Book Review- Star Wars Twilight vol 4

Book: Star Wars, No.22

Series: Twilight, No. 4 of 4

Author: John Ostrander

Illustrator: Rick Magyar, Jan Duursema, Dave McCaig

Published: 2000

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Inc.

 

Here it is, the final installment of the Twilight story arc (because 4 issues is such a long story…), and I must say, I am very happy to find out there will be more stories with Quinlan Vos, as the end of this issue has left me wanting more. Don’t get me wrong, it wraps things up quite well, but not only have I fallen in love with the characters (we all have our quirks, don’t judge), but the ending definitely leaves you wondering what will happen in the future. That being said, my one complaint is that the ending battle seemed a bit stiff and overly straight-forward, with one character going from nearly destroying his life to suddenly surrendering. Maybe I am expecting too much, but while you could see the internal struggle, the way it was handled was just too cut and dry for my taste.

Overall, I give both this issue and this series a 5 page review. Even if you are not a huge fan of the Star Wars movies, if you like comics, this is still a good series and I highly encourage reading it as soon as you are able to obtain it.

Book Review – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Author: Ransom Riggs

Format: Hardcover

Published: 2011

 

Jacob Portman has a fairly quiet life – he works at a drugstore, which his family owns, has one friend, and a grandfather who he adores.  The grandfather has a thousand stories of the peculiar children he lived with when he was sent to Wales to escape WWII.

Everyone thought they were just stories, until the night his grandfather was attacked.  The night Jacob saw the hideous creatures in the woods.  The night that Grampa Portman tells him that he’s not safe, and to go to the island.

All he has to go by are the old stories.  And the cryptic message he tells Jacob as he dies – “Find the bird. In the loop. On the other side of the old man’s grave.  September third, 1940.”

A gajillion shrinks later, Jacob thinks he’s on the road to recovery, and he asks to go to the island.  He wants to know what his grandfather meant, even if it is all hooey.  More importantly, he wants to know who his grandfather was.

 

Now, I can relate to this book on a lot of levels.  My grandmother was my best friend, and now she’s dead.  As a writer, I often think about all the stories I’ll never know.  Even if I had written them down all the time, there’s no way to fit a lifetime of stories into a few chances to write them down.  So I totally get it that Jacob wanted to know – the stories he thought were just stories, well, they sorta came true when he saw his grandfather and the creature that did it.

He makes it to the island, and what he finds there is less than expected.  There’s one pub/bar/restaurant in town, and the only rooms available are upstairs.  Jacob takes one and his father, who leaves him alone to work on a birding book, the other.  There’s not much else.

He’s introduced to another kid on the island, who’s supposed to show him around but doesn’t want to take him to the orphanage where his grandfather lived, although he eventually gets to it.  The bombed out shell of a house that stands in testament to the events of 9-3-40 and all that happened there.  The only thing remaining that even hints anyone used to live there is a trunk full of old photos that somehow hasn’t turned to mold or dust in the past 60-ish years.

The peculiar children his grandfather always talked about.  Kids with talents akin to a Ringling Brother’s side show.

I can’t talk too much about what happens after that.  I really don’t want to ruin the story for anybody.  I think the thing that got me on this one is how different they are, but also how the same they are too.  Yes, the book talks extensively about these children, but the way they’re presented is awesome.

I don’t want to scare you off.  This isn’t a book about the circus; its not a book about freaks.  It’s about love and protection and the people that matter in your life.

Read the book.  It’s an incredible story, well told, and the characters are awesome.  And, seriously, consider buying the book.  I love the layout with the sepia dividers and grainy black and white photographs (true photographs!) throughout.  This is seriously a five star book.

When you finish, tell me what you think.  I can’t decide if I want a sequel or not.  On one hand, I will always want more, and it leaves you with several more stories to tell.  On the other hand, the book is magic, and I wouldn’t want anything that could spoil that.

Five out of Five pages for sure.

