Review: The Ancient Tripod of Peace

Why am I reviewing a young adult mystery here? Well, it’s about an ancient artifact and modern-day code breakers. How could I not want to read this??

This is my second recent review here and I hope to do more. See the end of this post for details about my review policy.

 

My Review Summary: This is a fun read that will keep you turning pages and have you googling Shakespeare and ancient Greek history. As a YA novel, I give it a solid 4.0/5. My full review appears later in this post.

About this book: Teens Lexi and Gil face relic-thieving secret societies. Plagued by loneliness in her Lake Erie Islands community, vegan Lexi hopes to make like-minded friends in high school. But her dad’s job is jeopardized when relics are stolen from his museum, changing her priorities. And she finds her new teachers’ eerie dislike of her troubling.

His dad in jail, cipher enthusiast and bacon-loving Gil hopes freshman year will provide a clean slate. Soon, he discovers secret codes within a Shakespearean play while paired with Lexi, pulling him into an ancient mystery.

 

With the official museum burglary investigation stalled, the mismatched teen sleuths join forces to try and crack the case. Lexi’s inquiries and Gil’s codes capture their teachers’ attention. But these teachers have the stolen Tripod of Peace, a powerful relic sought by rival secret societies. Caught in these societies’ crossfire as thieves wield an instrument of astounding power, Gil and Lexi are in danger.

 

About the author: Kalen Cap is a writer living in Ohio and regularly commutes back and forth between Columbus and Port Clinton residences. Set among the Lake Erie Islands, “The Ancient Tripod of Peace” is his second novel, first of the Teen Thief-Catcher series. His first novel, “Tangled Ties to a Manatee,” was published in 2012.

Learn more about this author at his website, on Amazon, and on his Facebook page TeenThiefCatchers.

Giveaway:  Kalen Cap be awarding a $40 Amazon or Barnes & Noble Gift Certificate to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Learn more and register to win.

My full review: (See my summary at the start of this post.)

More than anything, this books seems like Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons) for young adults. It’s full of ancient secrets hidden in plain sight and the reader is left wondering how much is true and how much has been made up to serve the plot. It’s a fun kind of confusion, and it kept me eagerly reading until the end.

What I liked best:

  1. The book is filled with complicated characters, both teen-age and adult. It centers on teenagers who are realistically drawn, as they deal with their own issues and those created by the adults in their lives.
  2. The author presents a lot of mystical and new age ideas, and yet structures the plot in way to leave the reader free to believe in as little or as much of them as the reader chooses. It’s a tough balancing act, but by the end it works.
  3. The overall plot is interesting and the dangers feel real. It’s not a story which tries to trick the reader with gotcha-type surprises, but rather one that builds in complexity and then reaches a satisfying resolution.

What I liked least:

  1. I felt the chapter titles gave away too much of what was about to happen.
  2. The decoded message and other parts of the mystery occasionally become too complex to follow.
  3. There were enough characters, referred to by first and last names, that I had to start a list so I could remember who was who.
  4. A few issues were resolved too easily or things came together a little too well, even for a novel in this genre.

In spite of these minor issues, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to those of all ages who like tales of hidden codes, ancient relics and resurfaced mysteries from the past.

Purchase this book at Amazon

The excerpt I liked best:

Lexi hadn’t met any vegan guys her age, only girls. “Want to join me and Anita later?”

“Sure. I’ll try it out,” Trevor agreed.

“We only have a day to find our code for this topic,” Gil said. “Let’s focus on the project. I don’t want to start out locked in with something weak.”

The three read the project description again. Lexi felt clueless. She asked the others how to begin.

Gil said the topic related well to his social science fair project the year before on secret codes in writing.

Lexi rolled her eyes. From the way Gil told it, the project was designed for him. Full of yourself maybe?

Trevor said he spent part of a summer in Greece the year before when his father ran workshops there. There, he’d learned about ancient Greek history. Lexi didn’t mind as much when Trevor made it sound like his experiences aligned with the project. Unlike Gil’s, Trevor’s voice soothed her.

Trevor and Gil both stared at her expectantly. She blushed, first believing they were checking her out. But she soon realized they wanted to hear her special connection to the project topic.

“My grandmother usually teaches history here, too. She gave the opening talk at assembly. Oh, and my granddad’s an actor. He used to be a professional and acted in lots of Shakespeare. They can give me pointers,” Lexi said. My grandparents? That’s my “in” on the project? I’m such a loser. She was determined to not be the weakest link in the group.

This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions.

