Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

 To be a Rithmatist is to be called to higher purpose. It is to be a soldier, to protect the entirety of The United Isles, and it is to animate and duel with chalk. These elite fighters have been selectively chosen to ward off wild chalkings- two-dimensional creatures crafted of chalk that have the ability to eat human flesh. No one knows the origin of such creatures, but through the study of Rithmatics, people have discovered a way of creating their own chalklings, and those chosen have been able to hold the savage creatures back.

Joel would give anything to become a Rithmatist. Its not as if he wouldn't be good at the practice, he can draw defenses and even knows the theory behind them better than almost any of the other students. Yet Joel was not chosen to become one, and so he must live in their shadows. At least, until some of the Rithmatists at Armedius Academy have been kidnapped, and Joel might hold the only clues as to what happened.

I'm going to start off with this: The Rithmatist is the book I have been looking for. Not in the sense that it is the absolute best book of all time, but that I truly have been searching for a book that fits this bill. And that would simply be a focus on old school magic but not including witchcraft. It seems as if I would have found such a book by now, but I simply haven't until this point. And technically, this isn't old school magic but something completely new. Brand Sanderson created a new form of magic based on chalk drawings. This may sound both interesting and two-dimensional (pun intended), however throughout the book the limits of Rithmatics were continually stretched and I never found it to be a handicap, rather it was something to sit back and enjoy. The time-tested feel was created by having the setting primarily at a university and including professors and old-fashioned studies (and no cheesy new spins on mythical creatures. Yay!)

I was hooked immediately, but during the second half of the book I had to rip it out of my own hands. The pace is masterful, never allowing the story to get dull, and full of suspense without getting ahead of itself. There was always some new twist that I hadn't anticipated. Every character felt genuine and distinct without being cloyingly pronounced. At the end of the day, it was just a truly great book that earned the position of becoming one of my favorites, and I was truly relieved to discover at the end that the story is not over yet.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Afloat by Erin Healy

Beautiful homes built on the water might just be the way of the future, as architect Vance Nolan sees it. But just as his dream is becoming a reality, disaster strikes. A sinkhole endangers several lives, including those of Danielle Clement and her son Simeon. In the aftermath of the disaster, merciless rain and rising waters ensue, stranding everyone in a single building. It becomes survival of the fittest when it is discovered murders are among them.

Afloat dives straight into the heart of the story. There is a beautiful symbiosis between suspense and plot. Just enough backstory is initially revealed for initial hook, and an alternating blend in the rest of the story keeps you perfectly ensnared. In such a seemingly confined setting, my mind roamed free.

Since these stranded, survival of the fittest type stories can occasionally be cliché, I would like to point out that this is in no way the case for Afloat. The story was loaded with unexpected turns, both in happenings and in characters. My mental view of the story world was just stunning and in great detail, yet I never felt any descriptions dragged on.

I loved the spiritual elements in the story. Often times the theme can be so very monotonous in a Christian fiction, but this story mixed things up a bit and even had multiple points. The supernatural element that is trademark in Erin's work has a milder tone in this novel than some of her other works, but still plays a notable part. Eagerly awaiting the next Erin Healy novel!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Vapors by J.S. Bailey

In the future, when all of our records are lost, two archaeologists are trying to unlock the history of our time. The men, Kerry Wellington and Hugh Treviño, are aided with a tool previously unavailable to humans. They have a machine that is able to resurrect the dead. When they bring back a young woman, the first human ever to be resurrected by such means, she reveals a past that neither Kerry nor Hugh imagined.

Vapors is an excellent short story that feels like it's not. And by that I mean in some ways it feels like the beginning of a novel but still contains all the components to make it independent. Though a quick read, it is flawlessly written and leaves a lasting impression. I was quite impressed at how well the character development played out. The moral was excellent and the story will stick with you.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Eyes Wide Open by Ted Dekker

(From the back cover)
Who am I? 

My name is Christy Snow. I'm seventeen and I'm about to die.

I'm buried in a coffin under tons of concrete. No one knows where I am. My heart sounds like a monster with clobber feet, running straight toward me. I'm lying on my back, soaked with sweat from the hair on my head to the soles of my feet. My hands and feet won't stop shaking. 

