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Tag: "adventure"

Review: Irenicon by Aidan Harte

[ 1 ] August 18, 2014

irenicon_jkReviewed by Caleb Shadis

Irenicon is a strange book and it took me some time to get into it. I think part of my problem was the write-up/blurb about it. The question posed was, “What would have happened if Jesus Christ had died as an infant?” Which made me think the author was going try for an alternate history or a big game of “what if?” Well, this is a fantasy based on alternate history and it has plenty of ‘magic’ in it (not sorcerers and witches casting spells–it’s much more subtle but it’s there). So the mention of Christ being slaughtered in a purge as a child is not the meat of the story.

The story is centered around the town Rasenna, Italy. The year is 1347. Rome is no more and Concord is the current power in the region. The ruling class are called the Engineers and at their head are the Apprentices. The engineers were formed by Bernoulli, and he cast down the church and replaced the nobility. A couple decades earlier, the Engineers used a terrible weapon against Rasenna that broke the town.

Sofia Scaligeri is the last of her line, and she is the heir to Rasenna. Her family ruled before the wave and she will inherit when she turns 17, less than a year away. After the Concordians attacked the town with the Wave – killing a large swath of Rasenna including most of the Scaligeri family – the city was never the same. The river divided the town in more ways than one.

Giovanni is an Engineer who is sent to Rasenna to build a bridge across the river before the 12th legion comes in the fall. Spanning the river with iron and stone won’t be his only challenge. Getting the citizens on both sides of the river to cooperate on the project will be an even bigger challenge. Stone and iron are easy to manipulate into the shape you want but stubborn people are much more difficult. The clock is ticking, and Concord isn’t very forgiving of those who hinder its goals.

As I said, it took me a little bit to get into this book mostly because I misunderstood what kind of book it was. However, once I did get into it, I found it to be very interesting and I had a hard time putting it down. There is a lot going on, lots of plots within plots and I think I will be keeping my eye out for the next book in the series.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Jo Fletcher Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Time and Again by Jack Finney

[ 1 ] August 5, 2014

imagesReviewed by Colleen Turner

When I typically think of time travel stories I think of someone sitting in some sort of machine that they manipulate to transport themselves to some other time and place. But what if all we needed was our own mind to escape to the past? What if each and every one of us, the imaginative individuals who can believe beyond belief that they are in another time, actually put ourselves into a kind of hypnotic state and then open our eyes and actually find ourselves there? And what might we do with that sort of power and the ability to change events of the past to alter the events of the future? These are the unusual and thought provoking questions answered within Jack Finney’s Time and Again, a novel written almost forty five years ago but just as intriguing and fitting for our modern times. With Si Morley as our guide, every lover of escapism can go back in time to 1882 and navigate the many joys and problems that arise from placing ourselves in a time and life we might not belong in.

Si Morley, a sort of every-man, is working as an artist in a New York city agency like every other predictable day when he receives a visit from a stranger who offers him a very peculiar but compelling offer: to join a top-secret government project, a project he has to agree to join before even knowing what it is about or what he will need to do. Agreeing to further testing of his abilities, he discovers that he is uniquely qualified to participate in a program exploring the possibility of time travel, something believed to be possible if the unique individual is able to place themselves in an environment that has gone unchanged since the time in history they wish to travel to and by completely believing they are in fact living in that past time. Si agrees to the project if he can specifically go back to 1882 New York to witness the mailing of a letter that has long been a mystery for his girlfriend’s family. With the project board’s approval Si is trained, outfitted and uniquely placed to best allow him success in transporting himself back to New York City in January 1882. And off to the past he eventually goes.

Under strict orders to be only an observer and not interact with the inhabitants of this strange yet oddly familiar New York, never to make his mark on the people or events in case his interactions could cause disastrous changes to the future, Si finds it nearly impossible to not become entangled with the very real, very captivating people he encounters. But when his feelings for one woman, connected to the mystery of the letter he originally traveled to this time and place to uncover, grows beyond mere observer, he will have to choose for himself what he will need to do to ensure her safety and happiness. And whether he should stay in this marvelous world of the past or go back to his own time.

Time and Again truly is one of the most unique and thought provoking books I have read in quite a while. The detailed and extensive time spent on how the program proposes time travel would work and the intricate and detailed training and work that goes into bringing that plan to fruition makes it seem completely plausible–and this is coming from a very rational and skeptical person like me! On the downside this very detailed and descriptive nature – not only with the details of the program but with Si’s exploration of 1882 New York, street by street – makes the story plod along in parts, slowing it down at times to the extent that my eyes began to glaze over with details.

The mystery behind Si’s girlfriend’s envelope, its cryptic note and the people and events that occurred after the envelope was sent was very fun to follow and I can honestly say I didn’t see the truth behind them coming. While I thought I had an idea where the actions were taking me and tried to account for what sort of consequences might come about from Si’s involvement in the unraveling of the mystery I enjoyed the tiny twists and shocks as they presented themselves.

