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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Origins, by Sean Hayden

Cover art from Echelon Press
 From the publisher's site

Ashlyn Thorn was born different. Born with all the characteristics of a vampire, she lives in a world where vampires, elves, and werewolves work, play, and die side by side with normal humans. But everyone knows vampires aren’t born, they’re made. The only thing she wants is to know her true origins.

Ashlyn’s quest to discover the truth of her differences is all that matters. But with every answer, she uncovers more uncertainties. To make things worse she has found herself an enemy of the most powerful vampires of the city who fear her powers are too dangerous to let go unchecked.

Salvation comes at the hands of the government, or does it, who trains her in the ways that best serve their purposes. Ashlyn is torn between two worlds. She can either be a monster, or she can help destroy the monsters.

Fun story (in the sense that it's a fun/quick read). Ashlyn is a walking dysfunction. She's sorta a vampire, she's not really a vampire. She's orphaned suddenly, after never having had anything interaction with the outside world--yet she somehow manages to be recruited by a government agency (that has lots of other "sups"--super humans--working for it).

The action picks up almost immediately, and runs through out the story. It's a page turner (well, would be if it was offered in print). Characters are likeable, but no one but Ashlyn is very well-developed. There's a few loose ends as you go that I would've liked tied up. The story development is just too neat and tidy, although it is a short-ish novel, so there's not a lot of room for messiness.

If I had to rate it out of 5, I'd give it a 3.

Hayden, Sean. Origins. Echelon Press, February, 2011. (eBook only)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook free from Echelon Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Invasion, by Jon S. Lewis (a C.H.A.O.S. Novel)

From the publisher's blurb:

He didn't ask for the job, but now all that stands between us and chaos . . . is Colt.

Colt McAlister was having the summer of his life. He spent his days surfing and his nights playing guitar on the beach with friends. He even met a girl and got his first car. But everything changes when his parents are killed in a freak accident.

He's forced to leave his old life behind and move to Arizona with his grandfather. The only person he knows at the new high school is a childhood friend named Dani. And Oz, a guy he's sure he's never met but who is strangely familiar.

But what if his parents' death wasn't an accident? His mother, and investigative reporter, was going to expose a secret mind-control program run by one of the world's largest companies. Before she could release the story, what if agents from Trident Biotech made sure she couldn't go public?

Vowing to uncover truth, Colt gets drawn into a secret world of aliens, shapeshifters, flying motorcycles, and invisible getaways.

The invasion has begun.

I love that line..."The invasion has begun."

Anyone that knows me knows that I'm a big fan of the Marvel Comics movies. As I read this book (which is in no way related to the Marvel series), I was reminded of what it is about those movies that I enjoy. The story line is technically possible, albeit in a far-fetched kind of way, but has that plausibility that can only come with a super hero feel. And then, with the whole semi-government/military agency focused on aliens, there was a "Men in Black" twist.

Colt is a real teenager, living through a real crisis. He has no clue what his family's background has been in, yet he's suddenly thrust in the middle of saving the earth from the bad guys--aliens from another planet that have apparently been sharing ours for decades. There's the cool toys, the alien encounters, a comic book superhero tie-in, AND Colt seems to have natural abilities that impress the big wigs in a big way.

Fast-paced and packed tight, this book almost reads like a movie-novelization. Definitely a good read, and I look forward to the coming books in the series.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Thomas Nelson Publishers through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, February 7, 2011

Heaven is For Real, by Todd Burpo, with Lynn Vincent

A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back.

Colton is the rough and tumble, average every day three-year-old son a pastor in a small Nebraska town. While on a min-vacation with the family, Colton goes from happy and healthy to what seems to be death's door in a matter of hours. Little did his parents know just how well-founded their fear that Colton was slipping away from them was. During an emergency surgery, Colton slipped from consciousness and visited Heaven. Over the course of several years, little by little, Colton tells his story, including meeting family members he had no knowledge of, and shares insights that a child may comprehend at some level but can rarely verbalize.

Though a long-time Christian, I was skeptical about this book. I'd heard several things, seen an interview or two and just wasn't sure. So-called "near death experiences" just aren't my cup of tea and in my experience all sound alike. Many of these stories are from adults who come across as now having an agenda, that they must share what they now know.

Colton's experience is so obviously personal and real that I find no reason to not believe what I've read. A child can take away no agenda from an experience such as this. His knowledge of Bible passages and theological concepts most adults aren't immediately familiar with is astounding, and lends credibility. There is a clarity to Colton's story that can only be found in a child.

The writing is honest and straight-forward, yet not "churchy." This is a conversational telling, from the heart, both Colton's and his father's.  The story is compelling and touching, but not pushy. It is encouraging and uplifiting. It's truly an amazing work.

