Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

          In The Graveyard Book, Volume 1, Neil Gaiman (graphic adaptation by P. Russell Craig, the wildly popular novel is turned into a surprisingly touching and captivating graphic novel.  While not appropriate for young children, The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel will thrill and delight mature readers and make them eager for the next installment.
         The book opens with a murder.  An intruder murders a couple and their young daughter.  Realizing that there is also a toddler in the home, the criminal approaches his room to complete his annihilation of the family. He is too late, however.  The toddler has escaped his crib and enters into a local graveyard.  Once there, the spirit of his slain mother protects him.  She asks the spirits of a couple buried in the graveyard, Owens and his wife, to guard her son.  The murderer is sent away after an encounter with a mysterious man named Silas, who looks suspiciously like a vampire.
         What follows in The Graveyard Book, Volume 1 are tales of the toddler’s growing up.  Named “Nobody”, the boy is able to wander freely through the graveyard without being disturbed.  He is able to see at night and speak to the spirits of the dead.
         Some of his adventures include meeting a human girl who he befriends.  She does not stay with Nobody (“Bod”) long, though.  Bod is instructed by many of the graveyard’s inhabitants and by Silas, his confidant and overseer.  One adventure has Bod meeting his new teacher, who serves him horrible food.  Later, she comes to his rescue when he is outmatched by other things that go bump in the night.  There is also a charming story of how the living and the dead interact on one special night of the year.
         Because of the subject matter, of course, many of the illustrations are dark, but they are well drawn and move the story along well.  This is the first graphic novel I have read, and I admit that the drawings were very well done and added a great deal to my enjoyment of the story. (I own the novel The Graveyard Book and the graphic novel convinced me to read it soon.)  Bod’s adventures, while sometimes dark, also touch on the common human experiences of loss, family, and growing up.
 I could not be more delighted with this book, and I hope to read more volumes in the series.  It deserves the awards it has already won and is sure to continue to receive.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Fire (Northwest Passage #4) by John A. Heldt

When Kevin Johnson, 22, goes to Wallace, Idaho, days after his college graduation, he expects to find rest and relaxation as his family prepares his deceased grandfather's house for sale. Then he discovers a hidden diary and a time portal that can take him to 1910, the year of Halley's comet and the largest wildfire in U.S. history. Within hours, Kevin finds himself in the era of horse-drawn wagons, straw hats, and ankle-length dresses. Returning to the same time and place, he decides to travel again and again and make the portal his gateway to summer fun. The adventure takes a more serious turn, however, when the luckless-in-love science major falls for pretty English teacher Sarah Thompson and integrates himself in a community headed for tragedy. 

What do you do when you're left all alone for a day?  That's right!  Time travel and fall in love at first sight!  But what happens when you go back the second time and become a hero and fall in love again, with a different girl?  What if you had the chance to spend time with your past relatives and learn their secrets?  And...what if you could still make it back to the future again in time for dinner??

Heldt just seems to keep getting better and better.  If you've read any of his other books, you know who Grace and Joel are.  This story picks up with their son, Kevin.  And Kevin takes a lot after his father, so it's guaranteed to be an interesting read.  

The  most fascinating part of this book for me was how Kevin handled having more than one love.  How do you choose?  How do you pick one?  And when they offer you the choice of having both, how do you turn that down?  In today's society, most men wouldn't, but Kevin has been raised with strong morals that seem to be long dead.  Surprisingly, he doesn't seem out of place in today's world, and he fits in just as well in the year 1910.  He's a true hero and though once again, we seem to have a character that's too good to be true, I absolutely adored him.

This is another fast-paced book that will have you flipping page after page to get to what happens next.  I love Heldt's flair for putting ordinary people in extraordinary situations and just waiting to see what happens.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Shawn

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Once Upon a Kiss (Book Club Belles Society #1) by Jayne Fresina

In the sleepy village of Hawcombe Prior, five young ladies of the local book society are reading a salacious romance called Pride and Prejudice. Upon finishing the book, the ladies race to find their own Mr. Darcy, and the handsome, mysterious Darius Wainwright is the perfect mark.

Justina Penny can't understand why her fellow Belles are starry-eyed in the newcomer's arrogant presence. But if the town's only eligible bachelor marries anyone, it should be her sweet, beautiful sister. And it's up to Justina to make it happen. How could this plan possibly go wrong?

I really enjoyed Justina and her zest for life, she didn't seem to fit in the society and times that she lived.  Darius was an amicable fellow even with all his brooding.  Once I got past the initial get to know the characters and their circumstances I could not put it down.  While reading about their budding romance I found myself smiling and getting excited to see what would happen next.  

