Sunday, November 9, 2014

'The Eye of Zoltar (The Chronicles of Kazam #3)'

By now, most of you know that I love any book written by Jasper Fforde, he of the immensely popular 'Thursday Next' series.  And you should know that I'm a huge fan of his series for independent readers, 'The Chronicles of Kazam'.

So, Book Hog is a happy camper.  I just finished reading the newest (and third) in the 'Kazam' series, 'The Eye of Zoltar', and while it contains Fforde's trademark silliness, it is a bit more serious than the previous books.  

Sixteen-year-old Jennifer Strange, manager of Kazam Mystical Arts, is placed in a very precarious position.  Just as she finds herself on the cusp of a romantic relationship with Preston, a young wizard, the long-absent Mighty Shandar appears and commands her to find the Eye of Zoltar, and if she brings it to him, he will not kill the remaining dragons she saved in 'The Last Dragonslayer'.

But Jennifer has a headache in the person of Princess Shazzine, daughter of King Snodd. Shazzine is spoiled, unpredictable, and used to being waited on hand-and-foot, so her mother, Queen Mimosa (who is still a great magician) decides that Jennifer should take Shazzine with her on her quest to teach her about the realities of life.  

The journey through the Cambrian Empire is full of hardship and hazards, but with the aid of Addie, tour guide extraordinaire, Jennifer and her companions remain faithful to the task at hand...despite the prophecy that 50% of her companions will die. 

Author Jasper Fforde
Fforde's writing never fails to astound me.  Full of wit and charm, he still has the magic touch.  Jennifer Strange is a character I cheer on with every book, and with her servitude almost at an end, I'm anxious to find out just where she ends up.  Although I did miss reading more about the wizards working for Kazam Mystical Arts, this new journey that Jennifer undertakes introduced me to characters that I'm sure he'll include in upcoming books.

Yes, upcoming books.  This new one leaves the series wide open for a fourth book.

Although I really miss Thursday Next, Jennifer Strange is a welcome addition to his line-up of strong female characters.  And, believe it or not, that spoiled princess surprised the hell out me.

Carry on, Jasper, but don't make me wait very long. 

'The Eye of Zoltar', book 3 in 'The Chronicles of Kazam' series by Jasper Fforde, is published by Houghton Mifflin, and is available in your local library and favorite independent bookstore!  ISBN 978-0-547-73849-9

Saturday, November 8, 2014

'The Enchanted'

There comes a time when a quiet novel comes into our lives and blows away our perspective.

'The Enchanted', by Rene Denfeld, is that story.

Quiet, full of fantasy, full of full-blown human horror, and in a place I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy...unless they committed a crime so horrendous that that is the only place I'd want them to be.

It takes place on 'Death Row'.  It's full of sorrowful narrative perspective, although you wonder if the narrator is really attached to each and every scene.  It's quiet, and sad, and yet there is a tinge of light to it.

The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison.  Two outsiders walk here:  A woman only known as 'The Lady', and a fallen priest.  The Lady comes to the prison to help those who are condemned to death.  The priest counsels those who have exceeded their appeals.

The Lady takes on the case of York, a killer who wants to die.  Although he's expressed his wishes to her, The Lady will not give up.  But she finds his secrets and discovers that they are very close to her own.  The Lady is watched by a death row inmate, a man who loses himself in books, a man who cannot live without them.  He imagines golden horses under the prison, and by imagining the world in which he lives, he thrives alone within himself.

Author Rene Denfeld
This is a quiet debut.  Powerful and imaginative, it contains horrors that few of us can relate to.  It is called a 'fantasy', but it is so much more.  It goes beyond the realm of fantasy, until it takes us back to the horror we call 'real life'.

Denfeld is a writer to watch.

I guarantee it.

'The Enchanted', published by HarperCollins, is available at your local library and favorite independent bookstore.  ISBN 978-0-06-228550-8

Sunday, November 2, 2014

'The Damned'

During the Halloween season, there's nothing better than snuggling under a blanket and reading a spooky-scary book.  If you share a home with someone who has football on the television 24/7, you can always retreat to a hot bath or the bedroom.  That is, if you can stand the presence of....cats.  Yes, cats.  Mine have been a bit too present lately.  No matter where I rest, no matter how much I'm 'into' a book, my feline crew (a.k.a. 'The Evil Plan Bureau') always finds a way to distract me.

But not this time.  Although they tried every trick in the book (reaching over and putting a paw on a page, or grooming themselves on my stomach {a.k.a. 'The Cat's Dressing Room'}), I could not be distracted from my current read.

And it's a goodie.

Andrew Pyper, author of the soon-to-be-published novel, 'The Damned', has presented me with a story so full of intensity that I had the book beside me almost all the time.  But I didn't race through it.  I took my time, savoring every horror, every twist and turn.  I ran with the narrator into his adventures in the afterlife.

Yeah, the Afterlife.  You see, he died and came back.  A few times, in fact.  But he wasn't alone, and that's what made his next journey to the Hereafter a bit more meaningful.

Danny Orchard wrote a bestselling memoir about his near-death experience in a fire that claimed the life of his twin sister, Ashleigh.  Despite the fact that his book has brought him fame and fortune, he is not content, and he never will be.  His twin won't let him.

During her time on earth, Ashleigh was brilliant, beautiful...and a budding psychopath.  She terrorized her friends and family, and death has not changed her ways.  Haunting Danny for close to twenty years, she does not want him to finally enjoy life with his new wife and his stepson.  Ash is punishing Danny for being alive, so much so that she wants him to join her in her eternal hell. When he decides to end matters with his twin, he's prepared to sacrifice his life for those he loves...but will he make it back this time?

Author Andrew Pyper
Pyper is the author of the hugely popular novel, 'The Demonologist', and while I gave it a go, I couldn't get into it. But this new one grabbed my attention.  With a tight narrative and nerve-rattling scenes, it will astound you with it's simplicity.  It moves, it flows.

It will keep you under that blanket, reading.

And no cat will have the power to disturb you.

'The Damned' will be published by Simon and Schuster on February 10, 2015. You'll be able to find it at your local library and favorite independent bookstore.