Book Review: Gears of Wonderland by Jason G. Anderson

Title: Gears of Wonderland

Author: Jason G. Anderson

Type of Book: Fantasy steampunk

Book Summary:

James Riggs lives a normal life with a mind-numbing job, an overbearing boss, and a demanding fiancée. Then he witnesses the murder of his best friend. Saved from the murderer by a strange man in a white suit, James is cast down a hole and into a world he always believed was a kid’s story. Wonderland.

But things have changed since Alice’s visit. The Knave of Hearts has seized the Heart throne, conquered all of Wonderland with his steam-powered technological marvels, and rules the land with an iron fist.

Aided by the Mad Hatter’s daughter, James journeys to discover why he has been brought to Wonderland and how the tattoo on his arm could be the key to Wonderland’s salvation—or its destruction.

Cege’s Review:

As always, I feel it’s important to give some context about how I approach the books I review to level set expectations. So full disclosure, I have never read Alice in Wonderland, I’ve never watched the movies, and my knowledge of all things Wonderland in general are based purely on high-level references absorbed through regular media channels over the years. So I admit that I started reading with a bit of trepidation given I don’t have a lot of exposure to the Alice story.

Good news- it makes no difference! I think the author balanced the introduction of familiar characters (the Mad Hatter, White Rabbit, Catepillar, etc.) for fans of Alice in Wonderland and a reader like me, who had previously had little exposure to the story very well.

I got hooked into James’s plight right from the get go. He’s just a regular guy who I think anyone can easily identify with: he’s in a job he doesn’t like, engaged to a woman who isn’t right for him, and is basically just plodding through life. That is, until his best friend is murdered in front of him and he ends up getting pushed down a hole into Wonderland.

This is Wonderland 150 years after Alice’s visit and things have changed; for the worse. James is caught up in the rebellion against the Knave of Hearts who has declared himself King of Hearts and has either destroyed or taken over the other five kingdoms of Wonderland. He rules with fear through the use of advanced technological machines, and at first glance appears unstoppable.

But you discover that it appears fate intervened by bringing James to Wonderland, and as he meets more Wonderland natives and learns more about himself, he embraces a whole new destiny.

I always like the “David vs. Goliath” type theme that is woven into this story. Considering James lands in Wonderland with nothing but the clothes on his back, and a few weeks later is overthrowing the most powerful man in Wonderland, it would be easy to be pushed beyond the boundaries of believability. But the author handles this well. James needs a lot of help along the way, and if I have any critique of the story at all, it’s that the very first person he encounters in Wonderland is the one that sets all of the other dominoes up for him (pretty convenient).

But I loved exploring Wonderland through James’s eyes and getting to know all of the other characters.  James is a likable protagonist, but it’s the supporting cast who really make the book.

Gears of Wonderland is a well-written fantasy adventure with a little something for everyone. I would highly recommend it.

Cege’s Rating: 5/5

**Reviewer disclosure: I was provided a complimentary copy of Gears of Wonderland in exchange for my fair and honest review.**

 

Book Review and Blog Tour: Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble by D. Robert Pease

Title: Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble

Author: D. Robert Pease

Type of Book: YA Fiction

*Please note that this review is part of the Noah Zarc blog tour. There are things to win so be sure to check out all the details below!*

Quick Summary:

This is the first book in the Noah Zarc series. Twelve-year old Noah and his family are traveling through time collecting animals to repopulate the Earth, which in the future was destroyed and unable to support life. Despite their noble cause, not everyone agrees with what the Zarc family is doing, and soon Noah’s family and their mission is in danger and it’s up to Noah to save them.

Cege’s Review:

There are a lot of great things to love about this book, and so I’m going to do something a little bit different with this review to highlight what I consider are its best elements.

N is for Noah Zarc himself.  He’s young but has a maturity well beyond his years. He was born without the use of his legs, but there doesn’t seem to be a thing that he can’t do. He’s a whiz kid at flying, and that comes in handy in multiple situations he encounters throughout the book.

O is for origins. It is revealed that Noah’s parents have been hiding a secret from him about where he came from. We also learn the backstory about why the Earth was destroyed, and the main crisis that Noah faces here is making sure it doesn’t happen all over again. There’s definitely a theme here: learn from past mistakes, but at the same time, what happens in the past doesn’t define us.

