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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE ANGEL OF EVIL: THE GREAT DEVIL WAR IV by Kenneth B. Andersen (@K_B_Andersen) Darker adventures and even more action #YAseries

Hi all:

I bring you book four in a series I’ve been following for a while. I’m not big into series, but this has me truly hooked.

The Angel of Evil: The Great Devil War IV by Kenneth B. Andersen
The Angel of Evil: The Great Devil War IV by Kenneth B. Andersen

The Angel of Evil: The Great Devil War IV by Kenneth B. Andersen

Book 4 in the multi-award winning series.

Nothing will ever be the same. Satina is gone, kidnapped by the enemy. Disobeying Lucifer, Philip heads out to find her, journeying into the deep darkness of Outer Reach.

But nothing can prepare Philip for the horror that awaits–or the demons he will face.

Meanwhile, Lucifer’s kingdom is threatened as the Great Devil War draws closer. All Hell is about to break loose…

THE GREAT DEVIL WAR is a gripping, humorous and dark tale about good and evil seen from a different perspective, set in a world beyond your wildest dreams.


Praise for The Angel of Evil

“Kenneth B. Andersen has a way of taking everything you think you know and turning it upside down in the most intriging and funny way … Filled with humor, death and romance – a mix that is absolutely captivating.” ***** – Goodreads review

“I loved every bit of it. A masterpiece.” ***** – Goodreads review

“Truly an amazing book.” ***** – Goodreads review

Over 2000 worldwide 5 star reviews of the series!

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07VKBF3P7/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07VKBF3P7/

https://www.amazon.es/gp/product/B07VKBF3P7/

Author Kenneth Bøgh Andersen
Author Kenneth Bøgh Andersen

About the author:

I was born in Denmark on a dark and stormy night in November 1976. I began writing when I was a teenager. My first book was a really awful horror novel titled Nidhug’s Slaves. It didn’t get published. Luckily.

During the next 7 years, I wrote nearly 20 novels–all of which were rejected–while working as a school teacher. The rest of the time I spent writing.

In 2000 I published my debut fantasy book, The Battle of Caïssa, and that’s when things really took off. Since then I’ve published more than thirty-five books for children and young adults in genres ranging from fantasy to horror and science fiction.

My books have been translated into more than 15 languages and my series about the superhero Antboy has been adapted for film, which is available on Netflix. An animated tv series is currently in development.

A musical of The Devil’s Apprentice opened in the fall 2018 and the movie rights for the series have also been optioned.

I live in Copenhagen with my wife, two boys, a dog named Milo and spiders in the basement.

You can read more on my English website www.kennethbandersen.com

https://www.amazon.com/Kenneth-B%C3%B8gh-Andersen/e/B0045ADTRM/

My review:

I received an ARC copy from the author but that has in no way influenced my review, which I freely chose to write.

This is the fourth book in The Great Devil War Series, a series that I’m enjoying enormously (you can read my review of the third book here), and I loved this part as well. As I warned in my review of the previous book, that one ended with a huge cliff-hanger, but you don’t need to worry; that is not the case here. And not only that, but many of the mysteries and questions that had yet to be answered from the rest of the series get their answers here (we even learn the meaning of life! No, I won’t tell you what it is. You’ll have to read the book to find out!). In many ways, this book felt like the end of the series. But, luckily, there is a teaser with the first chapter of the next book included, so you can breathe easy if you’ve loved the series as much as I have. If you’ve read the previous novels a while back, don’t worry; there is enough information of what went on before to bring you up to speed, but I would recommend readers who haven’t read any other novels in the series to start at the very beginning, otherwise they’ll miss a lot of the fun, and the story won’t work as it should.

I am not going to discuss the plot in detail, for evident reasons, but we have Philip taking control of the situation and coming to the rescue more than once, and there’s also a mystery at the heart of the book (Aziel, Lucifer’s sworn enemy, is up to no good, the Devil War of the title approaches, but how is he planning to win it?), with plenty of cryptic clues (people with a knowledge of the Bible might have their suspicions, but it’s not straightforward), red herrings, twists and turns, plenty of action; we revisit some of our favourite characters, and meet some new ones (I particularly enjoyed Samson’s guest appearance, but I won’t spoil the rest of surprises). As the description promises, all Hell breaks loose, literally, and it is epic. Oh, I loved the ending as well, although it feels bittersweet.

The writing is as good as in previous books, with vivid descriptions of places and characters that don’t detract from the flow of the story. If anything, I’d say this book is darker than the previous ones, and although there are humorous moments, there is plenty of suffering (both physical and psychological), more explicit violence (young adults who love gore, bloods and guts will be happy), and subjects such as loss, death, choice, free will, betrayal, identity, sacrifice… are explored in detail, always within the realms of the story. The character is growing up, and so are his concerns and the seriousness of the decisions he is confronted with.