Read more reviews at:

May 14: Notes From a Romantic’s Heart
May 14: Andi’s Young Adult Books
May 21: Lauren is Reading
May 28: Kimmi Love
May 28: Just Books
June 4: Bookaholic

If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning the $40 gift certificate.

If you are interested in a review from me:

I am interested reading science fiction of all sorts, particularly anything involving the nature of time. My protagonist in z2 is a history-loving, time-warping high school physics teacher, so I am predisposed to stories that feature physics or have an historical element as well.

I am not interested in reviewing pure romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review erotica, BDSM or books about vampires or zombies.

If you would like to be considered for a review contact me at Alex (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

Final Note:  I received a free pdf of this book, which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.

Review: Duke du Jour

This is my first review here in a while. I hope to do more of this, so see the end of this post for details about my review policy. Why review this book here? It’s a time travel romance, and on this blog I love all things related to the nature of time.

Review Summary: This is a rich and complicated book, fun on so many levels. It is packed with historical intrigue, a surprising amount of humor, and a romance that manages not to be predictable thanks to the time travel factor. I give it a 4.2/5. Details are below.

About this book: This is a reverse Kate and Leopold story, a light-hearted time travel romance where a bewildered modern-day duke ends up in Regency England and meets the girl of his dreams. Jared Langley, present-day Duke of Reston, tumbles into an abandoned fountain on his ducal estate and travels back in time to the year 1816. There, Reston servants and local villagers think him a dead ringer for his namesake and rakehell ancestor–the seventh Duke of Reston, gone missing at the Battle of Waterloo. Unfortunately, Seven got mixed up with French spies out to assassinate the Duke of Wellington, and an unwary Jared ends up in their crosshairs.

Lady Ariana Hart has loved Jared Langley, the seventh Duke of Reston, since she was twelve years old, until the night the rogue broke her heart. Given up for dead, her rakish neighbor makes a miraculous return from Waterloo–only Jared shows up a changed man and reignites all the feelings Ariana had long ago buried.

Jared is in a race against time. He must waylay the suspicions of his quirky servants and neighbors, get to Wellington before the French spies do, fix his fountain–before Seven shows up–so Jared has a way home, and definitely not fall in love with the irresistible Lady Ariana.

About the author: Petie McCarty spent a large part of her career working at Walt Disney World — “The Most Magical Place on Earth” — where she enjoyed working in the land of fairy tales by day and creating her own romantic fairy tales by night, including her new series, The Cinderella Romances. She eventually said good-bye to her “day” job to write her stories full-time. These days Petie spends her time writing sequels to her regency time-travel series, Lords in Time, and her cozy-mystery-with-elements-of-romantic-suspense series, the Mystery Angel Romances. Petie shares her home on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee with her horticulturist husband, a spoiled-rotten English Springer spaniel addicted to pimento-stuffed green olives, and a noisy Nanday conure named Sassy who made a cameo appearance in Angel to the Rescue.  Visit Petie’s web site online at http://www.petiemccarty.com or her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/petie.mccarty.

Giveaway:  Petie McCarty will be awarding an ebook copy of Betting on Cinderella by Petie McCarty (US and International) to three randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour. Learn more and register to win.

My full review: There was so much I liked about this book.

What I liked best:

  1. It’s filled with details that bring 1816 alive, from doctors with leeches to crowded inns for travelers. The author doesn’t write a love story that happens to take place in 1816, she takes you there. While I didn’t check her facts about the war between France and England, given the amount of information woven into this story, I’m willing to bet it was well researched.
  2. The book is full of corny little jokes, from the ongoing surely/Shirley shtick to the aptly named Mr. Dickman. I like a book that can laugh at itself, and get you to laugh too.
  3. It has a plot worthy of a Russian novel. Seriously, there is war, betrayal, long lost relatives, both loyal and scheming servants, and, of course, a dog. Did I mention gunfights, kidnapping, and romance? Yes, it has those too.  There is even a little brooding now and then. This is complex novel, and the plot will keep you reading.
  4. It has something of a social conscience. The main character develops into a better person, and you can’t help but cheer for this guy as he develops a sense of responsibility, and learns to appreciate friendship, all while lusting after his leading lady.