Book Review–After Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story by Michael Hainey

Title: After Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story
Author: Michael Hainey
Format: Electronic
Written: 2012
Published: 2013

 

One early morning while Michael Hainey dressed for Kindergarten, his uncle Dick showed up at their modest Chicago home to tell Michael’s mother that her husband, a respected journalist,  had died in the wee small hours of that same morning.   Years later Michael read his father’s obituaries for a report and was struck by a few  things that just  seemed…off.    For more than a decade the persistent ghost of his father was joined by the haunting feeling that Michael, his mother and his older brother hadn’t been told the truth.     They knew Robert Hainey had an aneurysm burst as he was coming home from his night shift on the copy edit desk of the Chicago Sun Times.   Yet the obituaries in Hainey’s own paper said that he’d died after visiting friends…

on the other side of Chicago.

Why was Robert Hainey “visiting friends” at 4:00am?  What friends–if they were indeed friends at all–lived over there?    And why had Richard Hainey felt the need to lie to the family yet print the truth in his newspaper?

I’d read a write-up on the book in Entertainment Weekly; friends told me there was also a story on NPR.  The more I heard the more I was torn between curiosity and skepticism.   I desperately wanted to know the truth about that mysterious death, but I also just really hate “Daddy Issues” stories.    After five years of watching Jack Shepherd whinge about it on LOST and decades of characters in novels wittering on about it, there was also a pretty deep mystery about whether or not I would have the patience for yet another story about fathers and sons who don’t connect.

Curiosity won out, and I splurged eleven dollars on the Kindle Version once it wasn’t available at the library.  (Silly me, expecting the Nashville Public Library to buy a book that didn’t have naked people embracing on the cover.)   That was late Friday night, and I joked with Mandi that I wasn’t sure I’d have the review done since I had just downloaded the book.

I clicked the file open on my trusty Kindle Paperwhite and did not come up for air for three and a half hours.

I have been very fortunate in the last six months to have found many good books.  My ratio of good reads to mediocre/bad reads has been much better lately, thanks in large part to a vast network of recommenders who are honest and enthusiastic about sharing exciting titles.   So I can’t say I’ve had many bad reads.

The problem with that is that when I try to tell you how good this book is–no, how FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC this book is–I’m afraid I’ll come off like someone who just rates everything super high all the time.   (“Oh, look! Kath’s turning into Harriet Klausner!”)   After all, my review last week was a five-worm book.   It was also “the most entertaining, thrilling, and captivating read of the last six months.” 

So what superlatives are left?  And will you believe that they are earnest reactions and not bandwagon hype?     I honestly hope you will because this book was amazing.   In searching for answers to who his father was and how and why he really died, Hainey takes us on a journey through the lost world of pre-Watergate journalism and mid-century newspapers, crisscrossing the Midwest as he hunts down leads.   He takes us through his personal history, but he also serves as a docent to  the history of journalism, railroads, Chicago and the Dust Bowl.   Halfway through the novel you realise that Hainey has become a latter-day Virgil, taking the reader through the concentric circles of life as it spirals to the inevitable end.   There is literally not one paragraph of the book that is dull or uninteresting or pointless or showy.   Every word fits together as if it were made specifically to tell this story.

If you love mysteries, history, journalism, memoirs, then this is a book you will enjoy.   If you’ve ever found yourself questioning God about why you are here, or found yourself wondering exactly how and why your life turned out this way, then you’ll find a kindred spirit in Hainey.

It goes without saying that this book is a five-bookworm read, but I’d also say that it’s one of the rare books I’d rate as “Beyond Five”.

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Beyond Five!

Beyond Five!

 

Book Review – The Last Thing I Remember by Andrew Klavan

Title: The Last Thing I Remember

Author:  Andrew Klavan

Format: Hardback

Written: 2009

Published: 2009

I picked up this book on a lark I saw the title and it lured me in, making me wonder what the book was about; I read the synopsis and I was pulled in a little deeper.  I opened the book and it was just the same as the synopsis and I found myself curious, little did I know I would had just grabbed one of the best books I’ve read in a long time!

The book starts off with a young man sitting in a room strapped in, with signs of torment on his body, not knowing how he got there and what happened to lead him there.  The last thing he remembered was doing what almost any teenager his age did, which was chatting with friends watching a movie, playing music and working on homework just before bed.  There was nothing else to indicate as to why he should be where he was and why the voices on the other side of the door have determined that he is no longer of use and needs to die.