I was a bit disappointed with the role of the female characters in this instalment. Satina is not in a position to act as she usually does, for reasons to do with the story, and none of the females seem to take active part in the big scenes, but this does not detract from the enjoyment of the adventures (although it is, perhaps, a lost opportunity).

I recommend this book, and the whole series, to YA and adult readers who love fantasy, adventures, are not squeamish and love a touch of horror, monsters and dark events. This is a great coming of age story as well, and it will suit readers who appreciate complex characters to go with their thrills and exploits. There are tonnes of risky moments, scares aplenty, and surprises to keep readers hooked. Oh, and although many questions are answered, I’m already mulling over some new ones. I’m looking forward to The Fallen Angel already.

Thanks to the author for keeping me on the loop and for all the fun, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to share if you’ve enjoyed it, keep reading, reviewing, and always, always, smiling!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog #Bookreview THE THIRTEENTH GUARDIAN by KM Lewis (@kmlewisbooks) Dystopia, mythology, apocalypse, and conspiracy theories

Hi all:

This is the beginning of a series full of possibilities, although I’m not sure it’s for me.

The Thirteenth Guardian by KM Lewis
The Thirteenth Guardian by KM Lewis

The Thirteenth Guardian by KM Lewis

Da Vinci’s secret pales. Michelangelo concealed an explosive truth in his famous Creation of Man fresco in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. Everything we have been taught about Eve is wrong—she didn’t cause the fall of man. Eve carried a far more devastating secret for millennia—one that will change the world forever.

As the modern-day world suffers the cataclysmic effects of the “Plagues of Egypt”, Avery Fitzgerald, a statuesque Astrophysics major at Stanford, discovers that she is mysteriously bound to five strangers by an extremely rare condition that foremost medical experts cannot explain. Thrust into extraordinary circumstances, they race against time to stay alive as they are pursued by an age-old adversary and the world around them collapses into annihilation.

Under sacred oath, The Guardians—a far more archaic and enigmatic secret society than the Freemasons, Templars, and the Priory—protect Avery as she embarks on a daring quest that only legends of old have been on before. Avery must come to terms with the shocking realization that the blood of an ancient queen flows through her veins and that the fate of the world now rests on her shoulders.

The Thirteenth Guardian is Book 1 of a Trilogy.

https://www.amazon.com/Thirteenth-Guardian-KM-Lewis-ebook/dp/B07PNDJ7TW/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteenth-Guardian-KM-Lewis-ebook/dp/B07PNDJ7TW/

About the author:

K.M. Lewis has lived in multiple countries around the world and speaks several languages. Lewis holds a graduate degree from one of the Universities featured in his book. When he is not writing, Lewis doubles as a management consultant, with clients in just about every continent. He does much of his writing while on long flights and at far-flung airports around the globe. He currently resides on the East Coast of the United States with his family.

You can also find KM Lewis on Twitter and Instagram – @kmlewisbooks

Some background on why I wrote The Thirteenth Guardian Trilogy: I have always been intrigued by religious mythology. I believe that if the apocalyptic events in the Bible happened (or will happen), there has to be some physical catalyst that causes the events. What is absolutely fascinating to me is that many of the apocalyptic events described in the Bible appear in several other religious texts and also in the earth’s historical record. The Thirteenth Guardian Trilogy explores ideas that I have researched over the last 10+ years and paints a fictional account of what I believe is a far more interesting picture of our own history. When I now look at the world from the perspective of the book, many of the unexplained mysteries of the world make complete sense. I hope you enjoy the Trilogy.

https://www.amazon.com/KM–Lewis/e/B07PNHHH6W

My review:

I obtained an early ARC copy of this novel through NetGalley, and I freely agreed to review it. This has in no way influenced my opinion.

I had a look at the early reviews of this book, whose description intrigued me, and this is one of those cases where I mostly agree with both, the positive and the negative things that I’ve read about it.

This is a book about the Apocalypse with capital letters, and rather than just narrate the adventures of a group of survivors after the event, we get a fairly detailed description of what happens, and how a group of people, six young people in this case, are selected and brought together with a mission. We don’t get to know the exact mission until the very end of the book, although we are introduced to the characters and their lives (some in more detail than others) from the very beginning. There is no evident connection between them when we meet them, but things are not as they seem.

Although I didn’t recall that detail when I started reading, I soon realised that this book had much in common with YA books. The collection of characters, as many reviewers have observed, are all extraordinary in many ways. They all seem to be fairly well-off, beautiful, intelligent, and, as has been noted, not very diverse. Also, despite being quite young, they have achieved incredible things already. We have a character who is left in charge of restoring a unique artefact by himself, even if he’s only newly arrived in the Vatican and has no previous experience; we have twin sisters who at sixteen are old hands at working with charities all over the world and setting up new projects; we have a young political aide who ends up locked up in a bunker with the president of the USA… Although those characteristics stretch the imagination, they are not uncommon in the YA genre. It is true, though, that it does not make for characters that are easy to identify with or immediately sympathetic. They are, perhaps, too good to be true.