What I liked least:

  1. While the historical piece of this is strong, and the narrative is well done, the time travel part is weak.  The magic fountain that facilitates the time travel is not explained at all, by either magic or science. The author handles the inevitable “can I go back and change history?” question in her own way, but by the end of the book it doesn’t appear she has given the logical or philosophical quandaries involved in her solution a lot of thought. No spoilers here, I’ll just say that as a science fiction reader, I wasn’t satisfied.
  2. The main romantic interest is gorgeous, of course, and also smart and spirited. You can’t help but like her. None-the-less,  she and the other young women in the novel are cheated a little, I think. Unlike the Duke, our virginal leading Lady Ari doesn’t get the chance to grow into a better person, only to learn to forgive and trust our hero. That is pretty much her entire story arc, making the book about him, not her. The other women in the story (except for the old cook and the aunt) are lusty and sexually experienced, presented in this novel as an unattractive thing. They are also evil and conniving. Guess I would have liked to have seen a little female friendship, too, and at least a nod to healthy female sexuality.

In spite of those flaws, I enjoyed this book a lot and would recommend it to lovers of history or romance novels. If you happen to like both, I think you won’t be able to put this book down.

Purchase this book at Amazon

The excerpt I liked best:

Jared quietly closed the door and snicked the feeble lock into place.
“That wouldn’t keep a child out,” he muttered.
“Are you worried Dexter can get past the lock?” Ari asked, her cheeks flushing bright pink.
“Now, you are going to accuse me of ungentlemanly behavior, too?”
Even the dim candlelight could not hide the guilt in her eyes. “I am sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“You’re right. I have given you no reason to think—”
She raised skeptical brows.
“Well, except for those few kisses.” He cleared his throat. “You liked them, too. You cannot deny it.”
Her lips twitched as she fought back the smile that angered him for some reason, and he felt like an errant schoolboy and probably looked like one with his brows indignantly bunched.
“No, I cannot deny it.”
Instead of feeling smug at being right, her words sent his blood racing to places off-limits—at least for now.
“But that doesn’t mean—”
He held up a hand. “Please, no more swipes at my character. I’ve had all I can take this evening.”
She snapped her lips together, then grinned.
“Best take your boots off to be comfortable.” She opened her mouth to object again, and he added, “Since you are unlikely to remove anything else with the two of us locked in here.”
The opportunity to tease him in his misery must have overwhelmed her. “Well, actually I could, but I won’t.”
He groaned. “Do not leave me with that particular movie running in my head and my two-hour first watch to face.”
“Movie? What do you mean? What is a—”
“Did I say movie? I meant movement,” he said before she could finish. He scrubbed a palm over his face. His head had begun to ache.
“Are you all right?”
“Fine,” he bit out. “Just leave—”
“Leave you alone? Fine.” She went over and sat on the bed.
“What I was going to say was just leave your boots by the bed. Close by in case we need to leave in a hurry.”
“That is a lie, but it was sweet of you to be concerned about my feelings. The old Jared wouldn’t have given a baker’s tart about them. Or any other kind.” She giggled at her own humor.
“What’s so funny?”
“Oh nothing. Just that we seem to have made a mull of things, I suppose.”
“I do not see anything funny about it,” he grumbled.
“You wouldn’t, but I cannot get these boots off without help. They belong to Aidan, our stable boy, and the fit is a bit too tight.”
“Yes, of course.”
Jared came over and knelt next to the bed, then took her booted foot in his hand. He swore he could feel the warmth of her leg right through the leather, but that was impossible. Tell that to the blood raging through his veins and heading south, like the River Kennet at flood stage.

This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions.

Read more reviews at:

Emily Carrington
Long and Short Reviews
Two Ends of the Pen
Am Kinda Busy Reading
A Chick Who Reads
Harlie’s Books
Let me tell you a story
Kit ‘N Kabookle

If you are interested in a review from me:

One of my resolutions is to review more books here. I am interested reading science fiction of all sorts, and am particularly interested in anything involving the nature of time. My protagonist in z2 is a history-loving, time-warping high school physics teacher, so I am predisposed to stories that feature physics or have an historical element as well.

I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, pure romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review BDSM erotica or books about vampires or zombies.

If you would like to be considered for a review contact me at Alex (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

Individual Author Links:
http://www.petiemccarty.com
https://www.facebook.com/petie.mccarty
https://twitter.com/authorpetie
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6094579.Petie_McCarty
http://www.amazon.com/author/petiemccarty
https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephanie-mccarty-30851412

Final Note:  I received a free pdf of this book, which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.

“To Say Nothing of the Dog” and what I learned from Connie Willis

When I picked up my own pen to start writing fiction in late 2010, I quickly discovered that I couldn’t read the novels of others while I was writing my own. Just couldn’t. This was a real problem because reading books was my favorite pastime. I moved on to flash faction, to playing online word games, and to losing myself in the worlds I was creating. So it was a big deal a few weeks ago when I finished d4 and left for a two week vacation with my family and decided that after almost four years it was high time I read a book for the sheer fun of it.

