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Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
by Alan Dean Foster
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.66
113 used & new from $4.96

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Does Little to Silence the Resistance, February 19, 2016
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It seems like the deck is always stacked against authors of movie novelizations. It’s really the only time that the book shouldn’t be better than the movie, but at the same time the book needs to give readers a reason to pick up an already familiar story. I believe the only way to do that is to provide even more in depth background on characters and events and perhaps give the audience some new perspectives on the story. Unfortunately, Foster’s novelization seems to fall a bit short.

Foster carries the narrative via the third person omniscient point of view, and at almost every turn it took me out of the story. Many of the mid scene point of view transitions were quite jarring and I spent the first third of the novel just trying to get used to them. Once I did, I was able to enjoy getting to know a little more about the characters I fell in love with on screen. I never really expected to get earth shattering revelations about Rey’s past or a full blown Kylo Ren origin story. However, with most of the characters I was left wanting more inward reaction to all of the events we saw on screen.

There are a few brief scenes in the novel that were not in the film. One brief interaction between two of the new main characters that did not interact in the film may be a fun foreshadowing of things to come. I also loved Poe Dameron in the film and we get a bit more of him in the novel. While these additions are few, they are still fun for fans looking for every little bread crumb.

After reading The Force Awakens novelization, I cannot help but wonder if Alan Dean Foster was a victim of Disney’s attempt to keep a tight rein on this story and future plot points for the saga. I certainly understand and appreciate the need for secrecy, but so much of this novel just felt restrained and limited. Perhaps my expectations were just too high because of my love for the film and my recognition of Foster as a very accomplished writer.

The new Star Wars canon has struggled to meet the expectations of a demanding fan base and there has a been a lot of push back (both fair and unfair). Unfortunately, the novelization of the biggest Star Wars film to date does little to silence the resistance.

This book was sent by the publisher for review.


Battlefront: Twilight Company (Star Wars)
Battlefront: Twilight Company (Star Wars)
by Alexander Freed
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.66
105 used & new from $6.70

4.0 out of 5 stars Worthy Addition to the New SW Canon, December 8, 2015
Star Wars is taking over the world and Star Wars Battlefront is perhaps the most anticipated video game of the year. Twilight Company is written as a tie in novel to help promote the new game, but never fear. Alexander Freed’s debut novel stands on its own as a worthy addition to the new Star Wars canon.

The heart of this story surrounds Hazram Namir and his fellow Twilight Company soldiers. While the cast of supporting characters is strong, this is undoubtedly Namir’s story. Freed builds his main character with the perfect balance of backstory and character growth. In a story that is packed with intense battle sequences and fascinating glimpses into the “wars” side of Star Wars, Namir’s character journey stands out and keeps the pages turning.

There are gripping battled sequences throughout, but readers will especially love Freed’s handling of Hoth and Sullust. Yes, these are locations from the game, but nothing about these scenes feels manufactured for promotional purposes. Original Trilogy fans will love the events and surprise interactions on Hoth and will immediately want to revisit The Empire Strikes Back after reading. Freed also has a few more delightful surprises up his sleeve as the story continues and the past and future connections effectively propel the story forward.

While there is much to celebrate here, one Stormtrooper side story seemed to fall flat. The glimpses of this character were intriguing, but there needed to be more development and backstory for a bigger payoff in the end. All in all, a minor flaw in an otherwise gripping Star Wars novel.

For fans who are disappointed in the new Star Wars canon, Twilight Company just might be the novel that brings them back. Let’s hope Freed will be back with more engaging stories from the front lines of Star Wars.

Review copy sent from publisher.


Paper Angels: A Novel
Paper Angels: A Novel
by Travis Thrasher
Edition: Hardcover
85 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless Message, December 21, 2011
This review is from: Paper Angels: A Novel (Hardcover)
Thomas Brandt and his family have had a rough year. Because of his Dad's drinking and abuse, his Mom was forced to move Kevin and his sister to a new town with a new school and a not so new trailer. Try as he might to fit in, he's become the target of the school bully and to make matters worse, his mother can't even afford their Christmas this year. Desperate for help, she reluctantly decides to sign her kids up for the Salvation Army Angel Tree program.

