2012 In Review: Adam’s Top Five Films of the Year

moonrise_kingdomWhen Kim asked me for my top five films of the year, I thought “wow that’s going to be really hard to decide”. I love films and I love reading critics’ top ten films of the year lists. Sports people get excited for draft days and signing of free agents. I, on the other hand, get excited for the end of the year and the start of Oscar season. To read what critics loved and loathed and being able to see how my own list compares to theirs greatly excites me. To finally be able to do my list is really awesome! Unfortunately seeing films in Manhattan is expensive, so I haven’t seen that many 2012 releases.

Author’s note: I have not seen Les Miserables yet.  Odds are once I do, that will be number one (unless it sucks). But as of December 9, 2012 this is my top five list.

Number 5: Moonrise Kingdom: An extremely unique love story told by the massively creative Wes Anderson. Just from viewing the trailer, I knew this would be a classic Wes Anderson film. Seeing Moonrise Kingdom offered me some of the most carefree time spent at the movies this year.  A great ensemble and great cinematography make this a film not to be missed.

2012_5_25_AbrahamLincolnVampireHunterNumber 4: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter: Ah, yes the lesser known of the two Lincoln “biopics” films of 2012.  Adapted from the equally entertaining novel of the same name by Seth Grahame- Smith, this film tells the unknown history of one of the greatest leaders this country has ever had (you can read my book review here and my page to screen review here.) With action sequences and solid performances that kept the audience at the edge of their seat, this film proved once and for all that there is such thing as a good book to screen adaptation.

Number 3: I couldn’t decide between The Hunger Games and 21 Jump Street, so I picked them both!

HG PosterThe Hunger Games: Another excellent page to screen adaptation and definitely this year’s first blockbuster hit (rightfully so). The young cast, in particular Jennifer Lawrence as heroine Katniss Everdeen, jumped off the screen and made the audience feel like they right there in the games with them. I think the shaky camera work used by director Gary Ross helped illustrate this feeling as well. Every emotion I felt while watching that film lined up perfectly with how I felt as I read the book.  If you’re one of the very few people who haven’t seen this film yet go check it out, but read the book first!

21 Jump Street: I’ll admit it. I was highly skeptical that this film would be funny. Channing Tatum in a funny role? No way. I saw his SNL performance and thought it was pretty bad.  After seeing this film, I take it all back. Channing Tatum, funny? HELL YES! This is probably the most quotable film of the year.  My side hurt from laughing after seeing this film. Jonah Hill as the sidekick was hysterical and his performance just made my night when I saw it. Definitely check this comedy out, it’s so worth it.  I’m hoping the film receives a Golden Globe nomination for best comedy.  I’m doubting that it will happen, but after The Hangover received one and won it a few years ago, so  you never know.

darkknightrisesNumber 2: The Dark Knight Rises- First things first, screw The Avengers. It was semi-entertaining, but nothing compared to the final installment of The Batman Trilogy. From the bad ass-ness of Bane, the twist ending, and the incredibly gorgeous Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, I could not have scripted a better ending to one of the greatest trilogies of all time (only behind The Godfather Trilogy in my opinion).  Like his other two Batman films, Nolan was able to leave the audience wanting more when the credits rolled. He was able to create a Gotham City that was real and very life-like. The film had a tough predecessor, especially with Heath Ledger’s genius portrayal of The Joker, but this film came really close and in some aspects topped the previous two films. Also how could you hate a film that spawns something as awesome as this picture?

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And number 1……….

argoArgo: Ben Affleck, you are forgiven for Gigli and Jersey Girl (actually I was never mad at you for those because I never saw them). This film left me absolutely speechless. Ben Affleck is a master director and because of that was able to tell this unknown story of a classified CIA case with ease and honesty. If you are unfamiliar with the story, six people were able to escape the American Embassy the day the Iranian Hostages were taken. They hid at the Canadian ambassador’s house until the CIA concocted a plan to rescue them. CIA agents went undercover, stating that they were a Canadian film crew scouting a site for their new film, aptly titled Argo. The suspense you felt in this film was real and genuine because it was a real story. Even though the end was fabricated for the screen, I was still on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen to these people who had suffered so much already. It was a mesmerizing story with excellent ensemble acting, and perfect direction from Ben Affleck. He has definitely found his niche as a director and found a fan in me. Definitely check it out.

