Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Demon Inside by Rick R. Reed

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Hunter Beaumont doesn't understand hi grandmother's deathbed wish: "Destroy Beaumont House."  He'd never even heard of the place.  But after his grandmother passes and his first love betrays him, the family house in the Wisconsin woods looks like a tempting refuge.  Going against his grandmother's will, Hunter flees to Beaumont House.

But will the house be the sanctuary he had hoped for?  Soon after moving in, Hunter realizes he man not be alone.  And with whom - or what - he shares the house may plunge him into a nightmare from which he many never escape.  sparks fly when he meets his handsome neighbor, a caretaker for the estate next door, but is the man salvation... or is he the source of Hunter's terror?

I've been a sucker for haunted house stories my entire life, I can never get enough of them.  The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and Drawing Blood by Poppy Z. Brite are two of my all time favorite books, and while A Demon Inside may not be comparable to the first, it definitely fits in with the second book.  Both books take a young gay man and force him to deal with family secrets in such a way that they put their lives in jeopardy.  The difference though is that while Trevor in Drawing Blood knows what he is getting himself into, Hunter doesn't, which makes the story even more compelling.

Hunter is a shy, naive young man who was raised by his grandmother after his parents were brutally murdered, an event that Hunter was present for.  He grows up sheltered and hidden away from most of the world, a move that his grandmother took to try and protect him, but left him a little vulnerable and easily influenced.

Once his grandmother passes and asks him to destroy Beaumont House, that vulnerability and naiveness gets quickly tested.  His first love affair ends horribly but it was one that if Hunter had been less trusting and more socially developed, he could have avoided it all together.  This is what send him packing to Beaumont House despite the misgivings he felt the first time he was there.

This is where the book really takes off and the action starts.  I won't go into too much detail of what Hunter has to deal with while living in the house, though I will say if I woke up the first morning in a new house and had the same experience Hunter did, I wouldn't bother packing, I would walk right out the front door and never look back.

The author does a wonderful job of setting the right notes of fear and stubbornness that Hunter feels throughout the book.  There aren't a lot of authors who can write a convincingly haunted house story without coming across as cheesy or trying to hard.  This author has it nailed down.  The atmosphere he invokes works perfectly with the storyline and never gets in the way of the plot.  He methodically creates the perfect sense of terror that leads to a wonderful thought out climax that left me wishing there was more to the story.

The other aspect I loved was the lack of sex, though there was a strong desire for it, between Hunter and his quite attractive neighbor.  The author lets their friendship and trust build first and it's only towards the end that you realize they may have something real they can fall back on once the horror of the house is finally over.

This was my second book from this author and I'm falling more in love with his writing style.  I can't wait to read the next one.

This will qualify for the GLBT Reading Challenge 2010.

Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Meet Princess Cimorene - a princess who refuses to be proper.  She is everything a princess is not supposed to be: headstrong, tomboyish, smart...

And bored.

So bored that she runs away to live with a dragon.  And not just any dragon, but Kazul - one of the most powerful and dangerous dragons around.  Of course, Cimorene has a way of hooking up with dangerous characters, and soon she's coping with a witch, a jinn, a death-dealing talking bird, a stone prince, and some very oily wizards. 

If this princess ran away to find some excitement, it looks like she's found plenty.

Dealing with Dragons is the first book in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles and before Celia of Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia made it part of a giveaway, I had never heard of it before. So needless to say I was super excited to win the giveaway and get a chance to read something she obviously cares so much about.

I'm not sure what I expected or thought I would get from this book, I think I went into it with a pretty open mind actually, but I can honestly say I wasn't expecting the wit and humor that is found throughout the book.  Cimorene is a princess who knows her own mind and rebels against what is normal for princesses to do.  She would rather learn how to fence or magic than sewing and dancing.  She would rather use her brains then bat her lashes to get what she wants.

I had a blast with this book and I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the series to see how the author expands the world that she created in this book.  It's a world full of kingdoms, dragons, magic, and rigid social structures that are just begging to be broken.  It's a world that I'm looking forward to visiting again in the near future.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 8/30/10

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at The Printed Page and is being hosted by Shanyn of Chick Loves Lit for the entire month of August.

I didn't have anything come in the mail this week but I did end up buying 6 books, 3 DVDs, and 2 CDs.  All of it for around $22.

As I do every week I stopped by the Friends of the Library Bookstore and ended up walking out with some books.  Six of them actually, 2 in hardcover and 4 in paperback.  The hardcovers were The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and The Wicked Flea by Susan Conant, both of which were $1 a piece.  The four paperbacks were only $.50 a piece and they were, Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, Games Killers Play edited by Alfred Hitchcock, Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, and V: Death Tide by A.C. Crispin and Deborah A. Marshall.

On my trip to Wal-Mart I found two Disney movies for $6 a piece so I picked up The Black Hole and The Love Bug.

