Wrayth (A Book of the Order, #3)

13480291Title: Wrayth
Author: Philippa Ballantine
Publisher: Ace
Release Date: April 2008
Length: 309 pages
Series?: A Book of the Order #3
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Thriller, Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Goodreads Giveaway
Challenge: n/a

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis

In the Empire of Arkaym, the Order of Deacons protects and shelters the citizens from the attacks of the unliving. All are sworn to fight the evil forces of the geists—and to keep the world safe from the power of the Otherside… 

Although she is one of the most powerful Deacons in the Order, Sorcha Faris is still unable to move or speak after her last battle. Even her partner, Merrick Chambers, cannot reach her through their shared Bond. Yet there are those who still fear Sorcha and the mystery of her hidden past. 

Meanwhile, Merrick has been asked to investigate a new member of the Emperor’s Court. But when Sorcha is abducted by men seeking Raed Rossin, the shapeshifting rival to the throne, Merrick must choose where his loyalties lie.

Review

*I received this book through Goodreads First Reads book give-aways quite a while back. I was concerned about starting the third book in a series, so Phillipa sent me the first two! Without that, I can honestly say I would not have enjoyed this book as much, and I definitely would not have understood s0me things that happened and the importance of so many things in this story.

Warning: this post may contain spoilers or necessary information found in the first and second books. To get acquainted with this series, read my reviews: Book #1 here and Book #2 here.

Again, Ballantine has produced a story that is jam packed with dedication to intricate details. The story of Sorcha and Merrick, the remarkable and ill-favored Deacons, have weathered several storms together, experienced what most Deacons don’t see in a lifetime of dedication, and have seen the corruption of their own Order (of the Eye and Fist).

Many years ago, the old Order of the Circle of Stars tried overthrowing the Empire and taking control. They fled to the underground, although all thought they had been destroyed. Sorcha and Merrick found out otherwise in the first two novels in the series, and it shook the bedrock and foundation of their ties to the new Order, which formed to protect the Empire and its citizens from geists, geistlords and other manner of unsavory things from the Otherside.

Unfortunately in their last promenade to save the Empire things did not go quite according to plans, and Sorcha was left trapped inside her own body, paralyzed. It is a terrible thing to have your mind running, hear and overhear conversations, and not be able to say or do anything at all. Despite her strong Bond with Merrick, it is not enough to bring her out of this stupor. Merrick has stopped visiting, and now the Abbey and Council want to assign him a new partner – after Sorcha has been kidnapped!

After their last run in with a geistlord, in the ruse of a goddess, Raed the Young Pretender has been on the run from Emperor Kaleva and in search of his traitorous sister and former captain, but this time he is on his own. His crew is dispersed, and his first mate is determined to find him – with Sorcha’s help.

Once again, there is trouble in Vermillin within the palace. Kaleva has taken a stranger, a minor noble by the name of del Rue, into close confidence to the disgruntlement of his sister. The more she inquires, the more he shuts her out. The identity of this man is no stranger to Merrick, who is left holding the bag when del Rue pulls a fast one on Kaleva and the princess and the future of Arkaym is in question.

This does not bode well for the Empire or the Order, especially after Sorcha makes a deal with a geistlord, the entire Order loses the power of the Strops and Gauntlets, the Abbey is destroyed, the Deacons are on the run and The Tormentor is again on the lose.

The Rossin, a geistlord who made a deal with his ancestors, has not left Raed. In fact, he is in leagues with Fensema, another geistlord who wheels and deals with the Rossin, and has innate ability to track and stalk the Rossin. The Rossin seems to operate more and more independently unawares of Raed the Young Pretender, giving readers a nice glimpse of the set-up of the fourth book. The Rossin even struck a deal with Raed in the search for his sister that the Rossin can now be subdued but still access Raed’s conscious. I found in this book that the Rossin is very much more tamed, and humane (an ironic twist, I know), than in the previous books, but I think perhaps this is just setting up the groundwork for what will occur in the next book.

