Monday, August 31, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
In this third book of C.S. Lewis's series, The Chronicles Of Narnia, the reader learns about the backstory of Prince Caspian, who will play a large part in later books. Caspian is a fisherman's boy, raised in poverty and ignorance, maltreated and unsure of where to go in life. This all changes the night a visitor demands shelter from his father and Caspian is thrown out to provide room. He listens to the visitor's conversation and it becomes evident that he is not the fisherman's son, but an orphan the fisherman found, and further, that the fisherman plans to sell him as a slave.
Caspian escapes, and is aided by the visitor's horse. It turns out that the horse also has a backstory as he is a talking horse who was captured as a young colt in Narnia and forced to become a war-horse by his captors. Besides providing the means for Caspian to escape, he educates him about Narnia, the power structure, and everyday affairs of the various lands they ride through.
We meet cruel rulers trying to overtake Narnia, a brave girl who is also running away from a family that doesn't treasure her and is trying to marry her off for political gain, and a first glimpse of Aslan, the great lion of Narnia. We hear more of the kings and queens of Narnia, who up to this point the reader knows only as the children who discovered Narnia when they stumbled through the wardrobe into a miraculous land. The reader also discovers the amazing story of Caspian's true background, and the part he will play in future books in the series.
This book is recommended for readers of all ages, and is a great book for families to read together. It is slower than some of the other books in the series, as it spends a lot of time explaining some of the history and principles that the rest of the series is built around, but stands alone well as a tale of mystery and intrigue.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
2. There will be five winners, who will be chosen with a random number generator.
3. For one entry, leave a comment. Your email MUST be in the comment to be included. Comments without emails will not be used in the giveaway.
4. You can get another entry by doing any or all of the following; follow this blog, twitter about this giveaway and post the twitter in your comment, or link to the giveaway on your blog.
5. Winners will have three days to respond with mailing addresses after email notification. After three days, another winner will be chosen to take the place of anyone not responding.
6. Winners must live in the U.S. or Canada, and have a street address. Hachette doesn't mail to P.O. boxes, sorry.
Good luck! This book sounds fantastic!
In May of 1981, the world was shocked when a Muslim terrorist attempted to assassinate the beloved Pope, John Paul II. Although greviously wounded, he survived and lived to fulfill God's mission for him. Even more shocking to many, Pope John Paul met with his attempted assassin, Mehmet Ali Ağca after the attempt, and fully forgave him. Luis Miguel Rocha's new novel, The Holy Bullet, is written around this shocking event.
John Paul II came to the office after the short tenure of John Paul I. His short time in office led to rumours that his death was not natural. The attempted assassination of John Paul II so quickly after his ascension to Pope reinforced the belief that there were powers plotting against the papacy. Now, warring factions form alliances and opposing forces to try to either discover or hide the truth of this event, depending on which side they are aligned with.
The reader is faced with a dizzying array of characters. There is Sarah Montiero, a journalist who is editor of international affairs at a prestigious magazine in London. Her father, Raul, is a Portugese military officer, and was involved earlier with Sarah when they looked into the death of John Paul I. Another returning character is Father Rafael Santini; caught up in religious politics and secretive about the things he knows. There are representatives from the CIA, the Masons, the Opus Dei, the police forces of several countries, and the Catholic church. There are plots, counterplots, betrayals and surprising facts that are revealed. Over all looms the question of whether Sarah and Rafael can discover what lies behind the plot against the papacy, and whether they can use that knowledge to save the Pope.
Fans of Miguel Luis Rocha's first novel, The Last Pope, or those who enjoyed The DaVinci Code, will enjoy The Holy Bullet. The author insists that not only is the book based on true facts, but that some of these facts were given to him only years after the attempt on John Paul's life by a man who claimed to have been involved in the death of the first John Paul. The plotlines are tight and intersect compellingly, and the reader is pulled along, afraid to read what comes next but afraid also not to. The characters are interesting, and their motivations twine and twist until none of them is predictable. This book is recommended for suspense readers.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Carolyn Hennesy has created a book series that combines adventure and fun with an introduction to mythology in a format that entertains and educates young readers. Pandora, a thirteen year old girl has through curiosity, unleashed the evils contained in a box entrusted to her family by the gods. Regardless of her intent, the result was setting free evil in the world. Now she is tasked with recapturing all these evils so that the world is safe and her family is not eternally punished. Her friends, Alcie and Iole, accompany her on her mission.
In this second book of the series, Pandora Gets Vain, the girls are on the trail of Vanity which they have determined is in Egypt. The book opens with a terrific storm at sea, which has been sent by Hera. Hera is jealous of Pandora and tries to thwart her mission at every turn. Homer, the young poet, has been sent by his father to guard them. They soon are involved in spine-tingling adventures such as combatting ancient guardians of pyramids and tombs, traveling with a group of magicians and carnival folks, and being rescued by dolphins from a watery grave. They wend their way to Egypt, where Vanity, in the form of a mirror, is in the possession of Cleopatra, the most beautiful Egyptian ruler. The unfolding of the capture of Vanity forms the backbone of the book. Gods encountered along the way include Poseidon, Apollo, Osiris, Hera and Athena. There are mummies, villians and heroes and the rewards and wonders of friendship which helps one overcome obstacles.