Well readers, there you have it. My top five (really six) films of the year.  Do you agree with my selections? What are your top films of the year?

Adam’s Review of Pantheons by E. J. Dabel

Zeus. When that name was said in my house growing up, I always thought of the picture of the Parthenon my mother had in the living room. I also thought of the most powerful God in the world and all the myths my YiaYia (Grandma in Greek) use to tell me.  Growing up in a Greek household, often times my bedtime stories were replaced by those of my ancestors and the myths of why certain things occurred in the world. With that being said, I was really excited to read Pantheons by E.J Dabel for two reasons. One, I really enjoyed reading his last piece of work, Albino (review here), and two, I’ve always enjoyed hearing/reading mythological stories (they are much better than fairy tales if you ask me).

The novel starts off with an introduction of the Gods and how they are still in existence, yet in a different form than you’d expect. In ancient times, all of the head Gods refused to fight in the Fourth Great War because of what Odin, the chief God of Norse, prophesied  He foretold that a great darkness would arise after the conflict. So, when the Gods refused to fight, the powers to be took away their immortal powers and replaced them with strong, but mortal, teenagers.

The story then picks up in the present day with an orphan named Isaiah Marshall and his group of friends Jeremy, Pip, and Monty, also known as the Red Rovers.  Isaiah doesn’t know anything about his past or where he came from, but constantly has a vision of a lady who he believes to be his mother. After a chance encounter with Principal Webb, the principal of Kaliber Academy, Isaiah and his friends are offered the chance to enroll in the academy and Isaiah learns the truth about his identity. He learns that he is a minor God, meaning his parents were both Gods. His father was Zeus and his mother was Metis, one of the wisdom Goddesses from ancient Greek mythology. Principal Webb, the mystery stranger who was so nice Isaiah, is actually Prometheus, one of the last two titans of Greece. He promised to look after Isaiah when his mother was killed. From this discovery comes a story of self discovery, mixed with information about various Gods and Goddesses from different ancient civilizations.

E.J Dabel is an excellent character writer. He is able to write characters that people will relate to and root for. The way he wrote the main protagonist Isaiah was really outstanding. He really makes him seem like any other teenager, with flaws and all. I was really looking forward to reading this, especially after reading Albino and seeing how he made those characters jump off the page. I think being a big movie fan makes me want to have characters to root for. These characters, both good and evil, jumped off the page and made the story come to life in my head. I thought all the minor details were really important and really made for a fuller story.

One thing that immediately came to my mind while reading this novel is how great of a read it would be in a middle school language arts class. Maybe it’s the teacher in me that has me in a constant mode of cross curriculum, but I think this could be used while learning mythology, or about Ancient Greece  in Social Studies. With some of the material, especially having to do with the Gods and Goddess, I found myself checking up the facts because it had been so long since I had studied this. Not only was the book entertaining, but also it was really interesting and I think it could definitely be used to introduce kids to the ideas behind the Gods and Goddesses of the ancient world.

With everything said and done, I really enjoyed reading Pantheons. I thought Mr. Dabel was able to once again create a protagonist that the reader can truly root for and see a little of themselves in. I think teenagers in particular will truly enjoy the novel, as it is fun and adventure mixed into one. If you want to learn more about ancient Gods and Goddesses and don’t want to read a history textbook, I think this would be a great introduction.

4 out of 5 Stars

Pantheons by E. J. Dabel
Sea Lion Books (2012)
eBook: 257 pages
ASIN: B006V7NPJE

Special thanks to Sea Lion Books for my review copy!

Adam’s Review of Deal With The Devil (Part II) by J. Gunnar Grey

A few months ago I had the pleasure of reading Deal With The Devil Part I by J. Gunnar Grey. (My review is here)  I became quickly enveloped in the story and was desperate to read part II after the cliffhanger ending in part I.  Life intervened unfortunately, and it wasn’t until recently that I was able to read part II and finally find out what happened to Major Faust, Major Stoner, Jennifer, and the rest of the cast!  (As a side note: the book is being sold as one novel now, so you won’t have to wait on pins and needles like I did to find out what happened!)  In part 2 there are even more twists and turns making for an even more epic conclusion to this tale of allegiance and backstabbing.

