Saturday, December 25, 2010

Persy -- Let It Snow

Merry Christmas everyone! Hope everyone had a wonderful day (it's SNOWING where I live! Snow on Christmas is a miracle at my locale)!

Let It Snow is a Christmas anthology containing three stories by John Green (Paper Towns, An Abundance of Katherines), Maureen Johnson (Devilish, Key To The Golden Firebird), and Lauren Myracle (TTYL, Twelve). I originally read it in the Summer of last year, because I was reading all of Maureen Johnson's work (that woman is amazing) and I'd finished all her actual books. So this Christmas I decided to actually read it on Christmas.

Maureen Johnson's story, The Jubilee Express, is first. Jubilee (yes, she knows her name is strange, and no, she's not a stripper) was all set on going to her boyfriend Noah's Christmas smorgasborg, but then her parents get arrested (long story), so she's put on a train to Florida to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas with her grandparents. But the train doesn't make it because of the snow storm, and Jubilee finds herself stranded at a Waffle House in a small town called Gracetown. In the Waffle House, she meets Stuart, who invites her home so she won't have to spend Christmas in a Waffle House with a gazillion cheerleaders (also long story). Hijinks ensue, and Jubilee wonders if she'll get a Merry Christmas after all.

Next is John Green's A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle, in which Tobin's parents are stuck in Boston because they can't get a flight home. Tobin is all ready to spend his Christmas Eve having a James Bond marathon with two of his best friends, JP and the Duke (who is actually a girl). But then their other friend calls and tells them about all the cheerleaders in the Waffle House, and it becomes a mad race to get there with a crucial game of twister. A hilarious struggle ensues, during which Tobin realizes something about the Duke and the Duke gets more than just hash browns.

And last, but not least, comes Lauren Myracle's story, The Patron Saint of Pigs. Addie broke up with her boyfriend, Jeb, just a week ago, so her Christmas isn't going very well (she gets her hair chopped off and dyes it pink, for starters). While having a fight with her two friends (who both tactfully hint that Addie might be a bit self-centered), she promises to pick up her friend's new pet pig from the pet store the day after Christmas. But things start happening, and Addie forgets until it's almost too late, and the pig has disappeared. Does she really always make it about herself? Addie starts to have a Christmas epiphany...

Maureen Johnson's was, naturally, my favorite story (she's one of my favorite authors for a reason). Then, following the chronological order, I liked John Green's, and finally Lauren Myracle's. But what makes this anthology really great is how all three stories are connected. They all happen in the same place (Gracetown), and they're all the result of the train wreck.

Admittedly, it's a bit late for you to read this around Christmas, but it's still good no matter what time of year you read it. It's a lot of fun, the characters are smart and developed, and each story could stand by itself (though being together makes them even better). Whether it's Christmas or not, these are great stories.

Merry Christmas!

P.S. I CANNOT get over the snow!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Arty -- Comes A Horseman by Robert Liparulo

A possible serial killer who decapitates his victims. An Italian politician who desperately wants - needs - more power. And... Antichrist.

How in the world are these all connected? You'll just have to read it and see, because I honestly cannot sum it up.

The main characters - Brady Moore and Alicia Wagner, two FBI agents who are trying to make sense of the grisly murders of five people. The victims are completely different; there are no obvious similarities to give the serial killer theory credit. But, of course, Brady and Alicia keep trying to uncover the mystery... and find themselves in the middle of Vatican secrets and prophecies thousands of years old.

Sound complicated yet? There's way more.

I have to admit, I'm a huge fan of Liparulo just from reading his Dreamhouse Kings series (a YA six-book series that I simply cannot plug enough - it's that good). So I had high hopes for him, despite this being a Christian adult novel. I've said in two previous reviews that I don't usually hold much hope for those. Even now, I'm not sure if I like it just because I have a special place for Liparulo in my heart and my library, or if it was really good. But I'm pretty sure it was the latter.

Crime procedurals are standard Christian fic material; add in some Satanic cults and spiritual warfare as well as physical, and that still accounts for a lot of bad-review fodder. And no, Comes A Horseman isn't the pinnacle of originality. But it's just good. Liparulo's style is clear and interesting (though maybe not as punchy as Ted Dekker). The pace is usually good, keeping it along at a quick but not rushed pace.

The characters are good, too. You have Brady, a guy still neck-deep in grief for his dead wife, hanging on only for his nine-year-old son Zach (who, by the way, is adorable). Alicia is a gung-ho gal who tends to remind one of the Energizer Bunny. Of course, you have the hints of romance between the two. But it's realistic, taking a back seat to the action; or, rather, it enhances the action by giving the two characters someone else to fight for and not just fawn over.

Another note on characters - the author is not afraid to beat them up. I was practically groaning for Brady by the final ten chapters or so of the book.

I was starting to get worried by the last chapter; this novel just keep going and going, the action showing no sign of slowing down. And yes, the end was abrupt, and more than a little too easy. It wasn't quite the apocalypse I was hoping it to be. That might have been the point - I'm not sure.

Perhaps it won't win any awards, but Comes A Horseman is definitely a keeper for fans of Christian fic. And, even if you're 'too old' for YA, I strongly urge you to check out the Dreamhouse Kings series, beginning with House of Dark Shadows. Robert Liparulo, obviously, is not an author to be missed.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Persy -- Last Stop by Peter Lerangis

Six months ago, David Moore's father told his family "I'm going home", walked out, and wasn't heard from again. Since then, the Moore's have been something of celebrities, invited to talk shows and interviews to talk about David's father. David hates it. David just wants his dad back.

Then, one day while riding the "subrail", the train suddenly stops and the lights go out. Through the window, David can see a landing that definitely wasn't there before, and standing on the landing is his father. Before David can do anything, one man exits the train (dropping a business card as he does), David's father waves, and the train continues on its way.

With the help of his superstitious friend, David starts to unravel the curious mystery surrounding his father's disappearance and the strange visions on the subrail. And all throughout the journey, the Watchers are watching...

Which, I suppose, is why they're called the Watchers.

This story was intriguing and cryptic. It's quite short (I read it in less than an hour), but if it'd been longer and a little more detailed, it would've been amazing. But it's geared towards 9-12 year-olds, so it's only about a hundred pages and isn't high in the realistic scale.

I didn't like either of the main characters, but only because there was nothing special about either of them. They're just your generic main chars. I would've liked to know more about the Watchers themselves (you eventually figure out that the Watchers are the people making vague, imperious comments on the black pages), because at the end of the book you still don't know who the heck they are or what their purpose is.

But the ending was good. It was surprisingly surprising. I love a good plot twist, but only if it's done right, and I have to say, Peter Lerangis did it right.

All the books in the Watchers series seem to be about different people and different things, and I don't think they all even happen in the same place (and if you read Last Stop, you'll know what I mean by 'place'). But, unfortunately, I don't have access to any of the other Watchers books. So if you can find this one, I'd recommend it to science fiction fans, but just remember it's juvenile fiction. It shouldn't take you that long, though, so give it a go.