Overall this book was a good read, there are a few things that I had an issue with. The biggest issue I had was they way almost everyone talked to Justina.  Darius is the only one that seemed to have a kind word for her throughout most of the book.  I also didn't like feeling like I needed to have a dictionary next to my while reading it.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  April M.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Show (Northwest Passage #3) by John A. Heldt

Seattle, 1941. Grace Vandenberg, 21, is having a bad day. Minutes after Pearl Harbor is attacked, she learns that her boyfriend is a time traveler from 2000 who has abandoned her for a future he insists they cannot share. Determined to save their love, she follows him into the new century. But just when happiness is within her grasp, she accidentally enters a second time portal and exits in 1918. Distraught and heartbroken, Grace starts a new life in the age of Woodrow Wilson, silent movies, and the Spanish flu. She meets her parents as young, single adults and befriends a handsome, wounded Army captain just back from the war. In THE SHOW, the sequel to THE MINE, Grace finds love and friendship in the ashes of tragedy as she endures the trial of her life.

I'll admit, this has been sitting here and I've been dreading starting it.  The cover shows a theater curtain.  And the title is 'The Show'.  This doesn't inspire enthusiasm in me.  Visions of a stodgy old couple watching a play went through my head.  So, I kept looking at it and looking at it until I finally realized I had to pick it up and get it over with.

It's awesome!  It's not a stodgy old couple watching a play at all!  It's time travel!  Not only that, it's in-depth time travel from the  most unlikely portals!

This book hit me a lot harder than I thought it would.  Each time is carefully planned and executed to avoid confusing you too much.  You can easily feel each time period as if you're actually a part of it.  The mechanics of time travel can be pretty tricky too, but Heldt has given us just enough information to make us wonder.  We aren't bogged down with thought about it, because the story moves at such a brisk pace, but afterwards you find yourself wondering how everyone's lives will be affected long-term.

As a character, Grace is incredible.  She travels through time with passion and grace.  In each time period you get to see a new side of her.  It begs the question of if we would be the same person if we were plopped into a different era.  It's actually a pretty deep thinking book.  You find yourself wondering what you would do in the same situation.  You have a life and lose it.  So you build a new one.  When the opportunity arises to return to your old life, do you take it?  Are you still the same person you were?  What happens to the life you leave behind?

This book was deceptively wonderful.  Please don't let the cover or title fool you.  Honestly, I wouldn't give this a second chance if I saw it in the store, but it's definitely a case of mistaken identity.  What's enclosed in these pages is sheer gold.  It's an intense study of human nature in all of its flaws and glory.  

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Shawn

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Journey (Northwest Passage #2) by John A. Heldt

Seattle, 2010. When her entrepreneur husband dies in an accident, Michelle Preston Richardson, 48, finds herself childless and directionless. She yearns for the simpler days of her youth, before she followed her high school sweetheart down a road that led to limitless riches but little fulfillment, and jumps at a chance to reconnect with her past at a class reunion. But when Michelle returns to Unionville, Oregon, and joins three classmates on a spur-of-the-moment tour of an abandoned mansion, she gets more than she asked for. She enters a mysterious room and is thrown back to 1979.

Distraught and destitute, Michelle finds a job as a secretary at Unionville High, where she guides her spirited younger self, Shelly Preston, and childhood friends through their tumultuous senior year. Along the way, she meets widowed teacher Robert Land and finds the love and happiness she had always sought. But that happiness is threatened when history intervenes and Michelle must act quickly to save those she loves from deadly fates. Filled with humor and heartbreak, THE JOURNEY gives new meaning to friendship, courage, and commitment as it follows an unfulfilled soul through her second shot at life.

Michelle is given a chance none of us get.  After realizing her life isn't what she's wanted, and dealing with regrets and no direction for her future, she gets the chance to go back in time and reshape her own life.  By befriending her younger self, she gets to steer herself in the place that she thinks she might believe.  What Michelle and Shelly both learn, is sometimes surprising.  

As a character, I really didn't like Michelle.  She wasn't 'human' enough for me.  Sure, she's terrific and everyone loves her, whether they want to or not.  But I really got sick of her being so darn perfect.  However, by the end of the book, I too had fallen in love with her.  I still would have liked her to be a little more flawed, but the ending makes it all worthwhile.

One of the things I'm finding that I love about Heldt's work is how he ties every novel together, just a little bit.  It's kind of like watching a Disney  movie and seeing a character from a different movie in the background.  As you're reading, your brain is making these connections and you can't help but smile.  

