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Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge

Tiny Tim and The Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge: The sequel to A Christmas Carol by [Whaler, Norman]

It takes a bold artist to follow up a masterpiece. Far too often, the original creators can’t even recapture a work’s magic in its sequel. Sometimes though, the most devoted admirers are up to the task. Norman Whaler’s Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge – The Sequel to A Christmas Carol might be derivative, but it’s derivative in all the right ways. Whaler knows he’s trying to extend Dickens classic, and he succeeds.

Whaler opens his sequel by briefly summarizing the ending of A Christmas Carol – which quickly helps ground any readers who haven’t read it recently. Here, we see right away that Whaler makes the smart decision to evoke Dickens rather than imitate him. He echos Dickens’ source of tension in the characters’ lives: for crippling poverty still grips this corner of London. And with the newly philanthropic Ebenezer Scrooge now deceased, the citizens again find themselves facing an English winter without money for food or clothing.

My favorite part of the reading was hearing more from the side characters whose voices drive the plot. Unfortunately, the illustrations that start each chapter vary wildly in terms of style and medium. They all match the subject of the story well, but fail to match each other. Some appear hand drawn while others have been made on a computer. Even just applying the same filter to each illustration would have helped unify the novel.

Whaler clearly admires and respects Dickens, but I do think he missed out on an opportunity to be a little more self referential with the sequel – Dickens might very well have appreciated just such humor. Regardless, the voice and tone that first made this Christmas classic are there in full force. If you read the conclusion of Dickens’ original to your children while a cold winter blast beasts against the frame of the house, they might just turn up toward you and ask, as so many readers have over the decades, “what happens next?” In such an event, you now know where to turn.

Pages: 96 | ASIN: B076YGMGF9

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Infinity: Quest for the Holy Grail

Infinity: Quest for the Holy Grail by [DuBois, Catalina]

Sarah is married to a man she hardly knows and is not sure she knows how to love. Matthew, her husband of many years, has not seen Sarah since their union when she was a girl of only eight years. Raised in a convent and reunited with her husband, the knight, Sarah is in complete awe of the horrors of battle and the danger in which he must place himself to protect her. When Sarah steps in to save the kingdom from Matthew’s nemesis, she makes a sacrifice far greater than Matthew could ever have expected.

Infinity: Quest for the Holy Grail by Catalina DuBois is the third book focusing on the characters Sarah and Matthew. In varied settings and with slight name changes, DuBois manages to create stunning visuals with mind-blowing action sequences centering around a love affair for the ages. Sarah and Matthew are standouts in all three books, and Infinity: Quest for the Holy Grail features Sarah in her most unique position yet. Sarah is simply captivating in the role of the lover willing to sacrifice everything to save others. DuBois takes readers through Sarah’s thought processes in a way that is personal and moving and does so without the advantage of using first-person point of view. She has successfully created a female lead she is able to mold and shape into a woman of strength and enviable courage across time periods and ever-changing settings.

As with DuBois’s first two Infinity books, I am amazed at the manner in which the author is able to incorporate elements of fantasy into the historical romance genre. Two genres that sound worlds apart are brought together seamlessly in Infinity: Quest for the Holy Grail. With the introduction of the cyclops, I have to say I was at first a bit surprised. DuBois has a phenomenal knack for easing the reader into a realm fraught with surreal creatures and making the reader immediately comfortable with the blend of genres.

Imagery is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, DuBois’s forte. DuBois creates extraordinary images to draw readers into the reading in her masterfully crafted prologues. Infinity: Quest for the Holy Grail is no exception. As Matthew’s parents observe him from the balcony, the tension in the air is almost tangible. The image of a young Matthew riding away and being watched by parents holding a most devastating and crushing secret is poignant. DuBois manages to structure that scene to first touch the reader’s heart and then, out of nowhere, break it in two.