Hennesy has a hit series on her hands. Along with the excitement of the various adventures, young readers are introduced to mythological characters. Pandora and her friends are typical tweens and share the characteristics of young teenagers while also being tasked with an overwhelming responsibility. Consequences of actions are made plain as is the message of taking responsibility for one's actions. The various gods and historical figures introduced in the book give readers an interesting introduction to these characters. The series will continue as the rest of the evils unleashed on the world are recaptured by Pandora and her friends. This book is highly recommended for young teenage readers.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Good luck! This book sounds fantastic!
Saturday, August 15, 2009
In 1839, fifty thousand British Army soldiers marched into Afghanistan, quickly capturing the capital of Kabul. Three years later, a solitary English soldier from that force rode out. The rest were killed by the Afghans, who used tactics that the British never saw coming.
Philip Hensher's The Mulberry Empire tells the story of this early encounter between the West and the Muslim forces of the region. But, there is much more. Along with detailing the intricate beliefs and dealings of the region, Hensher contracts his story overseas with the intricate beliefs and dealings of the "upper crust" of British society. The truths that the Upper Ten Thousand held as dogma were believed unfailingly, and it was with unbelief that they realised that there were other beliefs and other cultures in the world that could hold sway, and yes, even defeat their armies.
It is also the story of the men of this time, and the story of their loves. There is Alexander Burnes who spends so much time in the region that it is unimaginable to him to ever live again in England. There is Bella Garraway, the creme of the debutantes the year that he is the rage of "the season", and with whom he falls madly in love. There are Muslim rulers, who tempt the English to be involved in their territorial wars, and then turn savagely on them when they have served the rulers' purposes. There is the grand sweep of history and a light shone on a time and place that few readers have considered before.
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Nominated for the Booker Prize in 2002, it shines a light on a period of history I didn't know much about, illuminating the reasons why the West is often in conflict with the peoples of the region. This book is recommended for lovers of historical fiction, for those who seek to understand the results actions can have decades later, and for those ready for a rip-roaring trip into the past.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Tom Nash has a unique talent. He discovered at sixteen that he can hear people's prayers, and he can help them wih their problems. Usually the prayers he hears are routine, but one night he is jolted awake by a frantic prayer from a little girl, "Please God, don't let them kill me". He is drawn to New York City, not sure who he is to save or how to go about it.
Phaedra is eleven years old, and walking home from a friend's house when she is kidnapped. Her mom is contacted and the kidnappers demand the inheritance she received when her husband was recently killed. Desparate to get Phaedra back, she agrees, and is told enough that it is obvious that the kidnappers are working with a corrupt cop, and that any help she asks for will be communicated back to the mob that has her child.
Into this situation, Tom Nash appears. He doesn't know what he will do, but he convinces the mother that he can be trusted, and will help her off the grid to recover her child. He starts his mission and is drawn to some clues, but soon encounters members of the Russian mob that are the kidnappers. About to be beaten beyond recognition, he is suddenly rescued by a gorgeous Hispanic woman, Erin, who has street smart survival and fighting skills. Even more astonishing, she reveals to Tom that she shares his talent, and that there is, in fact, many Seekers, along with Sages on the side of good, opposed by those on the side of evil, The Scorned.
Erin and Tom are soon involved in a fast-paced race against time to save Phaedra before the ransom deadline expires. There are fires, police arrests, dangerous traps set to harm them and strangers trying to stop them, but they push on. Escaping from the police who have arrested them at the scene of a suspicious arson, they make the ransom exchange just in time, only to have it go awry with a successful outcome seriously in doubt.
David Mack is a new talent in the fantasy genre and The Colling is an amazing book. The action is non-stop and heartpoundingly exciting, the characters are believable and appealing, and the premise behind the action is skillfully woven into the plotline. My first thought after finishing this book was that I hope a TV producer reads the book and creates a series. It would be wonderful to see Tom and Erin fighting evil and helping people on a weekly basis. This book is highly recommended for all fantasy readers, and for those who enjoy thrillers.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
Truly Plaice has been dealt a difficult hand in life. Born as the biggest baby ever seen in Aberdeen, her mother dies in childbirth. Truly is left with her father and her sister, Serena Jane, who is the town beauty. Truly definately is not the town beauty. She remains large and gets bigger all the time, well out of the normal scheme of growth. She is shunned by other children and mocked by most she meets. When Truly is eight, her father also dies. The children are separated. Serena James goes to live with a wealthy family, but Truly is sent to live with a poor farmer and his family.