I found the style of writing somewhat distant. There is a fair amount of telling rather than showing, not uncommon when trying to offer information about events at a large scale (the events that occur in the whole of the planet are described rather dispassionately, no matter how many millions of people are destroyed), and although some of the scientific background sounds plausible (I’m no expert, though, so don’t take my word for it), there is a twist at the end that makes it all go into the realm of fantasy rather than science fiction, and I’ve noticed I am not the only one puzzled by that turn of events. Some readers have complained also about the changes in point of view, especially when some characters appear briefly never to be seen again and are also given their moment under the limelight, and I think some readers will find this disconcerting.

I enjoyed the background information and some of the theories proposing new readings of documents, cultural artefacts, works of art, the Bible, etc., which came towards the end of the novel. I also particularly enjoyed the fact that the Guardians are all women and the explanation for the matrilineal handing of the tradition and the role was quite enjoyable. The fact that the six people were chosen because of characteristics that had made them outsiders most of their lives (headaches, stammering, difficult births…) and how those seeming weaknesses turned into strengths was something that I thought worked well and provided a positive message at the heart of the story.

For me, this novel reads like a long introduction, and although there is plenty of action and events that take place during it (in fact, life in the world as we know it comes to an end and a new order of things is established. It does not get much bigger than that), it feels like the prelude to the true story that is to come later, and the bit of explanation we are offered about how these characters relate to the overall story comes at the very end. The book ends where many others would have started and, personally, I wonder if this would have worked better as a prequel to the actual series. Of course, I don’t know what is to follow, so this is all just wild speculation on my part.

A set up that touches on many different topics readers might be interested in (conspiracy theories, a group of survivors after the apocalypse, religion, old documents, mythology, ancient civilizations, science-fiction, fantasy, dystopia…), with many possibilities for further development, that could benefit from developing the characters and their personalities further.

Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE WRONGFUL DEATH: THE GREAT DEVIL WAR III by Kenneth B. Andersen (@K_B_Andersen) Another fun and thrilling book in a great series. #YA

Hi all:

Today I bring you the third book in a series I’m really enjoying.

The Wrongful Death. The Great Devil War III by Kenneth B. Andersen
The Wrongful Death. The Great Devil War III by Kenneth B. Andersen

The Wrongful Death: The Great Devil War III by Kenneth B. Andersen

Multi-award winning series, published in 10 countries, movie rights optioned!

Continuing the dark adventure that begins with The Devil’s Apprentice and The Die of Death.

An unfortunate chain of events makes Philip responsible for the untimely death of the school bully Sam—the Devil’s original choice for an heir.

Philip must return to Hell to find Sam and bring him back to life, so that fate can be restored. But trouble is stirring in Lucifer’s kingdom and not even Philip can imagine the strange and dark journey that awaits him.

A journey that will take him through ancient underworlds and all the way to Paradise.

Buy now and enter a world like no other!

The Great Devil War is a gripping and humorous tale about good and evil seen from a different perspective, making the reader laugh and think. It’s filled with biblical and historical characters and set in a world beyond your wildest dreams. Or nightmares …


Readers on The Wrongful Death:

“One of the things I really like about these books is that you never really know where Kenneth will go with the story … Humorous and clever at the same time.” *****

“I like how the world in the story keeps expanding. *****

“I love that this book has a trip to other underworlds. Very much worth the read.” *****

Over 2000 worldwide 5 star reviews of the series!

If you’re a Harry Potter or Percy Jackson fan, you don’t want to miss the ride!

https://www.amazon.com/Wrongful-Death-Great-Devil-War-ebook/dp/B07MYN5KKB/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wrongful-Death-Great-Devil-War-ebook/dp/B07MYN5KKB/

Author Kenneth Bøgh Andersen
Author Kenneth Bøgh Andersen

About Kenneth Bøgh Andersen

I was born in Denmark on a dark and stormy night in November 1976. I began writing when I was a teenager. My first book was a really awful horror novel titled Nidhug’s Slaves. It didn’t get published. Luckily.

During the next 7 years, I wrote nearly 20 novels–all of which were rejected–while working as a school teacher. The rest of the time I spent writing.

In 2000 I published my debut fantasy book, The Battle of Caïssa, and that’s when things really took off. Since then I’ve published more than thirty-five books for children and young adults in genres ranging from fantasy to horror and science fiction.