Kevin Morrell can't believe his bad luck. With Christmas just around the corner and the birth of his twins on the horizon, he finds out his business might be forced to close. As Kevin swims around in a sea of self-pity and worry he tries to be strong for his family. He wants to have the faith of his wife, but he feels farther away from God than ever before. Despite his doubts, he decides to do one small act of kindness that will unknowingly change the lives of two families.

Paper Angels is one I've been anticipating for some time. Jimmy Wayne's hit song, "Paper Angels", has been a source of inspiration to his fans for many years and I couldn't wait to see how Thrasher and Wayne translated that message into novel form. Fans of both will instantly be aware of the dual story line throughout the novel that subtly (and sometimes not-so subtly) reflects the personal experiences of both. For this reader at least, those personal touches made the story lines and characters that much more intriguing.

Despite how much or little you may know about this partnership, rest assured Paper Angels can be enjoyed by all. The timeless messages of sacrifice and hope are on beautiful display throughout, all set perfectly against the backdrop of the Salvation Army Angel Tree program. Yes, this story tries hard to bring awareness to that program, but it also accomplishes much more in the end. As a parent I walked away from this story with a greater appreciation for my family and how blessed I truly am. More importantly, this story has stayed with me throughout this holiday season reminding me that true joy comes from giving.


Letters from War: A Novel
Letters from War: A Novel
by Travis Thrasher
Edition: Hardcover
40 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars An Emotional Ride, November 16, 2011
Two years ago Beth received the news that turned her life upside down. Her son, James, went missing while saving the life of a fellow soldier on a mission in Afghanistan. Beth has refused to give up hope and continues to send James letters, despite the advice to "move on" from those around her. Each day brings more struggles, making it harder to hold on and harder to believe. As Beth and family strive to cope with their heartache, she finds solace in the letters from war her son has written.

Travis Thrasher teams up with Dove Award winning artist Mark Schultz to breathe new life into Schultz's 2003 hit song, Letters from War. Thrasher's writing style mixes perfectly with this touching message of hope and sacrifice that so many American military families can relate to. The timeline bounces around between James's old letters and Beth's ongoing letters, with the present day narrative couched between. Thrasher is no stranger to time altering storytelling and he handles these transitions easily, both making the story easy to follow and hard to put down.

Letters from War accomplishes much more than just re-telling the story from a popular song. As a matter of fact, even if you've never heard the song or seen the music video you will be moved by the unwavering faith of a soldier's mother and the honor of a son setting out to fight for his country. The story is balanced out well with some glimpses into James's relationship with his wife and son, and the emotional rift between Beth and her daughter, Emily. Each is hurting in their own way and their reactions never come across as manufactured for the sake of a good drama.

Thrasher and Schultz bring us an emotional ride to be sure, but one that will warm the heart and remind us all of the sacrifices our soldiers make each and every day to ensure our freedom.

Review copy provided by publisher.


One Step Away (By the Numbers)
One Step Away (By the Numbers)
by Eric Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.99
33 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Blend, September 1, 2011
Bret and Sara Vreeland have always struggled to make ends meet. Fancy cars, luxurious homes, and exotic vacations were the stuff of dreams and never within their reach. Until now.

After one of Sara's patients dies she discovers she is the heiress to his six million dollar fortune. While Bret and Sara always believed that God had blessed them with a beautiful family and the basic needs of life, they can't help but think now that God has truly smiled upon them. After all, doesn't God always reward those who are faithful?

Unfortunately for the Vreeland's, someone in the shadows is watching. Someone who wants nothing more than to bring them harm. As their adversary draws closer, they are brought face to face with the mysteries of their past and their world is turned upside down. Now they can't help but wonder if their blessing is indeed a curse.

Eric Wilson's eleventh novel is the perfect blend of his early Aramis Black novels and his recent film novelizations (Flywheel, Facing the Giants, and Fireproof). To both sides of his fan base Wilson offers up edgy mystery and suspense elements mixed with the relevant spiritual struggles of so many in our Christian culture. This is a modern retelling of the story of Job, and one that effectively challenges the "prosperity gospel" that runs rampant in Christian circles today.

