Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Quoted from GoodReads: "When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines."

I never was much interested in going to Paris or anywhere in Europe.  I am more of a tropical island sorta girl. After reading just one day by Gayle Forman,  I may have to rethink my travel plans!

I enjoyed everything about this book, from the cover art to the plot and character relationships.  This is a "coming of age" story (I hate that phrase, but that's what it is...).  Be prepared to let the dishes sit in the sink.  All you are going to want to do is read this book!   I read it in two sittings, mainly because I wanted some time to savor the story and try to figure out the plot and ending before I read it.

I especially enjoyed the relationship between Allyson and her Mother.  It was so realistic, I could think of  several Mother-Daughter relationships that this part of the plot could have been based on.  Teens struggling for independence will relate to this and of course, Moms will, too.  I really like the way the author dealt with their issues.  No spoiler here-you'll have to read the book.

The supporting cast of characters were fun and unique.  This is an area that is often overlooked by authors.  Forman spent the time on the other relationships in  Allyson's life and it makes the story and plot much more solid.  I wonder if the character of Dee couldn't have his own book...

There are many themes within this story.  First love, independence, the changing relationships as you transition and grow into an adult and choice.  Choice is my favorite theme in this instance.  Allyson makes the decision to live her life instead of just floating along on the path that has been planned out for her.  This is a life lesson that many teens (and some adults) have yet to learn.  Making bold choices and following your heart are two different things.  Making a choice involves thinking and considering your options, examining the possible consequences and coming up with a plan of action.  Even though my explanation sounds like a formula, it is not written in that manner.   This theme flows quietly in the background, which is exactly why I enjoyed it.

This book would be appropriate for older teens.  There is a love scene.  It is not too graphic, and they do practice safe sex(yeah!).  I plan to pass this book on to my 16 year old daughter.  The only thing I could possibly find to criticize it that the second book, Willem's side of the story- just one year doesn't come out until next fall. Just one day makes my "Best of 2012" list!

Thanks to the author and publisher for providing me with a copy of the book in return for an unbiased review.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Breaking the Devil's Heart (Logic of Demons #2) by H.A. Goodman

Quoted from GoodReads:  When Stewart and Layla recruit a demon to spy on the Devil, their decision takes them on whirlwind ride through the afterlife. Journey alongside this young couple in H. A. Goodman’s new novel, Breaking the Devil’s Heart, and join forces with a teenage Angel outcast to bankrupt Satan's underground Company and save Heaven from civil war. H. A. Goodman's Breaking the Devil’s Heart is a rollercoaster afterlife experience that tests a young couple's love, their grasp on reality, and the essence of human nature. What happens when Stewart and Layla tour Hell’s Marketing Department and Stock Exchange? What happens when their relationship is tested by Satan? This book is unlike anything you’ve ever read, or ever thought the afterlife might be like. Breaking the Devil’s Heart is an enlightening look into an alternate world, a new afterlife, and a profound journey inside the human conscience.
Breaking the Devil's Heart

Initially, I found this book to be a tiny bit reminiscent of A Christmas Carol, the author H.A.Goodman, takes the reader on a trip through heaven and hell, complete with demons and angels.  That is where the comparison ends.  It combines fantasy/paranormal with actual factual events.  The result is thought provoking, to say the least.  This is a different type of fiction, that you  definitely need to be in the mood for.  I really can't assign a genre to this one.   It makes the reader think and question.  This isn't a light, entertaining tale, although I found quite a bit of fun within the very serious message.   Warning:  Religious fundamentalist probably won't see the humor in this one and should give it a pass.

The world building was very well done.  In this case, the fantasy world is the afterlife, specifically heaven and hell.  The author presents a truly unique picture of his version of the afterlife.  He includes tremendous amounts of detail within his narration, giving the reader a vibrant picture of this world.

The feature of this novel that I liked the most was the time travel that the characters experience.  They travel back in time to some of the most horrific events in history and re-examine the events.  It made me ask-  How have we allowed the victors to "spin" these events?  What really happened and how did we/they justify these events?  Although, these were some of the darkest moments in the novel, they were also the most dramatic and interesting points of the novel.

My only criticism is that this book could use some good objective editing.  At time, I found some of the dialog tedious, bordering on corny.  It detracted from the overall message of the novel. An experienced editor would really help tighten up the writing and make the plot flow seamlessly.

This is not a fast read.  The plot is extensive and unexpected at times, and as I noted above can get somewhat slow.   I found that I needed to read it in small installments and give myself time to digest and ponder the meaning of each portion that I had read.  Trying to read this book too quickly, will result in missing out on some of the philosophical internal conversations that are really one of the best things about this book.

This is not a "feel good" type of story, but it is a refreshing change of pace from some of the plots I have read lately.  This is one that stays with you for a long time.

Special thanks to the author for providing a review copy  (and having the patience to wait) in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Masks of the Lost kings

Masks of the Lost Kings

Quoted from GoodReads:
"Following the sudden disappearance of treasure hunter Ben Sanders in Mexico, beautiful archaeologist Suzy da Silva is snatched from the cloistered environs of Oxford University and thrust into a deadly maelstrom of intrigue and discovery. Joining forces with astrophysicist Tom Brooking she crosses four continents, to unlock the dark secrets of Tutankhamun's tomb, the Holy Sepulchre and the mysterious Mayan Temple of Inscriptions to reveal a mysterious truth. Together they risk their lives, pursued by martial assassins and renegade special forces, fighting the forces of evil to discover hidden knowledge so precious that it has lain dormant for over a thousand years..."

