Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Meowoween

Happy Halloween from Falcor, this year (and every year) he enjoyed being a space kitty.  What were your kitties (and pups)?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Clara by Suzanna Linton

Clara is a fantasy novel that follows the life of a young woman named Clara.  Her life is anything but easy, all she knows is hardships.  At a young age she was sold into slavery by her mother, the horrors of which has caused her to become mute. She becomes the servant girl in the castle kitchens.  While there she saves the king from death only to be more humiliated by the queen, who leads her around on a lease calling her Mouse.  The only bright side is the queen has her learn to read and write.  There she runs into someone from her past, Emmerick, who is now the leader of a rebel army looking to overthrow the big evil in the world Marduk.  Clara has abilities he would be able to use in order to meet his goals, but how can she discuss her visions using only a slate and chalk?  There are also others who covet the powers Clara seem to have hidden deep within her.

After reading Willow of Fate, I could not wait to get my hands on Clara. Suzanna is such a wonderful author, she draws her readers into the story straight from the beginning.  She creates a world and characters that readers want to know more about.  In Clara, right off the bat readers are wondering where the story is going to take young Clara.  I almost wanted a little more about the horrors that led up to her being mute, but that is a mystery that plays out throughout the novel.  We see Clara treated as if she was invisible, barely seen.  Even after saving the king she is still treated as a servant and not noticed by others.

I enjoyed Clara's personality because while she is angry and upset most of the times, she still has compassion and love for others.  She stands up for what she believes is right now matter the consequences.  Some have noted her has unsympathetic, but there are moments throughout the novel where we see this theory is wrong such as when she stops the king's advisor from beating a servant child.  But she still has a hard exterior and has human aspects to her such as being selfish at times, stubborn, angry, frustrated, thinking without reason (come on ladies how often do we do that?), and feels like everyone is out to do her wrong, which she is partly right, but there are those who wish to protect her.

Gavin's personality was a little hard to gauge, though there were times when I got utterly frustrated with him.  Everytime he tried to speak for Clara was frustrating because we know she is intelligent and capable of speech and smart thinking, but Gavin doesn't see past his own emotions to allow her to do so.  he even feels upset with her when she wants to travel with them.  Emmerick is also another one that is hard to gauge.  He comes off as surly, out for revenge and nothing more.  He seems to only want Clara for her gift of sight rather than her intelligence, but we soon see that change.  He is ruled by his own passions and guilt over his past.

The story is a medieval fantasy.  Suzanna does a great job with descriptions and setting, I felt as if the world really came to life as I was reading it.  I would have liked a little more from Marduk.  He was such a key focus for Emmerick's rage, but we don't view much of him throughout the story.  What made him want Clara, how did he find out about her?  What put him on the path to bring him to assassinate kings and strive for power and evil magic?  How did he discover the casket and what it can do?

This story takes readers on an exciting adventure page by page, chapter by chapter.  As the story gets deeper, the harder it is to put the novel down.  I would recommend this book to any fantasy lover, as well as someone who might be venturing into the genre and aren't sure what to pick up.  I would give Clara a rating of a 4 out of 5 because there were things readers would want to know more about such as Clara's muteness and the origins of Marduk rather than him seemingly popping up and trying to overthrow the kings.  Overall great novel, so glad I have it in my collection.

Monday, October 26, 2015

And The Light Shines by Terri Wallace

And The Light Shines takes place in a world where all the Christians have been prosecuted and supposedly eliminated.  Police comb the surrounding areas looking for any Christian, and arrest them.  Christians are tortured until they denounce God.  This is a story about two men, Mark and Chris, who were once on that very police force until God met them during a cave in.  The novel follows them as they accept the task of following Christ and spreading his word as well as the consequences for being faithful and loyal to Him.

I wasn't sure about this book when I started it.  It seemed to start off slow and didn't seem to appeal to me, but I stuck with it and I am completely happy that I did.  The story really picks up in the cave when Chris and Mark find the Bible under rubble.  One thing that was a little difficult was the story would switch quickly between the past and present without much of a warning.  It would take a few moments to realize that the setting changed to a different time or rather a memory Chris was having while he was in his cell.  The memories and present accounts are necessary to the story, and help progress the story along, I just wished there was a different way of letting readers know they were going back into a memory even with a few sentences describing that while Chris was unconscious in the cell, we would be entering a memory.  There were times when this was done, but there was not consistency with it.