I was hooked early on by how relatable the main characters are. Driving the old beater car, struggling with medical bills, wondering how you can afford to pay for your child's sports team photo....most of us know exactly what that is like. One almost gets the feeling that Wilson is writing from experience, but surely that can't be the case. It's common knowledge that all writers are filthy rich.

Eric Wilson also treats us to one of the most unpleasant names in the history of villains: Magnus Maggart. And yes, this guy is as bad as he sounds. He brings a nice edge to the story with his twisted worldview and his unrelenting desire to wreck havoc. This is one baddie that won't be easily forgotten.

One Step Away is the first in Eric Wilson's By the Numbers series, and the perfect way to introduce long time fans and new readers alike to his new blend of storytelling styles. Never preachy, yet always profound and relevant, this is the kind of story that makes you ask the hard questions while you are flying through the pages.

What happens when God lets Satan test a family with a six million dollar blessing? There's only one way to find out.

Review copy provided by publisher.


Buried Secrets (Nick Heller)
Buried Secrets (Nick Heller)
by Joseph Finder
Edition: Hardcover
154 used & new from $0.01

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Killer Combo, August 1, 2011
Nick Heller is a guy you want on your side. Former special ops, now making a living as a private spy, he uses his unique skill set to help those who want a job done right. When a family friend's daughter goes missing Nick is only too happy to get involved, especially when the captors send a live internet feed of the girl buried underground. Nick is now in a race against time to find her and those responsible for this unspeakable act of torture.

With only two books released in this series, I can safely say that Nick Heller is one of my favorite characters in thrillerdom. Joseph Finder always excels in keeping his audiences hooked with perfectly crafted plots, relentless suspense, and endearing protagonists. But there is just something about Nick Heller that easily places him head and shoulders above other veteran series' characters that we've come to love in the ever expanding thriller genre. Much of this is due to Finder's masterful use of the first person that makes this book simply impossible to put down.

Of course the break neck pacing of the story and the terror of Alexa Marcus only helps draw us in deeper. Even in some of the darkest scenes where we are plunged into the nightmare of being buried alive, I couldn't take my eyes off the page. At nearly 400 pages, this novel only feels like half of that and never is there a dull moment or a wasted word.

Joseph Finder and Nick Heller are making huge waves and the potential for this series is through the roof. My only hope is that we don't get another long break between novels. The Finder-Heller combo is too good to remain buried for so long.

Review copy provided by publisher.


Warm Bodies: A Novel (The Warm Bodies Series)
Warm Bodies: A Novel (The Warm Bodies Series)
by Isaac Marion
Edition: Hardcover
45 used & new from $1.83

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So Much More, July 20, 2011
R is a zombie, but R is so much more. He certainly looks the part with his trademark gait and rotting flesh. Sure he loves to munch on human brains as much as the next dead guy, but something is changing inside. He just met this human girl named Julie on a hunting raid and instead of eating her, he's decided to save her life and hide her from his friends. In this post apocalyptic world where zombies prey on human survivors, this is certainly a no-no. But R can't help himself. Julie is causing him to do something he didn't know he was capable of doing: to feel. For the first time in his death R has found a reason to live.

The plot summary above does no justice to Isaac Marion's breathtaking debut. Neither do the "zombie love story" nor "zombie Romeo and Juliet" monikers others have given it. Like its main character, R, Warm Bodies is so much more than what we see on the surface.

The story is told in the first person from R's POV and (I can't believe I'm saying this) I'd place this first person narration on the level of Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas. Marion writes like a seasoned pro, making this the kind of story that will send aspiring novelists and veterans alike into fits of jealous rage. Not only is this Isaac Marion's debut, but he sold the movie rights before the book was even written, much less published. Yeah, the kind of stuff that only happens in publishing fantasy land, but nevertheless the final product is more than worthy of the hype.

Marion infuses the well balanced plot with beautiful themes of compassion, creativity, and humility. R's "courting" of Julie is beautiful to behold, leaving us with countless scenes that will sear in your mind long after reading. For example, I will never forget R's Frank Sinatra record skipping serenade that is nothing short of literary genius.