As usual, this is pure genius. I've quickly become a Heldt fan. Not only do we get to ride along with Michelle for her journey, but once again we find ourselves wondering how we would react in the same situation.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Shawn

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America's First Subway by Doug Most

In the late nineteenth century, as cities like Boston and New York grew more congested, the streets became clogged with plodding, horse-drawn carts. When the great blizzard of 1888 crippled the entire northeast, a solution had to be found. Two brothers from one of the nation's great families—Henry Melville Whitney of Boston and William Collins Whitney of New York—pursued the dream of his city digging America's first subway, and the great race was on. The competition between Boston and New York played out in an era not unlike our own, one of economic upheaval, life-changing innovations, class warfare, bitter political tensions, and the question of America’s place in the world.The Race Underground is peopled with the famous, like Boss Tweed, Grover Cleveland and Thomas Edison, and the not-so-famous, from brilliant engineers to the countless "sandhogs" who shoveled, hoisted and blasted their way into the earth’s crust, sometimes losing their lives in the construction of the tunnels. Doug Most chronicles the science of the subway, looks at the centuries of fears people overcame about traveling underground and tells a story as exciting as any ever ripped from the pages of U.S. history. The Race Underground is a great American saga of two rival American cities, their rich, powerful and sometimes corrupt interests, and an invention that changed the lives of millions.

It was a time of change and innovation for the United States.  Many inventors were rushing to have their creations patented and entrepreneurship seemed to be the trend of the times.  With so much happening and exciting times ahead, the United States was growing at a magnificent rate.  Two major cities felt the weight of this growth the most.  These were the cities of Boston and New York.  The streets were riddled with people and horse-drawn carriages and were nearly bursting at the seams.  Traveling the streets was treacherous, often with the choice of standing or running for your life.  Two brothers, one in Boston and one in New York, recognized that the growth of their city would not soon end and set out to relieve the crowded streets.

In this novel, Doug Most takes the reader on an adventure filled with frustrations, heartbreak, devastation, political wars, defeats and championship.  If Mr. Most had been my instructor during my school years, perhaps history would have appealed to me.  The author brings history to life with insights in to the feelings of the men who were filled with passion and urgency to bring a subway to their towns.  He give life to all of the characters, from the workers who spent many tedious hours chipping away at the underground tunnels to the corporate giants who provided funding.

I found this book surprisingly fascinating.  Doug Most displays an excellent writing style which made the book nearly seamless as it changed to different years and characters.  The book has, obviously, been thoroughly researched, which paves a way for the reader to feel as though they have been plopped right  down in the middle of the late 1800s to early 1900s.  I not only enjoyed the story, I learned quite a bit about the history of the United States from a unique standpoint.  This was a story of hard times, of frustrations and crushing disappointments.  It was a victory and a tragedy rolled into one.  Mostly, it was a fantastic tale of perseverance and believing in our dreams.  I would recommend this book to anyone with even a slight interest in the building of capital America and the sheer genius of the human mind.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Daena
*Guest reviewer from Literary Litter 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

The Bourne Identity meets Divergent in this heart-pounding debut.

Sixteen-year-old Sarah has a rare chance at a new life. Or so the doctors tell her. She’s been undergoing a cutting-edge procedure that will render her a tabula rasa—a blank slate. Memory by memory her troubled past is being taken away.

But when her final surgery is interrupted and a team of elite soldiers invades the isolated hospital under cover of a massive blizzard, her fresh start could be her end. 

Navigating familiar halls that have become a dangerous maze with the help of a teen computer hacker who's trying to bring the hospital down for his own reasons, Sarah starts to piece together who she is and why someone would want her erased. And she won’t be silenced again.

A high-stakes thriller featuring a non-stop race for survival and a smart heroine who will risk everything, Tabula Rasa is, in short, unforgettable.

Tabula Rasa is a thrilling read that got better the deeper into the story I delved.  At first, I didn't understand what was going on with Sarah, the who, the what, the why? Until the author revealed Sarah's past and why she was having her memory removed in the top secret facility.  I was frustrated until that point, honestly. 

However, once I was able to connect the dots from her past to her present, the story immediately had my full attention.  There are some crazy action sequences, a splash of romance, a bird's eye view of the human psych as they make choices in unimaginable situations and more, but the story is propelled forward consistently.

There are new characters sprinkled as the story unfolds and this adds some much needed relief to Sarah, who I really didn't connect with.  She didn't question enough, she just took what was going on at face value.  Granted, there are a few times that she aches for memories and wants to know the answers to many questions, but there were many instances that I felt she didn't fight hard for them, not until the end. The ending is the best part of the novel, as all questions are resolved, in a least expected way.  I did despise the villain, but I found it hard to empathize with the heroine, no matter how sad her plight. If you're looking for a new take on young adult syfy- this may be for you!

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Wendy