With each of the characters,  readers can see elements and characteristics of different disciples.   We watch as they struggle with some of the same things we struggle with on a secular daily basis.  How often have we wondered how can God all low bad things to happen to good people?   It made me wonder if faced with the same situation,  what would I do?

All the elements Terri adds into the story makes it a wonderful, enticing read.  I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for a new Christian author,  new genre, or a fiction book based on faith and displays that faith.  I give this novel a 4 out of 5. 
**Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program.  **

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Other Joseph by SKip Horack

Roy's brother Tommy disappeared in the first Gulf war, later his parents died tragically and he has a felony conviction hanging over his head.  Roy succumbed to his life as a loner working on oil rigs off the coast of Louisiana.  Shortly before his 30th birthday, Roy receives a letter from a girl claiming to be his niece, his brother's daughter.  With the hopes of reconnecting with family, and a link to his lost brother, Roy begins the journey across America visiting places from his childhood.  There he confronts his troubled past and even makes a stop in Nevada to seek answers to his brother's fate.  The ultimate destination is San Francisco, where a potential Russian bride and his long-lost niece await, and Roy may finally recover the Joseph line

While this seemed like a highly interesting story, it falls flat almost immediately.  I struggled throughout the novel to finish it.  Most of the writing is dry and tedious.  Straight from the beginning it is hard to allow myself to get drawn into the story and I am not sure why.  There is a lot of description that tends to take away from the story.  The characters were difficult to feel a connection to for some reason or another.  They didn't seem real enough.  When reading the description, it seemed more exciting to read.  I wish I could have gotten into it more.  Unfortunately I will be giving this book a 2 out of 5 rating.  As far as a recommendation, I honestly don't know.  I cannot even put my finger on why I find this novel entertaining.  I have read other reviews and recommendations that mentioned this feeling like a man's book, so I would suggest the same that maybe it would be more entertaining and relatable to a male reader.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Enlightenment by Kim Cormack

Enlightenment is the second novel in Kim Cormack's Children of Ankh series.  It picks up where the last one left off right after a major clan battle for Kayn and Kevin.  It focuses on the bonds Kayn must develop with her fellow clan members in order to become stronger.

Kayn has lost the love of her life, and she struggles to let go of his memory.  The rest of the clan members strive to help her move forward and begin the path to Enlightenment.  Kayn and Frost begin a confusing friendship that borders crossing the line into something more.  With Kayn struggles with her feelings for both Kevin and Frost, she must learn to strengthen her abilities and be the Ankh she is meant to become.  When the clans meet for a summit Kayn is faced with a difficult struggle of learning to let go and follow the path she is destined to be on.  Kayn must learn what it takes in order to find her abilities and become "Enlightened" and pass her testing.  Throughout the novel she bonds with all the members of her clan and learns what it means to be a part of a clan.

Kim's follow-up to Sweet Sleep is wow.  I enjoyed reading this novel, though I think I like the first one better.  Enlightenment focused a lot on the clan and their moments of bonding and a sense of becoming one unit rather than each individual person.  Kayn struggles a lot with not only her own feelings but those of Chloe that seem to linger.  I was surprised with some of the revelations made throughout the novel, nothing was predictable.   Kims words simply captivated me and when I couldn't read it like going through withdrawal. 

The first portion of the book seemed to drag on.  The last one left off at an intense moment, i almost expected this one to pick the intense mood right up.  I think the story really began to pick up once the summit began and the three new Ankh members had to relive their Sweet Sleeps.  It was a great way to give us a glimpse into Zach and Melody's background. There is a lot to be said in this novel.  Kayn had to learn how to let go of Kevin, to let go of her past and move on; it was hindering her Enlightenment.   How often does our own past hinders our future? 