Fans of the zombie mythology will find plenty here to satisfy, but Marion deftly avoids the pitfalls of gratuitousness and overindulgence that one might expect in a zombie tale. There's more than enough gore, violence, adult content, and language here to warn sensitive readers, but the journey is more than worth it for readers who long to be moved by their fiction.

To say much more would run the risk of spoiling a truly phenomenal reading experience. Suffice it to say that this "Romeo and Juliet Zombie Love Story" that you may or may not have heard so much about is definitely worthy of the buzz. Isaac Marion is a name to watch and one I hope we have not heard the last of.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 26, 2011 5:35 PM PST


40: A Novel
40: A Novel
by Travis Thrasher
Edition: Paperback
53 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow...., May 4, 2011
This review is from: 40: A Novel (Paperback)
Tyler Harrison is going to die on his 40th birthday. Tyler knows because an angel named Matthew told him so.
With death imminent and uncertainty clouding his soul, Tyler sets out on a nine month journey towards inevitability and the unknown. How do you live your life when you know exactly when you are going to die? Do you change anything? Do you make amends? Do you bury your head beneath the covers of your unfulfilled life and pretend like it's not going to happen? These are the questions that haunt Tyler, along with the hallucinations and visions that terrify him to no end.

A music producer in Chicago, Tyler has made quite a name for himself and is on the verge of making a big break with an up and coming star. In the past he's always been able to lose himself in the music, letting his work consume his life. But with Matthew's big birthday announcement, nothing in Tyler's life makes sense anymore and not even his love for music satisfies. All the things he'd like to forget, things like his divorce and his rocky relationship with his evangelist father, all of those things are staring him in the face and are demanding attention. As Tyler's birthday draws near he is unknowingly heading towards a collision with destiny and the lack of faith that has plagued his life.

40 is Travis Thrasher's most personal novel to date and it's certainly no accident that this novel is being released just a couple of weeks after the author's 40th birthday. This is a very emotional and brooding story filled with Tyler's inward reflections and struggles over his past. Thrasher's own love for music shows through in not only the setting, but in the way the plot unfolds like a mind bending concert dominated by somber ballads interspersed with the occasional bones igniting anthem.

The "detail" police will be glad to know that Thrasher doesn't sell us short with the portrayal of a music producer's profession. Tyler is wholly believable as both a music producer and aficionado. I'm almost convinced Thrasher has actually spent some time in the studio, possibly chewing the fat with the likes of Brian Eno as he puts forth a stellar effort here to "get it right".

As I was reading 40, I knew there was a twist coming, but when I finally arrived I was floored by both the masterful execution leading up to it and the soul stirring implication left upon the reader. The first person narration was spot on, the suspense and drama played out just right throughout, but this twist elevates the story in such a profound way. This display of storytelling prowess is why I continue to come back to Thrasher's writing and why I'm continually dismayed that he isn't as widely recognized as he deserves.

40 is personal not only for Travis Thrasher, but also for readers who are willing to ask the hard questions about life, faith, and the journey that weaves them together. Wow...

Review copy provided by publisher.


The Priest's Graveyard
The Priest's Graveyard
by Ted Dekker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.99
228 used & new from $0.01

11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much More Beneath the Surface, April 20, 2011
This review is from: The Priest's Graveyard (Hardcover)
The world looks at Danny Hansen's collar and sees a devout man of God. What the world doesn't see are the deep scars from his past. Those who glance in passing do not know of the pain and suffering that has shaped him into judge, jury, and executioner for the deviants of society.

Renee Gilmore is the epitome of broken. As she wallows in despair on the streets she is rescued by a knight in shining armor. Lamont is too good to be true and everything she could ever want in a man. While some would say his habits and ideals are a bit strange, Renee only sees compassion and acceptance. Their life is perfect until one day Lamont doesn't come home. Renee begins to fear the worst and becomes consumed with vengeance towards those she believes responsible for his disappearance.

Renee soon finds solace in an unlikely friendship with Danny, while Danny himself finds himself torn between the vengeance that has always driven him and the new found feelings developing for Renee. This powerful collision of love and hate will challenge them both to the core as they explore the depths of vengeance and mercy.

This might look like just a vigilante story on the surface, but Ted Dekker wastes no time in pulling the rug out from under our expectations. And why not? This is what Dekker fans have come to know and love, and once again he doesn't disappoint with this clever twist on the thriller genre.