I chose Connie Willis’ “To Say Nothing of the Dog” which I had bought for my travel friendly Kindle. It had been on my list for years. Her award winning short story “Daisy in the Sun” remains one of my favorites ever and what could provide more vacation reading pleasure than a book described as a “comedic romp through an unpredictable world of mystery, love, and time travel.” Too bad I did not enjoy the book.

walk talk 4It’s well written, of course. Willis is an accomplished teller of tales. Part of the problem might be that I’m a more critical reader these days, and part of it might be that my expectations were too high. But mostly,  I was reminded how much the reading of a novel is an interaction between two people. There isn’t just a book. There is chemistry between the book and the mind of the reader and the problem here is that Connie Willis and I don’t have enough chemistry together to get through a whole novel.

She’s fascinated by Victorian England. A lot of people share this obsession, as the whole steam punk genre proves. I don’t particularly, and I had no idea that the novel would be so deeply rooted in it. I also seem to lack the genes for fascination with World War Two and with Napoleon, either of which would have helped. I am fascinated by the history of lots of other things, mind you, like mountain climbing in the Himalayas and sailing in the south Pacific and you’ve got my full attention for anything about the Mayans, or the Druids. Not a trace of these were to be found, however,  just endless riffs on butlers, chaperones and appropriate cutlery. There were also far more details about an old English cathedral than I was prepared to absorb.

My favorite part of the book involved an intellectual feud between two history professors about whether individual actions could affect the course of history. It was funny, and it showed how silly we all can be when we adhere blindly to a our pet theories. This brings me to the second problem between me and Ms. Willis.

I really, truly do not like her approach to time travel. I winced when I saw the movie “Back to the Future” long ago, explaining to anyone who would listen how you can’t go back in history and change things. You can’t kill your grandfather and then fade into nothingness. You can’t kill off Stalin and destroy the space time continuum. If you can somehow find a way to go back in time then by definition you are on another time line when you get there. You now live in another universe. Kill off who you please, including people who appear to be your grandparents if you can find them, because it won’t affect the folks back in your own universe who created you. You are just an alien now, causing havoc in your new home maybe, but destroying nobody’s cosmos.

Most of the parts of “To Say Nothing of the Dog” that were not infatuated with Victorian courtship were all about saving the universe from the misdeeds of other time travelers lest the whole universe unravel. “No!” I screamed, just like one of Willis’ pedantic professors. “You’ve got it all wrong! It doesn’t work that way.” The people on the beach just ignored me.

I finished the book feeling quite disappointed, and turned to the other science fiction fan in my family to vent my frustration. Turns out he read “To Say Nothing of the Dog” a few years ago. He really enjoyed it. What was my problem?

Even though Connie Willis did not give me the fun read I hoped for, she may have given me something better. She helped me to understand why some readers really seem to like my work and others are not impressed. I’ve received enough of both kinds of reviews now to know that it’s not just me. Ms. Willis has me thinking that it is also not just them. It’s me and the reader together, and the ways that our interests and philosophies compliment each other, or don’t.

 

 

Try not to care about reviews? Yeah, right …..

Jeffrey KeenI’ve read a lot of discussion lately about how reviews are meant for other readers, not for the writer of the work that is being reviewed. I understand the point, of course, but think that almost anyone who pours their heart and soul out for months (or years) into a book ends up craving some feedback. Sales only provide a cold, dry number, and if you’re self-published like I am, it will seldom be an encouraging one.  Friends and family can and will give opinions, but of course they are biased and usually they aren’t part of the target audience anyway.

A writer wants to know what total strangers, ones who like the kinds of books she writes, think about her book. So yes, reviews matter to a writer, whether they should or not.  I imagine they must mean as much to an actor, or a musician or anyone who puts themselves out there to entertain and amuse the world, and there is no way around that. Once a books has hundreds of reviews, I suppose that individual ones matter less. I hope some day to find out.

One knows that one shouldn’t respond to any review personally no matter how badly one wants to, and no matter how much the review has made your spirits soar or forced your mood into a deep abyss. I’ve been doing a virtual book tour with Reading Addiction Blog Tours these past few weeks and four reviews have been posted so far.