Cover Art:  I liked the cover. The image of King Tut's burial mask attracted my attention immediately.  The pyramid and the Inca temple peaked my interest   I would have omitted the woman running or changed the placement to a less prominent area of the cover.  It looked too much like the image used for "Charlie’s Angels" for my taste.  The use of the columns and archway were a perfect frame for the art.

Main Characters:   Suzy da Silva is strong, independent and intelligent. She has all the right attributes of an interesting protagonist.  Readers will like her, but I think more attention to her background story would have added the extra connection that seemed to be lacking.  While I liked her, I didn't feel invested in her story.  Just a little more background into her family, especially her relationship with her Father would have helped me form a stronger connection to her character.  The author provides some information about her background, but I needed a little more to feel invested in Suzy.   Suzy is truly one of a kind.  She has some unique skills that come in pretty handy through the course of the book.  She is definitely not the stereotypical archaeologist!
Tom Brooking is initially the rival researcher and eventually the "love" interest. I enjoyed the way Tom is introduced to Suzy and the reader. Tom seemed pompous and awkward in that first encounter. As the story progresses and Tom appears to be following Suzy, Tom does become a bit more likable.  However, I never felt that Tom's character ever fully evolved from Suzy's first encounter with him.  I needed to see Suzy revise her initial impression of Tom into someone she could care about.  For me, Tom seemed a little lacking in personality.  There were moments that I really liked Tom.  The romantic connection between Tom and Suzy seemed to be an afterthought. Their relationship needed more sexual tension and more romance.

Overall, these are minor criticisms.  Both characters are interesting and well written.

Writing Style:   The author, Tom Bane writes with a relaxed style that is easy to read and flows well.  I loved the illustrations and pictures that Tom included within the text.  It helped the reader follow some complicated concepts that were a part of integral to the plot. I found myself flipping back to the illustrations frequently as a reference.  The information in the author’s note at the end of the book also included more information that I found helpful and interesting.  Occasionally, I noticed a change in the writing style, which was a minor distraction.  (See the first paragraph in Chapter 28.)  The flowery analogies don't compliment the plot and seem forced.

Plot:  This is one of the most complicated plots I have read.  It is full of twists and turns.  I was never sure who the “bad guys” were.  The amount of research and information contained in this book is truly amazing.  Bane weaves popular archaeology and astronomy concepts into a wild ride that crosses continents.    At times, it did feel a little like a history lesson, but the information is a necessary part of the plot.  This book is best read in uninterrupted periods of time.  I tried to read it in shot increments and found that I needed to backtrack to understand parts of the plot.

Fans of Indiana Jones, Dan Brown's  Da Vinci Code, Mayan history, Egyptology and conspiracy theories will enjoy this book.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Murder at the End of the World by Jonathan Garrett

Quoted from GoodReads:  When the wife of a politician is murdered in the isolated port-city of Illdara, junior detective Allison Newberry is sent in to keep the case from growing cold. It's the assignment that no one else wants to deal with.

The case is immediately complicated by the nature of the city. Everyone is cold and unfriendly, unwilling to answer even the most basic questions from an outsider. Even the chief inspector is more concerned with Allison's eventual departure than with the actual outcome of the case.

To make matters worse, clues are scarce and little about the murder makes sense. No attempt was made to hide the woman's body, nor was her money or jewelry taken. The initial investigation turns up nothing but dead ends. Then a second victim appears: a homeless man killed in exactly the same manner. A single clue is left behind, the petal of a flower, which leads Allison to the darkest corners of the city.

The suspicion and paranoia, the empty buildings and empty streets, the whispers of strange happenings in the night, it's clear that something is wrong in Illdara. Somehow it all ties back to the murders, somehow everything makes sense, but Allison constantly struggles against the very nature of the city to try to find some clue, some shred of evidence that will bring the killer to light. Something is wrong in Illdara, something very wrong, and it may put Allison's life in danger.

Even so, murder has been committed and there's still a murderer out there who needs to be brought to justice.

MURDER AT THE END OF THE WORLD is a mystery novel that blends elements of fantasy and horror with the traditional detective story.
Written by an American, Jonathan Garrett, this short mystery novel has a decidedly British flavor. It is unclear in what the time period this story takes place, but the lack of technology would indicate sometime prior to cell phones and lap top computers. It has an overall "Nancy Drew"-ish feel to it.

The isolated city of Illdara is quite unique. Garrett spends a lot of time and detail in building this world. The result is wonderfully dark and mysterious - a perfect setting for his story.

Allison Newberry, a persistent new detective, is stranded in Illdara with the task of solving a murder. Allison's history is touched on briefly here and there throughout the novel, but not enough for me to feel that she was really three dimensional. I would have liked to see character development and more of her background story. I really didn't feel a connection with this character. I think more information into her past would have gone a long way in making her a sympathetic heroine.

The other characters in the novel were very flat. I knew little about any of them and therefore, I was not pulled into the mystery of the murder the way I would have liked to have been.

With some time and attention to the character development, this novel could have rated higher. The basic plot is good and as I mentioned before the setting is perfect for a Gothic mystery.

Is this a bad novel? Not by any means, however, it could be much better. I would recommend it for a young adult audience that is new to the murder mystery genre.