Sorcha discovers the painful and terrifying truth of her own history and birth, explaining the many remarkable peculiarities about her and her strong Bond with Merrick. She uses this knowledge of her mother’s last few desperate hours to save Arkaym.

Nynnia, Merrick’s lost love, is still helping Merrick and Sorcha from the Otherside…and ultimately saving Arkaym, again. I suspect in the fourth book she will also make an impact, even though her character has since long departed.

You can continue reading the Book of the Order series with Ballantine’s fourth installment, Harbinger.

About the Author

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Born and raised in Wellington, New Zealand, Philippa is a writer and podcaster of fantasy fiction. Immersed in books from an early age, she moved onto to become a librarian. She’d been dreaming of being a writer since a teenager, but in the last ten years she’s devoted herself to it.

She’s the author of the Books of the Order series from Ace Books. Also, with Pyr books the Shifted World series, Hunter and Fox (2012) and Born and Made (2013).

Philippa is also the co-author of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, Phoenix Rising and the Janus Affair (2012).

Philippa currently resides in Manassas, Virginia with her husband and co-writer Tee Morris, their daughter and a clowder of five cats who keep them all in line.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

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Book Review: The Alliance by Scott Klug

thealliance

I am a fan of Dan Brown.  I just finished “The Inferno” a few weeks ago.  I read it in a few days.  So when this book came across my desk (i.e. my gmail account) I had to give it a try:

For Father Pete Farrell, it begins with a horrifying phone call. The Archbishop of St. Petersburg is found hung upside down in the world-renowned Hermitage museum with his throat slit in what appears to be a ritual murder. Missing are priceless relics from an international exhibition. Left behind is a cryptic warning written in a mixture of ancient languages. 

The one-time Special Forces soldier turned Jesuit Priest knows he can’t solve the crime alone. He cobbles together an unlikely alliance including a Rabbi, Buddhist Monk and Sufi mystic. But what first appears to be a simple case of stolen antiquities is so much more. At the heart of the theft is the malevolent director of a mysterious Russian lab dedicated to harnessing the power of the occult, and his protégé, a demonic Tibetan monk. 

The four men of faith come face to face with an ancient evil, and uncover a sinister conspiracy whose tentacles stretch from Stockholm to Singapore. What they confront on a sacred Tibetan mountain shrouded in legend and myth will rattle all of them to their core. 

Put The DaVinci Code and Indiana Jones in a blender. The Alliance is a fast- paced page thriller certain to entertain students of world religions, archaeology and adventure. At its heart is a former Green Beret turned Jesuit Priest with an expertise in the black market trafficking of ancient treasures. When you stare down evil, a few prayers can help, but so can a well-aimed sniper rifle. 

Like the Dan Brown books, I am so happy I have a Kindle, so I can quickly look up places, people, events on wikipedia.  These types of books appeal to my historical/conspiracy theory side.

I love the spiritual aspect of this book.  It is way more spiritual or religious than the Dan Brown books.  And it involves more faiths than just the Christian/Catholic theme in the DaVinci Code and other books.

I loved reading about the Eastern faiths, particularly Buddhism.  I spent a great deal of time “going down the rabbit hole” of wikipedia, reading about the Dali Lama, and the different principles of that religion.  And I now want to go to that area of the world.

This is definitely darker than the Dan Brown books, but I wouldn’t put it in the “horror” genre.  Just be prepared for the occult as well as the other religions.

The characters are amazing.  It sounds like a joke, a priest, a monk, a rabbi and a Muslim walk into a bar…but it works very well.

But I really appreciated their relationships with each other, and how they were able to put their differences aside for the greater good.  You almost hope that other men of their ilk could do the same.  Then we might not have the problems we do now on the planet.

I didn’t expect the twists and turns that the book takes.  Very refreshing, very realistic.

Overall, a great read.  Well worth the $1.49 it is going for now on Amazon.  I love books that make me learn, that make me think, and this definitely did both.

Book Review: Spectyr (A Book of the Order, #2)

Life is never quite how you imagine it. 

