Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore [Book-to-Movie Staring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson]

This is the cover image for the graphic novel,
Hercules: The Thracian Wars by
Steve Moore [cardstock ed.]. [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     He had seduced the woman through trickery, taking on the likeness of her husband; he slowed further enjoy his debauchery with her. Then, the woman's husband returned catching the two in the act. The seducer, Zeus, fled, leaving the hapless woman, Alcmene, pregnant and alone, to face the wrath of her husband. Hera, Zeus's wife, became furious at Zeus's infidelity, and she took her revenge out on Hercules, the son born from Zeus's trickery with Alcmene, when Hercules had grown into a man.  

     Hera caused all manner of trouble for Hercules while he was yet a mortal. Probably the worst thing she did was to make Hercules crazy for a while--confused and angry, Hercules killed his own wife and children. After he awoke from the "temporary insanity," Hercules was devastated and prayed to Apollo for guidance. Apollo's oracle told Hercules to serve King Eurystheus for twelve years, which included the twelve labors he would have to perform.

These twelve impossible tasks
were appointed to Hercules by
King Eurystheus. [3]
     Hercules was first tasked with bringing back the pelt of the lion of Nemea that was wrecking havoc on the population of the area. He tracked the lion and shot at it with arrows, but the arrows only bounced off the lion. Regrouping, Hercules considered another approach: he blocked one entrance to the lion's cave and then came at the lion through the other entrance. 

     Grappling with the lion, Hercules used his great strength in his arms to first grab and then choke the lion until it died. Hercules skinned the lion and returned to King Eurystheus, but the king wouldn't see him, opting instead to communicate with Hercules through a herald. Hercules thereafter wore the skin of the lion, the pelt protecting him; thus, the lion skin became one of his trademark images as you can see on the book's cover. [2] 

One of Hercules many adventures:
Hercules: The Knives of Kush
by Steve Moore. [4]
    The legends surrounding Hercules abound. Stories tell of him sailing with Jason in search of the Golden Fleece, and numerous other adventures and military campaigns. This book, Hercules: The Thracian Wars, tells one of those stories.

(The Sword & Sandle Comeback):

     Hercules and his seven companions [(1) Amphiaraus (a Seer from Argos); (2) the woman, Atalanta, from Arcadia; (3) Tydeus of Calydon, The Brutal; (4) Iolaus; (5) Meleager; (6) Meneus; and (7) Autolycus (son of Hermes)] receive a request from King Cotys of the Odrysae Tribe in Thrace to provide mercenary services for gold. Hercules and his comrades hire on to train King Cotys' soldiers to be the greatest fighting force of all time. To achieve this goal, Hercules and his band must train Cotys' soldiers to be as bloodthirsty, fierce and ruthless as Hercules' band.

Hercules and his companions. I'm sorry the photo is not
better, as you can see, my book is falling apart. But at
least you can get an idea of how his companions appear.
Amphiaraus the Seer,  is far right, Atalanta next to him
and Hercules in the middle (right), Tydeus The Brutal
[who, by the way, eats human flesh--yucch!] (center,
straddling both pages), Iolaus (with the beard) stands
left of Tydeus in the center, next to him is Meleager
[with blond hair and a spear] (he has a big crush on
Atalanta),  Meneus with a short sword, and Autolycus
in a white cloak and hood far left.
     But nothing is as simple as it seems. Hercules and his band's only desire is to work and earn their money, but others have hidden agendas and secret plans that may well, indeed, interfere with Hercules' plans.

     Greece, his beloved country, may, well be at risk as well as his life and the lives of his companions. Who is working behind the scenes to cause such devastating consequences? What do they hope to accomplish? It seems blood will flow and men will die, but whose blood and whose lives?

     Several different editions of the Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore exist. The edition I am reviewing today is the paperback edition (cardstock cover); the two other editions are (1) the Kindle edition and (2) the hardcover edition. I want to make clear that I am NOT reviewing all three of these editions, only the one that I purchased, the paperback edition.

     As I have indicated in other blog posts, but it bears repeating, a graphic novel is, in form, a book bound with material similar to full novels. Also, graphic novels can also be viewed on e-readers. They can be hardcover or card stock paper and may include topics of non-fiction as well as fiction, or even anthologies. The graphic novel is distinguished from comics or comic books even though the bulk of material consists of drawings.

     Comic books are published on inexpensive bulk paper whereas graphic novels paper quality is much higher, some are truly beautiful with glossy pages and beautiful illustrations. Moreover, comics contain advertising whereas graphic novels do not. Also, graphic novels invariably contain a story line that has a beginning, middle, and end, a complete story arc. Comic books, on the other hand, tend to be episodic in nature. Comic books are much, much shorter than graphic novels (some graphic novels I've seen approach 150 pages and one I have is over 200 pages).

     Some graphic novels merely call themselves graphic novels but are nothing more than bound comics with an inflated price. It is so disappointing when a title is described and billed as a graphic novel and you spend your money expecting to get a graphic novel, but end up with a glorified comic book. One example of this is All You Need is Kill (Edge of Tomorrow) by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. I reviewed the novel in May of this year (2014). As a Bonus part of that review, I also reviewed the graphic novel (click here to see that review). On the other hand, Vampire Academy, A Graphic Novel is a perfect example of what a great graphic novel can be (click here to see that review).

     Hercules: The Thracian Wars has a complete story arc with a beginning, middle and end; it is not episodic like a comic book. It is a bound book, with a card stock cover (see the image at top of page.) So far, so good. The paper is a nice quality paper with a glossy finish and beautiful illustrations; again, not the pulp paper of comic books. The pages number 144, so it is far larger than a comic book; the quantity of pages, here, also put it in the graphic novel category. Unfortunately, the back of the book contains seven pages of advertising; still, this alone, since it is placed in the back of the book and no advertising is in the middle of the book, would not, of itself, prevent it from being a graphic novel. So, my CONCLUSION is that it meets the elements of being a graphic novel. To find out whether or not it is a good graphic novel, let's continue.