The Testing portion of the book felt something akin to "The Hunger Games," but on a more intense level.  I found myself trying to figure out how they were supposed to get out of the crypt and pass the test.   The characters grew more complex and developed in this installment, and I suspect we haven't seen everything there is to see with them.  While Kayn remains a main character the story doesn't primarily focus on her individually but on the Ankh clan as a whole and their relationship together, especially that of Kayn, Melody and Zach.   Zach is a mysterious character for me, I feel as if there is more to him than we've seen so far.

I am excited to see what Kim has in store for us in the next installment and cannot wait to get my hands on it.  I would recommend this to anyone who loves the fantasy genre and give it a 4 out of 5 rating.  What do you have in store for us next Kim?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Happy Birthday Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Not only is today Back To The Future Day, it is also the birthday of one of literature's most influential poets: Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  He is most known for his epic poem "Rime of The Ancient Mariner," which is one of my favorite poems.  So in honor of his birthday, I will share another one of my favorite poems by Coleridge:  To Nature.

To Nature

It may indeed be fantasy when I
Essay to draw from all created things
Deep, heartfelt, inward joy that closely clings;
And trace in leaves and flowers that round me lie
Lessons of love and earnest piety.
So let it be; and if the wide world rings
In mock of this belief, it brings
Nor fear, nor grief, nor vain perplexity.
So will I build my altar in the fields,
And the blue sky my fretted dome shall be,
And the sweet fragrance that the wild flower yields
Shall be the incense I will yield to Thee,
Thee only God! and thou shalt not despise
Even me, the priest of this poor sacrifice.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Miracle At The Higher Grounds Cafe by Max Lucado, Candace and Eric Newman

Chelsea Chambers feels lost and on her own.  She returns to her home town after a very public seperation from her NFL player husband and takes over the family business: High Grounds Cafe; a coffee shop her grandmother started.  But the coffee house is in need of reinvention, they have lost customer base to the modern chain Cafe Cosmo down the road.  Chelsea is at a lost of what to do even her outstanding cupcakes and pastries fail to bring in the customers.   She is need of a miracle or two, or three.  When a stranger shows up at the coffee shop looking for a job things begin to change.  Shortly after his arrival, customer begin to flock to the shop, is because of the delicious coffee and pastries, or is it because of the new God Blog, a way for customers to ask God 1 question and get a response supposedly from the man upstairs himself.  One disaster after another has Chelsea feeling unsure of where to turn.  When a major disaster occurs, her eyes are open to the unknown elements around her.  She turns to the one person who can answer the question that has been plaguing her.  As always Heaven never answers in the way she expects.

 I don't know where to begin with this book.  I began to read it and honestly could not put it down. I finished it within hours.  Max has always been a staple author in my family's home, I have read several of his Christian Living books, but this is the first fiction novel of his that I have read.  I was not disappointed.  Many things addressed in this book were relate-able on a multitude of levels.  I caught myself asking "If you could ask God one question, anything at all, what would it be?"  Throughout the novel, Chelsea does not utilize the "God Blog" and tries to do everything on her own.  I was slightly disappointed that there was not more of Chelsea finding God and turning to him more.  I expected more of that, more of her realizing she needed God in order to survive, but that doesn't come until later in the novel.  But I guess that describes how we are, we don't realize we need God until later in the story of our lives.

Max and his team develops the story nicely and moves it along at an easy pace.  There were elements that reminded me of It's A Wonderful Life with the guardian angel coming to aid his charge. That is one of my favorite movies so it was easy to find a correlation.  But that was an element I highly enjoyed as well.  The aid not Chelsea needed, but also her children came in the form of a guardian angel.  I couldn't help but chuckle when he watched Star Wars for the first time.  I admit this is not normally a book I would pick up, but I am glad to have read it.   While it is a fictional novel, it gives readers something to reflect on, even in the discussion questions at the end.

I would give this novel a 4 out of 5 because there were elements that seemed cliche and the main character not finding/utilizing her faith.  I would recommend this to any of my friends who enjoy a Christian fiction.  It is great for discussion groups and even study groups eager to learn new ways of reflecting on their walk with God.  Every enjoyable.

**Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program.  **

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Awakening By Andi O'Connor

Awakening by Andi O'Connor is the second novel in the Dragonath series.  It picks up where the previous novel leaves off as the fellowship enter into war with their enemies, and possibly themselves.