My last stop of my shopping spree was Buy Back Entertainment and there I bought two CDs and one DVD for $1.99 a piece.  I picked up Bare and Medusa from Annie Lennox and the DVD of Christmas With The Kranks.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Really Old Classics Challenge

Well it's that time of year again, the Really Old Classics Challenge is getting ready to start (in 4 days) and I couldn't be more excited about it.  Now you may want to know what a really old classic is, so I'll tell you.  A really old classic, at least for this challenge, is anything written prior to 1600 AD.  I'm going to be honest with you, I haven't really read a lot from that time period, but what I have read I've liked and I'm thrilled to discover even more works of literature that weren't on my radar before.

What I'm really excited about is that I'm one of the co-hosts for this challenge and since this is my first time hosting one, I'm looking forward to interacting with everyone who participates and seeing what it is they choose to read.  My two co-hosts are Heather J of Age 30+ ...A Lifetime of books and Michelle of Literarily Speaking.  A few months ago, early Spring I think, Heather had asked on Twitter if anyone was interested in helping her out with it this year and I jumped at the chance.  So I would like to thank her for the opportunity.

The best part of this challenge is you only have to read 1 qualifying work between Sept. 1st through Dec. 31st.  How easy is that!  Now there are other options as well as extra credit that I know all of you will do.  So go on over to the sign up page and join us on our journey into Really Old Classics.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

20 Questions Over at Lost In Books

I just wanted to let everyone know that Rebecca at Lost In Books asked me to participate in her 20 Questions meme and she has it posted today.  Please stop by and let me know what you think of my oh so provocative answers.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Magic's Price by Mercedes Lackey

Magic's Price is the third and final volume in The Last Herald Mage Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey, and it's the one that breaks my heart every time I read it.  This one will be a bit rambling and maybe even have a few spoilers in it so I apologize before hand.

The story takes place a few years after the events in Magic's Promise and Kind Randale is dying a horrible death that nobody is able to cure or even relief the pain he lives in every day of his life.  Every day for him is a struggle and with no hope in site is wearing everyone around him down.  When Medren, Vanyel's Bardic gifted nephew, brings an idea to him about easing the pain the King is suffering, Vanyel is a little more than dubious.  When that idea proves to be another young bardic trainee who can sing pain away, it seems to be a blessing in a time of great sorrow.

Nobody know how or why Stefan has this gift but the crown is quick to jump on it as it allows the King to function for periods of time.  The fact that the same young bard is gay and that Medren has been trying to figure out a way to get his Uncle and his roommate together, doesn't hurt either.

This is where the love story takes over and one that is sweet to read about.  Vanyel still feels a lot of guilt and remorse about what happened to Tylendel when they were together and he feels that he is betraying that memory if he allows anything else to come close to that relationship.  The fact that Stefan is quite a bit younger than him doesn't help either.  Of course what Vanyel doesn't know is that Stef is way more experienced then him and isn't in a state of hero worship that Vanyel suspects.  Their relationship starts of slowly, building a wonderful friendship, one of mutual respect and admiration.  The fact that they are both frustrated because they each want it to go further but both are too scared, for different reasons, to do anything about it, is wonderfully written and fully believable.

Thankfully for us (the readers) and them (the characters), Vanyel's parents invite them both to come home for a visit and actually put them in the same room.  This is the catalyst that finally puts them right where they need to be, which is a good thing because for the rest of the book they will need each other in ways they never imagined.  I do want to make a quick comment about something before I continue with the story.  The way the author explores Vanyel's relationship with his parents and the circumstances of how they finally are able to heal the hurts that have been between them, move me every time.  It's wonderfully done and from personal experience, very believable.

The rest of the story is fast paced thrill ride that will test the strength and courage of almost every single character and will push Vanyel, Stef, and Yfandes to their limits.  This is the book that takes all the foreshadowing, including some horrific dreams Vanyel had in the first one, and brings the story to it's logical conclusion.  This is where we find out how and why Vanyel becomes the last Herald Mage and what it takes in courage and sacrifice to protect the Kingdom he serves and the people he loves.  The journey the three of them take and the climax of the story will leave you feeling so many emotions you won't know what to think by the time it's all over.  What you will know is what a brilliant author Mercedes Lackey is and how wonderful Vanyel is as a character.

I want to leave you with a song that Bard Stefan wrote a year after the climax of the story.  It's called "Magic's Price" and I think it sums up the emotions and the story in a way I could never duplicate.

This will qualify for the GLBT Reading Challenge 2010.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Favorite Fictional Character --- The Rowan

Born Angharad Gwyn, The Rowan was the only survivor of a horrendous mud slide that destroyed the Rowan Mining Camp on Altair.  She had been in a hopper and the mudslide buried her for days.  Even as a young toddler, The Rowan was a powerful telepath and her cries for help could be heard by every sensitive on the planet.  It took days for them to find her and once they did, she was in training to become a T1 Prime, one of the most powerful psionics in the universe.