A is for the Animals! Of course the whole premise of the book is based on bringing animal life back to the future Earth. I thought that the author skillfully weaved in Noah’s love of the animals and it was fun to read about how the Zarcs were caring for them aboard the ARC (Animal Rescue Cruiser).

H is for Haon, the bad guy. Haon kills animals for sport, kidnaps Noah’s mother, and attempts to destroy the future Earth so it can never support animal life again. But the author offers up glimmers of the guy Haon used to be and that was something that as a reader I enjoyed. Sympathetic villains make a story more believable.

Z is for the Zarc family. Two brilliant parents and three equally unique and talented children. Yes, they have the typical family problems with sibling squabbles and tween parental rebellion, but it’s clear that they all have each other’s backs and would do anything for each other.

A is for Adventure. This plot moves along at breakneck speed. No sooner is one piece of the overall puzzle solved but another mystery is right behind it. I think this is great for the younger reader because it’s guaranteed to keep their attention.

R is for randomness. That’s part of the fun of time travel right?  The Zarcs are from 1000 years in the future from now, and this story jumps from present day to the Ice Age to medieval Scotland back to the future. They don’t always know where they’ll end up next, and so it keeps the reader guessing as well.

C is for choice. Noah is faced with a lot of difficult situations, and he makes some choices that I think were rash and unwise. But you also have to remember that he’s 12. And the only way that you learn is by making mistakes. Luckily for Noah, his choices seem to generally always work out, and if I had but one critique of the plot, that would be it (because things shouldn’t always work out).

Cege’s Rating: 4.5/5

*Reviewer Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary copy of Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble for review.*

Blog Tour Notes

Noah Zarc: Mammoth TroubleOVERVIEW

Noah lives for piloting spaceships through time, dodging killer robots and saving Earth’s animals from extinction.

Life couldn’t be better.

But the twelve-year-old time traveler learns it could be a whole lot worse. His mom is kidnapped and taken to Mars; his dad is stranded in the Ice Age; and Noah is attacked at every turn by a foe bent on destroying Earth… for the second time.

Get your copy today by visiting Amazon.com (available in paperback or as an eBook) or the online retailer of your choice (more links below).

CASH PRIZES

Guess what? You could win a $50 Amazon gift card as part of this special blog tour. That’s right! Just leave a comment below saying something about the post you just read, and you’ll be entered into the raffle. I could win $50 too by having the most comments. So tell your friends to stop by and comment on this post too!

GIVEAWAY

Win 1 of 5 copies of the paperback version of Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble by entering the giveaway on GoodReads.

D. Robert PeaseTHE AUTHOR

D. Robert Pease has been interested in creating worlds since childhood. From building in the sandbox behind his house, to drawing fantastical worlds with paper and pencil, there has hardly been a time he hasn’t been off on some adventure in his mind, to the dismay of parents and teachers alike. Also, since the moment he could read, books have consumed vast swaths of his life. From The Mouse and the Motorcycle, to The Lord of the Rings, worlds just beyond reality have called to him like Homer’s Sirens. It’s not surprising then he chose to write stories of his own. Each filled with worlds just beyond reach, but close enough we can all catch a glimpse of ourselves in the characters.

Discover ways to connect with the author by visiting his site at www.drobertpease.com

BOOK TRAILER

THANK YOU! for visiting. And don’t forget to comment below for that chance to win the $50 Amazon gift card. And of course head on over to your favorite online book store and buy a copy of Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble, for you or for the kids in your life.

Amazon Paperback | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble Nook | Apple iBookstore | Smashwords | Diesel eBook Store | CreateSpace Paperback | Amazon UK | Amazon France | Amazon Germany

 

Book Review: Gerald and the Wee People by Greta Burroughs

Title: Gerald and the Wee People

Author: Greta Burroughs

Type of Book: YA Fantasy

Book Summary:

Gerald and his best friend, Vernon discover a mysterious spot in the woods where Gerald visualizes a miniature village complete with wee inhabitants. He enjoys going back to that spot and watching the day to day activities until trouble starts in the village and he tries to convince Vernon that the “visions” are real and the wee people need help.

While trying to prove that the whole thing is just Gerald’s wild imagination, the boys literally fall into the new world and get caught up in a war. The boys come up with ways to keep the invading force from entering the village but another solution has to be found in order to put an end to the conflict.

Along with a few companions from the village, Gerald and Vernon embark on a quest to face down the deranged forest god who instigated the mayhem. The dangerous path is laid out by an ancient prophecy, but not everything goes as planned.