My books have been translated into more than 15 languages and my series about the superhero Antboy has been adapted for film, which is available on Netflix. An animated tv series is currently in development.

A musical of The Devil’s Apprentice opens in the fall 2018 and the movie rights for the series have also been optioned.

I live in Copenhagen with my wife, two boys, a dog named Milo and spiders in the basement.

You can read more on my English website www.kennethbandersen.co

My review:

I received an ARC copy from the author but that has in no way influenced the review I freely chose to write.

I have read and reviewed the two previous books in Andersen’s series The Great Devil War (you can check my review here) and I loved them. I was more than happy when I heard the next book was ready and due for publication early in April. So, in case you are in a hurry, yes, I loved it as well. I have to add two caveats, though. The first one is a warning for readers who hate cliff-hangers. There is a big one at the end of the book. The book includes a teaser for book 4, and therefore we get a hint of what actually happens next, but the story itself is not completed in this volume. Yes, this is a series and is to be expected that the overall arch of the story will continue and is what happened with the two previous books, but they had a resolution to the main adventure in that particular tome, while that is not the case here. So if you hate cliff-hangers, stay away from this book, as it could make you quite angry. (I haven’t completely made up my mind about the subject. I don’t mind so much if I am sufficiently invested in the story and the characters, as I am in this series already, but if it’s totally unexpected and I don’t care for the characters, I am bound to not return to read the rest). The other caveat is a recommendation. There are enough reminders of Philip’s previous adventures in this novel to allow readers who’ve read the other books a while back to quickly find their bearings, but I don’t think it would work as an independent read, because there would be too much background missing to fully enjoy it. The series does not go into extremes of world building or descriptions, but by now there is a lot of information and mythology that, although based on common themes and concepts (Heaven and Hell, stories in the Bible), help create an environment that is a big part of its charm. So, if you fancy the sound of it, start with number 1 and keep going.

I’ve already said I enjoyed it, as much as the other books at least. We get a bit of exposure to Philip’s everyday life, but that doesn’t last long, and we’re soon back in Hell and with Satina, Lucifer, Lucifax, and the rest of our favourite characters. But there are some new ones as well. We get to meet the artist behind the horrific paintings adorning Lucifer’s castle (paintings where the condemned can be seen suffering and heard screaming), we meet Chimera, a fascinating creature (yes, I want one); we finally get to go to Heaven and meet Jehovah (I won’t give you any hints, but his relationship with Lucifer is… well, entertaining), also visit the garden of Eden, Saint Peter (I loved the fact that when he falls asleep his halo falls off his head), and we visit other underworlds, Hades in this case, and that brings us plenty of Greek mythology to contend with (and great characters as well).

There are also the guest star appearances, in Hell and in this case also in Heaven, famous figures from the past that Philip meets in his travels. I will keep my peace, but I particularly liked their encounter with a famous writer whose creations had also come to live. (Yes, Stephen King, be scared!).

The story moves at good pace, there is plenty of intrigues, action, betrayals, the quest motif, more than a hint of romance (but nothing explicit), and the humorous touches as well. The writing style is fluid and easy (the story is told in the third person from Philip’s point of view, as usual), and the characters are solid and engaging. The novel turns darker towards the end, and although the whole series has never been all light and fun (among the subjects discussed are family losses, reflections on good and evil, religious themes, guilt and its consequences, moral ambivalence, death and mortality to name but a few), the whole book hints at horrific things to come, and even the good things that happen come hand in hand with bad consequences. The main character is growing up and so are his concerns, and that makes it a series definitely worth following and watching for.

Any negatives? Well, apart from the cliff-hanger already mentioned, I guess that people who’ve just read the previous two books might feel they don’t need any reminders of the previous stories. (I didn’t find that a problem). I also wondered how well this series would work for young readers of cultures not so familiar with the Bible.  I guess it might work as just another fantasy world, but I suspect some of the in-jokes might be lost. Despite the fantastical setting, this is a pretty conventional story when it comes to the main character and his background, so it might not suit readers looking for a more inclusive and diverse kind of storytelling.

As I had said before, this is a book I’d recommend to readers of fantasy, both YA and adults, but it does have pretty dark moments, there is violence (some behind closed doors), and it will not suit people who prefer light reads or are particularly squeamish. Its take on religion can put some people off as well, but I guess the description of the series gives a clear indication of that. A great read and another gripping visit to the universe of the Devil War. I cannot wait for the next instalment.

Thanks to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and always keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE FALL OF LILITH (FANTASY ANGELS SERIES, Vol 1) by Vashti Quiroz-Vega (@VashtiQV) An epic-story, which will make you reconsider what you thought you knew about angels, demons, and everything in between #Bookreview #amreading

Hi all:

I am sharing the review for a book by an author I have known for a while and whose blog I follow as well, so I was aware of this novel when it was a work-in-progress, and I’m very pleased to finally have read it. Wow!