Her childhood as an orphan is a lonely one.  She is thrust into the care of Sligen, the current Prime on Altair, who doesn't have a motherly bone in her body.  Sligen is agoraphobic and pushes that onto all she trains.  Even after she is befriended by a psychiatrist and her family Rowan still feels alone.

It's not until she's an adult, running her own station that Rowan finally meets someone who will break her out of her shell and make her feel again.

The Rowan is a 3 dimensional character that I fell in love with the first time I met her.  Even emotionally damaged as she is, she comes across as someone who wants to love and be loved, but doesn't know what to trust.  As I read about her growing up amongst the personalities and tragedies she had to face, I felt for her, I wanted to be her friend and let her know that everything happens for a reason.  I was able to get a sense of the strong woman she would grow into. 

One she meets Jeff Raven, I was able to tell that finally she met the man who would make her whole and love.  With Jeff she has a family and builds a life around them and the company they all work for.  They repel alien invaders (through several books actually) and set the foundations of the family Rowan had stolen from her at such a young age.

I love strong female characters, and The Rowan definitely fits that mold.  She grows and matures throughout the book and the series but she never really loses that vulnerability that she had as a child.  Part of her is always waiting for the other shoe to drop, but she is strong enough to not let that stop her.  If I ever had a daughter, telepathic or not, I would want her to have the strength that The Rowan shows throughout her life.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 8/23/10

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at The Printed Page and is being hosted by Shanyn of Chick Loves Lit for the entire month of August.

I received Animal, Vegetable, and Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver for an upcoming TLC Book Tour.

I bought Of Saints And Shadows by Christopher Golden in paperback from Barnes & Noble.  It's the reissue of the first book in a series that I love.  I used to own all the books but for some reason got rid of them, maybe lent them out, I don't remember though.  I want to thank Simcha at SFF Chat and Carolyn of Book Chick City for mentioning this release, and reminding me of a great series.  I must say I like the original cover better though, this one is a little generic.

Every time I go to The Dollar Tree I check out the book section since I normally find some great books for only $1 a piece.  I picked up two of this time, both hardcovers.  I had admired Sen. Robert Byrd and was saddened by his passing not to long ago so when I saw his last book (published in 2008) Letter To A New President, I had to pick it up.  I also picked up The Secrets of the Vaulted Sky: Astrology and the Art of Prediction by David Berlinski, which seems to be a history of astrology.

Then from the Friends of the Library Book Store, which I stop in at least once a week, I found two more hardcovers in perfect condition for $2 a piece.  Polgara The Sorceress by David & Lee Eddings and Lord Of Chaos by Robert Jordan, which is book 6 of The Wheel of Time series.  Both of these are rebuys for me and I'm slowly working on replacing all my Wheel of Time books in hardcover, now I only need 3,4,5,7, and the new ones written by Brandon Sanderson.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Magic's Promise by Mercedes Lackey

Tonight I will be giving you a brief overview of the second book in The Last Herald Mage trilogy, Magic's Promise by Mercedes Lackey.  In most trilogies the middle book is normally the filler that sits in between the introduction of the first and the climax of the third.  It's generally more of a transitional book than anything else.  In Magic's Promise, while Mercedes Lackey may do a little of that, the story is more about building an image in our minds of who Vanyel Ashkevron has become.

The story takes place about 12 years after the conclusion of Magic's Pawn.  Vanyel has become one of the most powerful Herald Mages in Valdemar and he is quickly becoming the most important as well.  Off page a few of the characters of the first book had been killed in a war with the bordering kingdom of Karse and Vanyel had been sent to take their place.  He had not only done that but had hunted down the mages responsible for those deaths, earning him the nicknames of Demonsbane and Shadow Stalker (if you click on the nicknames it will take you to youtube videos for two of the many songs that Mercedes Lackey wrote to go with the series). 

The story starts as Vanyel is entering Haven on his way back from the border.  He is tired and worn out and is barely able to stay on Yfandes' back.  He doesn't appear to be the mighty Vanyel of songs and stories, instead he appears to be worn out and in great need of a vacation.  However once at court he quickly notices how sick the new king, Randale, is becoming, and as both a Herald and a friend he is concerned.  Shavri the one and only Herald Healer is Randale's lifebonded and also Vanyel's friend.  She lets Vanyel in on the truth and you can feel the anguish that Vanyel goes through trying to weigh his personal needs against those of his King and friend as well as those of the kingdom.  Does he stay and help out or does he do as suggested and go home for an extended vacation?  Through the encouragement of both the King and his friend and his more formidable Aunt Savil, Vanyel sets out to join his family.