Finally, the drawings and pictures dispersed throughout the story were absolutely lovely! I found they helped flesh out the story and characters for me and made for a wholly unique reading experience. While I found the romance between both Si and his modern day girlfriend and Si and the woman he falls in love with in 1882 very lukewarm, the individual character development was very detailed and the pictures attributed to each person made them feel very real and allowed me to feel more invested in their situations.

Time and Again is a love story of sorts to the imagination and to every reader’s ability to “travel” to whatever time and place their books take them. While I adored going along with Si on his adventure to the past I believe the journey’s retelling would have benefitted from some trimming. That being said, I am still very excited to read the sequel to this book and to see what other adventures Si might go on.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Apocalypse by Dean Crawford

[ 1 ] August 4, 2014

Apocalypse_scnReviewed by Caleb Shadis

Apocalypse is the third book in the Ethan Warner series. This is a fast-paced book with a lot of action. It reminds me a lot of Dan Brown and Steve Berry–plot holes and poor physics included. While I enjoyed reading most of the book, the single biggest problem I had with it was the poor physics. Crawford tried putting in a ‘reasonable’ amount of ‘science’ to explain how someone would be able to ‘see’ into the future. I couldn’t swallow any of it–most of all the explanation on how it worked. The physics explanations in the ending were absolutely horrible.

Ethan and his partner Nicola Lopez are private eyes in Illinois. They are trying to catch a rather nasty piece of work who skipped his bail and represents a fairly large payday for the duo. When the fugitive tries to run and smash Ethan into the guard rail, Ethan pulls a stunt that almost gets him arrested. The only thing that saves Ethan’s butt is his old friend Jarvis who just happens to show up with some important credentials and whisks Ethan and Nicola off for another adventure to save the world.

We then find out that a man named Charles Percell is wanted for questioning in the murder of his wife and daughter. Charles knows who killed them and tells the police that the same man will kill him as well in less than 24 hours. Percell also tells the police (over the phone) several predictions that come true right in front of the detective’s eyes. Before he hangs up, he tells the detective to find and work with Ethan Warner. And time is of the essence.

Warner, Lopez and their DIA handler Jarvis (they are sometimes contractors to the DIA), are sent to Florida to ‘deal’ with the situation.

If you like fast-paced books and don’t think much about the plot this can be a fast read that can be very fun. But the more you think about what you read the harder this book is to be believable. There are so many questions that can be asked that would have a better answer than the ones given. Occam’s razor is not used here. Even though I’m pointing out the negatives I still mostly found this book to be fun and like Brown and Berry, I’m sure I’ll try another one when I need some light entertainment.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Touchstone. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Kill Switch by James Rollins & Grant Blackwood

[ 4 ] July 9, 2014

book-review-the-kill-switch-by-james-rollins--L-6e9jwMReviewed by Marcus Hammond

James Rollins and Grant Blackwood bring their different talents together in The Kill Switch to build a suspenseful, fast paced, and scientifically intriguing novel. Both authors have different backgrounds and that diversity helps make each character, whether major or minor, relatable and the plot highly enjoyable.

The story’s central characters are Tucker Wayne, a former Army Ranger, and his military dog, Kane. After losing one of his team of military training dogs in a firefight, Tucker opts to use his and Kane’s training for private security. As the book opens, the duo is tracking would-be assassins for a wealthy Russian businessman. Tucker and Kane are, however, propositioned by a secret, Black Ops division of the American government known as Sigma to escort a Russian scientist to the United States. Reluctantly, Tucker agrees, thus beginning a treacherous and action-packed adventure that spans Russia, South Africa, and the United States.

The pivotal aspect of the novel is that the scientist Tucker is escorting has uncovered the existence of a primordial plant that could act as both a genetic enhancer to all plant-life as well as a weapon of bio-terrorism. Due to his research, a rogue Russian general who desires to use the plant for its more sinister applications begins hunting Tucker and his charges.

Rollins and Blackwood do an amazing job of balancing each aspect of this story. While the concept of a plant that holds the genetic code of the very first plant-life on the planet and its uses is incredibly complex, the authors explain it in simple terms. This is not to say that they dumb it down, however. Tucker usually prompts the explanations revolving around the uses and dangers of the plant, so Bukolov describes the scientific aspects in terms a layman will grasp.

Another aspect that is very well done is the relationship between Tucker and Kane. For many that don’t know about the realities of military dogs and their trainers the interactions between Tucker and Kane may seem unrealistic. The authors, however, represent the relationship in an intimate and realistic way. At specific points, the authors actually pull the reader into Kane’s mind as he responds to Tucker’s commands. This helps provide perspective and shows that Kane’s relationship to Tucker is one forged in intense training, trust, and animal instinct.

The detailed and emotional relationship constructed around Tucker and Kane alongside the intense action that spans continents makes this a quick, yet unforgettable ride. The relationship that Rollins and Blackwood forge between Tucker and Kane open up the possibilities for more adventures in the future that should be just as exciting and well-written.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Three Emperors by William Dietrich

[ 3 ] July 1, 2014

three_emperors_covReviewed by Caleb Shadis

The Three Emperors is the 7th book in the Ethan Gage series. The only other Gage book I’ve read is #5, The Emerald Storm. I REALLY liked the 7th book a lot more than the 5th. I think it was primarily how the 5th book ended that turned me off–it didn’t seem to quite fit with the feel of the rest of the book. From what I can tell the next (6th) book has a secret that is revealed that sort of makes up for the poor ending.