Darrak and his companions face more challenges in their fight against those who wish use Halla magic to destroy not only Dragonath, but also Earth.  An ancient enemy from the past has been resurrected from the death without a passing thought to the consequences.  Mionee faces a consequences of her decision to join forces with Niemel as well as the things she has set in motion.  The companions are joined with new allies in the wolf who helped them in the past as well as a dragon who could help turn the tide of the war.  The fellowship faces challenges they never imagined facing such as betrayal, and treason.  Darrak slowly learns what it means to accept his destiny as the heir to the throne, but can he handle the responsibility that comes a long with it?  Will the kingdom be able to fight of the enemy advances with little resources they have?  Will dragons come to the aid of the heir or will the remain hidden?

Andi has done it again!  In her second novel, she continues with the action, suspense and twists she creates in the first novel.  The themes of betrayal, trust and relationship continue to be important in Awakening as they were in The Lost Heir.  In this novel the betrayl seemed to hit harder than in the previous novel, probably because as the characters didn't expect the betrayal, neither does the reader.  It was something that takes readers completely off guard.  I gasped when I read certain parts of the book, and may have audibly uttered "NO."  Andi O'Connor has the talent to bring her characters to life and create a world that feels beyond realistic.

I was happy to see the characters continue to grow stronger, but also continue to recognize their faults and short-comings.  It is refreshing to see characters display faults and learning how to turn those faults into strengths within a group such as this.  Darrak is one of the characters I think who grew the most in this novel.  He comes to accept his role and the heir, but struggles with the responsibility.  At this point we see him learning to lean on someone other than himself for strength and guidance.  While relationships with one another whether romantic or not are an important part of the story, it was nice to see the story did not rely soley on that aspect of the plot.  It was simply a supporting element to develop the characters in a different way.

Something I would have liked to seen more use out of though was the dragon as well as the wolf.  I expected more from Wistera.  The aid of dragons appear to be a important element to the story, but we didn't have too much of a background for them other than the short history lesson Andrillian gives us in the beginning, maybe we will see more dragon action in another installment.  While the story is largely about Darrak and him taking his rightful place, this installment was also largely about Mionee.  We see the torment and horrors she endures from her husband and soon Niemel.  We see her become even more remorseful and regretful of her previous greed.  There is still the question of what caused her desire for power?

As with Lost Heir it was difficult to put this novel down in order to sleep or actual be productive.  The world Andi creates in Dragonath is so easy to get lost in.  I don't say this often about books...but I would love to see this made into a movie, I would love to see her characters come to life.  She has the talent to contend with some of the fantasy "best-sellers."   Without a doubt I give this novel a 5 out of 5.  Andi has swiftly become one of my favorite authors, and believe me that is not an easy task!  If you haven't read my review of Lost Heir, do so and then read both novels.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Alice 19th

Alice 19th is a manga series about a young woman named Alice who has a small run in with a white rabbit.  Thus the story begins and where the similarities between Carroll's work and Watase's work end.  Alice saves a little rabbit from the road one day on her way to school, only this is no ordinary rabbit.  The rabbit transforms into her "true form" and reveals to Alice that she is to become a Lotis Master.  These Masters use the power of words and communication to enter the inner hearts of others. Alice must learn to use these words in the proper manner.

During a dispute over a mutual love interest, Alice makes her sister disappear.  Now she must use her Lotis words to bring her sister back from the darkness.  She joins with Kyo (her love interest who also has the Lotis powers) and Frey (another Lotis Master).  The group soon discover that Alice's sister has been overtaken by Maram words, which is the dark equivalent of Lotis words.  Alice and Kyo now have the task of becoming Neo-Masters and discover the lost Lotis word that will bind Lotis and Maram words.  Only this will save her sister.

As with any story that reflects on Alice in Wonderland, I gobbled this manga up.  Yu happens to be one of my favorite manga writers.  She also wrote Fushigi Yuugi which happens to be my favorite anime.  She does a remarkable job developing her story.  She weaves various elements from the traditional story into her own and makes it new.  While the series has 7 volumes, I wanted more.  I wanted to see this as an anime and taken farther.  Yu has a great talent for creating her own world that is different from others created by other manga writers as well as herself.  I enjoyed the idea of words and communication having power over other people for either good or bad.  It is something we all intrinsically know, but to use it the basis of a story is a wonderful idea.  I mean during an argument Alice says something regretful and causes her sister to disappear into another realm of darkness.  How often has our words caused someone pain and sent them into their own world of darkness?