The fear and confusion that is felt by this young man, whom you learn is named Charlie is remarkably believable, and a very clear and vivid picture is painted of Charlie and his situation as he tries to figure things out and has realistic flashbacks to his normal everyday life and fights to get free and survive.  It doesn’t take long for the action to really pick up and your heart start to race and pound as you feel for Charlie in his situation.

Now as I write this review, I’ll be the first to admit that Charlie can come across as a Gary Stu (that too perfect person) as he is a bright young man who is getting good grades in school, loves the country he lives in (The United States), is a black belt in Karate, and a good Christian young man, in a way he is an all American boy.  Yet despite these amazing credentials, they are played off nicely and Charlie still comes across as a likeable and believable character, and it is these traits that help drive the story and make what would be too un-real become realistic as he escapes from seemingly impossible situations.

Yet the story is not all about Charlie in that room waiting for death remembering what little of his life from before, he quite literally goes from the frying pan into the fire on several occasions.  To be honest, you get sucked in and you find everything from the despair that Charlie feels to the power of what little hope he can find when he finds it.  Nothing is easy for Charlie to say the least and as you learn what happened between his last night as a normal kid to the present that he finds himself in, answers come but more questions arrive and I have to say I look forward to reading the next book here soon!  Over all, I have to give this book a 5 out of 5 as I haven’t had a book grip me as well as this one did, nor react as strongly to the emotions written here as I did this book.  To be honest my words miserably fail to describe how well I loved this book and I hope, despite my failing, you will consider picking this book up to read it!

Book Review – Star Wars Twilight vol. 3

Book: Star Wars, No.21

Series: Twilight, No. 3 of 4

Author: John Ostrander

Illustrator: Rick Magyar, Jan Duursema, Dave McCaig

Published: 2000

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Inc.

 

So unable to find the second comic in the series, I found myself giving in and skipping to the third (hey, patience is a virtue, not a requirement). I am happy to report that my illustrious roommate was correct, and it was quite easy to piece together what happened during the second issue – so easy I actually got the feeling that, while it may have still been fun to read, I probably did not miss much. But I digress. I quite thoroughly enjoyed the third book in the series, finding it on par with the first, both in plot and character progression. Plot wise, we finally begin to find out what is going on, how Quinlan lost his memory, and whether or not he is of the dark side. As for the characters, again, we see much more of Quinlan’s development, as well as the awesomeness that is Grahrk (Villie).

Overall, I give this book 5 pages. Again, it is entertaining, with the right balance of action, plot, and wit. I love the characters, and find myself looking forward to reading the next book in the series – a praise that, unfortunately, I do not give very often.

Writer Wednesday – Valerie Douglas

Let’s start with the basics.  Who are you?
My name is Valerie Douglas

 Tell us (briefly) about you…
*grins* Well, my husband says I’m schizophrenic, depending on which character I’m writing – which is like having a different wife every few weeks. He also says I’m one cat short of being a cat lady (we have four – one with one eye, one whose jaw was broken, and another who sucks her tail) but we also have two dogs.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I have sixteen books out now, mostly fantasy, but there’s a four book romance series, a mystery/romantic suspense, and a contemporary fiction novel I just released

…and what you’re working on right now.
I’m dueling projects right now, I have a horror novel I’m polishing for release shortly, and an erotica…..

What are your earliest book-related memories?
Books were always my refuge….

What are your three favorite books?
Just three?!!! To Kill a Mockingbird, anything by Shakespeare, anything by Tolkien

 How many books to do you read at any given time?  What are you reading now?
I don’t read much when I’m working – but I have an anthology from my group downloaded, The Black Count, Gamble by Dick Francis’s son Felix, and The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, A Team of Rivals, and I just finished Jim Butcher’s Ghost Story.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
Disappear

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
Some books I know I’ll reread, they’re comforting – like Nora Robert’s Chesapeake Bay series, or anything by Anne McCaffrey, and all of Dick Francis’s books.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you? I’d only read a book that was recommended by a friend who knows my eclectic tastes well.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Unless I know the other person’s tastes well, I don’t.