Book #2

Book #2

Spectyr (A Book of the Order, #2) by Philippa Ballantine (2011)

Genre: fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, supernatural, thriller, romance

*Let me preempt by saying Philippa sent me this book because I won her third book, Wrayth, in a book give-away. I am reviewing her first two books out of thanks for her kindness in sending them to me, and her third per the give-away rules. However, that has no affect on the review itself.

Warning: this post may contain spoilers or necessary information found in the first book, so get acquainted with this series, starting with my review of Book #1 here.

Spectyrs brought retribution on those who had wronged them.

Their shared sight dipped and swayed as Merrick tried to compensate for the staining of the ether. A scuttling sound made his mouth snap shut. Rats were running from every corner, scrambling through the walls, and skittering down the drainpipe. Animals were more sensitive than humans and always fled in the face of the undead. The noise was unnerving – even to the trained.

Beyond reality and time, the Otherside held knowledge that no human could ever possess, so the greatest Deacons of the Order had often taken chances to snatch what they could from the void.

This book continues in the principality of Vermillion, (part of the larger Arkaym nation) only one month after the attack of The Murashev, the most powerful geistlord, under the ossuary. It picks up with the despised Grand Duchess, and she is yet again getting in hot water and about to create more havoc and danger for the kingdom by calling on a goddess long without support.

I fear this addiction of yours will bring you nothing but ill.

Sorcha is (rightfully so) very cynical and bitter about the Emperor and the Order, given what happened on her assignment in the previous book and the betrayal of the Arch Abbot. The people do not trust, let alone respect, any of the Order anymore…when in fact their mistrust and fear should reside with the Emperor – or moreover, his militant sister, who just so happens to be second to the throne. Merrick is certain that time will pass and the people’s faith in the Order will return.

Life had taught her such things were oversimplifications – wishes that seldom came true in the complicated realities of existence.

When I first started reading the second book in this series, I was surprised that it started with the Grand Duchess (bad news), and not with Sorcha and Merrick on some task with the backstory from Book #1 entwined. I was a little thrown off, but then I was really thrown when “spectyrs” started appearing in the text. What is a spectyr? In Book #1 we learned that “shades” are the unliving remains of a dead person, and Book #2 gives a very short explanation about “spectyrs” – the evil cousins of shades…who want revenge. Ohhhh crap! 

But you’ll soon see why Ballantine started off with the Duchess, and the situation Ballantine sets up explains how the roles work and some of the terminology, so you don’t necessarily need to read the first book. (Kudos – that can be hard to do.) Since the great shindig with the Otherside under the ossuary a few months before (Book #1), geist attacks have continued – although some are truly real, and others are just calls of paranoid citizens who believe they have a geist in their midst. During Sorcha and Merrick’s task, we find out they are assigned areas where there are no real geist attacks…except this is not the case this time. Precious Nynnia comes to them from the Otherside and gives a warning and glimpse of the future to Sorcha – a foreboding of what is to come.

It was apparent that for every rule there was an exception. 

Since they returned to Vermillion as hunted fugitives in Book #1, the new Arch Abbot is keeping an eagle eye on Sorcha and Merrick. They are assigned meaningless tasks – guarding empty halls, escorting wagons of porcelain. They are kept on a very tight leash…with Sorcha’s husband and former partner, Kolya, following along. Although she has filed for the equivalent of a divorce in their world as well as dissolution of their Deacon’s partnership, Kolya is dillusioned into thinking her leaving the Abbey to save their world was merely her living in her fairytale mindset and “sneaking out” to avoid him. Grow up, pal. Which brings up a reminder of a couple things: Sorcha still shares a Deacon’s Bond with her husband, as well as one with her new partner, Merrick. And her bond with Merrick is so much stronger it is beyond what any Deacon’s Bond should be. But then, Sorcha and Merrick also share a Triple Bond with Raed the Young Pretender that was forged in haste in Book #1, that neither of them can break…and that’s not all she wrote! This Triple Bond will serve as the integral locking puzzle piece that draws this book together.

