kingdom of Albathia is in danger of war from Tsinel.  The king sends his oldest son on a quest to find these gems in order to use their powers to defeat the invading army.  As the prince hunts for the gems so is a group of thieves, a band of wizards and an unlikely group consisting of a troll, hobgoblin, orc and a satyr.  Each group have no inclination of the turmoil
and hardships they will face while on this quest.

This is the third book that I have read by these two and I have to say it is one of my favorites.  There is a lot of action, surprise and even a little bit of romance.  The authors created characters readers get attached and want to see more of.  It starts off with a bard telling two of the groups about the stones and selling them maps to the stone and thus the adventure begins.  One of my favorite parts involved a cave of mirrors that if touched one gets sucked into the mirror, it is a creepy image but an amazing way to describe a trap for the stone.  These two do a phenomenal job at weaving their tale together.  There are some characters I wanted more of such the dragon and rabbit who guarded the Spirit Stone, such an unlikely pair, but make for a little bit of comic relief in their parts they are in.   There are some questions left unanswered, but those could be answered in another book possibly?

Something I thought was a nice touch was the wizards didn't have limitless power.  In some other fantasy novels wizards and magic users seem to have unending power, where-as in this novel they needed added elements to complete their spells.  If they didn't have those ingredients then the spell could not be cast.  This is just one element of the novel that sets it apart from other fantasy novels.  It also had a Dragonlance Saga feel to it, I am not sure why.  There is a lot that happens in this novel, a lot that should happen in this novel.

When the story ends one cannot help but wonder, "is this truly the end?"

Recommendation:  This needs to be added to any fantasy lover's shelf.  It is a great novel with fantastic writing.  I cannot wait for more from this team.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Everybody Has A Story

Everybody has a Story: Audrey Lewis
Media: Ebook: Nook
Rating 3.5 out 5 stars

This book is a collection of stories that focus on human behavior and the impact of life events, memories and experiences.  The stories range from displaying the frailties of human behaviors and the shortcomings we may have, the struggles some people go through as well as stories with hope and inspiration.  There didn't seem to be a connection between the stories.  It just goes from one story to another with a poem or artwork in between.  Each of the stories are nothing like what they seem.  They tells powerful stores of human behavior and actions.  One tends to wonder how they would react in the same situations.

One of the creepier stories, and probably my favorite one is "Closet" where a mother struggles with connecting with her daughter so seems too disconnected.  The daughter, Lexi, acts and makes statements that scare her mother who is unsure of how to act or react.  Quickly find out the true intentions of why Lexi experiments with bugs and nerve gas.  It is an incredibly interesting tale Lewis weaves.  Other stories like "Have You Heard Her Sing"  are beautiful tales of finding beauty in the most unexpected places.  Audrey Lewis does a wonderful job with this collection and I hope to read more from her.

Recommendation:  I would recommend this to someone who enjoys short stories and intense feelings involved in the stories.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Miss Fortune

Miss Fortune: Albina Hume
Media: E-book: Nook
Rating 4 out of 5 stars

Recommendation:  If you enjoy memoirs and life stories.  Would I return to it?  Probably not, memoirs are not my go to read, but I did enjoy reading this one.  Albina has a voice that resonates off the page.

All Albina Hume wanted was to either hide her inability to pronounce the letter “R” or correct it.  Never did she think her inability would take her down the paths that it did.  She struggled to find ways to hide her mispronunciation including trying to learn English.  Her journey begins with her fear of being unable to find love and get married because a boy in her class called her a “crow” and in her mind ‘who would want to marry a crow?’  This instills her fear of the inability to pronounce R words.  That fear takes her down many roads including a pyramid beauty business, strip clubs, even a prison cell for 51 days.  She encounters con men, unhealthy relationships, endangering friendships, and more.  Everything she goes through drives her force to find her dreams, yet she is held back by her fears.  Once she releases those fears, the possibility for her dreams become endless.

From the very beginning, in the prologue, Albina pulls at the readers’ emotions as she describes her excitement for her wedding.  While reading readers can’t help but also wonder what significance the day has until she reveals it is on the same date she was raped 10 years prior.  She mentions this incident early on in the story giving the impression, the book will have something to do with overcoming it and the emotions related to the act.  But once readers get to that point, it is done and over with and she moves on to something else.  With that being said the rest of the books keeps readers mystified as Albina struggles with her inability to pronounce the letter ‘R’, to being conned into travelling to Greece illegally, and even being in jail for several days among other things.  Despite everything the story is that of a woman who overcomes all her struggles, all the bumps and bruises of life to find all her dreams coming true.  

The tone of the book is very casual as if the author is speaking to a close personal friend; this allows the reader to feel connected with her and her story.  It is a touching tale of a woman struggling to find the happiness we all long for.  Her quest for this happiness causes her to make decisions based on impulse and desire.  She hops from one relationship to another looking for love it isn't until she meets Abelardo and his desire to NOT have children does she look out for her own desires.  She then gets introduced to the man who will become her husband.  Her journey is not an easy one, it is filled with trials, and heartache.