Some will say that I'm not really here. Some will say I'm delusional. Some will say that I don't even exist. But who are they? I'm the one buried in a grave. My name is Christy Snow. I'm seventeen. I'm about to die.

So who are you?

In a return to the kind of storytelling that made Black, Showdown and Three unforgettable, Ted Dekker drags that question into the light with this modern day parable about how we see ourselves.

Humming with intensity and blindsided twists, Eyes Wide Open is raw adrenaline from the first page to the last pure escapism packed with inescapable truth. Not all is as it seems. Or is it? Strap yourself in for the ride of your life. Literally.

Ok, so I did cheat by copying and pasting the back cover. However, I did so because I didn't want to give anything extra away than the vague description on the back. Being the episodic story that it is, situations can change dramatically and a general synopsis didn't quite fit.

Personally, I love Ted Dekker's older novels. The Paradise Trilogy, The Circle Series, and The Martyr's Song series are some of my favorites, in part due to their supernatural themes. So of course hearing that he was returning to this style of writing was very exciting. And through reading it, I found the style to be sort of a blend between old and new. It certainly worked for me.

Once again, Ted is able to take you all over the place in a single mini-series. I love the way he is able to place you in various perspectives, and this book highlights that ability. I found the end very satisfying. I think all "Dekkies" will be equally pleased. And for those who haven't read a Dekker novel before, I think this book is a great introduction.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Iscariot: A Novel of Judas by Tosca Lee

Judas Iscariot. The man who betrayed God. The man whose very name has become synonymous with infidelity. The man who had all the guilt of the world on his shoulders, and ultimately succumbed to it. We think we know him in all his single-mindedness, but do we really?

Beginning with his childhood, Tosca Lee dives into the life of Judas Iscariot-unearthing some circumstances and the political and religious atmosphere that may have ultimately contributed to his behavior. Allowing us a glimpse of who this man may have been, Tosca brings new depth to this story of betrayal, and makes us all wonder: are we really so different?

When I first heard that Tosca's new novel would be about the life of Judas Iscariot, I was quite surprised. By that time I had read Demon: A Memoir so it wasn't really the subject of a character shrouded in darkness that threw me off guard. No, it was reading the thoughts and emotions of the man who betrayed Jesus to death, and was so crushed by the guilt that he took his own life.

Then, another thought hit me. Jesus would be a character in this book. Rather, Jesus would be the highlight in this book. Because what book that contains him does not feature the son of God as the highlight?

And so, when my copy arrived, I began- not quite sure what to expect. The story did begin with the childhood of Judas. A vivid world was painted with a history largely unknown to me. The possible atmosphere Judas grew up in was very intriguing and was really a story in itself. So the story was definitely about Judas, but also as much about Jesus. The anticipation of the coming messiah, the experiences Judas shared with Jesus, and the way he was always on the disciple’s mind.

Overall, I loved the fresh view of the stories I have heard so many times before. The retelling made me think things through in a more complete scope as sometimes it can be easy to be ignorant of the implications of some things Jesus said or did, simply because we do not have the same customs or situation that those living in Israel did two millennia ago.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Stress Test by Richard L. Mabry

Dr. Matt Newman is suddenly kidnapped on his way home from the hospital. The kidnappers intend to kill him but Matt manages to escape- or so he thinks. He awakens in the ICU with injuries only to find he is being charged with murder. His carefully planned life may be erased all by a single incident. His only hope may be in a woman who swore she would not deal with doctors again.

Stress Test pulls you straight into the action, wasting no time. While this approach can sometimes cause an air of confusion and disconnection from the characters, this proved not to be the case for this novel. Despite starting off with characters already in the middle of their own crises, it was quite easy to connect with them and I loved how realistic they were in their actions and emotions.

 Being sort of a medical suspense book and with the protagonist being a doctor, the story also included quite a few "mini stories" of individual medical emergencies. I found this to be quite a fascinating break from the main plot, almost serving the same purpose that poems or quotes do in some other novels. And yet they still pulled into the main theme and even the non-medical based happenings had their own twist with the meticulous yet rhythmic attention to detail. An excellent suspense novel featuring its own unique voice.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Opens at Nightfall
Closes at Dawn
Le Cirque des Rêves is circus unlike any other. Open only during the night this circus insinuates to be more than festive entertainment. Saturated with unbelievable acts and sights the colourless circus is to many, so much more

But the circus carries a secret. Two magicians are battling each other to the death behind the scenes and every patron who walks in is at risk.