The artwork is also beautiful and well done.  The artist captures the emotions and feelings of the characters in a way that makes the reader feel they are a part of the story with the characters.  The minor love story between Alice and Kyo does not take away from the main plot, in fact it adds a different aspect to the main plot.  The idea that uttering words of love to one another could be deadly was another interesting aspect.  It shows that even the good words uttered in sincerity could have negative backlash.  The manga is written in the traditional style of right to left, so if you are unfamiliar with the style, it might be difficult to get the hang of which order to read the panels.  All together I finished this series in about 6-7 hours or so depending on how engrossed in the volume I had gotten. 

I would recommend this manga to females who love reading magical girl series, and even males if they enjoy that genre.  I would recommend this to anyone who is just starting to read manga, it is a great series to begin with.  I give this series as a whole a 4 out of 5.  I wanted/expected more from the series, but it still a fantastic read.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Green Juice 32 Recipes

I have been looking for ways to naturally detox without the use of pills and other expensive things.  Green Juice: 32 Recipes is a great book to use to accomplish that goal.  We hear so often how important it is to incorporate green foods into our diet, in fact I was just told that this past Wednesday.  Doing so can be so difficult sometimes, but this book helps in finding ways to get the essential nutrients we need from these green foods.

It starts out with tips on juicing in order to get the best juices such as "peel oranges, lemons, grapefruits and especially pineapple, pumpkin, and cantaloupe.  In other words super hard skins."  I wouldn't have thought of peeling pumpkin for juicing.  After that is a section on the benefits of the juices from different fruits and vegetables.  Did you know beets are good for cleansing your liver and gall bladder as well as the bowels?  That is something I learned from this book, it is rather interesting.  Then the book talks about vegetables and fruits that are low in sugar like broccoli.  So before you even get into the recipes this books is very educational and helpful.

The recipes included in this book are easy and simple to follow.  They combine items I never would have thought to combine like kale, strawberries and apple in one recipe.  I know there are people who are weary about trying these recipes and I admit I was one of them.  But I tried one this morning for the first time and it was good.  I  tried the Minty Ginger Green juice, it tasted of course minty with a hint of apple and lemon.  The fruit juices combined covered the taste of the spinach.  I think this is a book of recipes I will continue using on a daily or semi daily basis.  I cannot wait to try a different recipe.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Destiny's Plan By Victoria Saccenti

Fist off I want to comment on how beautiful the cover art of this novel is.  This is definitely a cover that will draw readers into the story.  The look on the woman's face is beyond enticing and what I would imagine Raquelita would look like.

Raquelita's mother is moving her and her younger sister from Texas to Florida, away from their father.  While on the train ride to Florida, Raquelita is seated next to a young soldier. They are instantly connected and begin a conversation that changes their lives.  The two quickly fall in love and must try to figure out how to manage their budding romance through harsh trials such as Raquelita's mother's iron fist, and Matthew being deployed to war.  Things do not turn out exactly as the two love birds planned and both struggle with choices they make in the time away from one another.  Will they be able to make their love work?  Will destiny have other plans?

Destiny's Plan is an interesting story in that it tells the story of not only Raquelita and Matthew, but also her mother: Isabel.  I will warn you there is a lot of adult content within this novel including abuse and allusions to rape in the past.  I actually wanted a little more of Isabel's past to be told or rather Raquelita to learn more about her mother.  There were some points in the story that felt dry and seemed to drone on, but those were far and few between, the rest of the book made up for those moments.  I was drawn into the story of Matthew and Raquelita, and honestly I was worried it would be a story of just them missing one another and trying to get past the hardship of her mother, but it is so much more than that.

