“It’s a wonderful death” Sarah J. Schmitt

Rated 4 stars **** 2015. Sky Pony Press. 306 p.

It'sAWonderfulDeathRJ, Queen Bee and Mean Girl at her high school, never expected life to end at the age of 17. However, the Grim Reaper accidentally takes her soul when a fortuneteller uses her as a shield against him. Highly upset at the consequences of his mistake, RJ refuses to be processed in the afterlife. Instead she insists her soul be returned to her body, and creates a stink about being wrongfully taken to anyone who’ll listen.

A Tribunal of angels is convened to rule on her case, and she is given a task to return to three important occasions in her life that could alter her destiny. IF she manages to change the course of her life, and influence others for the good, they will grant her request. If not, she will be shut away for years until her real death date occurs somewhere in the future.

RJ is determined to ace her tests though the Tribunal doesn’t seem to want her to succeed. Changing the pattern of the selfish life she’d led on Earth is not going to be easy, but if she wants to live in her own body again she’ll have to figure out a way.

Schmitt has a very active imagination, describing Saint Peter, life after death, heaven, hell, and even angels in ways that would never be found in any religious book. Though some conservative types might find her descriptions of RJ’s experiences in the afterlife to be sacrilegious, I found them to be original, highly imaginative and quite humorous.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

 

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“The door that led to where” Sally Gardner

 Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published November 8, 2016. Delacorte Press. 277 p.

thedoorthatledtowhereA.J. has grown up with a missing father and an angry mother. With no future in England’s post secondary education due to failing exams, he takes on work as a clerk at a local law firm. There he discovers a strange key with his name on it and, through a series of circumstances, finds it belongs to a door that takes him into the past.

London of 1830 gets much getting used to, with A.J. soon involved in a series of mysterious deaths – including that of his own father. Discovering his father was also a time traveler leads to more mysteries that set the course for A.J.’s past, present and future.

I enjoyed seeing 1830’s London brought to detailed life, and also liked the title. It’s word play for a door that goes “where” rather than “nowhere” is quite clever.

I was not fond of the open ending which usually leads to a series, as I am not fond of books in a series. I also think the author should have had a glossary. Slang British words were used throughout the book, and a glossary would have been very helpful.

I also thought A.J. and his friends were more like 16 going on 26, instead of “normal” 16 year olds. All of these issues, combined with spoiler complaints listed below, is why  I gave “The door that led to where” 3 instead of 4 stars.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

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Mrs. Meacock was the picture of health, ready to institutionalize Esme. Yet, two days later, she was rendered practically unrecognizable, just a few short steps from death. I find it hard to believe she had become crazy so quickly after being relatively sane for so many years.

I also thought the author should have unveiled the professor’s identity in a little more detail. I know he was a time traveler, but he knew a lot about A.J.’s history. Why did he know so much?

“Bourne & Tributary” Lisa T. Bergren

Rated 2 stars ** River of Time #3.1 and 3.2. ebook. 2012. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Includes photographs.

Bourne&TributaryThese two novellas, told in alternate voices, continue the Betarrini sisters’ life in medieval times.

In “Bourne,” an elusive band of assassins from Firenze are roaming the countryside seeking the death of the brothers-in-arms that had come to Marcello’s aid in the recent battle. With Luca as one of their targets Lia jumps into She-Wolf mode, with the same devil-may-care attitude for adventure displayed in earlier books by Gabriella.

In “Tributary,” readers are introduced to young and beautiful Alessandra Donatelli, a Fiorentini peasant girl. While out hunting, she is injured and taken to the Castello for healing. Marcello has been charged by her suspicious father to keep her safe until his return in 5 days. Unbeknownst to him, Alessandra is planning on doing some spying while a secret plan is afoot to use her to destroy the Sienese forever. It’s only a matter of time until Gabriella and Lia find themselves in another battle for their lives.

Despite not wanting to read any more of the series, I will have to find out what happens to the sisters in the SUPPOSEDLY final book “Deluge,” due out in late Spring. Hopefully Bergren will fix the grammatical errors encountered in this self-published book, as well as make sure not to mix up her characters as she did with Lord Barbato and Lord Foraboschi in a couple of places.

The adventure for the Betarrini sisters is nonstop in these two novellas, probably thrilling Bergren’s 12-17 year old fans but growing tiresome for me.

 

 

“Torrent” Lisa T. Bergren

Rated 4 stars **** River of Time, book #3. 2011. David C. Cook. ebook. Includes Discussion Questions,  Historical Notes and After Words.

TorrentIn the midst of the battle, the Betarrini women escape to the Etruscan tombs. They plan to negotiate the time warp to allow them to return to the future to save their father from the accident that killed him. Once they’ve managed to convince him they are not crazy, he enters the tomb with them and they are transported back to medieval times.

In the year they’d been gone (despite it only being an hour and a half real time), both Castello Forelli and Paratore have fallen to Firenze. The group ultimately finds Marcello settled in the former Rossi palace in Siena, but Fortino has been imprisoned. The only trade to be considered is Gabriella herself, which Marcello flatly refuses to accept.

True to style, Gabriella convinces him she can be used as bait, and that they could get Fortino released as she will manage to escape. Instead she winds up captured, taken far away, and promised in marriage to Lord Greco. It will be up to Marcello and her family to try to rescue her once again. So begins a series of adventure after adventure that will leave everyone reading the book scratching their heads in bewilderment as to how one character could manage to survive so much.