Leaving off directly where the first book ends, the story picks up with Major Faust, a German officer, and Major Stoner, a retired British officer, still at odds with each other and unsure of where the other truly stands. There is one thing Major Faust is sure of, however, and that is his growing feelings for Jennifer, Major Stoner’s granddaughter. Through the course of the novel their relationship grows, but at what cost? There are still some questions of motive on both sides, and some uncertainty between all of the parties involved. Through all this is a carefully crafted mystery that leaves the reader wanting more.

I really enjoyed part two almost as much as part one. The story picked up right from the start and I couldn’t stop reading (a real amazement if you know me). I was interested to see how the characters’ stories would end and couldn’t put the book down. I thought J. Gunnar Grey was really good at was not only developing the characters and making them interesting for the reader, but also making the setting seem more accessible. By writing lots of little details about the setting, I felt more like a fly on a wall rather than a reader. Grey makes the story come to life and makes the action jump right off the page. At times I felt like I could see pictures of the scenes; I had such a vision of the characters and of the setting  because I knew all the small little details.  I was able to enjoy the story that much more because of my ability to visualize the action.

One small note I have, and this is all my fault due to the fact that I read part 1 and part 2 so far apart, is that the two pieces are just a continuation of one another.  I read them five months apart, and I found myself constantly going back and forth from the first one, (which I smartly saved) and the second one to remind myself of the characters and of their background. One day soon, I will read this all as one novel and I think it would help me understand the flow of the story more. This comment has nothing to do with the writing style of the author, but because of my own stupidity to read them far apart and not closer together.

All and all I enjoyed reading the conclusion to J. Gunnar Grey’s story Deal with the Devil. I look forward to re-reading it as one full novel in the near future because I think by doing that will only enhance the story and allow me to enjoy it better. Still I have to give it a perfect score because a good story is a good story regardless of your own mistakes.

5 out of 5 Stars

Deal With The Devil by J. Gunnar Grey
Astraea Press (2011)
eBook: 286 pages
ISBN: 2940012608321

Special thanks to Astraea Press for my review copy!

Adam’s Review of Albino by E.J. Dabel

Have you ever wanted to visit another world and live a different life than the one you had been living? What if in this new land, you were crowned Emperor and were meant to lead the people against an evil emperor who only wanted to destruct the world and cause harm to the people who live in it. All of these questions are explored in the novel Albino written by E.J Dabel.

In the beginning of Dabel’s story, we meet Albino.  Albino is a peculiar mouse. He is all white with red eyes. He lives with Farmer Springer, whom he is able to communicate with. One night during a particularly bad storm, Farmer Springer begins to reminisce with Albino about the night he found him almost 50 years ago. Also living with Albino and Farmer Springer is a boy from the street named Darl. Albino believes that only Farmer Springer can communicate with him, until Darl makes it known that he can understand Albino as well. The morning after the violent storm Darl takes Albino and throws him in the river, hoping to get rid of him forever. Albino awakens in a far-off land called Nothengarrd where he is introduced to Morgenbrisa, another mouse who happens to be a princess. Later, he is introduced to more friends including Lita (another princess), a raccoon, a wise crow, and a flying squirrel. Initially when Albino gets to Nothengarrd he is referred to as an abomination because he is half mouse, half rat. Later through some discovery it is revealed that Hoge Koning (the Emperor of Nothengarrd) has to defeat the Loucura (Emperor of the East) and his creations of Ma’ladees. Will Albino step up and become the emperor he is destined to be?

For a book that is supposed to be for younger readers, this book had a lot of heart. From the first few chapters, I thought the story was going to be about Albino and his life on a farm and then trying to get back to the farm, á la The Wizard of Oz. But as I read more, I realized it was more like The Chronicles of Narnia than Wizard of Oz. From the first page of the book, the character of Albino intrigued me because he seemed like a truly unique form of the lead character role. He was really well written and really was the heart of this story (hence naming the title after him). Albino went had major growths and transformations in the novel that you can chronicle through Dabel’s excellent writing in each chapter.  Many times we see main characters portrayed as weak at first, but then they’re suddenly leading armies in no time. Dabel made Albino progress at a realistic pace, adding extra struggles to the story which were really powerful.

Dabel wrote this story in a very interesting way, one which made it much more powerful and realistic. Whether it was having the animals use items that they found in the forest as clothing, or in the way in which he described the conflict in the work, Dabel was able to emphasize the important parts and create a story that I wanted to continue reading. The inclusion of pictures of the characters really helped me put faces to the characters and give them more personality. Maybe it’s because I somehow make movies out of everything I read, but I think Albino and the books that will follow it would make an excellent movie.