Cege’s Review:

I knew as soon as I started reading Gerald and the Wee People that I needed to find the perfect person to help me review this book.  While I was entertained by Gerald and Vernon’s adventure trying to save the Wee People from the misshapen ones and the treachery of the forest god, I knew that I wasn’t exactly the book’s target audience.

Gerald and the Wee People is chock full of adventures, battles, magic, and mystical creatures encountered by the book’s heroes.  Who would love this book and be able to read it in time to help me with my review?  And then I recruited someone who jumped at the chance to share his viewpoint with the whole internet: my 10-year old son (whose nickname is RyRy).

When I turned him loose on the book, he promptly devoured it (I was so proud). So I am happily sharing RyRy’s thoughts here as well as my own.

What was your favorite part of Gerald and the Wee People?

RyRy: My favorite part of the book was when Gerald was in Miach’s cave and was having his mind messed with because of the descriptive choice of words. It really gave me a lots of vivid imagery.

What was your least favorite part of the book?

RyRy: My least favorite part was the journey to Miach’s cave because it seemed to just go on a long time.

Who was your favorite character?

RyRy: My favorite character was Sheela because of her magical talents and I think that is really cool.

Cege: My favorite character was Dora. I’m very partial to strong female characters, and Dora spoke her mind and I thought was a fair and honest elder for the Wee People.

Would you like to visit the village of the Wee People?

RyRy: Yes, I would like to because I would like to see all of the jobs of the Wee People and experience life in their village.

**Spoiler Alert**

Do you think it was the right thing for Gerald to let George keep his secret?

RyRy: No, because George terrorized the Wee people and didn’t care. He was going to kill everybody with him just because he couldn’t get what he wanted.

Cege: I’m going to agree with RyRy on this one, but that’s probably just my jaded adult perspective! In all actuality, by letting George keep his secret, I think the author is teaching kids a valuable life lesson: if someone is truly sorry, then he should be forgiven, and that even the most terrible of villains have good qualities and can change.

What kind of job do you think George will have in the village?

RyRy: I think George would be a materials gatherer or a sort of “jack-of-all-trades” to fulfill all of the needs of the village.

What would you like to see happen next for Gerald and the Wee People?

RyRy: I would like to see Gerald become a more skilled far-seer and become an elder.

As a parent, this is exactly the type of book that I am delighted to see my son read.  The fantasy elements are just right and the author brought together the right blend of action and character development to keep a reader of his age entertained.

RyRy’s Rating: 4.5/5

*Reviewer Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary copy of Gerald and the Wee People for review.*

Buy Gerald and the Wee People:

Smashwords:  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/39307

Amazon US (paperback edition): http://www.amazon.com/Gerald-Wee-People-Greta-Burroughs/dp/143275596X/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1311006477&sr=1-1

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004JKMT0Q

Breakthrough Bookstore: http://astore.amazon.com/breakthroughstore-20/detail/B004JKMT0Q

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/gerald-and-the-wee-people-greta-burroughs/1021925998?ean=2940011199691&itm=1&usri=greta%2bburroughs

Connect with Greta:

Greta on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorgretaburroughs

Greta on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/gretaburroughs

 

Book Review: Blue Hill & A Contest!


Title: Blue Hill

Author: Todd R. Tystad

Type of Book: YA Fiction

Book Summary:

The summer before his senior year in high school, Asa Roth wrecked his motorcycle on a country road. He walked away, but soon discovered that his life had changed in ways that would be impossible to comprehend. Now, with the help of his brothers, his best friend, and a girl he can’t stop thinking about, Asa is trying to understand the person he has become and what it means to have the ability to alter lives.

Cege’s Review:

A good, clean, wholesome read. Need I say more? Lol.  But seriously, I read Blue Hill in one sitting because it was really good even if it didn’t have the usual sort of teen angst fanfare that usually sucks me in.

The setting for the story is in and around Blue Hill, SD. (Nope, not a real place. I checked.) But think small town and rolling farmland. It puts you in a calming state of mind for what’s to come.

Our protagonist is 17-year old Asa Roth. He lives on a farm outside of Blue Hill with his father and two brothers (he’s the middle brother). Life on the farm seems pretty idyllic: chores, harvesting, dirt bike riding, and when time  (or weather) permits, church.

One afternoon, he and his younger brother, Josh are taking their dirt bikes out and in a freak twist of fate end up wrecking their bikes in what should be a tragic accident. But a shaken Asa has a vision, recovers quickly, and saves his brother’s life.