Ethan is a man who has more things happen to him, both good and bad, than could ever happen to a normal person. His luck gets him into the worst sorts of trouble and just as often saves him from permanent loses. He seems to be a Mr. Magoo crossed with Indiana Jones. Often to hilarious effect.

In this episode of how to find priceless treasure and still be poor, we find Ethan has survived a naval battle between Napoleon’s navy and the British with Nelson at the helm. He has hitched rides on boats until he has washed up on the shores of Venice with a little gold to his name and a clue that his wife might be held hostage in Bohemia. He needs more money and better clues so he can be reunited with his wife and child. Like most of his plans, they never go quite as smooth as they should.

First, he is cheated out of what little money he has managed to collect gambling with the rich. Then, after barely escaping with his life, he runs into an old ‘friend’ who commandeers him back into Napoleon’s forces. It is rather inconvenient when trying to find a missing family. He seems to always jump out of the frying pan into the fire.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book–much to my surprise. After reading The Emerald Storm I wasn’t really impressed and thought it was just OK. I did, however, think it was good enough to give the series at least one more chance, and I am glad I did. The Three Emperors (in my opinion) was much better and worth a read.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Lost Duchess by Jenny Barden

[ 25 ] June 18, 2014

The-Lost-Duchess (1)Please join Jenny Barden, author of The Lost Duchess, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours!

Enter to win a copy below – open internationally 

Reviewed by Marisa Deshaies

Author Jenny Barden brings a novel that reaches new heights and is a welcome addition to the Tudor dynasty stories that depict life during the reigns of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. A novel of passion, intrigue, deception, loyalty, and bravery, The Lost Duchess is not a novel to be missed because it holds dear all the themes that readers of Tudor novels have come to expect from their authors but also because it explores a new story of savagery and danger.

The Lost Duchess details the adventures, misfortunes, and palace intrigue for a group of characters in the charge of Queen Elizabeth I, who under the guidance of Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake sends these characters to the soon-to-be colony of Roanoke (Virginia). Barden begins and ends her novel in the various palaces of the Tudor court, but the crux of the novel is set amongst Roanoke and its surrounding Native American settlements and villages. Lady-in-waiting Emme Fifield and mariner Christopher (Kit) Noonan take center stage in Barden’s story. Along with a band of other government leaders, Planters (colonists), and Native Americans. Emme, Kit, and the Planters seek to begin an English colony in Chesapeake Bay; however, for numerous reasons—including a deceptive captain—the crew lands in Roanoke. Barden’s novel, at this point, turns from lightly historical to thorough and rich in its descriptions of survival in the New World. The author discusses these challenges within the context of her character’s fighting and discovering how to live peacefully with the Native Americans. Death, murder, poison, rape, and physical violence are commonplace in The Lost Duchess. Readers should prepare themselves for graphic scenes before reading this novel. The descriptive scenes bring authenticity to the novel and enrich readers’ interpretation of the time period; Barden’s decision to write these scenes should be praised because life in the early colonies was not as rosy as depicted by Disney in its movie musical, Pocahontas.

The novel’s themes overarch amongst different facets of the characters’ lives: love for others and country, revenge for misdoings and for wrongs taken against them, loyalty and honor for country and for personal gain during a dangerous undertaking, and lies versus truth for the betterment of family and marriage. Barden’s novel is certainly one of adventure and love, but ultimately the author’s work is a story of her characters’ personal growth and maturation amongst challenges of war, political scandal, physical hardships, and harsh landscapes.

For all of the majesty and authenticity of the novel, The Lost Duchess does have points that need strengthening: the love story between Kit and Emme, for example, definitely could be fleshed out to include better understanding of the characters. Aside from the fact that Emme and Kit are among the few male and female characters to spend time together in the novel–and therefore conclude the probability of their romance–their relationship lacks in depth; there is little reasoning for their falling for each other, and Barden takes the characters’ adoration for each other too high to be realistic. The pacing of the The Lost Duchess is slow, especially in the first half of the novel. Out of the four-hundred-plus pages of the novel, the first hundred-plus detail Emme’s life and court and her fight to be allowed to sail to the New World. This part of the story is necessary to plot development but could be cut down to allow the pacing to pick up speed.

The Lost Duchess is an engaging read; Barden’s prose is beautiful, her descriptions vivid, her characterization strong, her research thorough, and her dialog appropriate for the time period. This is a novel that any reader of historical fiction should have on their bookshelf.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

An alumna of the University of Delaware’s English department, Marisa holds a Master’s degree in professional writing from New England College. Her dream job is to work as an editor for a publishing company. A voracious reader of all types of literature, her favorite genres include the classics, contemporary and historical fiction, Christian fiction, and women’s “chick-lit”.

Review and giveaway copies were provided by Jenny Barden. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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