All and all, I enjoyed Albino more than anticipated. At first glance the story seemed a little far out there and I don’t really like mice or rats in real life, so I had to get the thought of subway rats out of my head.  However once I did that, I enjoyed the book thoroughly. I think anyone from 9 to 109 will enjoy this book because of its classic story plot mixed with new school ideas. I am very interested to see how the rest of the series plays out!

4 out of 5 Stars

Albino by E.J. Dabel
Sea Lion Books (2012)
eBook: 217 pages
ASIN: B007ZFRGG4

Special thanks to Sea Lion Books for my review copy!

Page to Screen: Adam’s Review of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

This post is the first in a new series on the blog, Page to Screen! Members of the staff will compare their thoughts on books and their film adaptations.  Check out the first edition with Adam and his thoughts on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter!

“There has never been a faithful adaptation of a book into a movie.” “You should just read the book and skip the movie.”  These are just some of the things book lovers say regarding many an adaptation of their favorite novels into films. Often times, I feel out-of-place when writing on the blog because I don’t love to read. I am glad Kim still allows me to blog for her despite my proclamation that I’m much more of a film fan than a book fan. About a year ago I read a book I actually enjoyed, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I reviewed it for this very website (you can read my review here). A year later a movie version of that book came out, and I went to see it in the hopes of proving or disproving the book lover adage that there is no such thing as a good adaptation from page to film.  First, however, a little history of my experience reading the novel.

One sunny summer day in New York City a miracle happened: I checked a book out from the library! That book of course was Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and I read it in about 2.5 weeks (lightening speed for me). I really enjoyed how the story was told, especially how Grahame-Smith intertwined the personal diary of Lincoln, which many people did not know about, with the main plot line. When I found out they were making the book into a movie, I wondered how they would translate this particular aspect of the novel. I originally thought that since the whole story is told through narrative and journal entries, it wouldn’t really translate well to the screen. Fortunately, the first time I saw the full-length trailer my faith was restored. One, it was visually stunning and two, they kept Henry, my favorite character from the book. As I began to visit IMDB more often to search about the movie, I learned that Seth Grahame-Smith co-wrote the script and was also credited as a producer. My faith was fully restored. He wouldn’t butcher his own baby, right?

There were many differences between the film and novel, some of which were for time constraint, while others just wouldn’t translate well. Some characters were taken out of the book: Ann Rutledge, who was Abraham Lincoln’s fiancée before Mary Todd, Edgar Allan Poe, who also hated the vampires and knew of their true evils, and John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated Lincoln and knew an important secret about him.

In return for those three characters we added Adam, the main antagonist of the film and a head vampire who wanted the south to break away from the union to create a vampire nation. He added a great conflict to the story, one that was needed to make the film. As much as I loved the book and the inner thoughts of Abraham Lincoln, I don’t think that this alone would’ve translated well. I think the audience would have been bored and not drawn in to the film. Another deviation from the book was how quickly Lincoln begins his quest against vampires. In both the book and the movie, Lincoln witnesses a vampire poisoning his mother, killing her. In the book, shortly after this act he kills the vampire, while in the movie it takes quite a few years to do so. In both the book and the movie, Henry trains Lincoln to kill vampires, but one key fact is revealed at a different point: Henry is a vampire himself. In the book it is revealed shortly after we meet Henry, while in the movie, a rule was created that prevented vampires from killing other vampires: a rule that does not exist in the book. Finally, the ending is also very different, but this is a no spoiler website. Go out and read the book and view the movie for yourself!

Like anything in life, most people don’t like changes. When we go from one big stage of our lives to another, we panic and start holding on to the past. I’m here to tell all you bookies, it’s ok to like the movie version too. Yes it will be different, and yes they may cut out the best scene of inner dialogue because it won’t translate to screen well, but it can still be great! I think if you have faith that the main idea of the book will come across, you can enjoy both the movie and novel. Also, although I rated both the movie and book versions of Vampire Hunter the same, I did like the movie an ounce more, just for the sheer fact that Benjamin Walker (who played Abraham Lincoln) was so badass. Until next time, happy reading and viewing.