I was not as happy with “Torrent” as with the other books in the series because Gabriella’s continued devil-may-care “I’m gonna go ahead and rescue everybody cos I’m the only one that can do it” attitude really stared to get on my nerves. She seriously could not seem to get how much danger she was putting herself and others in, as she continually threw herself into harm’s way. It seemed like Bergren went a little overboard in having her get captured more times in this one book than in the other two put together.

Her 12-17 year old fans will probably forgive her, especially with a couple of novellas to continue this SUPPOSEDLY last book in the series. I really, really dislike when authors don’t keep their word and END a series as they’d promised. I liked it since it, supposedly, tied everything up in a final knot but will leave it up to you to decide if You Want to Read it or Not.

“Cascade” Lisa T. Bergren

Rated 5 stars ***** River of Time, book #2. 2011. David C. Cook. ebook. Includes A Chat with Lisa Bergren, Discussion Questions,  Historical and Factual Notes and Acknowledgments.

CascadeThis amazing series, set in Italy in 1342, continues where book #1 stopped. At the end of “Waterfall,” when we last saw Gabriella and Lia, they had been forced to return to modern times due to Gabriella’s poisoning.

“Cascade” opens with the sisters trying to convince their mother of what had happened, while the now healed Gabriella urges her to return with them to the past as she wants to be with Marcello. Mrs. Betarrini decides to trust their judgement and returns to medieval times with them. Once there, the girls are reunited with the very handsome Marcello and Luca.

However things are not well with Marcello and his men. Their Fiorentini enemies are determined to retake Castello Paratore while also overtaking Castello Forelli and overthrowing Siena. Capturing the She-Wolves of Siena (Gabriella and Lia) are also part of their plan, and it is only a matter of time before Gabriella, her mother and Lia will be in the fight of their lives.

“Cascade” is a great, action filled read which will delight Bergren’s 12-17 year old fans, while also bringing in new ones. I look forward to the next book “Torrent,” to find out if Marcello, Gabriella, Luca and Lia get to live happily ever after.

“Waterfall” Lisa T. Bergren

Rated 5 stars ***** River of Time, book #1. 2011. David C. Cook. ebook. Includes Discussion Questions, an Interview with the Author, Acknowledgements, Historical Notes and a Bibliography.

WaterfallFifteen-year-old Lia and seventeen-year-old Gabriella’s mother is an archaeologist of Etruscan tombs in Italy. They’ve been warned to never go into any of her tombs or touch anything but, bored with the lack of interesting things for teenagers to do in the small village, they disobey and sneak into a tomb. While exploring they find a set of mysterious hand prints that, when touched, managed to suddenly transport them back to medieval times.

Rescued from a battle as she emerged from the tomb by the very handsome Lord Marcello, Gabriella seeks refuge in his castle. She doesn’t expect to fall in love with him, as he’s betrothed to another, but fate has a way of stepping in where we least expect it to be.

As Gabriella seeks to find Lia, who had become separated from her on their time travel journey, readers are soon awash in humorous and historical accounts of the lives of lords and ladies along with their knights (and everything associated with the 1300’s) as seen through Gabriella’s modern eyes.

Gabriella discovers many differences between her former life and her current one, managing to overcome difficulty after difficulty in her quest to continue with her charade as the Lady Gabriella Betarrini of Normandy, while seeking Lia and a way back to her own time. Adventures and battles line her path, along with jealousy, fear and love. “Waterfall” is very well researched, quite exciting, and a very interesting read for ages 12-17. I look forward to reading book #2 “Cascade.”

“11/22/63” Stephen King

2011. Scribner (Simon & Schuster). 849 pp.

11:22:63Fifty years ago, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, America and its citizens changed forever. Conspiracy theorists have had 50 years to ponder whether or not Oswald acted alone, and wonder how Kennedy would have led the country had he lived.

Most readers associate Stephen King’s name with horror stories, but “11/22/63” had none of what I’d come to expect from his scary books-turned-into-movies. I am not a fan of horror so tended to shy away from the genre but “11/22/63,” filled with realistic fiction and history, had me hooked from page 1.

Jake Epping, high school English teacher, is convinced by Al, owner of his favorite diner, that time travel is possible. Due to failing health Al is unable to accomplish his ultimate life goal – to use the time portal to prevent Kennedy’s assassination. Despite his unbelief and fear of the unknown, Jake manages to travel to 1958 unscathed where he begins to see the real possibility of changing history.

Jake has his own goals for entering the past which include saving Harry, a severely crippled GED student, from watching his drunken father almost kill him after using a hammer to kill his mother, brother and sister. Jake is sure he can undo the past and save Harry, while also hanging around to save Kennedy.

Jake tracks Oswald’s every move leading up to that faithful November day, while managing to build a new life and learning to love once more. Incredibly, the dangers he faces while changing the past are closely bound up in his future – revealed in proper King fashion. The intervening years between 1958 and 1963 show Jake that history has a way of changing even the best intentions, and that the past will do anything to stay the same.

“11/22/63” is a must read for Adult readers who will find themselves pondering the many “what if’s” faced by Jake while asking themselves if they would’ve made the same choices.