Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Winterland by Mike Duran


Summoned into her dying mother’s coma, recovering addict Eunice Ames must traverse a surreal, apocalyptic dreamscape in search of three generational spirits who have imprisoned her mother’s soul.

Together with Joseph, a crippled drifter who serves as her guide, Eunice treks an abandoned highway strewn with debris from her mother’s “emotional” wars. Along the way, she encounters Mister Mordant, a perpetually whiny grub, Reverend Ash a fragile, supremely self-righteous minister, and Sybil, a beautiful sylph with a knack for deception. Eunice and Joseph endeavor to lead this peculiar brigade into the hell of her mother’s making, through the swamp of Mlaise and the volcanic plains of Cinder, to the Dark Throne where they were forged. Along the way, Eunice experiences, in awful living color, the forces that have shaped her mother’s descent into madness and disease.

Yet a more malevolent power conspires against Eunice. For not only is she forced to relive the psychological terrain of her own upbringing, she must now confront the darkness it has spawned... the one inside her. It seems Eunice has harbored horrors of her own; years of abuse, rejection, and generational sin have taken root. And no amount of psycho-babble and positive thinking can withstand the literal monster that is waiting at the end of this highway. Can Eunice destroy the spirits that have cursed her family and rescue her mother, or will the sun set on their hell forever?


I don't know that I can really do my regular pros and cons for this. For one thing, I can't decide if I really love or really dislike this book. It's just...weird. Like a very odd mix of horror/dark fantasy and The Wizard of Oz. It's creepy and mystical and wacky. Yet, I appreciated the allegorical aspects of the book and the triumphant (I can't say happy) ending.

It's definitely not for young teens--I don't know if I'd recommend it for anyone under 18, partially because of the hinted-at content, but mostly because it was so dark.

There's nothing I can say against Mike Duran's writing. He is definitely a master of words. The descriptions and turns of Phrase pulled me into the book just as much as Eunice and the plot did.

My rating: four and a half stars.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Invasion by Jon S. Lewis


He didn't ask to be a hero, but now all that stands between us and chaos . . . is Colt.

Colt McAlister was having the summer of his life. He spent his days surfing and his nights playing guitar on the beach with friends. He even met a girl and got his first car. But everything changes when his parents are killed in a freak accident.

He's forced to leave his old life behind and move to Arizona with his grandfather. The only person he knows at the new high school is a childhood friend named Dani. And Oz, a guy he's sure he's never met but who is strangely familiar.

But what if his parents' death wasn't an accident? His mother, an investigative reporter, was going to expose a secret mind-control program run by one of the world's largest companies. Before she could release the story, what if agents from Trident Biotech made sure she couldn't go public?

Vowing to uncover truth, Colt is drawn into a secret world of aliens, shapeshifters, flying motorcycles, and invisible getaways.


Cons: Colt disobeys authority figures regularly, without much in the way of consequences.

There isn't much original in this book. The alien races and a couple of locations, but I felt like most of the plot had been done before. It was very familiar superhero stuff.

Pros: While there was some teen romance, it wasn't the typical boy-thinks-they're-best-friends-but-girl-has-a-crush scenario that I see in a lot of YA books. That was nice, because frankly I'm tired of that plot line.

I felt like the writing and characterization was well done, so despite the familiarity of the book, I enjoyed it.

I think it's very family friendly and especially would be great for preteen-teen boys.

Rating: three out of five stars

**I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.**

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Novel Spotlight: Shadows: The Book of Aleth Pat 1 by Michael Duncan


A stolen text...When the Book of Aleth is stolen, Aaron, captain of the Royal Guard, is ordered by Emperor Therion to reclaim the ancient tome. The mission thrusts Aaron into a world he's never known--a world of elves and dwarves, races long thought extinct; a world where everything he has known and believed is a lie.

A secret past... Forced to challenge his long-held beliefs, Aaron and his companions, two soldiers of the Royal Guard and two men of the Dwarvish kingdom of Brekken-Dahl, set out on a quest to recover the Book. Aaron resolves to discover the truth, and rescue the empire he is sworn to protect.

My Thoughts:

Cons: I had a hard time getting into the book. The prologue, with an almost omniscient point of view, didn't grab me immediately.

The dialog felt stiff--not necessarily stilted, but stiff.

Likewise, I wanted more about the characters. I can't exactly pinpoint it, but there was just a little something missing. As usual, I'm guessing this is because it's the first book in a series.

Pros: I enjoyed the setting of the book: a medieval country, much of it forest, in snow. Hmm...sounds like the view outside my window. :) I haven't read a lot of fantasy novels set in the winter, and it was interesting to see how the author used that to challenge his characters. I also thought that the abundant descriptions were pretty well done.