The Fall of Lilith by Vashti Quiroz-Vega
The Fall of Lilith by Vashti Quiroz-Vega (I love the cover!)

The Fall of Lilith (Fantasy Angels Series) (Volume 1) by Vashti Quiroz-Vega

In The Fall of Lilith, Vashti Quiroz-Vega crafts an irresistible new take on heaven and hell that boldly lays bare the passionate, conflicted natures of God’s first creations: the resplendent celestial beings known as angels.

If you think you know their story, think again.

Endowed with every gift of mind, body, and spirit, the angels reside in a paradise bounded by divine laws, chief of which are obedience to God, and celibacy. In all other things, the angels possess free will, that they may add in their own unique ways to God’s unfolding plan.

Lilith, most exquisite of angels, finds the rules arbitrary and stifling. She yearns to follow no plan but her own: a plan that leads to the throne now occupied by God himself. With clever words and forbidden caresses, Lilith sows discontent among the angels. Soon the virus of rebellion has spread to the greatest of them all: Lucifer.

Now, as angel is pitted against angel, old loyalties are betrayed and friendships broken. Lust, envy, pride, and ambition arise to shake the foundations of heaven . . . and beyond. For what begins as a war in paradise invades God’s newest creation, a planet known as Earth. It is there, in the garden called Eden, that Lilith, Lucifer, and the other rebel angels will seek a final desperate victory—or a venomous revenge.

“[A] compelling narrative that . . . strays far from the traditional biblical text . . . A well-written, descriptive, and dark creation story.”—Kirkus Reviews

https://www.amazon.com/Fall-Lilith-Fantasy-Angels-ebook/dp/B074CPKLHH/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fall-Lilith-Fantasy-Angels-ebook/dp/B074CPKLHH/

Author Vashti Quiroz-Vega
Author Vashti Quiroz-Vega

About the author:

Hello! My name is Vashti Quiroz-Vega. I’m a writer of Suspense, Thriller, Fantasy, and Horror. I also enjoy mixing in some Humor and Romance into my stories.

From the time I was a young kid, writing has been my passion. I’ve always been a writer I just didn’t know it until much later. For me, it is easier to express my thoughts on paper than with the spoken word. I enjoy making people feel an array of emotions with my writing. I like my audience to laugh one moment, cry the next and clench their jaws after that.

My love of animals and nature are often incorporated into my stories. You’ll read intriguing things about various animals, nature and natural disasters commingled in my character-driven novels.

I love to read almost as much as I love to write. Some of my favorite authors are Stephen King, M. Night Shyamalan, Michael Crichton, Anne Rice, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown.

https://www.amazon.com/Vashti-Quiroz-Vega/e/B00GTXG5W4/

My review:

I have seen this book described as “epic” and I agree, not only for its length (it is two books in one) but also for its topic. It does talk about all things in Heaven and Earth, near enough, from the creation of the angels and the battle of good and evil to the fall of the angels and their revenge plans once on Earth (that don’t bode well for humanity).

The author’s writing style in this book is reminiscent of the Bible, although the story is told from quite a different point of view, and it deviates from the narrative most Christians are familiar with (I am intrigued to know how the story will resonate with readers not familiar with the Christian tradition, although the world building is detailed enough for anybody to be able to follow the events). I am not a big Fantasy reader, mostly because I am not that fond of lengthy descriptions (I admire authors who do it well), although this story has the added interest of providing a major variation on a story many of us are familiar with. As typical of the genre, there is plenty of telling (in fact, all the characters are storytellers, and we get to hear the angels’ voices often, narrating their own adventures, or even fictional ones, like a fascinating story Lilith narrates in book 1), and beautiful descriptions of Floraison, the part of Heaven inhabited by the angels, of the angels, and also of the creation of Earth, and of Earth itself in book 2. We follow the story in a chronological order, from the time when the angels are quite young, growing up and learning about their powers (this part reminded me of YA books set up in special schools for young people with special abilities, and also of parts of The Hunger Games, when the characters had to train for the battle ahead), through to the battle between good and evil and their fall to Earth. Although the story is narrated in the third person, we follow the points of views of a variety of angels, mainly Lilith, the main character, but also most of the others at some point.

These angels reminded me of the Greek gods. They are not the celestial beings many of us imagine, but more human than human. They have their personalities, their peculiar characters, their flaws, their desires, and they are far from goodie-goodie-two-shoes. Even the good angels have faults… (Oh Gabriel…). We get to know Lilith’s cunning and devious nature better than that of others (she is rebellious, proud, has a superiority complex, and does not seem to feel true affection for anybody, even her supposed friends), but we see that Lucifer is proud and is not a good looser from early on (when he is following the rules), and some of the other angels are weak, easily manipulated, and only worried about their own well-being and interests. The God of this story does not tolerate rebellion or deceit, and he severely punishes his children for their misdeeds. The author excels at writing the punishments and tortures the angels are subject to, and these parts of the book are not for the faint-hearted. I know she writes horror too, and this is quite evident in her penchant for devising monstrous characters and pretty cruel and sadistic tortures.