Victoria has a style of writing that is very descriptive and informative.  Though it does not feel as if it was too much, it was perfect for the story.  We see Raquelita develop through the story from a scared little girl to a semi-confident woman trying to learn things on her own.  While she makes the wrong decisions and learns the harsher lessons of life the hard way, she learns and becomes stronger because of them.  As Isabel deals with her demons in various ways, she becomes a kinder woman, even if not completely.  It is interesting to see her transform and struggle with alcohol addiction, the demons of the past, and so much more.  While she may seem like a weak character, she is indeed a strong one. 

Victoria does a fantastic job with this story, I would recommend this for those who enjoy a historical romance.  She does her homework in the Vietnam war and includes that into the story.  She is a very talented author and I look forward to reading more.  I give this book a 4 out of 5 because of the dry moments that seemed dull, but as I stated, the story really picks up in other places.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Bride Of The Water God

Bride of the Water God is a manga that focuses around the legend of a water god and a village sacrificing a young woman to become his bride.

Soah's village is suffering from a severe drought.  In order to appease the water god, the village needs to sacrifice the most beautiful woman; Soah.  Soah expects to die by his hand, but instead Habaek takes her to his Kingdom.  Now she must learn to live in a strange new world, but she gets caught up in the mystery that surrounds Habaek.  In the meantime she meets and falls in love with Mui, who is unknown to her, the true form of Habaek.

This series tells it's story through 23 volumes.  The artwork throughout the series is beautiful.  Each scene is detailed and intricate.  Readers can see the time and effort that went into these drawings.  They are breathtaking, I would want to use one as pictures throughout my home.  I was initially drawn to the artwork of this manga, and then drawn into the story.

It seems to be a simple story, but it is compelling at the same time.  We watch as Soah learns to adapt to her new surrounding and learns a new way of life.  Everyone else in the castle seem to do everything for her, so one wonders what is left for her to do.  I enjoyed the sense that this manga was steeped in folklore surround the water god and the possible curse upon him where he is weakened during the day.  I made me want to learn more about the Japanese legends and folklore.

I recommend this manga to anyone who enjoys reading this type of book.  It is a good story with beautiful artwork.  I give the manga a 4 out of 5 because at times it felt like the same picture was used multiple times and the story could have had a little more to it.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Spin The Love by Lisa Terry

Spin the Love is a sexy, steamy tale from Lisa Terry.   Whispy starts out as a typical sixteen year old, worried about upsetting her best friend.  But when a dare is issued between Teddy, Whispy, and Felicia (Teddy's big heartache), Whispy changes.  But is that change for the better?  Or is it the beginning of a dangerous path when she falls for the wrong person?  The friends' dare results in the death of someone close to Whispy, and now she must try to find his killer.  But how can she accomplish this when ever assumes she is insane?

Let me just say this story is a rollercoaster of a tale.  It starts off feeling like another romance story with teenagers discovering themselves through various experimentation, but then it develops into something darker and more sinister.  This is a story that was very well written; one that captivates readers straight from the beginning.  Lisa Terry's story is fast paced and thrilling.  While it is fast paced, it does not feel as such simply because you will want to fly through the story in order to find out where the story will progress next.  The story is unpredictable and thrilling.

Whispy starts off the story as a naive young woman.  She has no clue about the dangers of the world, which we see when EJ tries to warn her against his grandfather and she misses his point.  As the story progresses and she learns new things, she grows and looses some of naivety.  I enjoyed the tidbits of Great Aunt Whispy's diary entries at the end of chapters, it leaves the feeling that young Whispy might be becoming like her great aunt.  There is a lot in this book that deals with depression and the act of cutting, but it does not glorify it as I have seen in other novels.  This is a subject that Lisa Terry deals with in an elegant and respectful manner.

I would recommend this novel to those who enjoy a good steamy romantic thriller, or those who like romance.  I would give this book a rating of 4 out 5 because some elements were a little surprising and startling in a novel.  But that comes from my own naivety in some areas of life. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Gears of Wonderland by Jason Anderson

"Whether you believe in something or not doesn't change the facts.  Once upon a time,  I would believe up to six impossible things before breakfast.   It didn't mean that they were true, just because I believed them." ~ White Queen
Gears of Wonderland is an adaptation of Lewis Carroll's classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  It takes place well after Alice has left Wonderland, with a new "outsider" named James.  What could be his purpose in Wonderland? 