When reading a mix of fantasy and historical fiction, I appreciate an added level of mystery, and DuBois provides that perfect blend of genres. Readers looking for another angle on the quest for the holy grail and storylines featuring Sir Arthur, Medusa, and Lancelot will find DuBois’s writing to be a fresh look at these classic tales.

Pages: 205 | ASIN: B0791BBNZ3

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Red and Blue: A Reimagined Fairy Tale

Red and Blue: A Reimagined Fairy Tale by [Dubriel, Jolie]

Jolie Dubriel’s Red and Blue is a fascinating, re-imagined tale that combines both classic fairy tales and nursery rhymes with many twists and turns. Dubriel takes old favorite characters and story lines you knew, loved, and memorized during your childhood story times and weaves them together as one beautiful story of secrecy, heartbreak, and the power of love. Obstacles and setbacks are sprinkled in along the way on the journey from once upon a time to happily ever after. Nostalgic characters Little Red Riding Hood and Little Boy Blue are now grown-up characters who play the lead parts. Humpty Dumpty, Old King Cole, and other classic figures also pepper this amazingly creative compilation.

Like any classic fairy tale, this book is not without tragedy. As is par for the course, there are separations of young children from parents and premature deaths of parental figures. There are hearts broken and healed. Red and Blue are coming of age characters who are growing up, discovering who they are, who they want to be, and who they begin to have feelings for. Stories from the past surface that throw wrenches in plans and change life trajectories. The story is full of conflicts and characters trying to solve them. The dynamic as old as time, good vs. evil, is also prevalent in parts of the story.

I love a good anthropomorphic animal or inanimate object, and those characters seen in the Kingdom of Rhyme do not disappoint in this area. Animals and objects are personified throughout the story. Fish, salamanders, cats, and dogs walk around in suits as servants and guards in King Cole’s castle. A dish runs and talks with a spoon through the forest. A cow jumps over the moon. These are the kinds of things that a nostalgic childhood reader will love. The half human/half animal or object cast of characters are reminiscent of those kinds of splits found in The Wizard of Oz, Beauty and the Beast, The Sword in the Stone, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

I like the twist that Red’s story takes regarding her relationship with wolves. Red and her grandmother have their classic encounter with the Big Bad Wolf, and miraculously survive. Later, her loving stepfather gifts her with a little wolf pup that grows to be her best friend and companion. It’s refreshing to see the girl have the upper hand over a wolf in one of these tales.

What classic tale would be complete without magic? The ultimate symbol of magic in this story is Little Boy Blue’s golden horn. He is unaware of its power, but has been cautioned to keep it with him always. Blue has grown up with the horn strapped to his back while working on a farm. It is only later that Blue will discover his true identity and the power that the horn truly holds.

I really enjoyed how Dubriel took so many classic and loved stories and characters and wove them together into one cohesive story. It is truly a feel-good kind of read. It is a love story that keeps its innocence. There is some tragedy and conflict, but I think it’s appropriate for pretty much anyone. Middle schoolers through adults will enjoy this book. Jolie Dubriel may have written a “new classic” with this book.

Pages: 192 | ASIN: B079WCF5ZF

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Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32

Don't Ever Look Behind Door 32 by [Fegan, B.C.R.]

B.C.R. Fegan’s Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32 takes young readers on a journey through the magical Hotel of Hoo where Mr. Nicholas Noo gives his first-ever guests constant reminders to avoid, at all costs, door number 32. Behind each door leading up to 32, guests are treated to many surprises, some creepy and some quite humorous. Entertaining rhymes help light the way through the castle-like establishment as both the readers and the guests of the hotel meet and greet a bevy of characters who have taken up residence behind the first 31 doors. What lies behind Door 32? I’ll never tell!

I really love Fegan’s books for young readers. Lenny Wen, illustrator, creates some of the most vivid and striking images you will find in children’s literature. Wen gives his characters amazingly expressive eyes whether they are screaming in terror at ghosts cooking roasts, doing a double-take at a paintbrush-wielding elf, sneaking peeks at tea-drinking monsters, or (my favorite) marveling at miniature giants.