Meanwhile, the Young Pretender receives a summons from someone I thought dead from the way the first book went and must find his missing sister. He learns he cannot trust his entire crew, and singles some out for this excursion. Connection? Oh yes. But it’s not what I thought at all – it’s SO much bigger.

Now that Kolya is out of the infirmary, which his own rash actions caused, rumors abound within the Mother Abbey since Sorcha has moved out of their chamber into a small one next to Merrick – but they won’t be there for long. Kolya is like that crazy ex-girlfriend (or boyfriend, in this case) who just doesn’t get it. And wouldn’t even if you remarried. That’s how out of it he is. We didn’t see much at all of his character, let alone characteristics, in Book #1. The only thing we really gleaned from his character in Book #1 was that he likes to defy the rules (walking among crowds during a geist attack) and that he didn’t care one whit for his marriage. Not much has changed, except we find out he’s crazy and oblivious and annoying. As hell. Oh, AND in cahoots with Sorcha’s nemesis Rictun, who I think is just as tainted as former Abbot Hastler was.

Although Merrick has grown up some during his experience, and even with the betrayal of Arch Abbot Hastler, he is completely blinded to the animosity that the new Arch Abbot Rictun has for Sorcha. Indeed, as a reader we saw this in Book #1, but now that he is the head of the Order it really piques my curiosity. Yet Sorcha seems to have an ally on the Order Council – an enemy of Rictun’s? (I hope so – I’m holding out for a revolution of sorts; each time I see Rictun’s name I read it with a stink eye.)

What he also had were eyes that would suck out a person’s soul.

The Emperor, Kal, is in the hot seat: he must choose a wife – a proffered princess from other kingdoms in the empire. He must choose wisely, and he ironically chooses Princess Ezefia, sister of Prince Onika of Chioma, who is fabulously wealthy. Chioma is a principality south of Vermillion, home to all strange spices but also the most powerful, hard-to-detect poisons…and it’s the oldest kingdom, with the same ruling family since its beginning. And there are strange rumors about their ruler, quite strange rumors. Sorcha and Merrick accompany Princess Ezefia back to Chioma…but I think they are all getting more than they bargained for. Meanwhile, Raed’s journey to find his sister leads him right to Chioma.

I can trust very few in my Court – not even my own Deacons.

During their separate journeys to Chioma, it becomes apparent that Raed, Sorcha and Merrick are battling their own very personal issues on this journey. They arrive in Chioma and it seems like Ulrich all over again. The Prince of Chioma is not safe even inside the walls of his palace. There have been several murders already – of his unusual bloodline. The first murder was his Chancellor, second to Prince Onika, but all are told he died of old age…yet there’s no body. The Deacons of Chioma are quite odd; they openly worship the “little gods”, but particularly the goddess Hatipai. They wear robes of her colors – not colors of the Order they were sworn into. And then Sorcha and Merrick get separated…

We thought we knew better. We could go where we wished, harness all that power. We thought weirstones were harmless…

We see the return of Nynnia again, and she pulls Merrick back in time to a very pivotal turning point. He discovers some insight about who they refer to as the Ancients, and why they chose to move their famed grounds to the Otherside. So much is revealed in that section, that I can’t share without ruining it – but with that knowledge, things start pulling together to come full circle for readers. Suffice to say that The Native Order (often termed The Ancients) is not dead….and it turns out, they were dabbling in the Otherside quite a bit.

Some things you can’t fix once the time has passed.

Although Raed is on the hunt for his sister, and he has a handful of his most trusted working to find her…he is betrayed in the worst way possible. Reading this part, and his anguish of experiencing the terror and horror that the Rossin causes, and the fact that this beast killed his own mother, my heart hurt for him during this section. It was obvious his anguish and guilt and success at protecting from the Rossin was not considered. I felt those who betrayed him were very selfish, not seeing the big picture…but in a way, I agreed with one. Ten years of staying away, no real communication, is a long, trying, hard time.