Now things are still strained between him and his father Withen.  His father is still uncomfortable with Vanyel being gay and is convinced Vanyel spends most of his time chasing boys into bed.  His mother, Treesa, is still throwing women at him trying to cure him and Vanyel isn't convinced he will be able to rest with all that going on.  Luckily for him things aren't as bad once he gets there.  He's drawn into a few family arguments and deals with discovering an illegitimate nephew who is Bardic gifted and needs to go to Haven to be trained.  I could talk about how he deals with Jervis and Father Leren, who are the keeps arms master and priest, but I don't want to get into too much of the relationship dynamics.  Mainly because I want you to discover them for yourselves, but also because I could write way to much about it, you would get bored and stop reading the review before I was even half way done.

The rest of the book finds Vanyel and Savil, who joined him on vacation, dealing with a crisis across one of the borders.  The royal family of a neighboring kingdom was slaughtered down to every last man. woman, and child in the castle, save one.  Tashir Remoerdis, the oldest living son who had just been disinherited for fear of being fathered by someone else, is the only living person in the castle.  He is only 16 and has shown to have strong Fetching (telekinesis) powers and had just been Chosen by a Companion after the carnage.  Vanyel quickly takes the young man into his care and takes him back to the families keep.  Because of the political ramifications of the act Vanyel, Savil, and a few others must quickly figure out what happened before it's too late.

This is a brilliantly written book about family secrets and dynamics and what happens when those dynamics break down and the secrets are too dangerous to allow to come out.  It's also about the power struggles that take place within a family and the ramifications of what happens when those struggles get out of control.  It's a brilliantly written book and unlike most "middle" books, it stands on it's own and is just as strong as the first and last.

This will qualify for the GLBT Reading Challenge 2010.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Magic's Pawn by Mercedes Lackey

Magic's Pawn is the first book in The Last Herald Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey, and it's one of the books that made me fall in love with Fantasy in general.  This will be a rambling review, so please forgive me, I'm having a hard time trying to figure out what to tell you so you will read it, but not too much where you feel you don't need to.

I guess you could call Magic's Pawn the "discovery" phase of the story.  We are introduced to Vanyel Ashkevron, a spoiled brat of a teenager who has been emotionally hurt so much by parents that don't have time for him, that he's continually turning inward and shutting everyone else off.  When his father finally gets sick of him, he ships him off to the capital of Valdemar, Haven, to be fostered with Savil Ashkevron, Vanyel's Aunt, and one of the most powerful Herald Mages alive.

At first no one is able to figure out what to do with Vanyel, they aren't sure if he is really as snobby and bratty as he appears or if he is slowly dying inside because all he wanted to do was be a Bard and he had that dream shot down pretty quickly after arriving.  When forces dictate that Vanyel comes out of his shell, Tylendel is there to help him.

Tylendel is the openly gay, Herald Mage trainee and one of Savil's favorite protegees.  It's Tylendel that gets Van to open up and start dealing with all the pain that has been eating him upside.  Reading how their relationship grows and develops is a joy to read and one of my favorite things about this book.  They make such an amazing couple that it's hard sometime to remember that they aren't real, that they only exist on paper and in the mind.  As a older gay teen reading this book, it helped me deal with my own issues and I'm grateful for that.  Now that I'm done injecting myself into this, let me move on.

When heartbreaking tragedy strikes (which makes me tear up every time) Van is forced to into his latent Mage and Heraldic powers that no one knew existed.  He is chosen by Yfandes, the oldest unbound Companion in the kingdom (she is on the cover with Van), and he is quickly thrust into a situation where he is not only having to heal body and soul but to figure out his own powers.  More importantly, he needs needs to realize why he should use them.  That self doubt is quickly tested after Savil takes him to a strange land to even stranger people to be healed and taught.

This is a wonderful beginning to a fantastic trilogy that explores one young man's journey through discovering who he is as a man.  The fact that the journey brings him a "life bonded" love and unbearable pain, which the author is able to take you into as if you where feelings the same emotions, makes the journey all the more special.  Van goes on a journey of self awareness and growth afterwards that you are left in awe at the strength that resides in him.  I'm not sure I could have accepted and dealt with what he is forced to do so at that age.  For that matter, I'm not sure I could do it now. 

What I do now is that I'm unable to fully articulate how wonderful this book is and why I feel everyone should read it, but I hope that I'm able to at least pique the interest of one person who has never read them to give it a try.

This will qualify for the GLBT Reading Challege 2010.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Favortie Fictional Character --- Brantley Foster

If you've never seen The Secret Of My Success, you are missing out on one of the funniest characters that ever came out of the 80s.  Played by the incredible Michael J. Fox, Brantley Foster is the typical small town farm boy who moves to the big city to make a life for himself.  Lucky for us he does it in a style all his own.

Brantley moves from Kansas to New York City for his first job out of college, unfortunately the company that hired him was taken over the same day he reported to work, so his job was over before it began.  After going through various job interviews where he was labeled too qualified, under qualified, too tall or not female enough, he caves in and goes to his Uncle (by marriage) to find a job.