This particular tale takes on a Halloween feel and serves as a fabulous book to read aloud during October or as part of a monster-themed unit for elementary grades. As a third grade teacher, I can see using this book with my students to study rhyme, compare and contrast the findings behind each door, or as an inspiring writing prompt. The possibilities are as endless as the number of creatures housed behind each of the doors in the Hotel of Hoo.

Fegan does an excellent job of periodically reminding the reader that Door 32 is somewhat of an enigma and, possibly, the most feared of all doors in the Hotel of Hoo. Suspense builds throughout the book as the second-person narrative draws young readers into the different rooms, page by page, and treats them to a fantastic assortment of zombies, ghosts, wizards, and many more creatures of lore.

Fegan and Wen are, book by book, mastering the kiddie lit genre. With each successive book, their plots and accompanying illustrations take on more depth and even more vibrant characters. From the very first pages, this one has the feel of a classic in-the-making.

Pages: 36 | ASIN: B078VSML8V

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An Apology For Shakespeare

An Apology For Shakespeare is a humble attempt to show that there is a need of awareness about Poetry in our life.

Study of poetry and its manifold forms need to be encouraged. It voices against the negative and indifferent attitude to virtues and good qualities. This book aims to create a conscience among the people about the vanishing values and ideals from many of us. The study of classics is significant in this end as they provide much knowledge and wisdom and have grave and serious themes.

If you meet William Shakespeare all of a sudden, unexpectedly, infront of you and he is ready to talk to you, what all topics would be coming up on?

The author addresses William Shakespeare whom he considers to be one of the greatest poet of all time, He seeks help to counter the vices and he expresses his weaknesses to do the same. He tells many topics to the great Master of Arts.

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Just Shut Up and Drive

Just Shut Up and Drive

It’s an important time in every young adult’s life: the final summer before post-secondary school and after high school. It’s a transitional period where one goes from being a teenager towards becoming an adult. For a young man who lost his parents before he could tie his own shoes, this final summer holds more than just pre-school anxieties. Wil Carter is preparing to head off to school in Just Shut Up and Drive by Chynna Laird but his grandfather, Gramps, has other ideas in mind. While Wil just wants to work and hang out with his friends, Gramps prefers to toss his charge into a classic truck and head on a road trip. This is a coming of age story where the bond between a young man and the only father he has ever known is tested, strengthened and celebrated. This is a journey across the prairies of Canada that will touch your heart and possibly make you cry.

Our tale starts with Wil and Gramps arguing about a road trip that the senior has pushed on his grandson. The dynamic relationship between Wil and Gramps is funny, heart-breaking and above all else: realistic. This is a delicate and interesting relationship that is being described. We have an eighteen-year-old boy and a ninety-five-year-old man with more than a ‘generation gap’ between. Gramps is the one who raised Wil after the untimely death of his parents in an automotive accident. While each gives as good as he gets there is a nostalgic respect that Wil holds for his grandfather. You can hear the irritation in his voice as he deals with the elder man’s stubborn personality but you can also hear the respect he has for him as well. Wil was not a golden child while growing up and as he is aging and moving forward with his life he is beginning to understand everything his grandfather has done for him. The description of the relationship between the two and the dynamic in action seems like something out of a movie.

Laird knows what Manitoba, Canada looks like and appears to have at least visited the cities, villages and towns described in the book. For readers who live near or in a location used in any story faithfulness to the recreation is paramount. Laird uses local vernacular when referring to some of the locations and even though the story takes place in modern times, Gramps’ relaxed and sentimental accent rubs off on Wil. While it could be said that Laird sometimes tries a bit too hard to make Gramps really sound like a stereotypical old man, it doesn’t detract from the story.

While a road trip before heading off to university or college is an idea that has been done before, Just Shut Up and Drive by Chynna Laird brings more than just self-discovery to the tale. Wil not only learns about himself on his journey with his grandfather. He also learns about the parents he can barely remember. He learns about what he is capable of when a small child stows away in his truck, begging for help. He learns what it takes to be a man to the standards of what his grandfather has wanted for him. This book is a delightful short read that will tug at your heart strings while making you laugh at the same time.