As is often the case, the bad characters are more interesting than the good ones (that we mostly lose sight of in book 2, apart from some brief appearances). I would not say any of the characters are very sympathetic. Lilith is put to the test and punished for being what she is (and considering angels are given free-will, that seems quite cruel), but she displays psychopathic traits from the beginning and it is difficult to blame her nasty personality on her experiences. She is strong and determined, but she abandons her friends, is manipulative, and goes to extremes that make her exceedingly unlikeable. I have no problem with having a truly horrible character as the main voice of a book, although I missed something that helped me connect with her (there are moments when she hints at a weakness or hurt, but I did not feel they were particularly convincing. Perhaps a sense of humour, no matter how dark, would have helped, but other than some instances of silly behaviour very early on, there are moments of wonder but not many laughs). Gadreel is perhaps the easiest character to empathise with, and she grows and develops during book 2 (to begin with she is constantly complaining and moaning, but she gets more confident, although she is not traditionally good either). Satan does horrible things, especially to Lilith (who is not blameless by a long stretch, not that such abuse could be ever justified in real life), but he is an interesting character and quite loyal to his friends. And he also does much of what he does out of love, however misguided. I don’t know what that says about me, but I really like Drácul, Satan and Lilith’s child. He is described as quite an ugly thing, but I find him cute. There you have it.

For me, book 2 is more dynamic and moves faster than book 1. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the adventures of the fallen angels on Earth allow us to read about their first impressions of the world as it would appear to somebody who had never been here, a totally brand new place. Such estrangement and sense of wonder are fascinating and the writing captures it well. The fact that the fallen angels find themselves in a hostile environment and have to learn to work together to survive adds to the interest. Of course, Lilith has her own plans, and she makes sure she convinces others to follow.

The character of Lilith reminded me of the typical figure of the femme fatale in film noir (or the spider woman, or… well, I’m sure you can think of many epithets such females have received over the years), who is powerful but her power consists in manipulating and deceiving males, convincing them that they are in charge, while she pulls the invisible strings. I do admire such characters, especially when the circumstances are dire and that seems to be the only option to get ahead. There is always a difficult balance to maintain between creating a strong negative female character that can hold her own and making sure it does not reinforce the usual story tropes that blame women for all of the world’s ills from the beginning of times.

This book made me wonder once more about the well-known narrative (and let me tell you, there are some twists that will keep readers on their toes) of events, which amounts to a civil war in Heaven, where there is no reconciliation and no possible redress or forgiveness for those who rebelled against the established order and lost. I also had to wonder about the rules imposed in Floraison and what seems to be a bias against LGBT (sex is bad, but same-sex sex is worse and is more severely punished), which has always been an issue that has caused much religious debate and it falls within the norm of traditional texts.

This book is a tour-de-force that I’d recommend to readers who love to be challenged by narratives that push the limits of well-known stories and make us rethink and reconsider the stories we have been told. And one for those who love strong and wicked female characters. And baby demons… (Oh, and I’ve heard that next book will be from Drácul’s point of view. Yeah!)

Thanks so much to the author for this fantastic book, to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, REVIEW and to enjoy your day!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview In The Shadow of David (The Secret Rebellion Book 1) by Martin Baggen (@MartinBaggen) Some things never change #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

I hope you’re enjoying the holiday season. I’m sharing some reviews I realised I’d accumulated, as I want to take a bit of time to think about the blog, but wanted to have featured most of the reviews before that, although I’ll carry on with reviews for sure.

Today I come to share one of those books that are difficult to catalogue but once you’ve read is impossible not to think and talk about it.

Cover of In the Shadow of David by Martin Baggen
In the Shadow of David by Martin Baggen

