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.**

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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.*

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Book Review: Through the Portal by Justin Dennis

I am delighted to have the chance to offer book reviews here on the blog! From time to time, I will also feature author interviews and giveaways in addition to their book review. First up is a YA Fantasy from author Justin Dennis. Be sure to check back tomorrow for my interview with Justin!

Book Title: Through the Portal

Author: Justin Dennis

Type of Book: YA Fantasy

Book Description

What’s the worst part of falling through a portal to another world and not being able to get back? When the first person you meet almost gets you killed by a ferocious, fire-breathing dragon. Luckily, Jem and Oliver, two boys who were about to start their first year in high school, are saved by Sierra, a farm girl who is itching to get out of her small town. Together, the three of them set off on a quest to defeat the evil Veroci Regime that is stealing all the magic from the world, but can they do it before the Dragon catches up with them?

Cege’s Review

The one thing that I want to clarify right from the get go is that this is Jem’s story through and through. Although his best friend Oliver is an important supporting character, Through the Portal is all about Jem.

When we first meet Jem, he’s a quiet, smart, put-upon young fellow who is living his life in the shadow of his wealthy, gregarious, impulsive best friend Oliver.  And it’s Oliver’s hijinks that get them both accidentally sucked through a portal into a parallel world to Earth called Callisto.  Once there, the boys quickly learn that Callisto has been slowly falling under the rule of the Veroci Regime and that isn’t a good thing.

All people in Callisto are able to use magic (but only if a magic source is available to them-which is part of Veroci’s evil plot to control Callisto.)  As Jem and Oliver become more at home in Callisto, they decide that they want to join the rumored rebellion and fight against the Veroci Regime.

Jem is joined by a young farm girl, Sierra, who has her own reasons for wanting to get away from where she has grown up. After an unfortunate incident forces their hand, Jem, Oliver, and Sierra set off to find the rebels.  This adventure takes them through many of the regions of Callisto, where they learn more about this strange world they’ve fallen into, and Jem becomes more and more wedded to his new life.

Through the Portal is the first book in a planned trilogy by the author, and introduces us to the main characters who will likely be integral parts of the future books while laying the groundwork for what looks to be an epic battle between the Callisto rebels and the Veroci Regime.

I know from my own writing that telling a story here on Earth can be difficult enough- creating a whole new world with its topography, inhabitants, native creatures, etc. can be mind-boggling. I felt like the author handled this well and did a nice job of giving us the important details without going overboard.

The action throughout the story is well-paced. Jem visits almost every region in Callisto, and each one has its own unique culture.  He and his friends have to do some fast thinking to avoid getting caught by the Regime, but at the same time they are just kids trying to figure out their next move.  So they need help along the way, and sometimes their forward progress required some time standing still to learn some valuable lessons.

We also have a fledging romantic subplot brewing between Jem and Sierra. It’s evident throughout the book that they are drawn to each other, but they have to deal with their own individual growing pains. The author handles this delicately and really offers up the promise of more to come without being overt about it.

My main critique of the story is that the plot wasn’t what I expected it to be.  From the description, you might hazard a guess that this was a going to be a “coming-of-age, best friends” kind of story where we see the growth of not only Jem and Oliver individually, but of the bond of their friendship.  That wasn’t the case at all.  Oliver is relegated fairly early on to a supporting character, and Jem takes the forefront for the remainder of the book.  That doesn’t deter from this book having a solid plot, but it did distract me for a period of time.

The second thing that threw me off a bit was that although I think the author intended in some places for us to see Jem as becoming more assertive in his thoughts/actions,  he came across instead as immature and whiny.  (Of course, he is a teenager so that lends credibility to the character.)

There are some minor spelling/grammatical issues throughout but nothing that detracts from the storyline.

The book ends on a high note. Jem and Sierra have just fought a major battle and won, and finally found their way to the Callisto rebels. But it’s clear that this is just the beginning and the author has a lot more in store for us, so I will read the next installment.

Cege’s Rating:

3.5/5

Buy Through The Portal:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Through-Portal-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B005JEENAU

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/84302
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/through-the-portal-justin-dennis/1105128562

Connect with Justin Dennis:

Justin’s Blog: http://justindennisofficialblog.blogspot.com/
Justin’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/justindennis4
Justin’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Justin-Dennis-Author/283492421662394

*Reviewer Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary copy of Through the Portal for review.*

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