Pages: 166 | ASIN: B00DGJK3B8

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His Quest to Save the World

Nathaniel Turner Author Interview

Nathaniel Turner Author Interview

The Chimaera Regiment follows Hector as he sets off on a world altering journey. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?

The first idea that I incorporated into this story, or what eventually became this story, was the question, “What if someone compelled a worldwide society, perhaps not far into our future, back to a level of technology and culture comparable to the very first tribal communities?” Of course, by the time I wrote the book, I had decided to aim for something closer to the late Bronze or early Iron Age than the Stone Age, and the whole question became part of the world-building rather than a story I tell during the book.

The character of Hector started to develop as I began to catalogue ideas and lay out a basic plan of the plot. Up to that point, I had never completed anything longer than a short story (in spite of my best efforts), so I wanted to make it as easy as possible for myself to get all the way through a novel. To that end, I took that advice so frequently bandied about, “Write what you know,” and decided to make the hero someone a little younger than I was at the time.

The first draft of the novel was quite a bit shorter than it is now, and it ended up collecting dust in a box for a few years. (I prefer to write first drafts by hand.) Around the time a movie was released with, by total coincidence, my working title, I decided to go back to it and see what I could make of it. By that point, I had gotten a college degree and learned enough to know that the first draft had a good core, but the implementation was all wrong. Over the next couple of years, I went through the entire book and rewrote it, this time trying to make sure all the pieces aligned. It was at this point that I incorporated mythology into the story and titled it The Chimaera Regiment.

That initial idea is still in there, and you can see the edges of it as the backstory develops through this book, but I’m going to explore that question more closely in future books.

I think the story has roots in mythology. Do you read books from that genre? What were some books that you think influenced The Chimaera Regiment?

It does, and I do. My bachelor’s degree is focused on the Classics, which some may have heard called Classical Studies or (my favorite) Classical Philology, so I learned Latin and ancient Greek and I read a lot of Greco-Roman mythology, both in English and in the original languages. (My knowledge of Norse mythology is pretty limited, I’ve barely touched Egyptian mythology, and I’m as clueless as the next guy when it comes to anything else.)

For The Chimaera Regiment in particular, I looked to a lot of different sources for inspiration. What I wanted, perhaps most of all, was to craft a story that people would enjoy regardless of their educational background, but I also wanted to include a lot of “Easter eggs” for people with the same knowledge-base I have. So on the surface you have Hector on his quest to save the world from the Chimaera Regiment, and underneath that, I’m incorporating themes and plotlines from the myth of Bellerophon. Bellerophon, of course, was the hero that killed the Chimaera in the Greek mythos. Most of that particular tale comes to us from the writings of Apollodorus and one section of Homer’s Iliad, but there are a lot of minor references in other works, too.

While the myth of Bellerophon and the Chimaera is interwoven with the main plot, I also included references to other myths, both significant and minor, throughout. The vast majority of those can be found in Homer (either the Iliad or the Odyssey), Vergil (the Aeneid), or Ovid (the Metamorphoses), but to be honest, I enjoyed the process of hiding those references so much that I’m not completely sure I could tell you all of them at this point!

I found the characters in this story to be complex and engaging. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?

Especially when it came to Hector, whom we follow more closely than anyone else, I wanted something realistic. I find a lot of “coming of age” hero stories jump too quickly from “callow youth” to “great warrior” without much reason for it. I didn’t want my readers to ask, “Wait, why can he do that? How come he’s not daunted by this fight or fazed by this tragedy? When did he have time to learn strategy?” Incorporating that development was important to me.

When it came to the other characters, it was a matter of establishing ideals for each of them—how they saw the world, how they expected life to go—and then challenging those ideals with reality. Sometimes reality is better than they thought, but usually, it’s worse; either way, they have to adjust to deal with that. It’s a process not altogether different from the way we deal with change in our own lives.