The first, on A Life Through Books, appeared on April 22nd and it begins with “This novel was quite surprising in the fact that it was much deeper than I was expecting from a Science Fiction novel. We are giving everything we love from a good Sci-Fi novel as well as focus on the deeper family/drama aspects of life.” Talk about a reason to jump for joy. “Yes, yes” I wanted to shout. “You got it. You understand.” But of course I didn’t shout anything. I try to be a well-behaved writer.

April 30 A Shelf Full of Books published a review that said “Z Squared is a multi-faceted novel not only about a teacher with the ability to manipulate the speed of time, but about the mystery of the treasure related to a Mayan artifact and racism with overtones of the Klu Klux Klan. There was definitely more to this novel than the synopsis implied.” Another reader who got it. I’m squirming in my chair now, but I’m still not saying anything.

May 1 Pure Jonel reviewed z2. She only gave it three stars (sigh) but her words were so positive that I hardly cared. Her review begins “What a unique story. It took me a bit to warm up to the story, but once I did I was hooked.” I’m so glad that she stuck it out!

Then yesterday Mommasez reviewed it and she said “Being interactive was the first highlight of this book. The second was that the story was so well-written and entertaining.” Okay at this point I have to do something. This is so exciting for me. So I figure one little blog post here, mentioning how happy these reviews make me, is surely within the bound of good taste.

(Thanks to writer Jeffrey Keen on Facebook for sharing the image above.)

Normal people

We have a 6 ft by 9 ft ledge in our house that sits over our front door and can only be accessed through an upstairs closet. It’s a small room, really, open on one side to the entry way and totally useless.  I’ve filled it with plants.  One day my son asked me “What would normal people do with a space like that?”

Not Normal

Not Normal

I’ve now had the privilege of having a few dozen complete strangers read and review my three novels.  Seeing my stories work, or not, through their eyes has been one of the most exciting things in my life.  I cannot begin to tell you what a growing experience this writing thing has been.  Sometimes a particular comment in a review overwhelms me, but none has more than the offhand remark of av0415 in her review of x0 on Library Thing.

“It’s quite different from normal books.” That’s just what she said.  “Normal books.”

It seems that with each novel I write, I have some sort of new personal confidence crisis.  I’m about 1/6 of the way into c3 (cee cubed), the fourth novel in this collection, and I am having my crisis already.  This one has to do with my writing style being too inaccessible. I change points of view too often and jump around too much and my last novel z2 took this even further than the first two books. I need to write more like everybody else.

So thank you, so very much, av0415 whoever you are. Thank you for reminding me of my son’s question long ago.  For although my son apologized quickly for any implied insult, he was astute enough to know how inwardly pleased I really was. Yes, I am happy that I don’t decorate like everyone else. Or dress or think or live in a way that is too easily described as normal.  And although I do want my books to be read and enjoyed by many, I am not trying to write them to be read and enjoyed by all. I need to remember that.

These aren’t normal books.  They aren’t written by a normal person. It’s okay. If your particular lack of normal has a common wavelength with mine, then you might enjoy these non-normal tales and that would be great.  But if you don’t, it’s fine too. We’re all not normal in our own way.

First Review for z2

Waiting for that first review to come from somewhere, anywhere, is one scary experience.
Luckily, z2 is off to a fine start, and I am posting fellow author Bob Craton’s review of z2 below.
I should add that I don’t know Bob personally, but I am a fan of his books, we’ve exchanged some emails on writing websites, and I very much appreciate that he seems to enjoy my books too.

Bob Craton‘s review is posted on Goodreads here and Amazon here.

Feb 06, 13
5 of 5 stars false
Read from February 01 to 05, 2013

I’m a big fan of this author’s first two books, ‘x0’ and ‘y1’, so it is no surprise that I love this third volume of the series. Once again she has put together a marvelous tale. I don’t know of anyone doing better in the genre of magical realism than she does. All of the books involve the fictional Zeitman family with a different member featured in each volume — Lola (wife/mother) in the first, Zane (son) in the second, and now Alex (husband/father). Each character is a very real and believable person who just happens to have a special ability.

The author is unafraid of tackling serious social problems, in this case racism, and she does so without being preachy. She also does a lot of research so the facts in the ‘realism’ part of magical realism are always accurate. (That makes those of us who just make stuff up as we go along feel lazy.) I don’t give spoilers so all I will say about the story is that there are two subplots, each with its own set of characters, and that the story-lines merge and the characters meet each other.

As before, the ending is very upbeat and optimistic. As a skeptic, I would not expect such happy endings in the real world. In the Zeitman family’s world, however, the conclusion shows the way things could be — and should be. I find this approach very encouraging.