Though as a rule, I'm not too fond of allegories, I enjoyed this one. Especially, I liked the perspective of a soldier from the bad side as he tries to untangle the truth from the lies he's grown up with. I also liked that not all of his companions condone his changing loyalties. It made for good tension throughout the book.

It was very family friendly. I could see this book being used for a family's read-aloud time, even though the characters are adults. There are some scenes that might scare younger kids: a man dying in a fire; a fight with a demon-like creature; soldiers attacked by trolls. Other than that, there's no objectionable content.

If you're looking for a decent fantasy read, Shadows is a pretty good one. There are flaws, but I think that Michael Duncan is a promising writer and I'm looking forward to the next installment in The Book of Aleth.

Rating: Three stars

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Book of the Year 2011


I've been looking forward to the Book of Year ever since I read it. This book truly deserves a better award than mine, but I'm glad to give it all the same.

And I know you're probably tired of me saying it...but, seriously, read this book. You won't regret it. I'm also running an GIVEAWAY for this book--head over to the Magical Ink blog for the details!

Monday, December 12, 2011

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to mean on whom his favor rests."

Have a wonderful, Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Books for your Christmas list...

Need some suggestions for the book lover on your Christmas shopping list? Here are some of my favorites:

If you know someone who loves detective novels, Mark Mynheir's The Corruptible is an excellent choice for them. If they tend to prefer the classics, you can't go wrong with a Father Brown short story collection from G. K. Chesteron or Agatha Christie's famous Belgian private detective, Hercule Poirot.

Have a preteen/teen on your list that devours books, but you have no idea what kids are reading these days (besides books starring lame, sparkly bloodsuckers)? Kat Heckenbach's Finding Angel is an amazing read that the teens (and you) will love! Other ideas are the Dark Sea Annals (The Sword in the Stars and The Errant King) by Wayne Thomas Batson, The Homelanders Series (The Last Thing I Remember, The Long Way Home, The Truth of the Matter, The Final Hour) by Andrew Klavan (if they're not fantasy fans) and, for the girls, Erynn Mangum's Sketchy Behavior.

Adult fantasy/science fiction? ;) Bryan Davis' series Dragons of Starlight is an excellent series, as is Becky Minor's The Windrider series from DMG Publishing. Other ideas include anything from Marcher Lord Press or Splashdown Books--I've read many of the books from both publishers and I honestly have nothing bad to say about them.

Hope that helps! Enjoy your Christmas season, and God Bless until next year!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Popcorn and a Movie: The Three Musketeers


D'Artagnan is a young man who has always dreamed of joining the king's Musketeers. When he journeys to Paris, he not only insults three of the best musketeers (Athos, Aramis, and Portos) one after another, but also discovers that Cardinal Richelieu has disbanded the musketeers and is plotting to take over the country, while the young king fritters his time away worrying about clothes and how to win over his young queen.

Of course, D'Artagnan won't stand for that. He inspires Athos, Aramis, and Portos to work against the Cardinal. Along the way, they run into Athos' old traitorous girlfriend, Milady de Winter, and her new


Cons: Um, plenty of them. The costumes are quite period, which (of course) means low-cut necklines for the gals. Milady de Winter's outfit of choice for breaking into the queen's chambers is...ahem...let's just say that it pushes the limits of what should be allowed in a PG-13 movie. (And honestly, that was the killer for me. If I'd known exactly how bad that outfit was, I wouldn't have gone to see the movie.)

My apologies to anyone who still likes Orlando Bloom, but...yeeeeuck. I could stomach him in LotR and PotC, but he just doesn't look good here. Especially in a bright purple brocade. Ick.

There are some suggestive comments, mostly involving the beautiful double agent Milady.

Overall, the violence isn't bad, until we get to D'Artagnan and Rochefort's duel on the rooftop of a church. D'Artagnon is repeatedly stabbed and grabs Rochefort's sword-blade a couple of times to prevent another wound, which is incredibly wince-inducing.

Quite a few cuss-words, and plenty of drinking.

Pros: After all that, it's amazing that I could find some good stuff about this film. But, I did. Whether or not it balances out the bad remains to be seen.

Portos, Athos, and Aramis (and later D'Artagnon) are a loyal team. They work well together and watch each others backs.

The storyline itself is entertaining and fun. Plenty of swashbuckling and sneaking going on here. I thought the beginning sequence with the musketeers and Milady de Winter breaking into Michalangelo's secret vault was pretty cool. And there were some added steampunk elements, like the giant airships built by the cardinal and the duke of Buckingham.

CONCLUSION: This one definitely isn't family friendly and, as much as I liked some parts of it, other parts force me to conclude that this is one I won't be watching again.

Two stars.