I find a problem in a well written stories in that I always want there to be another book to keep the story going. Is there a second book planned?

There is a second book planned (and, very roughly, a third). The sequel is titled The Aegipan Revolution and picks up, not where the main story of The Chimaera Regiment leaves off, but rather where our epilogue leaves off, with the child learning this epic tale from his history.

I’m in the midst of writing The Aegipan Revolution, and I’ve passed the halfway point, but there is still a lot left to tell. After that, I’ll need to edit it thoroughly (though hopefully not as slowly as the first book!). On top of that, my day job has me incredibly busy these days. So I’d love to set a date for the next book’s release, but I can’t realistically estimate that right now.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Chimaera RegimentIt is late autumn in the 2040th year of the Sixth Era. For centuries, peace has reigned among the tribes of men, but as an early chill descends on the land, a new war looms from the south. Lord Derek, ruler of the Chimaera Regiment, seeks to reestablish the ancient Fylscem Empire under his banner, and he will stop at nothing to restore the dominion of his bloodline.

Before him lies the idyllic Valley of Kyros, home of the Alkimites, where the last direct heir of the old empire lives in ignorance. Guided by the ancient Guardian Lord Aneirin, Hector son of Abram must travel to the primeval capital of his heritage. There, in the Library of the Ancients, he must retrieve the three Blessed Blades of the Emperor, symbols of his authority. Agents of the Chimaera Regiment pursue him, and barbaric tribes stand in his way, but his path may unlock the secrets of the past, and it could bring light—or darkness—to the future.

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The Smart Kid

The Smart Kid4 StarsThe Smart Kid by Bob Miller is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a political thriller, a bit of science fiction, and a mystery as well. Although the story centers around a teenager, I’d hesitate to call this a “young adult” novel. The themes and situations would be entertaining for any adult. The setting in the mid-20th century may leave younger readers wondering about the pop culture references.

Matthew Jansen is an oddball student. He’s a new boy in school, but he’s very smart and spends most of his free time keeping notes in his journal. When the new school counselor, Charleen Therry, gets to know Matt, she discovers secrets that sound like they belong in a Nancy Drew novel. Charleen wants to help Matt, not only because of his secret, but also to help her heal from the death of her husband and son. Matt has been searching for an adult he can trust for years, and with Charleen’s help, he may be able to right the wrongs done to him.

From the start, it’s clear that this is a novel with lots of action. The story begins with a young athlete barely escaping his school and the shadowy government agents who are chasing him. He knows they’re still after him and they won’t stop looking, so he does what he can to cover his tracks. Matt is smart—some would say too smart—and he wants to use his intelligence and gifts to help other kids in school with him. But his intelligence gets him noticed, and that’s not good for his safety.

Matt thinks of himself like a superhero out of the golden age of comics. He tries to help other kids with their real problems, like child abuse and predatory adults. He’s no stranger to hardship, and this drives his need to go so far as to secretly manipulate adults in order to help other kids.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this novel was the author’s ability to ratchet up the tension through exciting action. Our hero is never truly safe, and throughout his life, he’s been one step ahead of the G-men who are in it for their own nefarious reasons. Harrowing chases, narrow escapes, and even tragedy kept me turning pages. Following Matt’s adventure as the layers of deception and subterfuge fall away to reveal the truth is a roller-coaster ride that will keep you in suspense until the very last chapter.

Another thing I enjoyed is that Matt turns out to have more allies than he thought. The surprising appearance of someone from Matt’s past helps him realize that his mission to be a “superhero” that helps other kids with their problems had more of an effect than he could ever imagine. Overall, this is an exciting and emotionally-driven novel and I recommend it for anyone who enjoys mysteries and thrillers. It has the feel of a classic pulp adventure without the predictable plot and characters. It’s truly surprising, and a lot of fun to read.

Pages: 371 | ASIN: B01BNA6JNC

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