James had just gotten into a silly fight with his fiancĂ© and turns to his buddy Melvin for a place to crash.  Once there Melvin is brutally murdered and James runs for his life when he comes head to head with a man dressed in a strange Victorian style.  Suddenly James is falling down a hole, and awakens to what appears to be Victorian London, but different somehow.  He begins meeting various interesting characters such as the Mad Hatter's daughter: Kara. She aides him on a journey to meet Caterpillar to discover who he truly is, and what is his purpose in Wonderland.  There is a new King of Hearts who has been attacking the other kingdoms, seeking to rule all of Wonderland.  James, Kara, Torre and the rest of the resistance must find a way to stop Lahire's reign of terror and restore Wonderland to it's peaceful nature.  James plays a major role in Wonderland, but what that role is no one knows, will he be able to discover who he is and how he can help Wonderland when he is an Outsider?

The Alice in Wonderland stories have always been a favorite story of mine, so whenever I find adaptations on the classic tale, I tend to gobble them up.  Gears of Wonderland is no different.  I couldn't wait to begin this story, and now that I finished it, I hope, wish there will be more to the tale.  Jason Anderson takes Wonderland and makes it something new and unique; he makes it his own world.  I enjoyed that he kept many of the same characters, but turned them into his own.  I enjoyed Caterpillar and Torre (Red Rook) a great deal as well as the idea that wonderland was split into 6 different kingdoms and each member having a mark to distinguish which kingdom they belonged to and their rank.  I would have liked a little more to James' background with Wonderland and his purpose there.  I do hope there is more to the story, or at least another novel within this world.

I have read several books that were difficult to read because they were choppy and ragged, but not with Gears of Wonderland. Jason's writing was smooth and easy to read. The story was well paced and information was released at good times.  Anderson built the suspense and desire to know things.  I found myself eager to know what will happen next, how will Wonderland be affected by the characters' actions.  I found the idea of having Wonderland alter based on the "Outsider" and interesting idea, and would have liked to see that utilized more in the setting descriptions.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a good story.  If you love Wonderland this book needs to be a part of the collection.  I would give this novel a 4.5 out 5 rating.  Jason did a great job creating his own story out of one known so well.  If you enjoy adaptations of this classic tale also check out Splintered and Alice In The Country Heart.  Both are great adaptions of the tale and create something new.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Driving Grandfather by John Redstand

Grandpa was once an airplane mechanic during World War 2.  Now he is chauffeured around doing errands with his grandson.  Through their travels, Grandpa regales his grandson with elaborate and humorous stories from his time in the Army.  The grandson is a contractor who empties out abandoned buildings, while trying to help grandpa renew his license, among other things makes for a hilarious tale.

This novel is full of humorous and all-too-real stories told by a spirited old man.  Redstand has the magic ability to weave present day with memories from long ago.  While Grandpa may be seated in the passenger seat, it felt as if I was in the backseat listening to his stories as well.  The author has the disclaimer that the stories told are historical fiction, but they feel as if they are real stories that have happened.  One thing I particularly enjoyed was that Grandpa told stories about the men he was serving with rather than the war itself.  There was a time when I had the honor of talking to men about when they served with my grandfather, reading this book brought back the memory of some of those stories.  That element in itself adds a personal and almost intimate touch to the story.

In about 133 pages, Redstand develops his characters and story so much so that readers don't want this book to end.  Almost every review I have read is agreement, no one who has read this book wanted it to end.  We all want more.  The book is fast paced, but that is only because you want to "hear" the next story to be told, you want to see the antics grandpa and grandson will get into next together.  Throughout the book we see an incredible bond between grandpa and grandson that is completely heartwarming.  The character of grandpa reminded me of my own grandfathers, and miss them terribly.

There honestly is no way to pick a favorite part of the book because it is wonderfully written.  Redstand does a phenomenal job with the book and I look forward to being able to read anything by this talented author.  The description of the book amazon mentions that John takes us on a tour of the last few months of his grandfather's life; this is a tour you don't want to miss.  This book is the perfect way to honor family and keep a loved one and their legacy alive.  I give this book a 5 out of 5, and recommend it to everyone.