Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Angel Land

Title: Angel Land
Author: Victor J. Banis
Publisher: Regal Crest Enterprises – Quest Books
ISBN: 978-1-935053-05-7
Genre: Fiction/Adventure/Futuristic
Website: http://www.vjbanis.com/

It doesn’t happen often to me that a book grabs me from the first sentence and holds my undivided attention until the final sentence, but that is exactly what Angel Land did to me. I read into the early morning hours, and I just couldn’t put the book down until I finished, and even though I finished, the story is still with me. That is the hallmark of a great writer.

Angel Land is a futuristic tale of the former United States, which have broken into the Fundamental Christian Territories. The Fundamental Christians are a totalitarian regime who have declared Catholics, Baptists and Jews as heretics. The “Fundies” force gay people into walled ghettos, known as Zones of Perversion, and keep them in line by providing the only medication for the one disease that everyone in the ghetto has acquired - the Sept virus, a deadly mutation of the 20th Century’s AIDS virus.

Thrown into the ghetto of Angel Land, the oldest of the territories, Harvey Milk Walton is seen as a possible savior to some, and as trouble to others. Will he live up to his namesake and find a way to get word to the free states and the world about the evil of the Fundies? Will he open his heart and do the one thing he has decided can never happen - fall in love? These are just some of the questions that will keep you turning the pages of Angel Land.

This is an amazing book with humorous moments, yet also a disturbing book as well. Many of the scenes are reminiscent of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, while other scenes remind us of the civil liberties that have disappeared in the past eight years. When people start committing evil acts in the name of God and religion, the world becomes a darker place for everyone.

I give Angel Land my highest recommendation, and I think it should be read by everyone.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Phoenix

Title: The Phoenix
Author: Ruth Sims
Genre: Historical, Romance, Gay Fiction
Publisher: Lethe Press; New Edition February 2009
ISBN-10 1590210468: ISBN-13: 978-1590210468
Website: http://www.ruthsims.com/

As someone who is not a fan of historical fiction, I’ll be the first to say that I’m glad that I put aside my dislike for the genre, and read The Phoenix. This was one of the best love stories that I’ve read in a long time.

The Phoenix is a complex love story between Kit St. Denys, the rich, artistic actor with a troubled past, and Nick Stuart, the chaste, conservative, religious physician. Kit St. Denys, born Jack Rourke, and twin to Michael, flees his brutally abusive father after his father kills Michael. Dirt poor, injured and frightened out of his wits, the teenaged Jack escapes to the local theatre where he works and encounters his friend, Lizbet. Lizbet takes him to stay with her wealthy cousin, Xavier St. Denys. It is there, with Xavier, that Jack Rourke rises like the Phoenix and becomes Kit St. Denys. As he enters manhood, handsome, amiable and rich, he encounters the Puritanical Nick Stuart, who grew up in an extremely oppressive religious household. There is an instant attraction, and the two begin an intimate, but forbidden, love affair. Nick is the only man who can keep Kit’s nightmares about his troubled past at bay. The big problem that Kit battles in his love for Nick is his unwillingness to share Nick with God. Misunderstandings and hurt feelings abound, and the “couple” go their separate ways, only to find one another later in New York, with Nick married with a baby on the way.

The hellish nightmares continue to haunt Kit, culminating with a bloody battle with his past. Will Nick be able to save the love of his life from himself? Will Kit ever be able to bury his troubled past? Will Nick’s wife see through his fa├žade and realize that Nick and Kit are in love? A roller coaster ride of emotions ensues, and multiple lives will never be the same. Not until the last chapter will you find out if the Phoenix rises yet again.

The Phoenix is a well-constructed love story with a solid plot. The main characters are so well-defined that you will get a clear, indelible picture of both Kit and Nick, and the minor characters advance the plot exceptionally well. The author did an excellent job of weaving a tightly knit plot and bringing everything to a final resolution.

From the first page to the last paragraph, I was hooked on this novel. I wasn’t exactly a fan of Kit’s until he faced his demons in New York, but after that he had me in his corner. I lost a few hours sleep reading this book because I didn’t want to put it down, but it was well worth it. Definitely one of the better books I’ve read this year. I give The Phoenix my highest recommendation.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rain Fall

Title: Rain Fall
Author: Barry Eisler
Genre: Action/Suspense
Publisher: Signet
ISBN: 9780451209153
Website: www.barryeisler.com

Rain Fall is the first in the series of assassin-extraordinaire, John Rain. From the very first “hit” to the last, the reader will be enthralled with this intelligent thriller.

John Rain is a specialized assassin – he eliminates his targets by making their demises look as if they died of natural causes. Rain is an outsider wherever he goes. Half-American and half-Japanese, Rain was ostracized from the time he was born. Having served in Vietnam with the American military, Rain later moved to Japan, disillusioned and haunted by the past. With the skills that made him an excellent soldier, Rain channeled those skills, along with a mastery of the martial arts, to become an extremely efficient assassin. Developing feelings for the daughter of one of his victims was not part of his plan, but when emotions get involved, the best laid plans get thrown out the window.