From reading the first few chapters, I had the sneaky suspicion that an overthrow or revolution was going to happen in this book – and be exposed this time. I understand the reasons why Book #1′s geistlord fights couldn’t be explained to the people, and I thought something of the same sort (but on a more massive scale) was going to happen in this book.

I found it interesting that Ballantine references Raed’s grandfather’s reign – and the biggest problem  he dealt with was slavery. He was

Book #3

Book #3

the Abe Lincoln of the time, which is as yet unknown, but he also kept a diary as a young intended royal and mentions some interesting things about Chioma, including a brief and unexplained comment about it being an “ancient enemy.” Hmmmmmm.

You will definitely be thrown for a loop with this book. So many things are going on, and they all pull together. Geist seemed like such a huge feat, but Ballantine was definitely not prepared to go home. She went big! I give 5 stars for this detailed, well-written book.

Safety is just an illusion.

You can continue reading the Book of the Order series with Ballantine’s third installment, Wrayth.

-CA

Book review: The Gospel According to Chubby by Jeremy Rochford

jeremy

This is a first for the Eclectic Bookworm. Writing a review on an author I have known personally for over a decade and a half.

The Gospel According to Chubby is a book written by my friend Jeremy Rochford. We went to high school together. I knew him before he lost all the weight, and I was interested to know how he did it…without surgery, pills or a fancy Hollywood trainer.

He wrote this book to share his experiences with others. He’s not promoting a certain weight loss program, he isn’t endorsing a fast food chain (that thing with Jared still puzzles me). He did it the old fashioned way.

The book initially came out in 2010, but I recently re-read it due to my own issues with weight.

The book chronologically reviews his weight issues throughout his life. How it started in childhood, why he feels he overate, the struggles he had with his parents. It’s a funny read, he writes it like he was sitting down and having a conversation with you. And I can speak from experience that conversations with Jeremy are incredible. I think this format lends credibility to his stories.

My first signed book!!

My first signed book!!

He has several passages consisting of dialogue and has a very healthy subconscious that speaks to him frequently.

I particularly found interesting the lengths that he would go to just to eat what he wanted to eat. The sneaking, the elaborate money making schemes in order to buy candy and junk food. His intricate plans to get his parents to go along with some of his ideas are just ingenious. I knew he was smart, but I was amazed that at a very young age he knew what he was doing and intentionally planned out his deception.

I can honestly say that before reading his book, I never really thought about looking at overeating as an addiction…as a compulsion. To fill an emotional need. I now get “carb cravings” from the medication that I am forced to take every day, and it is probably a similar sensation.

I also did not know all that Jeremy went through leading up to his decision to lose weight. Like he discusses in the book, he always seemed like the jovial fat guy. He has always been quick to make fun of himself. I never realized that it was a defense mechanism until he spelled it out for me in this book.

I now go back and look at some of the conversations we had in the past and I cringe. I’m pretty sure I am quasi-mentioned in the book, mainly because I was one of his many female friends that always turned to him for advice about my horrible relationships, not realizing how it made him feel…to constantly hear about these d-bags and see me (and my friends) continually ask for more poor treatment.

Reading his book this time, however, has some sad parts. One of his girlfriends from high school has recently passed away. Reading the passages which feature her is very sobering.

The most amazing thing about his journey is that he lost over 200 pounds, and has kept it off for over a decade.

If someone would have told me back in 1996 (when I met him) that Jeremy Rochford would grow up to help people lose weight, I would have looked at them like their hair is on fire.

Which is hilarious because he’s a ginger.

Another aspect to his miraculous transformation is his faith. He isn’t overly preachy throughout the book, but it is mentioned and I know personally how his faith in Christ has impacted his life.

I really do recommend this book…pretty much to everyone. It’s a good story whether you are trying to lose weight or not, if you are a Christian or are like me and pretty much without a religion right now. It is very well written, although I think he sometimes goes overboard with the metaphors.

Check out his website here. There are plenty of before and after pics too.