Book: 5 out of 5 Stars

Movie: 5 out of 5 Stars

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)
Tim Burton Productions
R, 105 Minutes

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
Grand Central Publishing (2010)
Paperback: 336 pages
ISBN: 0446563080

Adam’s Review of Sober Identity by Lisa Neumann

This book review will definitely be the first of its kind here on Reflections of a Book Addict. As an avid reader of the website, you would know that we mostly read novels and watch movies. Recently, the opportunity arose for me to read a novel all about living soberly. For some odd reason, I thought it would be a great book for me to read because it seemed to be different than anything I have ever read and reviewed for this blog.  Sober Identity Tools for Reprogramming the Addictive Mind by Lisa Neumann is a self-help book that contains tools to help you get sober and live an active life as a sober individual. Neumann uses her own experiences as an alcoholic (and now a recovered alcoholic) to help you truly understand your life and what it can become with focus and determination.

This book is not a memoir or a story saying all alcoholics should follow these certain steps to guarantee sobriety. The book is written to help the reader with the different steps of recovery, as well as explaining how you should learn to live with your new sober self. She breaks the book down into six parts: the six tools you should use in looking at your new life. The six steps are: the observation, the process, the essentials, the competencies, the partnerships, and the basics. All of the six play an integral part in the recovery process: the observations entails that you observe your behavior and see what needs to be changed.  The process represents how you change the behavior, and the essentials instruct you on how to change your life in order to achieve happiness (and also a discussion on the science behind change). The competencies talked about the steps one must take in order to be a competent person, free from alcohol and truthful to themselves. The partnerships dives into the partnership with ourselves and our own self motivation, and lastly the basics ties everything together and gets into the basic steps one takes to get sober. All of these parts tell a separate story, but one must be aware of all the different six steps in order to get sober.

My favorite part of this book by far was the inner dialogue that Neumann had between two distinct voices in her head. In the introduction when Neumann was explaining how the book was written, she said that everybody has two voices in their head. Voice A is their lower self, the one who struggles and questions whether or not they could get and stay sober, and then there’s voice B, who represents the way they were meant to be in the eyes of the creator. I thought by adding these conversations Neumann added a personal level to the self-help book without turning it to an autobiography. I really enjoyed reading the progression of these dialogues because they go from pre-sobriety to complete sobriety over almost seven years. You got to see how her voices changed through the different stages. Voice A tried to drag her down and tell her she’s not strong enough and that she should go back to drinking, and on the other hand voice B was always her voice of reason even at the pre-sobriety stage. Voice B always said what she didn’t want to hear, yet needed to hear. For example, in the early stages of her sobriety when voice A was questioning whether or not it could or stay sober or why it even got sober in the first place, B was telling her that she should just focus on today. Not tomorrow, not a month from now, focus on your recovery today and then when tomorrow or next month comes focus on it then. Even though I am not a recovering alcoholic, I think this is a good mantra to have for life. Don’t focus on problems or bumps in the road that may occur tomorrow or a month from now, focus on today, then move to tomorrow, and next Friday only when it’s actually next Friday.  My favorite of the inner dialogues was definitely dialogue six (out of seven), in which she had been sober for 367 days. In this particular dialogue her voice A was telling her that since she had been sober for one year, she could go back to drinking (something her voice A had mentioned in an earlier dialogue), but her voice B was so strong and confident that it didn’t even want to drink. It really showed the progress of her recovery and how strong she really was when she wasn’t dependent on alcohol. It made me smile because it was one of the dialogues where she truly seemed happy, and happy people are always better than sad people!

In all, I really enjoyed reading this book. I thought it was an interesting tool to read as a non-addict because it made me understand the mindset of the addict without telling one’s personal story. I think this is a great tool which should be read by recovering and recovered addicts, as well as those who are going through the journey with them. It also made me question my voice A and voice B, not from the perspective of an addict, but from the perspective of my own self-doubt.  Voice A is telling me I can’t do something and my sometime too quiet Voice B telling me I can do anything I want to do.  Overall, it’s an awesome read that everyone should pick up when they have a chance.

4 out of 5 Stars

Sober Identity by Lisa Neumann
Balboa Press (2011)
Paperback: 156 pages
ISBN: 9781452539188

Special thanks to Jessie from Author Solutions for sending over my review copy!

Adam’s Review of Double Crossing by Meg Mims

Trust is a thing that is earned, not given, to those in our lives. Unfortunately, sometimes those who seem closest to us are the ones who will stab us in the back if given the means and opportunity to do so. The idea of trust is put to the test in Meg Mims’ historical fiction mystery novel Double Crossing. Through trials and tribulations the main heroine learns these difficult lessons about trust, as well as the old adage that one should keep their friends close, but their enemies closer.