*Spoiler Alert*

Neither the reader or Asa understands what exactly happened in the accident. Through a series of follow-up encounters involving both Asa’s older brother, David, and his potential sweetheart, Shannon, Asa realizes that he now possesses a special gift. He has the ability to heal.

The rest of the book involves Asa’s secret being found out by his family and some close friends, and Asa grappling with what it all means.

Given that this is YA fiction, I’d have no problem giving Blue Hill to my kids to read. The author handles all of the more violent parts with sensitivity and at a high enough level that your heart may be in your throat, but it’s because his words have given your imagination plenty to play with.

Blue Hill appears to be the first in a series of novels based on Asa, so that explains to me this sense I had when I read the last page of “this is too short”.  There are MANY lingering questions that I hope are addressed in the next book.

Really my only critique is that these characters have lived on a farm all their lives, and suddenly it’s like every activity becomes a death trap. I understand that it’s needed for the story arc, but it pushed the limits of my suspension of disbelief a bit.

I look forward to hearing more from Asa!

Cege’s Rating: 4.5/5

Buy Blue Hill:

http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Hill-Asa-Roth-ebook/dp/B005GHQ92K/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1323611934&sr=8-2

Connect with Todd: 

Todd’s blog: http://toddrtystad.blogspot.com/

Todd on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ToddRTystad

Todd on Twitter: twitter.com/ToddRTystad

Contest Alert!

And now for the really fun stuff! Todd has graciously agreed to give away two eBook copies of Blue Hill to a few very deserving readers of mine.

All’s you have to do is share this review in one of these ways: like, comment, or share the Facebook post, comment on this post, or tweet this post (and make sure you include my handle @cegesmith so I see it).  On Friday, Jan. 6th I will use random.org to draw the winners.  Good luck!

*Reviewer Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary copy of Blue Hill in exchange for my fair and honest review.*

Bring on 2012: Novel Publication Galore!

So this is the post that will declare for the all the world that I am going to be a bit crazy this year.  When you have a family, a full-time job which requires 30%-40% travel, and volunteer obligations already on your plate, publishing even 1 novel in the course of a year would be an outstanding accomplishment.

I’ve learned a lot since October in publishing Edge of Shadows and The Soul Garden. I’m figuring out how long the production of a novel takes, and believe it or not, writing only gets you about 40%-50% of the way toward having it available for readers. Editing takes at least that much time again, and then you have formatting and distribution.

But I digress.  I was talking about sanity. Or insanity if you will.

In 2012, I decided to give myself a BHG (Big Hairy Goal). I wouldn’t publish just one novel. Oh no.

I would publish 6 of them.

(There was a very small crazy voice that said I should try for 12, but I crammed that voice back into a little box in the back of my mind.)

The only reason this probably works, at least in theory, is because I have at least that many novel concepts spinning around in my head. And I’m also getting questions about things like when the sequel to Edge of Shadows will be available.

I’m going to add one really BIG caveat here and call your attention to the word “TENTATIVE” below.  I reserve the right to change my mind, move things around, or pull something altogether if I need to. Sometimes, the muse doesn’t like delivering on a schedule and sometimes life just happens and you can’t control it.  I’m also not rushing any of my book titles because that usually just comes to me as I develop the story arc.

So without further ado, here’s how this year is going to roll:

Cege’s *TENTATIVE* 2012 Publishing Schedule

February 2012: Angeline’s Quest (Book One, The Robart Chronicles)

April 2012: Purgatory (Book One, Purgatory series)

June 2012: Untitled (Edge of Shadows sequel)

August 2012: Chosen (Book One, Twisted Soul series)

October 2012: Untitled (Book Two, The Robart Chronicles)

December 2012: Untitled (Book Two, Purgatory series)

Hopefully you can see that I actually am developing 4 different series in 3 different genres. Edge of Shadows and The Robart Chronicles will sit within paranormal romance, Twisted Souls in sci-fi/thriller, and with Purgatory I’ll be trying my hand at YA paranormal romance.

I know it would be a whole lot easier for marketing/promotion if I’d just stick with one genre, but I can’t control the characters who have started badgering me to tell their story. So I’m just letting it all loose and we’ll see where it takes me.

I will continue to keep all of you updated as my plans solidify. As always thank you for your support and I’d love it if you’d drop me a line at cege@cegesmith.com or comment below with your thoughts!

Photo credit: Asja