Hi Uncle puts him in the mail room but it's not long after that Brantley starts impersonating an executive and courting the only female executive in the building.  Before he (or the viewer for that matter) knows it, he is running around like crazy trying to do two jobs at once without getting caught while trying to keep his love life on track.  One of my favorite scenes happens when everyone ends up at the country house and the characters start playing musical beds, it's hilarious and so well done that I can't help but be fascinated every time I watch the movie.

The comedic timing Michael J. Fox brings to the character is hilarious and even though you know Brantley is deceiving people, you can't help but love him.  He is trying to do the right thing for the company even though he has gotten himself in some deep water.  Brantley is the perfect everyday hero who makes it big through hard work and some incredible luck.  The fact he has a lot of fun along the way, makes it that much better.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 8/16/10

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at The Printed Page and is being hosted by Shanyn of Chick Loves Lit for the entire month of August.

I received a hardcover of The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean and a hardcover of The Legacy of Beezer and Boomer by Doug Koktav from Planned Television Arts for review.

I won Clue: Who Killed Mr. Boddy? by A.E. Parker in paperback from vvb32.

I'm Turning 34 Today!

Not sure what this picture has to do with it being my birthday today but I'm in love with the illustrations of Edward Gorey and for some reason this one made me think of birthdays (don't ask).  I hope everyone has a great day today and I especially want to thank all of you who've I've gotten to know over the last year.  You have made this last year special for me and I hope we get to know each other better by the time I turn 35.

I just thought I should post a picture that was a little more appropriate for the day.  That and I think Eeyore is the cutest little guy ever invented.

I'm also very lax in getting the winner of my Blogoversary giveaway announced so with no further ado....the winner is......Sheila of Bookjourney.  I will be emailing Sheila and letting her know that she has won a $20 gift card to Amazon.

Have a great day everyone and eat lots of cake and ice cream for me!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dante's Journey by JC Marino

Synopsis From Back Cover:

A flash of light and Detective Joe Dante steps through. No longer on the cobblestone streets of 1961 Boston, Joe finds himself in a horrifying new world-Hell itself.

Joe was in hot pursuit of his family's killer, drug lord Filippo Argenti, when both were killed, and isn't about to let a little thing like death slow him down.

So, with a healthy dose of New England stubbornness and the help of a mysterious guide, Virgil DiMini, Joe must evade angry demons, and search ever-lower through the rings of the original Dante's Inferno in hopes of finding justice for his wife and children.

However, Joe will soon discover that behind every sin lies a secret and each secret revealed could land Joe in an eternity of hot water... VERY hot.

This is going to be one of my odder reviews to date because of how I ended up comparing it to the previous book I just reviewed, Homecoming by Jason Garrett.  I don't want you to think that this was a work of Christian fiction because from what I can tell, it's not.  What I will say is that I felt this book talked more about redemption and God's forgiveness then the book that was supposed to talk about it.  The best part was that Dante's Journey wasn't preachy or over the top with that aspect, it just came through because of the journey that Joe Dante had to take through Hell.

Joe was a honorable cop and family man who was bent on revenge after both his daughters and wife were killed in one way or another by drugs and those that sell them.  He had become a bitter, angry man (not that I can blame him for it) and all he cared about was making the man he thought was responsible, Filippo Argenti, pay for his grief.

When the quest for revenge left both men dead and in Hell, Joe was still, pardon the pun, hell bent on quenching his thirst for payback.  Joe didn't even want to believe he was dead and it took him a while to come to terms with that.  Now I'm not going to go into the details about the the journey to find Argenti and what Joe had to go through to do that or even about the truth he discovers about what really happened to his family.  What I do want to talk about is the mental and emotional journey that Joe went through while he was in Hell.

The "journey" was more than just a physical one through the rings of Hell.  The journey was also about one man's path and how following that path eventually leads to forgiveness and redemption.  It's through this journey and seeing the suffering that Joe begins to realize the truth, that maybe he does belong in Hell.  That his anger and thirst for revenge have tainted him and made him into something less than a moral man.  It's by discovering the truth about what really happened and coming to grips with that reality that Joe is able to deal with his emotions and is even able to forgive those that were responsible for the deaths of his family.  It's through that forgiveness of others that Joe is able to discover what sins he was guilty of and how he must forgive himself and accept God's forgiveness as well.  It's only through that acceptance and forgiveness that Joe is able to complete his journey through Hell and end up in the place he truly deserved to be.

So now I'm left with and even bigger question in my head.  Can a book that is in fantasy and has nothing to do with the genre of Christian fiction be put into that category because of the underlining message?  Or is it the author and publisher that must decided what genre to place a book into?  I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm even more confused about what makes a book Christian fiction and what makes it a great book with some sort of undertones to it?