Burpo, Todd, with Lynn Vincent. Heaven is For Real. Thomas Nelson Publishers, November 2010.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

This Girl is Different, by JJ Johnson

Evie is her mother's child, which is to say that Evie is far from the typical high school senior. Having been home-schooled all her life by her social activist/hippie mother, Evie has decided to try a traditional high school setting for her senior year. It's as much out of curiosity as it is an experiment. And, she does learn what high school is like, the good, the bad, and the indifferent.

The whole experience is so much more than she expected. Fortunately, she starts the first day with a new friend and a budding romance. She also starts it with detention before the day is over. Evie realizes that the fairness she thought would be inherent isn't at all. She and her friends start a campaign for social justice, anonymously, but soon lightning strikes with the important lesson of what happens when your campaign comes back to bite you in the butt.

Well-written, thought-provoking, and honestly one of the few good books I've read about someone really trying to enact change in high school and succeeding in ways that aren't anticipated and with help from the unlikeliest of sources. This is is Social Justice 101, but it's also "Learning to Survive High School 101" and "What Assuming Gets You 101." It's a story that can speak to every high school student, whether they conform or not. For a debut book, Johnson has hit the mark.

Johnson, J.J. This Girl is Different. Peachtree Publishers, April 2011.

I received a free digital copy of this title through NetGalley, in exchange for my agreement to review to review it.

Imaginary Jesus, by Matt Mikalatos

Belief in the truth commences with the doubting of all those 'truths' we once believed.
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Cover art stolen from Matt's blog,
The Burning Hearts Revolution
I have to admit, when I first saw this title, I was wary. "Imaginary" Jesus? Seriously. As a Christian, I enjoy reading Christian books--not the "all is sunshine and roses" type that wraps up neatly at the end (like Christian romance always seems to), but the ones that make you think. I figured Imaginary Jesus would make me think, but I also kind of figured it would be borderline sacrilegious at the very least. And while I don't mind reading sacrilegious material now and again (if I'm going to prove a point to you, I need to know what your knowledge base is, you know?), I certainly don't like to go too far into that extreme.

Wow...was I wrong. The VERY first 3 pages had me hooked, and had already made me think. I have to tell you, this doesn't happen very often. I mean, Blue Like Jazz (Donald Miller) is the last one that REALLY got me to thinking from the very start, and that was several years ago. I read it straight through Saturday, then ruminated a bit before re-reading it yesterday/this morning. It's kept with me all morning, to the point that I've now tweeted it at least twice (and am now friends with Matt on Twitter), am blogging it (and following Matt's blog now), and have sent several Facebook messages to friends that I have NO doubt will enjoy it--and because I need the conversation that it will cause.

Oh...and I wish I lived in Portland so I could be friends with Matt and his family. And maybe run into Daisy the Donkey. *grin*

Synopsis from the publisher's site
Imaginary Jesus is an hilarious, fast-paced, not-quite-fictional story that’s unlike anything you’ve ever read before. When Matt Mikalatos realizes that his longtime buddy in the robe and sandals isn’t the real Jesus at all, but an imaginary one, he embarks on a mission to find the real thing. On his wild ride through time, space, and Portland, Oregon, he encounters hundreds of other Imaginary Jesuses determined to stand in his way (like Legalistic Jesus, Perpetually Angry Jesus, and Magic 8 Ball Jesus). But Matt won’t stop until he finds the real Jesus—and finally gets an answer to the question that’s haunted him for years. Be warned: Imaginary Jesus may bring you face-to-face with an imposter in your own life.

Breaking news from Matt's blog....

The Burning Hearts Revolution: Get Imaginary Jesus FREE FOR YOUR E-READER: "For a limited time you can get the e-book version of Imaginary Jesus ABSOLUTELY FREE in Kindle format, for the Nook, or for your Sony e..."

Mikalatos, Matt. Imaginary Jesus. Tyndale House Publishers, April 2010.

I downloaded this book to my ereader of my own free will. I am receiving no compensation or  for this review.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Book and a Hug

On LM_Net back in the fall, there was a request for book reviewers. Well, since I read anything (and everything) that doesn't read me first, AND I like to do reviews, I responded.

Barb at was looking for more people to be involved in reviewing books for her site. Barb says that she created the site to "help you find a book for your child." (from the About A Book and A Hug page) As a librarian who struggles sometimes to get students even IN the library, matching them with a book they'll enjoy isn't always easy to do when all they can see is the summary from a MARC record.

Book reviews are sorted by categories, age of the reader, and a boys section pulled out (girls are on the way!). There's even author interviews (videos, not just question and answer text only interviews!).

I've just submitted my first review. For Trash.

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