The relationship between Danny and Renee is the real star of the show here, even though most of those elements aren't fully on display until the final third of the story. From the beginning we are hooked by Danny's conflicted lifestyle that brews conflict within the reader. Much like the fictional Dexter Morgan (from Showtime's hit series Dexter), I found myself fascinated by a character that disturbed me to no end. While some readers may find total offense in the notion of a vigilante priest, I decided to trust this author who has proven himself to me time and time again. Dekker is the master of plunging readers into darkness, only to boldly lead them back to the light. I'm glad I listened to my gut.

Renee's journey is also a fascinating one, again creating conflict within the reader. At times I hurt for this broken woman and as the story progressed I was unsettled by her new found convictions. Renee represents how easy it is for those who are seeking to find answers in all the wrong places. In many ways her character disturbed me more than Danny's, only because she represents the majority and how easily they are swayed. Who better to help right her moral compass than a vigilante priest? Oh Mr. Dekker.....the games you play with our minds.

When we do arrive at the end, I was floored by a twist I never saw coming and the implications it has on the rest of the story. The final scenes are subtle, yet intense, highlighting some of the most powerful spiritual themes Dekker has explored in his writing. While these are themes that he has certainly tackled before, here he does so in a fresh and unique way that only proves what a talented writer he has become.

Early buzz says this is Dekker's masterpiece. While I'm a bit reluctant to go there (The Bride Collector is still my hands down favorite), I will say that The Priest's Graveyard is well worth your time. It's the kind of story that will make you think and ask the tough questions, all the while entertaining you with solid characters and well executed suspense. A vigilante story? Yes. But oh so much more.


Threshold (A Jack Sigler Thriller)
Threshold (A Jack Sigler Thriller)
by Jeremy Robinson
Edition: Hardcover
53 used & new from $0.01

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Electrifying!, April 7, 2011
Jack Sigler (aka "King") has always been beyond tough, never letting anything come before his duty to his country. As the leader of the Chess Team special ops task force, King has distanced himself from all attachments and meaningful relationships believing this was the only way to stay strong and focused. All of that goes out the window when fourteen year old Fiona Lane comes into his life. The lone survivor of a terrorist attack on the Siletz reservation in Oregon, Fiona is suddenly left with no family or home. The Chess Team has been tasked to protect and care for her until the terrorists can be brought down. Over time King and Fiona grow closer, forming an inseparable father/daughter bond.

King is suddenly called away for a family emergency, only to find out later that Fiona has disappeared amidst a terror filled onslaught at Fort Bragg. Meanwhile, innocent people all over the world are being wiped out, all of them being the last speakers of ancient languages. King and The Chess Team will now have to split up in order to both rescue Fiona and put a stop to a madman's evil plans for mankind. King has faced his share of horrors and atrocities, but this time it's personal and nothing will get in his way.

If you thought Pulse and Instinct were fun, just hold on tight my fellow thriller lovers. Jeremy Robinson pulls out all the stops in Threshold making this the most electrifying installment in the series so far. Robinson somehow takes the Tower of Babel, killer statues, giant lizards and insects, Stonehenge, and medieval lore and mixes it all together in this crazy, relentless story that is simply impossible to put down.

In the midst of the madness and larger than life battles, we find a lot more character development than we've seen in the series thus far. Robinson gives us a nice glimpse into King's family that really sets the stage for future stories, and King's newfound fatherly instincts bring the perfect level of emotion that was lacking before. While one could argue that the plot here is too farfetched and over the top, you'd be hard pressed to walk away from this one thinking these characters weren't genuine. Even though most of this story revolves around King, Robinson balances things out nicely with storylines involving the rest of the Chess Team. Things take a surprising turn with one character in particular that looks to have lasting implications for the rest of the series.

I have a blast every time I pick up a Jeremy Robinson novel and Threshold is no exception. I love authors who are dedicated to continually bringing fresh and original content to their fans, and Robinson continues to find ways to do this. If you are longing for a great thriller writer to follow and are tired of waiting a year or more between novels, then give Jeremy Robinson a chance. He's the perfect combination of quality and frequency in a market that is often lacking both.


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