–AA

Lukewarm

I first and foremost hope to preempt the onslaught of crap that I may get from Christians about this post.  I have no problem with people’s beliefs.  I believe that everyone should have a right to worship whatever they want to worship and should not be persecuted for it.  However, I do not appreciate when someone else’s beliefs are shoved down my throat, or when an article or book or movie is misrepresented and I make it all the way through some pretty decent writing (or movie or whatever) and it turns out to be propaganda.

Just be honest in the description of the book.  If it is a Christian based book, it should be categorized as such.

I live in Texas.  I hear enough about God and Jesus on a regular basis just LIVING here, I don’t need it to bleed over into the books I read when I do not intentionally set out to read something with a Christian twist.

The book in question is “Reunion” by Jeff Bennington. I titled this post “Lukewarm” because that is how I feel toward it.

I usually go on “book raids” of the free section in Smashwords and Amazon, and I end up downloading a bunch of books at a time.  “Reunion” was including in one of these raids.

I carefully screen the books I read for content that I find unpalatable.  See “Da Rules” here.  Months after I originally downloaded this book, I was looking for an interesting read and came across the cover art for this book.  It intrigued me so I decided to give it a go.

It is about a school shooting.  I know this violates some of my rules, but teenagers dying is different from children my daughter’s age.  The book looks at the event from several different vantage points.  From the shooter, to the victims, each of the character’s stories are shared in depth.

The book then advances twenty years after the event.  I did enjoy this section, as I often wonder what happens to those who have experienced such a public trauma.  Understandably, most of the characters have moved out of the area after high school.  For most of the characters, the “event” changed the trajectory of their lives forever.

Someone gets the grand idea to have a reunion.  Only five people agree to go back.  The book then chronicles each character’s actions and feeling about being back where it all happened.

The “supernatural” part of it is that the school, which was closed and boarded up after the shooting, is haunted.

I do have a belief in the afterlife, and I have experienced paranormal events myself (can you say Gettysburg?) so I am familiar with the concept.  But out of all of the shows I have seen, all of the books I have read on the subject, none of them come close to what this “ghost” can do.

So I continued reading, mostly out of curiosity.  The classmates have their “reunion” after several events occur that clearly scream out “this is a bad idea”.  It was kind of like watching a scary movie and knowing that the killer is hiding in the closet or behind the shower curtain and screaming “watch out” to the people on screen.

Predictably, the paranormal events continue and become more severe.  There is also this twist to the killer that I truly didn’t expect.  That made me really think hard about what occurs when these type of event happens, and it brought up the “what if” idea.  So for that reason alone I kept on going to the end.

And in the end I found an allegory.  A sermon.  Preaching.  It isn’t particularly Christian, but the end result is more like “this happened because of Satan”.

And that really ticked me off.

I know there is this entire genre of Christian books.  I have read some of them willingly.  I do not like religion sneaking up on me at the end of a pretty good book (up until that point) when I am not expecting it.

The end of the book was wrapped up way too neatly….complete with someone going out to “find God”.

If you don’t mind the preaching and are adequately prepared for it, I would give this a try.  The description of the “event” was very detailed and written very well.  The actual writing is of decent quality, if maybe a little over the top.  I do enjoy the way writers tell the story, the prose that they use, interesting style, and I did find it in this book.

This book did inspire me to take a look back at some of the real life events that this book was based on.

I was a junior in high school when Columbine happened.  I hadn’t revisited the whole saga until I read this book.  I was surprised at how much info on the killers, their activities and the event is now open to the public.  I do see how that incident shaped school policy and police procedures since that happened.

For that insight alone, this book might earn a recommendation.  Just as long as you know the ending is a bit wonky and preachy.

Book Review: Future Perfect by Tony Bayliss

Look familiar?

I’m not sure why this book struck such an emotional chord with me. Perhaps its because I’m a woman. Or perhaps because I read news stories about women in other cultures, and some in the U.S., that endure some of the brutality that is found in this book. Either way, it is a remarkable book.