What do you look for in a good book?
Good involving characters in a well-reasoned plot. I like something new and different – a friend has a book she has yet to release about a cop in a reality show set sometime in the immediate future.

Why do you write?
Because it’s the only way I stay sane? Because the voices won’t stop talking to me and the stories demand to be told?

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
An artist of some kind – I’ve done community theater, and I was a portrait artist.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Sometimes even I can’t answer that question. Where in the world does anyone get the idea of writing about an Egyptian Priestess who gets mummified alive? (Servant of the Gods) My old job and the spate of Ponzi schemes gave me the idea for Lucky Charm. The most recent release was courtesy of a picture a friend sent me.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
I’ve had a few revelations. It definitely opened me up emotionally… sometimes a little too much.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
My husband, bless his heart, is incredibly supportive.  *grins* Most of my family seem to treat it like it’s a dirty habit like smoking, and just try to ignore it.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
*laughing*  No, most of the stereotypes are true. We’re an introverted, mostly insecure lot, observers. You have to be to write characters with any depth.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Learning that there isn’t a magic formula. That one book will not make you famous.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
The biggest one is that traditional publishing is a business – while there are a lot of great editors out there, their primary responsibility is to the company. And be careful who you trust.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
No, I’m not a collaborator. I’m a loner in that respect. There’s a few projects of my own in the future.

How do you deal with your fan base?
With immense gratitude!

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
That I can be pretty goofy in real life.

Anything else we should know?
Not that I can think of, but that can change….

 

 

Book Review – My Orange Duffel Bag

Title: My Orange Duffle Bag: a journey to radical change

Author: Sam Bracken (With help from Echo Garrett)

Written/Published: 2008-2010

Format: Hardback

 

My Orange Duffle Bag is the story of a man named Sam, who was kicked out into the world by his mother at the age of 15 with nothing more than his orange duffle bag and a few clothes.  It deals mostly with his journey to not be another statistic, and to instead succeed at football and academics and later religion.

Here’s the thing.  I’ve been excited to actually sit down with a copy of this book since the original self published version of it appeared at a booth I was part of during a book festival.  The self-published version was orange canvas, complete with a white zipper and full color pages and it was as beautiful and incredible as it possibly could be.

The version I finally got to review is the copy my library had; professionally published by Crown Publishing and missing the awesome zipper, but still awesome looking.

 

So, I popped a movie in and sat down with this book (ever the multi-tasker) and eventually turned off the movie and just finished this.  The book is about 200 pages long, but there’s a lot of white space and a lot of pretty layout, but it’s short on content so I finished it in just under two hours.

The book is divided into three parts – the first is a short history of his life.  Just a paragraph or so about a year in his life, boiled down to the most generic of story lines.  “Age 10 – I win my first track meet and my step-brother uses me as a human dart board”  Onto the next age.  And key points of his life – Age 18, I am baptized – are glossed over so quickly that you almost miss them.

The second part of the book talks about his time through college.  How he succeeded at football but doubly succeeded at academics because he set huge goals.

The third is over half the book and includes his “7 rules for the road.”

 

I was hoping for a little more, actually.  I think that Sam was trying to hard to be positive and uplifting that he forgot to tell us about himself.  I didn’t need a full memoir, but I wanted some sort of connection.  What I didn’t get anywhere in this book was EMOTION.

And what I didn’t get was what drew me to this book in the first place.  You see, after Echo got the book to my booth, I kept in touch with her and her brother Kevin Montgomery, who does a 50 states in 50 days concert tour to raise money for Echo and Sam’s Orange Duffle Bag Foundation.  So through them in other venues I’ve heard the stats.  Only about half manage to get a HS diploma, 2% get a four-year degree.  Over a quarter end up homeless.

And while Sam wasn’t formally in the system (he stayed with friends for random periods of time and bounced from house to house), the fact that this WASN’T him is a story that I wanted to hear along with the tips and tricks for being awesome.  Especially since a lot of these are common sense.  (The gist is want it and do what it takes to get there.)

 

Granted, the book is beautiful in any form.  Several of the pages could be really awesome motivational posters, and I wish they were.  And I think it’s a book worth sharing.

It’s not a top rating, but I’m confident putting it solidly in as a four out of five.

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