Rain Fall is a book that is nearly impossible to put down. Filled with twists and turns, amazing martial arts fight scenes and intelligent characters, this page-turner is a must read for action/suspense fans. I give Rain Fall my highest recommendation.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Requiem For An Assassin


Title: Requiem For An Assassin
Author: Barry Eisler
Publisher: Onyx
ISBN: 978-0-451-41257-7
Genre: Action, Thriller
Website: http://www.barryeisler.com/

Requiem For An Assassin is a fast-paced, thrill-a-minute novel with modern day happenings all woven together to produce one hell of a book. The book is about assassin-extraordinaire, John Rain, and his tug-of-war battle within himself regarding his profession and the role his friends play in his life. In the beginning of the book, Rain is living a somewhat quiet life in semi-retirement in Paris, not far from his girlfriend, Delilah. As Rain is starting to accept his new life, his best friend Dox (a sniper colleague) is kidnapped. The kidnapper, an old enemy of Rain, tells him that he has to kill three targets, and then Dox will be set free. Rain knows he is lying, but he has to buy time to help his friend. Rain slips back into the life without any problems, and he goes about doing whatever is necessary to help his friend, even though he knows he might be being set up to be eliminated. Will Rain and Dox survive, and if Rain survives, will he forever be lost to himself and the darkness that is within?

This book has it all: romance, action, adventure, cool gadgets and great characters. The plot is tight and the dialogue is excellent – funny in one scene, and cold/ruthless in another. Rain’s emotional, internal struggle is palpable. If you want intense, pulse-pounding action mixed with a fair share of angst, this is the book to buy. I’ve read quite a few books this year, and this is definitely one of my favorites. I give Requiem For An Assassin my highest recommendation.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Devil's Bridge

Title: Devil’s Bridge
Author: Greg Lilly
Publisher: Regal Crest Enterprises, LLC
ISBN: 978-1-932300-78-9
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Gay Fiction

Devil’s Bridge is an intricately woven tale of suspense that will keep the reader wanting to read more. It is a story of two thirty-something people who have been friends since high school. Myra and Topher became friends in high school – she being the slightly unattractive girl, and he being the ostracized gay boy. Their friendship grew deeper and finally into a deeply platonic love which saved them from themselves and the bad choices they made in their romantic partners.

In the span of a few months, they both come to the conclusion that they need a new start. Topher is running from an indifferent lover who wouldn’t reciprocate Topher’s love, and Myra is fleeing from her abusive, and possibly murderous, husband Gil. They decide to run away and start a new life together, but Myra’s husband is not willing to let her go so easily. Vengeance is found at a place called Devil’s Bridge.

This is truly a wonderful book. It is a page-turner that builds to a suspenseful climax, with the reader encouraging and cheering on the battered woman and her best friend (who would do anything to keep her safe.) The plot is tight, the characters believable, and the dialogue is modern. I honestly couldn’t put this book down, and therefore I give it my highest recommendation. You won’t be disappointed with Devil’s Bridge.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Jack's Life: The Life Story of C.S. Lewis

Title: Jack’s Life: The Life Story of C.S. Lewis
Author: Douglas Gresham
Publisher: Broadman & Holman Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-8054-3246-6
Genre: Biography

While browsing on Amazon, I came across the name Douglas Gresham. Immediately I wondered whether it was the same Douglas Gresham portrayed in the movie Shadowlands, which just happens to be one of my favorite movies. I clicked on the name and up came the book Jack’s Life. I knew by that title that it was the person portrayed in the movie, and I knew that I had to get this book.

Jack’s Life is an excellent book about the life of C.S. Lewis, written by Lewis’ stepson, Douglas Gresham. The author met Lewis when he was eight years old, and he was part of Lewis’ life for ten years – up until Lewis’ death. Gresham provides a unique and unequaled perspective on the man who gave the world The Chronicles of Narnia and many other classic stories. Gresham also sets the record straight about the untruths of Lewis’ life that were portrayed in Shadowlands.

There are too many positive aspects of this book to possibly mention. C.S. Lewis, or “Jack” as he preferred to be called, was an amazing person who led an extraordinary life. I confess that I have never read anything by C.S. Lewis, but reading about his life has had a profound impact on me.

The only negative thing that I can say about the book is that Gresham sometimes comes off as preaching to the readers about what a good Christian should or shouldn’t do, but I easily overlooked those moments. If you are a fan of C.S. Lewis, or the movie Shadowlands, then you are going to love this book. I highly recommend it.