In The Shadow of David (The Secret Rebellion Book 1) by Martin Baggen

A thoroughly innovative reworking of “the greatest story ever told.”
Readers have heard tales from the life of Jesus so many times, in the Bible and a bevvy of other ancient texts, it’s a wonder that anyone has anything left to say about it. Yet nothing can stop modern authors—from Norman Mailer to Anne Rice to José Saramago to Philip Pullman—from returning to this fertile story. In Baggen’s debut, readers get yet another take on Christ’s life, yet this one feels truly original. In brief, it reimagines the familiar New Testament narrative as a sort of political thriller in which Jesus—or Yeshua, as he’s called here—is less the Son of God than a charismatic insurgent. (Think Dan Brown with more than a hint of Vince Flynn.) Working by Yeshua’s side, or sometimes behind his back, are Yohannan (John the Baptist), Yehudah (Judah), Miriam, Nicodemus, and a handful of other disciples and allies. Baggen tells his story not only through Yeshua’s eyes but also from supporting characters’ perspectives—an excellent narrative decision that lends the novel complexity and depth. Furthermore, and much to his credit, the author offers historical details that make Jesus’ story both more and less unique, noting that Jesus was just one of many messianic figures wandering Palestine; that there were other new religious movements, such as the Essenes and Gnostics, competing with early Christianity; and that many other upstarts’ lives came to an end on a cross. Perhaps the story’s only real weakness is that it sometimes pales in comparison to the original, with which it tacitly competes. The Bible’s style is striking in its austerity, simplicity, and accessibility, and Baggen’s prose, by contrast, is occasionally wordier than it should be. That said, this rookie effort stands sturdily on its own.
A Gospel retread but one that’s provocative, tense, and exciting.
KIRKUS REVIEW

In his audacious debut novel, In The Shadow Of David; The Secret Rebellion, Martin Baggen offers a thoroughly original retelling of the story of Jesus, taking the biblical “Son of God” and shrinking him down to size – the size of a man. The story, told, like the Bible, through various points of view, sweeps readers along through the now familiar series of events of Jesus’ life, his miracles explained as clever tricks achieved by mortals. The plot thickens when Jesus is arrested, leading to an explosive climax. This well-researched and exciting book – part sweeping epic, part political thriller — gives readers a fresh and provocative take on the tale of Jesus.
-Greg Mandel, author of “High Hat,” and “The Palin Prophecies: Apocalypstick Now”.

A young, rightful queen returns from exile to her homeland. Her mission is to reclaim her country from the grip of an oppressive foreign occupation. To achieve her goal, she must find a king. Her quest leads to a charismatic and gifted man who possesses the ability to help her lead a nation to freedom. But the mission comes at a cost greater than anyone can predict, and the misunderstood legacy of their secret rebellion will endure for thousands of years. A failed political movement that gave birth to a new religion.

My review.

Thanks to NetGalley and the author for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This novel will polarise readers. Because of its rewriting (or perhaps reinterpreting) the facts of the life of Jesus (or Yeshua in the book) committed Christians might find it difficult to read (if not altogether offensive). Entire episodes of the life of Christ depicted as sleights-of-hand set in order to gather support and get all Jews together under a Leader will sound irreverent at the very least.

Those readers with no particular attachment to Christian beliefs might have other issues with the novel. The story is told from many different points of view, alternating but not always in the same order, by characters whose names are sometimes very similar. Especially at first, this might be confusing, as we are not sure where we are or who is talking to us. Readers who have at least a superficial working knowledge of the Bible will come to identify many of the historical figures/characters that appear in the novel, although I personally think a cast of characters with brief information and perhaps identifying them by the names they are best known would help.

All the characters are intriguing, especially to people who might have read very different versions of them. I particularly enjoyed Myriam (Mary Magdalen), who in this version is a shaker and mover, a thinking woman, and one determined to get her people out of the Roman clutches. She’s strong, independent, determined, and takes charge of her destiny without hesitation (although there are doubts, unavoidably so).  Yeshua is difficult to reconcile with the image I have of Jesus, but that doesn’t make him any less interesting (perhaps more interesting even). The book is quite short and although there is no time spent delving deeply into each character, there is enough to whet readers’ appetites and to make us hope for more development in future instalments.

The book doesn’t provide lots of detail about the places visited and is not heavy on descriptions. On the other hand, it does a good job at portraying the politics, the economic relationships and the power struggles between the different players. It manages to give an utterly modern spin to the conflicts of the time. This is not the history of dusty respectful tomes that only list “facts” but rather, a dynamic and familiar state of affairs that will make us think.

This reimagining of the story of Jesus as a conspiracy/ploy to conquer power and move people might not fit in easily in the category of historical fiction (not enough detail, too many liberties taken, not sure about how closely the language and customs have been adapted from the originals), but as a challenge to our preconceived notions and a new way of looking at a story that perhaps we’ve never dared to question, it succeeds. And it has some pretty amazing characters too. You might like it or not, but I can assure you that if you read it, you won’t forget it in a hurry.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-David-Secret-Rebellion-Book-ebook/dp/B01EXIDVKA/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadow-David-Secret-Rebellion-Book-ebook/dp/B01EXIDVKA/

Thanks so much to NetGalley and to the author of the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and like, share, comment and CLICK!

Categories
Book reviews

#Bookreview HERE I AM by Jonathan Safran Foer. Family, nation, religion, identity and writing with an inimitable style. And authors answer the question, What does your writing look like?