I can honestly say with all sincerity, The Night Circus is unlike any book I have ever read. While I have read a great many stories, I've read of many fantasy worlds that can draw you right in, mysteries that can make your heart pound as if the story is truly real, and dystopian realities that can force you into survival mode, this book seems to be in a genre of its own. While dubbed a romance novel, I found this to be only partially true. It is really more of a dream put to ink.

When I describe it as a dream, I do not mean fanciful daydreams or haunting nightmares. I mean the type of dream a reader might actually have. It is a strange tale, full of magic, duels, food, the circus, and surreal beauty. The novel felt so oddly familiar, though I knew it was from vague memories of my own dreams.

To be fair, I am not sure I ever would have read this book on my own. It didn't seem to be the type of novel I tend to go for. Even while reading, it still felt slightly alien. Yet because of the insistence of several friends I took the plunge. I am thrilled I did. The pages draw you in deep until you feel at home. But the part I found the most satisfying of this tale was the ending. For such a fanciful sort of tale the conclusion bestowed solid meaning and purpose.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Soul's Gate by James Rubart

It's been thirty years since the tragedy- the tragedy that was his fault. And yet God calls Reece to visit the battle again. To battle inside of a person's soul. The pieces of an old prophecy begin falling into place, and Reece knows he cannot hold on to fear any longer, he must face it.

That is one cool cover, don't you think? Well perhaps it is a little too cool, because it pulled me right in. Yes, that's right, on some degree I do judge books by their covers and that's just how it is. And maybe it is also my fault for not reading the back of the book, but I wanted to be completely surprised by the story for once, not knowing what to expect. Maybe these things added to my experience, but overall, I have to say I was very disappointed in this book. So much so that I wasn't even able to finish it, which is pretty rare for me since I usually try to give a book as many chances as I can to redeem itself.

One of my biggest issues with this book is that it is nothing I haven't read before on some plane. It was quite monotonous with the other books I've read by James Rubart, with the story essentially consisting of a character or characters that had a painful past, and they must face it and become healed by supernatural means. Which, don't get me wrong, can be an interesting story, but not over and over with no break.

Even with the reasons stated above, I may have been able to pull through, but two more things kept nagging me. This first, I felt this book was saturated with the artificial "let's all pray together before we breath, talk, worship, or pray" mentality. And while I am all for prayer, I believe you have to be a little more realistic than that. You are never going to reach out to people if you freak them out too much to have a conversation. This book also, albeit partially fictitiously, seemed to extract select scriptures and morph them to prove such things as the Bible says you can turn invisible, transport yourself, and also travel inside other people souls. Uh...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Partials by Dan Wells

Humanity hangs by its final thread. Genetically engineered beings called Partials brutally demolished much of the human population. And then the virus RM was unleashed, reducing the humans down to about 25,000 who were immune. And while peace withe the Partials seems to ultimately have been achieved, a much larger issue is slapped on the plate of a race facing extinction. Every one of their offspring is dieing of the same virus to which they are immune.

Kira, in training to become a medic, can no longer stand to watch baby after baby die without a chance. In a desperate tumble to find the cure for the malicious disease, Kira discovers the slightest hope of a chance for a cure. But to even tread down this path will mean betraying everything she stands for.

Partials is a book I stumbled upon by accident. When a bookstore did not cary the books I was looking for, I searched the shelves for anything seeming interesting, and ultimately decided upon this book. I am so glad I did. Partials achieves what most books strive for, but few attain. While distopian to the core, this novel instantly draws you in to a world completely alien yet oddly attractive and bestows a sense of awe. I instantly connected with the characters' distinctive personalities, and cheered for them from the beginning. I felt this book held a great balance of suspense. The plot twisted often, and I always wanted to read just one more chapter. This book does have a sense of creepyness. It is not particularly scary, but it may get the adrenaline going a little. Absolutely 5 stars; I look forward to reading the next novel in the Partials Sequence.