This early start doesn't improve much as Truly becomes an adult. Serena Jane gets pregnant and marries the town doctor, a coldhearted man who treats all around him with contempt. After eight years of marriage, Serena runs off, leaving behind a note to find Truly to come watch her son, Bobbie. The husband, Dr. Robert Morgan, finds Truly and blackmails her into coming to live with the family as an unpaid housekeeper. This is her life for the next fifteen years.
But all is not bleak. Faced with overwhelming pain, Truly still finds a way to make life better for those around her. She becomes a substitute mother to Bobbie, and watching him grow is a wonderful gift. She has two friends. Amelia Dyerson is the daughter of the farm family where Truly grew up, and is like a sister to her. Marcus was the smartest boy in town, but after going to Vietnam, came back wounded physically and emotionally, and now contents himself with being a gardener. He has always loved Truly, and is at the periphery of her life still, giving her kindness. Truly continues to grow and grow, identifed by the doctor as having acromegaly, or giantism.
There is another gift waiting for Truly. The doctor's family can be traced back to the first Robert Morgan, a doctor who came to town and married the town "wisewoman", who had treated the ills and sicknesses of the townspeople with herbs and remedies. This woman, Tabitha Morgan, is still talked of as a local legend, with stories that her spell book was left behind, still to be found. That has never happened. All that is left of her is the marvelous quilt she embroidered and left behind. Truly falls in love with the quilt when she moves into the Morgan house, and takes it for her own. Over time, she comes to realise that the quilt is actually the missing spell book. Truly begins to experiment with the herbal remedies, and soon is helping the townspeople, both with common ailments, and when all hope is gone of a cure, with an early release from life.
This is one of the most original and definately one of the best books I've read this year. Truly, whose life seems one of unmitigated misery, instead finds a way to shine and inspire those around her. The book moves at a fast pace, and the reader falls in love with Truly and is drawn to find out what life has to offer this amazing woman next. I will remember Truly for a long time. This book is recommended for all readers.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Saturday, August 1, 2009
In Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout has written interconnecting short stories that give us insight into the town of Crosby, Maine, and the people who make their homes and lives there. Olive is a retired math teacher. She is married to Henry, the local pharmacist, and they have one son, Christopher.
Each story delves into the life of one of the town's residents. Each has some connection to Olive, although sometimes it is tangential. We read of marriages, divorces, death, affairs, theft, children who bring joy and children who grow up and are not part of their parent's lives.
One of the book's themes is the changing nature of love throughout the years. Many of the characters portrayed have long term marriages and Strout writes of how these relationships change over the years. First blush love becomes a stronger relationship as the years go by. Sometimes the relationship falters and the spouses are tempted to look elsewhere for fulfillment. Yet many remain married and often find a renewed love in their later years.
Yet, Strout also writes of the sadness of love. Great love relationships usually mean one participant is left behind when the other dies. How does one regroup and go on, facing the lonliness that is often the result of old age? She also writes of the parental-child relationship and how hard it is to get that fine balance of raising an independant child right. Tip on one side of the balance and the child is left dependant and unable to function; tip on the other side and they are so independant that they often move away to live totally separate lives. This is another grief that many face as they age.
Olive Kitteridge won the Pulitzer Prize, and readers of the book won't be surprised. This book draws the reader into contemplation of how lives work out, and the importance of love and family. This book is recommended for all readers.
In A Darkness Forged In Fire, Chris Evans starts his Iron Elves series. The Iron Elves, a renowned battalion, has been disbanded when the leader kills the country's Viceroy. The assassin is banished to the forest, and the battalion is broken up and sent to various undesirable posts. As the story begins, the reader meets up with this assassin, Konowa, and learns that there was a reason for his actions. The Viceroy had stopped serving the rightful Queen and had become an agent of the Empire's enemy, The Shadow Monarch.
Now, an event foretold in ancient tales, is occurring. The Red Star, which heralds the return of ancient magic, has fallen. Various groups engage in battles and strategies to become the possessor of this heralded icon. There is the reunited Iron Elves battalion. The Queen's son, Prince Tykkin, has joined the battalion as it's titular commander, although he leaves the actual battle strategy to Konowa, who has been reinstated as the Iron Elves commander. There are the elfkynan, who see possession of the Red Star as the mechanism to throw off Empire rule. There is also the agents of The Shadow Monarch, who will stop at nothing to extend her rule. They bring back extinct beasts who were renowned for their evil, and have corrupted various Empire government agents as well.
The reader meets the main characters of the series. There are elves, dwarves, witches; all manner of magical folks. Each group is suspicious of the others, but learn to fight together for a common goal. Some of the main characters include Visyna who is a royal maiden but also a witch. Rallie is a journalist who seems to be unexpectedly involved in all action. There are gallent fighters such as the dwarf Yimt and the elf Alwyn. There are also elves of the forest such as Chayii Red Owl who come to help the Iron Elves.
Evans has created a magical land, populated with interesting characters and a plot that makes the reader determined to read more in the series. This book is recommended for fantasy lovers looking for a new series to transport them far away.