Today I bring you both a new book and a review. I’d been curious about this writer for a while and this is one of the few reviews where I’ve got feedback on the review itself in Amazon (at first somebody complaining about a spoiler, although it is not that kind of novel, and later recommendations and good words).

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

Literary FictionGeneral Fiction (Adult)

Description

A monumental new novel about modern family lives from the bestselling author of Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

God asked Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, and Abraham replied obediently, ‘Here I am’.

This is the story of a fracturing family in a moment of crisis. Over the course of three weeks in present-day Washington DC, three sons watch their parents’ marriage falter and their family home fall apart. Meanwhile, a larger catastrophe is engulfing another part of the world: a massive earthquake devastates the Middle East, sparking a pan-Arab invasion of Israel. With global upheaval in the background and domestic collapse in the foreground, Jonathan Safran Foer asks us – what is the true meaning of home? Can one man ever reconcile the conflicting duties of his many roles – husband, father, son? And how much of life can a person bear?

Links:

Hardcover: https://www.amazon.com/Here-Am-Jonathan-Safran-Foer/dp/0374280029/

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Here-Am-Jonathan-Safran-Foer/dp/1250135753/

Audible: https://www.amazon.com/Here-I-Am/dp/B01K7S49BK/

(I haven’t found an e-book version available yet).

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin Books UK Hamish Hamilton for offering me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I had not read any of Jonathan Safran Foer before, so I can’t really compare it to his previous work. I’ve checked comments about the novel, as I felt quite overwhelmed when I finished its reading and I wanted to check if I was the only one. The opinions by people who’d read his previous novels varied widely, although ‘ambitious’ is one of the words most often used in all the comment, positive and otherwise. Yes, the novel is ambitious. The story is about the disintegration of an upper-middle-class Jewish-American marriage. Jacob, the main character, writes a TV comedy, is married, with three children, a dog, and relatives both in the United States and in Israel. The story is told mostly from his point of view, although there are fragments also told from other characters’ viewpoint, like his grandfather, his wife, his oldest son… Later in the novel there are also inserts that purport to be news articles or news reports about an earthquake that affects most of the Middle-East and has terrible consequences for the region, resulting in what is referred to in the book as ‘the destruction of Israel’. The attempts at equating the family’s fortunes to that of Israel itself are clear when reading the book, although how successful they are it’s open to the individual reader (for me, the situation provides a good way to test the main character’s beliefs and is a good way of offering the reader a better understanding of him, but how literally we’re supposed to take it is a different matter).

This is not an easy book to read, for a variety of reasons. The quality of the writing is excellent, although I found it difficult sometimes not to get lost as to who is talking in very long dialogues with few tags (but I am aware that different readers feel differently about this). Although there is action in the novel, most of the time this is observed and described through the subjectivity of different characters, making it appear slower than in most books. All the characters are highly intellectual and articulate, even Sam, Jacob’s teenage son who does not want to have a Bar Mitzvah. Often, we see the same events from different points of view in different chapters and the actual time frame of the story might become confused. Towards the end of the novel we discover that the famous TV programme Jacob has been privately working on is, in reality, a retelling of his family’s story, so I wondered if this was a book, within a book… There are also many Yiddish terms used that although have been incorporated into English in the US might not be so familiar to readers in other places (although they might be known from TV, and if reading the electronic version there’s always the dictionary at hand).

The characters are easily identifiable but not necessarily that easy to empathise with and might not have much in common with a large part of the readership. They all try their best, but fail often, find excuses for themselves, give up, and are less than heroic. They also lie and feel sorry for themselves, but at times are truly amazing and insightful. Overall. in the book there are funny and witty moments, there are sad moments, and there are moments that made me think. There are images and vignettes I don’t think I’ll ever forget, and reflections I’ll keep thinking about.

There are moments when reading this book that I was gripped by the power of the writing (and yes, at times it reminded me of other writers, like Philip Roth, but perhaps an older version of some of Roth’s earlier novels), and others when I wondered exactly where we were going, but I didn’t mind to be taken along for the ride.

This is not a novel for those who like functional writing that gets out of the way of the story and moves along at a good pace, rather than contemplating itself. But if you enjoy deeply subjective and introspective writing, and in-depth explorations of identity, relationship and what makes us human, I’d recommend it to you.

Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publishers for providing me with a copy of this book, thanks to all of you for reading, and please, like, share, comment and CLICK!

Oh, and the wonderful Marie Lavender has organised another of her multiauthor events, this time asking a number of writers: What does your writing look like? She’s been kind enough to ask me to take part. Here is the link to her post. I’m aware it will go live on the 11th of November afternoon (Eastern US coast time), so depending on when you’re reading this you might not be able to read it yet, but visit it later if you can, as I’m sure both readers and writers will find it interesting. Thanks!

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