Afterlife Crisis

Title: Afterlife Crisis
Author: Steve Mayfield
Publisher: Synergy Books
ISBN: 978-1-934454-24-4
Genre: Spiritual Fiction
Release Date: 9/1/08
Website: http://www.afterlifecrisis.com/

Afterlife Crisis is a unique book about how our time on earth is seen in the afterlife, with a soundtrack of seven original songs included. The book is a fast read, with only 137 pages (not including the soundtrack lyrics.)

I’m not a fan of books about the afterlife, or all the new age stuff out there. I found this book stretching, and almost breaking at times, the limits of my imagination, but as a reviewer, I put aside my own personal beliefs and judge a book by its content. The author has a very fertile imagination about what happens when we leave this life, and I think that there is quite a market out there for Afterlife Crisis. The book kept me thinking of it as a sort of imaginative mixture of “A Christmas Carol” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The plot was easy to follow and the main character was very likeable.

As far as the spiritual fiction genre goes, this book will be well-received.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Second Chance

Title: Second Chance
Author: Joy Collins
Publisher: iUniverse
ISBN: 978-0-45602-4
Genre: Mainstream, Contemporary
Websites: http://www.joycollins.com/ & http://www.secondchancenovel.com/

Second Chance is a complex story with interweaving subplots. It is about the trials and tribulations of a woman stuck in the “sandwich generation.” Sara Weber has a seemingly perfect life and marriage, at least up until the time her stepdaughter moves in, bringing with her all of her problems. Sara is now faced with the reality of not only having to deal with a college-age-party-girl stepdaughter, but also with the ex-wife who epitomizes the word “bitch,” and who could have garnered several Oscars for her drama queen moments. Add to that a spineless, non-confrontational husband who appeases his ex-wife to the detriment of his wife’s feelings, an ever increasing senile mother, and a stepmother of her own who may have kept her from her own father, and you get one fantastic novel.

Sara’s emotions run the gamut as she is condemned for her actions, whether good or bad – right or wrong. When Sara’s stepdaughter moves in to go to the nearby college, Sara doesn’t know whether to try to be a stepmother to the young lady or to emotionally keep her distance. She did not want to have to deal with the evil ex-wife and all of her machinations, but she wanted to get to know her husband’s only child. When the stepdaughter moves in and Sara sees the father/daughter relationship (however complicated it might be), she finds herself having to deal with her own complicated memories of her own father, mother and stepmother. While all the drama of the stepdaughter/husband/ex-wife is playing out under her roof in Arizona, Sara has to deal with placing her senile mother in a nursing home back East. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, an attorney for Sara’s deceased father calls Sara’s sister. The attorney has information that causes a great deal of confusion, and the only person with answers is Sara’s own stepmother (a woman she hasn’t seen or spoken to in thirty years.) The answers Sara’s stepmother possesses hold the key that opens Sara’s eyes to the reality of her life. Will there be a second chance?

I liked that the novel was narrated by Sara. I actually laughed out loud at some of Sara’s unspoken witty quips. It was laugh out loud funny at moments, and poignant at others. I found it very easy to relate to Sara and the mess she found herself in, even though I have never had such experiences.

Second Chance is a well-constructed story with a solid plot and excellent subplots. All of the characters were incredibly contemporary and real, and the minor characters advanced the plot very well. There are a lot of comparisons to be made of the characters’ actions, and it is interesting to see how the choices that were made affected many lives. The author did a stellar job of weaving a tightly knit plot and bringing everything to a final resolution.

I was hooked from the first page, and I could not wait to see what twist and turn was coming next. Therefore, I highly recommend this book.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Orientation

Title: Orientation
Author: Rick R. Reed
Publisher: Amber Quill Press, LLC
ISBN: 978-1602729377
Genre: Paranormal, Gay
Website: http://www.rickrreed.com/

Orientation is the first book that I have read that involves love, reincarnation and a murder plot. It is about falling in love with someone without the presence of passion and physical love. Being truly loved, even without the romance and passion, can transcend the need for physical love between two people. The love between Robert, the gay, aging, sugar-daddy, millionaire heir with a distaste for confrontation, and Jess, the young, artistic, twentysomething lesbian is both deep and meaningful. They fill a void in each other that no one else can.

Robert and Jess knew from the moment that they met that some guiding force had pushed the two together. Could the guiding force be Keith, Robert's deceased lover who succumbed to AIDS in the early days of the disease? The timing is also very significant. Was Robert sent to save Jess, or was Jess sent to save Robert?

Christmas plays a big part in the story, with most of the action occurring on three separate Christmas holidays - 24 years apart. One Christmas holiday is very tragic and heartbreaking, another is potentially fatal, while yet another makes one believe in the magic of the holidays.

I thought this book was magnificent and very poignant. I'm not one who goes for the supernatural or who believes in reincarnation, but I was thoroughly impressed by the way in which the author made it work, and dare I say (within the confines of this book) it was believable. Orientation is definitely a roller coaster ride of emotions from the first page to the last. If you enjoy a good love story, mixed with a fair share of angst, go ahead and buy this book. You won't be disappointed.