No matter what genre this book falls into, I really enjoyed it not only for the wonderful imagery the author conjures up in his descriptions of Hell and those residing in it but also because it's of the wonderful narrative that almost everyone should be able to relate too.  Joe's journey is one that we all find ourselves on at some point in our lives, eventually we all have to come to grips with what has been done to us as well as what we've done to others.  We all need to reach that place in our lives where we can move on from those incidents and let forgiveness make them easier to bare and accept.

I'm really hoping that everyone gets a chance to read this one at some point regardless of what the book is classified as.  It has elements of fantasy, mystery, and the religious but the whole is so much more than that.  It's a journey in that classic sense of discovery and growth, and not one to be missed.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Homecoming by Jason Garrett

Synopsis From Back Cover:

On a perfect autumn night in the coastal village of Wicker Bay, a young couple was attacked and a life was forever changed. When teenager Nickel Warren awoke she learned her boyfriend, Eric, had mysteriously vanished. Seemingly the only person on Bishop’s Island eager to find him, Nickel devoted her life to learning what happened to her first love on that tragic night. Though the years provided no clues or comfort, she never allowed herself to stop believing Eric was alive.

Now, after an eighteen year absence Eric Kade has resurfaced on Bishop’s Island under circumstances as unsettling as his disappearance. Though reunited, Nickel’s search for answers is sidelined by another horrific event more deeply connected to her childhood sweetheart than she can imagine. Living as a preacher, Eric has traveled the world for nearly two decades hunting demons in a sect named The Progeny. But a chilling prophecy has named him as a threat and turned his fellow hunters against him.

With a sense of urgency, Eric has come back to the island not to rekindle the past but to protect the home he loves from an oncoming war. Relying on the help of a rare group of locals, he builds a network of his own to defend the unknowing against a world he has come to know too well. As he works to prepare a haven, Eric will strengthen his bond with Nickel and introduce her to a world of miraculous events and unholy terror.

Since the summary provides a really good introduction to the book, it will allow me to really explore how I felt about the book and my growing awareness of how diverse Christian fiction is. I'm going to be honest, I'm still a little confused by what makes a book fall under the category of Christian fiction.

The basic premise of the book is that there is a group of warriors who protect the world from demons, witches, and other such ilk.  They come from a wide range of backgrounds but are all deeply devoted to the mission.  Eric was one of the highest ranking members of the organization until the guy in charge claims to have a prophetic vision that reveals Eric will betray them and cause the death of another in the group.  Eric flees for his life even though many in the group don't believe it and even help him out later on.

When he gets home he meets up with his ex girlfriend and despite the fact they are both keeping secrets from each other, they tentatively start off where things left off.  The action quickly picks up (demonic not sexual) and before you know it Eric has a group of churchmen and laypeople around him who know the truth and are willing to help him out.  Throughout the violence there is quite a bit dialogue about God's love and redemption, which is why, at least I assume it's the reason, this is considered to be Christian fiction.

And that comes to the crux of the question I have about this book, what makes something Christian?  If it's just the fact that good Christian men, women, or churchmen fight evil and come out triumphantly because they have the strength of God on their side, then books like The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty and The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz would have to be considered in the category.  I'm not sure anyone is willing to do that though.  Or does is rest solely in the intentions of the author, is it one of those situations that if the author or publisher say it's Christian fiction, then it is?  Is it the fact that beneath the violence and demon hunting that God's love and faith in him is what allows the characters to fight the good fight?  Is it simply that they two main characters never hook up sexually because Eric is now a pastor and sex outside of marriage is wrong?

This book left me more than a little curious about what defines the genre then I was about the book itself.  Now don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed this book and hopefully will be able to read the next one in the series, since this one ends in such a way I'm left with a burning desire to understand why a character is behaving the way they are.  So I'm going leave you by asking everyone a question, what in your opinions makes a book Christian fiction?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Favorite Fictional Character --- The Madcap Group of Clue

Just looking at the picture, how can you help but love each and everyone of these crazy, troubled individuals?  For anyone not familiar with the movie Clue, based on the ingenious board game of the same name, let me introduce you to the characters.

Starting on the left hand side we have the gorgeous and seductive Miss Scarlet, who happens to run a call girl outfit in Washington, D.C.  She is vivacious and oozes sex appeal in everything that she does, but it can't hide the danger lurking in her eyes. 

Standing next to her is Colonel Mustard, the straight laced military man who has been in trouble a time or two.  Is paying for the company of attractive women his only vice?  Or does he perhaps have another, even more deadly secret that he will do anything he can to protect?

And how could we forget the neurotic Mrs. White?  When her nuclear physicist husband dies mysteriously, is she in mourning or is she hiding behind that veil?  What secrets did her husband take to his grave? Is she the black widow or is she innocent of any wrong doing?

Mr. Green, the closeted homosexual state department worker, is not only deeply troubled but in the McCarthy era of the 1950s, he is considered a deviant and not someone any of us want to be like.  Is he capable of killing to keep his secrets secret?  Or is he really the mild mannered young man he appears to be?