Lily Glanville lives in Evanston, Illinois  in post-Civil War America and seems to be at a crossroads in her life. She can get married to Charles Mason and join a missionary trip to China, or she can get married to another suitor and stay near her recently widowed father. One night near her birthday, her father is unexpectedly murdered and deeds to a California gold source are stolen. Lily suspects her father’s friend Emil Tadaro, who happened to be at the house when her father was murdered. While receiving condolences at the funeral her Aunt Sylvia, along with her husband Sir  Vaughn who she hasn’t seen in years, approach Lily and plan to take care of her. They prove to be too much for Lily, and she escapes one night with help from Charles. She plans to go to California to intercept Tadaro, who was planning on meeting up with Lily’s Uncle Harrison. Along the trip, she meets a Texan named Ace Diamond who she pays to help protect her and Charles on their mission to California. By the end of the trip, she discovers who can be trusted and who has been acting the whole time.

I must admit, I liked this book a lot more than I originally expected to. I am not a huge mystery fan; I like Dan Brown’s works, but other than that and The Boxcar Children I really don’t find many mysteries to be interesting unless they’ve been made into a movie. However, Meg Mims wrote this book in such a way that would make it perfectly translatable to film. Right away I was casting the roles in my head, and I was able to do so because of how much detail she put into the book. She explained every chapter down to the smallest detail so that any reader could visualize them. The characters were extremely well written and most of them were extremely relatable. Even the villains of the novel had a really interesting story and when you find out who double crossed Lily at the end, I guarantee you’ll be shocked because I did not see it coming. Even though there are some foreshadowing clues, I never expected the ending to be as thrilling and exciting as it was. The different parts of the novel are a great build up to the climax and I often found myself making predictions as to how the novel was going to end.

Another aspect of the book that I found really interesting and really made me like the book a lot more was how strong of a heroine Lily was. Given that the story took place in the late 1800s and women were still seen as second class citizens, it was really interesting to see how strong-willed Lily was. She was truly an independent woman, and she thumbed her nose at people who expected her to do what society expected of her. She was a great character and I really enjoyed reading about her growth from start to the finish.

All in all I really enjoyed this book. It grabbed my attention from the start and throughout I found myself cheering out loud for Lily. I would definitely love to see a sequel because I want to know where Lily goes next.

4 out of 5 Stars

Double Crossing by Meg Mims
Astraea Press (2011)
Paperback: 257 pages
ISBN: 1466223200

Special thanks to Astraea Press for my review copy!

Adam’s Review of Deal with the Devil (Part I) by J. Gunnar Grey

Graduating from college with a degree in history is I guess the most obvious way to tell that I enjoy history.  To say you enjoy history offers a pretty broad spectrum of things to like.  The World War II period has always been my favorite period to study/read/learn about which was one of the reasons I jumped at the chance to review Deal with the Devil.  Written by J. Gunnar Grey, it details espionage, loyalties, and the difference between right and wrong in Europe in World War II. While reading this novel, the reader’s eyes are opened to question of doing what is perceived to be right versus what is actually the right thing to do.

Major Faust is a high-ranking officer in the German army during the start of World War II. After spending some time in England while achieving his college degree from Oxford, Faust found that he liked Britain as well. He tended to believe in British ideology more than the propaganda of Nazi Germany. After allowing some British soldiers to escape from German control, a friend gets Major Faust drunk and throws him over into England near Oxford. There he is captured by Major Stone, a retired general of the British army and his granddaughter Jennifer, whom Faust has an immediate connection with. He must not crack under interrogation as he was one of the architects of a detailed plan to invade England drafted by the German army. He attempts to escape, but during his attempt a local woman is brutally murdered, and he is captured again and made the lead suspect. Thrown into this classic whodunit is a story of loyalty, with twist and turns around every corner.

I will admit, I did not like the book the first three times I attempted to read it. I would read 20 pages and then it would slow down and I couldn’t get myself past that hump, only to give up and start again a week later. However, on my fourth and final attempt I got past the hump and am I glad I did. I couldn’t put my iPad down and couldn’t wait to flick (iPad turning) the page. I kept finding myself gasping at the twist and turns  set in the backdrop of World War II England. Similar to Dan Brown creating mysteries with religious material and legends as a base, J. Gunnar Grey was able to create an excellent mystery with a fantastic historical background.

