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.