Wadsworth, the gentleman's butler, seems to be the ringleader of this little party.  Is he the perfect servant and host who only had the best interests of the guests in mind or is he something else?  Is he in fact the double dealing blackmailer himself, maybe a FBI agent in disguise, or is he none of these things?  Only time will tell.

Then we have Professor Plum, the psychiatrist who has an unorthodox approach to treating his patients.  The prof may appear to be a regular ladies man but he may be hiding a deeper and crueler desire for the fair sex.  Is there a sexual predator hiding behind those glasses or is he like the lecherous uncle we all seem to have that nobody takes seriously?

That leaves us with Mrs. Peacock.  The prim and proper wife of a U.S. Senator, who also happens to be taking bribes in order to influence her husband's votes.  Is she willing to go to the extreme in order to protect her cash flow or will her love of monkey brains prove once and for all that even if she is greedy, she isn't capable of killing someone.

When you add these brilliantly written and acted characters into a plot line that not only includes blackmail, red herrings galore, and multiple murders you should expect perfection.  What you really get is so much better than that, it defies definition and no words are able to sum up the magnificence that comes across the screen as you view the mad happenings.

Watching these characters try to solve the murders and how their secrets not only decides who lives or dies but gives the viewer a wonderful back story to get lost in, is a cinematic feast.  I guess I could go on and on about how neurotic each character is and how watching all those quirks and personality traits surface is a pleasure to behold or how the fast paced writing keeps you on your toes the entire time you are watching, but I won't.  Instead I will simply urge everyone who has never seen this movie to discover these fabulous characters for yourselves.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 8/9/10

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at The Printed Page and is being hosted by Shanyn of Chick Loves Lit for the entire month of August.

I won a hardcover of Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling from Kristen at Bookworming in the 21st. Century.

I received an ARC of I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman for an upcoming TLC Book Tour.

I bought three hardcovers for $1 a piece from the Friends of the Library Book Store.  I found a old copy of Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie, The Paradise War by Stephen Lawhead, and The Ruby Knight by David Eddings, which is a replacement for a book I used to own.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure by Allan Richard Shickman

Part Of The Synopsis From The Back Cover:

Pressed by love for his brother and a bad conscience, the hero undertakes a quest which leads to captivity, conflict, and triumph.  In three years, Zan-Gah passes from an uncertain boyhood to a tried and proven manhood and a role of leadership among his people.

This is going to be a quick review, mainly because it was a quick book.  Even though this book is only 148 pages it is chalk full of action and while I was reading this one with my son, neither one of us was ever bored.  Now he obviously enjoyed it more than I did, but since his age group is who this is aimed at, that's to be expected.

The basic story is that Zan, who is named Zan-Gah after he takes down a man-eating lioness all by himself, is a young teenage boy living in a time when men still lived in caves and belonged to warring clans united by family relationships and knew peace for very long.  It was a hard life that was ruled by the need to survive and little else.

When Zan's twin brother went missing a year before it had left a hole in his heart and he never knew what to do about it.  After his heroics allow him to see himself in a new light, he decides to undertake a life changing journey to find out what happened to his brother.  It's a journey of self discovery that will mature and change his life forever.

What I really loved about the book was the time period it was set in.  I have never really read anything that humanized early man the way this book did and I'm thankful I got the opportunity to read it.  I will be reading the second book in the series, Zan-Gah And The Beautiful Country, pretty soon and both Aidan and I are really looking forward to it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Favorite Fictional Character --- Savil Ashkevron

I wish there was a picture of Savil to show you but I'll have to settle for the book cover of Magic's Pawn which is the first book in The Last Herald Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey.  The main character of this series is Vanyel Ashkevron, who was actually the focus of my first Favorite Fictional Character post.

So for this post I wanted to talk about Savil Ashkevron, the tough Herald Mage who is Vanyel's Aunt and teacher.  Savil, who never married or had children of her own, is fiercely protective of the Herald Mage trainees who are placed into her care.  So when her overbearing brother sends her his oldest son who he can't make anything out of, Savil is at first annoyed by the intrusion of a spoiled brat into her well run home.  Throughout the course of his stay however she, with the help of her young protegee who quickly falls in love with Vanyel, begins to realize that she has a very scared and emotionally oppressed young man on her hands but doesn't really know what to do about it. 

When the relationship between Vanyel and Tylendel enter into a relationship, Savil quickly learns to see what Tylendel has been seeing all along.  She shelters the two young men and gives them a sanctuary to build their relationship together.  And when that relationship ends in such a way that it leaves carnage everywhere you look, Savil steps up to save Vanyel from himself and others. 

What I love about Savil the most, other than her gloriously overbearing and confident personality, is the fact that when she realized she couldn't give Vanyel what he needed to heal, she admitted defeat and took him to the people that could.  I have mad respect for anyone who understand their limitations and is able to ask for help.  For that request to come from someone who is such a strong character as Savil, makes it that much more meaningful. 