Here is my review on amazon.com:

Think about all of the really BAD parts of the major organized religions, we’re talking evangelical Christianity, Mormonism, Judaism, Islam, Catholicism. The subjugation of women, rules about sex, marriage, the denial of all things scientific. The rejection of the modern medical system. The worship of church elders, the belief that they are gods on earth. The literal interpretation of a “holy book” and using its basis as law. Honor killing. Arranged marriages. Polygamy. What if you blended all of those ideals together with a dash of 1984 and a heaping spoonful of the ideology of Nazi Germany? And then garnished it with technology 100 years in the future?

That is this book.

It truly frightened me, as I live in the Bible belt and I can actually see this book come to fruition if certain sects were allowed to flourish unchecked in society.

A theocracy that encourages society to report on its citizens. Encourages children to spy on their parents. That views women as only good for two purposes, and classifies them as such starting at age 12. Compulsory church attendance, “Eyes” that can notice hormone changes, expressions that can indicate subversive activity and that hears all as well.

“Apostles” that are nothing more than the S.S. in Nazi Germany.

And the women. The hate of women in this society. From the Christians and original sin, to mikvas with Jews and to burkas with the Taliban, kick it up a notch with this society and add in an element of slavery for both the wives and “earthangels” (you have to read it to believe it).

Abel is a dutiful civil servant that works for the Diocese. He keeps his head down, he “toes the line”, he does what is expected of him as a man of his age and class. But he has questions.

His life changes when he meets Lizzie. He is shocked that a woman can speak the way that she does, but is intrigued. Together they work to change their society.

Despite the subject matter, the doom and gloom of it all, I was greatly surprised to find a tender love story underneath.

I am currently recommending this book to everyone I meet. I found it engrossing, I couldn’t put it down. Despite the graphic nature of the sexual/female issues, it brought to light the fact that a society like this is not far off. Everything mentioned, with the exception of the technology, has some basis in reality. Mr. Bayliss just took the next step and wove together an amazing story.

Highly recommended to anyone looking for an intellectual read.

I recently read a non-fiction book about a fundamentalist Mormon sect that wasn’t too far off from this book.  Daughters of Zion: My Family’s Conversion to Polygamy by Kim Taylor was horrifying.  It was completely true and took place in the U.S. and Mexico in the 1970s and 80s.  It actually made my heart hurt, reading about how young women were pressured/brain washed/encouraged into polygamous marriages with older men.  They were encouraged to get pregnant year after year to produce more children for the glory of God.

I also live in the Bible belt.  A few years ago I took my kids to a museum on the campus of UT @ Austin.  The top floor had an exhibit on evolution.  Now, where I come from (the northeast part of the country), evolution is not up for discussion.  It is an established fact.  The argument for evolution ended at Scopes Monkey trial.  Texas, however, is behind the times. In the “guestbook” at the exhibit, there were page after page of notes written by the visitors to the exhibit proclaiming their dismay that an exhibit even mentioning evolution should exist in Texas.  The comments were along the lines of “evolution is blasphemy and goes against the plan of God”.  Scary stuff.

The recent election also highlighted a shift in the view of women by some of those in the right-leaning political parties.  The “legitimate rape” comments, “life begins at conception”, and here in Texas “we are trying to save women from herself” talk (the ultrasound before abortion law) blatantly illustrates how little men think of women in some segments of American society.  Currently the U.S. is #22 in the world with regards to the living standards of women.

So this book will remain with me as I continue to see signs of “Future Perfect” in today’s society.

What is so funny about the apocalypse?

Ha!

I don’t know if it is my twisted sense of humor, or all this talk of the impending end of the world come this December or the fact that I am surrounded by religious zealots, but I have been reading humorous books about the apocalypse recently.

A little background may be in order. I suffered through Catholic school from grades K-6 in the northeast. My parents weren’t particularly religious, my mom in fact told me outright that she didn’t fully believe in what we (myself and my brother) were being taught, she just felt the education we were receiving in Catholic school was better than in public school (she was right).