I was completely blown away with the amount of research Grey put into the book. I kept learning about new facts and was constantly double checking to see if these were actual events and places that were described in the book. It probably took me twice as long to read the book because I kept doing that, but it made for a fuller reading experience. Not only was I reading a mystery, which was the first mystery I truly enjoyed since Angels and Demons, but I was also learning more about a subject I love.

All and all, I think this reading experience goes to show that you shouldn’t judge a book by the first 20 pages. Even though the beginning may be slower, eventually you will get to an exciting part. My only complaint was that I only read part one of this two-part series, because this first part ends with a huge cliff hanger, I need to get my hands in part two ASAP, so I can continue this great story!

5 out of 5 Stars

Deal With The Devil by J. Gunnar Grey
Astraea Press (2011)
eBook: 286 pages
ISBN: 2940012608321

Special thanks to Astraea Press for my review copy!

Read-A-Thon Hour 14, Mini Challenge #11

Hello and welcome to the hour 14 mini challenge! Adam here, and I am currently taking a break from reading so I can write this post.

Kanaye is hosting this hour’s challenge! We’re asked to share our first library memory/experience!  I wish I could remember the actual first time I entered a library and saw what books can actually do, but alas I don’t remember that time. However, I do remember the time I signed up for the New York Public Library only 8 short months ago. I was unemployed and looking for a way to pass time in a new city, so I hiked down to the main branch of the public library on 42nd street and instantly my mind was blown. First of all the building is incredible on its own, then to top it off the copious amount of books they have in there is actually mind-boggling. I was literally like a kid in a candy store, except instead of sugary treats I was gaining knowledge. I must have walked around for a good five minutes before a concerned employee made me stop and get my new card. I have yet to return to this branch of the library, but I eagerly look forward to my next visit!

Note: for roughly the next two hours we’ll be participating in “Hitchfest”, a Twitter-based group where we watch movies by Alfred Hitchcock and discuss them.  So, we’re going to take a quick two-hour break from mini challenges, but worry not!  We will be back with more Read-A-Thon awesomeness soon!

Read-A-Thon Hour 11, Mini Challenge #9

Welcome to hour 11!  I can’t believe that we’re almost to the halfway point!  Hopefully those of you following along haven’t gotten sick of us yet!  This hour’s mini challenge deals with a character you may or may not have thought a lot about: the anti-hero.

Ah, the anti-hero.  Lurking in the shadows, typically not caring about the spotlight, the anti-hero doesn’t care who he/she offends or who what laws he/she breaks in order to exact revenge or obtain a personal goal.  While all of us are familiar with a typical hero, swooping in to save the day, most of us overlook the general awesomeness of an anti-hero.  In this mini challenge we’ve been tasked with describing our favorite anti-heroes.  Kim and Todd will go first, then I’ll tell you my pick.  Without further ado, here they are:

Kim and Todd:  Our favorite anti-hero would have to be V from V for Vendetta. (Kim’s review is here)  A strong and mysterious character, V embodies all that is revenge and destruction.  Taking a page from the book of Guy Fawkes, V aims to destroy the government that has oppressed him for his entire life and enlighten the residents of post-apocalyptic Britain on exactly how little freedom that they have left since this government has taken over.  The best part of V’s character is that he unapologetically charges forward with his mission, not caring who he takes down in his quest to avenge the life he suffered at the hands of the government many years ago.  This is, we feel, the best part of an anti-hero.  While heroes may be concerned with acting as “the nice guy” throughout their work, the anti-hero can really get the job done without pomp and circumstance.

Adam: My favorite anti-hero seems to most to be pretty villainous, but I see some good in him despite some major flaws. The character is Stanley Kowalski from Tennessee Williams’ classic play A Streetcar Named Desire. He has some huge character flaws in that he’s loud, obnoxious, misogynistic, and extremely crude in the sense that he rapes his wife’s sister. However, he does have some redeeming qualities in the fact that he loves his wife and has a genuine affection for her and truly would do anything within his power to protect her.  Maybe I am basing this off of Marlon Brando’s performance of him, but I feel that he is able to bring a human level to this character as well as a likability to the character.  This makes him such an enigma of the character and despite his actions, you still want to like him.

Well, that’s all for now.  Stay tuned for hour 12 (the halfway point!)