Savil is that tough old broad that we all wish were in our lives.  She speaks her mind but has a mind that is worth being heard.  She gives advice, even the kind you never want to hear.  But the best part of Savil and women like her, is the fact that once they give you their loyalty and friendship, it never waivers.  Savil and all women like her will have your back and fight your fights for you if you can't.  She is a fantastic character and I just hope that everyone will discover for themselves how great she is.

Now as a side note, I will be reviewing all three books in the trilogy during the month of August for the GLBT Challenge 2010 mini challenge.  I hope that by the end of the month I will have convinced everyone to read these books and find out how great Savil and Vanyel are as characters.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Lulu and Merry's childhood was never ideal, but on the day before Lulu's tenth birthday their father drives them into a nightmare. He's always hungered for the love of the girl's self-obsessed mother. After she throws him out, their troubles turn deadly.

Lulu's mother warned her to never let him in, but when he shows up, he's impossible to ignore. He bullies his way past ten-year-old Lulu, who obeys her father's instructions to open the door, then listens in horror as her parents struggle. She runs for help and discovers upon her return that he's murdered her mother, stabbed her sister, and tried to kill himself.

For thirty years, the sisters try to make sense of what happened. Their imprisoned father is a specter in both their lives, shadowing every choice they make. Though one spends her life pretending he's dead, while the other feels compelled to help him, both fear that someday their imprisoned father's attempts to win parole may meet success.

This was another one of those books that while the synopsis from the book sounded good (which is why I agreed to read it), it didn't really do the book justice.  For some reason, and I'm not sure why, I was expecting a book that would have concentrated more on the father and that the story would some how revolve around him.  And while his actions acted as the pivot point in the story, this was more about Lulu and Merry and how they chose to deal with their tragic past.

Lulu is the eldest daughter and like most older children (myself included) she tended to internalize her emotions and not really deal with them on the surface.  When they were still children, Lulu took the responsibility for making sure Merry was taken care of and protected.   When they were sent to the orphanage by her mother's sister who refused to take care of them any longer because of what their father did, it was Lulu who became the tough sisters to allow Merry to remain a little girl. 

As an adult, Lulu never told anyone about her father.  Instead she would tell them that her parents died in car crash, she even made Merry tell that lie to everyone she met.  Psychologically, Lulu was the more interesting of the two to read about.  I guess it's because I'm a lot like her in how she dealt with things.  As a kid, while my father never took it the level of Lulu's, my dad wasn't exactly the nicest guy on the street.  The few memories I have of him are heavily laced with violence and it took me years to deal with it.  I would never talk about him and when he passed away when I was 8, I never cried.  I actually didn't cry until my Freshman year in high school and even then it was years later that I even wanted to visit his grave.  So I understand Lulu's reluctance to discuss or even deal with her past, who wants people judging them for something they had no control over.  And as both Lulu and myself found out, children and even some adults will judge you based on those events in your past that they don't understand.

Even in the way she finally lets what happened out to someone else, her behavior was similar to mine.  When she meets Drew, her future husband, she finally feels she can tell someone about her father.  And while some readers may think it was rather soon and out of character for her to tell him the morning after they hook up for the first time, I completely understood it.  When you meet someone that you feel that comfortable and secure with, even if only for a short period of time, you want to let it all out.  You want to talk about it to someone who didn't know you then.  It's a relief to relax and let someone else in on your secret.

This was a brilliant book that dealt with the emotional and psychological impact of childhood violence and one that I connected with on so many levels.  The author, in my opinion, captured two distinct and valid ways that children internalize and cope with traumatic experiences and how it impacts them as adults.  Reading this book actually helped me reanalyze my own feelings about my father and I'm grateful for it.  I would encourage everyone to read this book, but I would implore anyone else who experienced horrific events as children to pick this one up and understand that you aren't alone, that there are many of us out there who do understand what you went through and how that has made you into the person you are today.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read this book.

Please take the time to visist Randy Susan Meyers' website to learn more about her and her book.
Visit the TLC Book Tour Page to visit the other blog stops on the tour.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 8/2/10

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at The Printed Page and is being hosted by Chick Loves Lit for the entire month of August.

I received The Insane Train by Sheldon Russell from Omnimystery for a blog tour in November.

I bought hardcovers of Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, Heidi by Johanna Spyri, The Secret Garden by Frances H. Burnett all for $1.79 from Barnes & Noble.  After I picked up Journey to the Center of the Earth and 2.000 Leagues Under the Sea last week, I went back and picked these three up off the 75% clearance table.  None of these match the covers I have though the one for Black Beauty has the same image on it.  Like the two from last week, I've never read any of these but I figure they are all classics in their own way so I should probably read them sometime.

I bought Santa Cruise by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark and Elder Gods by David & Leigh Eddings in hardcover for $1 a piece form the Friends of the Library Book Store.