Until I moved back to the South, I had never been exposed to evangelical Christians or Mormons or anyone who took the Bible literally. I never actually believed that Satan was a real person or entity that was out to “get” people or had the ability to effect change in a person’s attitude or actions.

Right now I do not go to church and I’m quite happy with my state of spirituality.

My husband, however, went to Catholic school all through high school, has read most of the Bible, and carries what I call “Catholic guilt syndrome”. Our discussions on religion are quite interesting.

I should mention here that if anyone is particularly devout to any religion, you should steer clear of the books I am mentioning in this post. It will just make you angry and upset. The reader should have a sense of humor about religion in particular and realize that these are fictional novels and meant in no way to offend.

I came across “Mercury Falls” again on that site I love so much that comes with the smiley boxes. I think it was 99 cents at the time. A rogue angel who is content to sit back while the world falls apart? Sure..I’ll read it. The sharp wit and quick humor of Robert Kroese kept me captivated page after page. I absolutely love the character of Mercury, the rogue angel who decided he just doesn’t want to play his assigned role in the apocalypse. He is joined by journalist Christine who, after covering doomsday cults and other whackos for years, finally stumbled upon the real thing.

Kroese paints a vivid picture of Heaven, Hell, and all areas in between. He completely offered a new perspective to my thinking of the afterlife. He also offers a faith shaking glimpse into a Heaven and Hell that are not too different than the DMV. The red tape that Mercury and Christine have to wade through provides comic relief, but is a bit scary and puts the thought in the reader’s head: what if it really is like this?

The pace of the novel is very fast. I am a quick reader and usually very quick on the uptake. But many times throughout the book, I had to reread passages in order to fully appreciate the humor created.

“Mercury Rises” is book number two in the Mercury trilogy. It basically starts where the first book leaves off. Again, the apocalypse is nigh, Christine has been shaken up by her experiences in the first book and wants to help a charity in Africa. More characters are introduced in a government agent and a media tycoon. Again, sharp wit, quick pace. The reader should read the first book before reading the second.

Kroese also released short stories “Mercury Begins” and “Mercury Swings” this past summer. Obviously “Mercury Begins” can be read prior to all of the other books. “Mercury Swings” can be read in whatever order desired. As always, very humorous, very quick, very satisfying reads.

The final book, “Mercury Rests” will be released this month. I can’t wait, but will be sad to see the adventures of Mercury come to an end.

Another book that is quasi-apocalyptic but insanely hilarious is “Satan Loves You” by Grady Hendrix. It doesn’t necessarily take place around the apocalypse, but events in the book could be pointing to the apocalypse. Poor Satan is burned out (ha ha!). He is so stressed he can’t even come up with any new tortures for the damned! And Death screwed up a major job and somehow hundreds of people slated for termination are now walking around with hideous injuries that should have ended their life, but didn’t. So Satan had to fire Death. And Death was his best wrestler in the upcoming wrestling match with Heaven. And the demons are threatening to strike. And he needs more sulfur for the sulfur pits and no one is taking his checks anymore. And a woman from the United States is suing him in court. Wow its a hard job running Hell!!

Hendrix relies on a version of Hell described by Dante Alighieri in “The Divine Comedy”. Although I read this in high school, I mainly forgot which circle of hell had which tortures and which sinners belonged where. I would have appreciated a chart or illustration as a refresher. But it was a very amazing idea nonetheless.

Hendrix’s Heaven is not very appealing and kind of sad. I’ll leave it at that. He also really skewers the Catholic church through the character of Sister Mary. No one is safe in this book.

Throughout the book there are very shocking descriptions of events playing out as a result of Satan’s actions. I was caught off guard. Just a warning.

Overall, I enjoyed this read, even if it is a bit cynical. I actually found myself liking Satan and feeling sympathetic for him. It is amazing when an author can actually paint the Prince of Darkness as a sympathetic character.

I love my apocalypse books. Its great when you can laugh about a situation. And since we have a little over two and a half months left til the next predicted doomsday date, might as well start laughing now!

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