     CONTENT: I've already given you the short synopsis, above, but there is a bit more to say about the story. First, the reason I purchased the book was because I had learned that the book was being made into a movie. Dwayne, "The Rock" Johnson, has been cast in the leading role. The adaptation of a book to a movie is a very interesting process--it can have widely unpredictable results. Sometimes the story bears little semblance to the book, other times a real effort has been made to be true to the book. Let's take a look at the YouTube trailer to see just what we are in for. [8]


     Joining Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in the movie is John Hurt as King Cotys, Irina Shayk as Megara, Rufus Sewell as Autolycus, Ingrid Bolso Berdal as Atalanta, Ian McShane as Amphiaraus, Reece Ritchie as Iolaus, Aksell Hennie as Tydeus, Adrian Bouchet as Zeus and Rebecca Fergueson as Ergenia. Writing credits go to Steve Moore (book), Ryan Condal (screenplay), Evan Spiliotopoulos (screenplay), with Brett Ratner doing the directing.

     The story is action-packed, full of twists and turns and "Crazy Ivans." No. No submarines in this story. But it is full of intrigue and hang-on-to-your-seat suspense, betrayal, cannibalism, ill-fated love, death-wishes, tragic deaths, deserved punishments, psychotic killers, monsters, heroes, prophecy and sex. It literally, has it all. Most of all, it has gratuitous violence of every sort: blood, guts, and brains, everywhere. To me it seemed to be more like Conan the Barbarian than Hercules Son of Zeus. If the movie follows the book, be ready for a bloodfest.  As of today (06-27-14), the movie does not have an MPAA rating. According to IMDb, it most likely will be rated PG-13 due to "violent fantasy action, frightening images, some sexuality, and brief nudity." [9]

     Really, there is only one thing that I really LOVED. It is the beautiful art of Admira Wijaya (Artist). Don't judge the artwork by the book's cover, because I just don't think the cover does it justice. Here is a close up from my book showing a face on one side and on the other clouds and sun in a backdrop. Just look at the subtlety in the art. I think it is really beautiful. It really is a shame, because, as I said, the art is about the only thing I liked about the book.

     The most horrible part of the book is the poor workmanship in constructing the book. Here are several photos showing how the book fell apart after reading it once. And for those of you who don't believe me, go to and look up the reviews of the paperback (or card stock) edition of this book. It has happened to others.

     I love my books and handle them gently. I never over torque a spine and don't fold pages. This book, literally, fell apart in my hands as I carefully turned the pages. It is the worst constructed book I have EVER purchased. I pur- chased mine for $9.99 + 3.99 sh/h, almost a year ago. now lists the books from sellers starting at $34.16 (used) and $34.99 (new). So...even at $9.99 I feel I got ripped off.

From  It looks like the four people who got the hardcover
edition were happy with the book, bringing in 4.5 stars avg. [10]
     As I said, above, I am not reviewing the other editions of this graphic novel. Even so, I would like to share with you a couple of things. First, it appears that those who bought the hardcover edition (or the Kindle edition) are quite happy with their book. They do not have the disastrous falling apart problems with which card stock editions seem plagued.

     Second, as you can see from the image (just above, right), the hardcover editions are much cheaper, now, than the paperback edition. Available from second party sellers, they start at $18.89 used, and even new, it still is almost $5.00 cheaper than the paperback. What's up with that? Don't they want anyone to buy the paperback editions, now?

Yes, I can still read the book in this condition, but what happens if I lose
a page or a section of the book because it has fallen out? The extremely
poor quality craftsmanship of assemblage has ruined the book's readability.

    Finally, I'm not sure what prompted the Sword and Sandle comeback this year. We have had Pompeii (Milo played by Kit Harrington); Hercules (starring Kellan Lutz as Hercules); 300: Rise of an Empire, and now we have Hercules, starring "The Rock." It seems that the first two movies did abysmally at the box office and in the ratings while 300: Rise of an Empire received mixed ratings but did well at the box office. We can only guess what will happen with "The Rock's," Hercules. Well, I for one, will be waiting to see it. [11]

     The MPAA rating should be at least a PG-13 (or stronger). The book is rife with violence, blood, killing, and horrible images such as cannibalism. Sex is also present, and some quasi-nudity. This book should not be read by children or the sensitive person. I advise the same about the movie. While the movie looks to be very violent, it will probably be more palatable than the book. For adults who like fantasy themes that include violence, this book should be acceptable.

     For all the reasons I have stated, above, I give this book 2 stars out of 5. I'm sure the rating would be different had I purchased the hardback book for myself. However, I did not. I am rating this card stock edition and find it to be one of the worst books I have ever purchased. I give the 2 stars only for the sake of the beautiful art work of Admira Wijaya. 

Get ready for a Thriller/
Novel next week! [13]
     Thank you for joining me this week as we looked at the graphic novel that is the basis for the upcoming movie, Hercules--Hercules: The Thracian Wars. Please join me again next week when we will look at something very different from a graphic novel. We will look at a thriller/mystery/suspense novel, sure to please the reader in you. You have to wait for the big reveal until next week, but it should be fun. Don't forget to pick up something and read it this week while you're waiting for next week's book review! I send my love to you all!

Until next time...
This is a Double White Rose of Sharon. [14]

...many happy pages of reading!

[1] "Hercules: The Thracian Wars." Retrieved 06-27-14.
[2] "The Nemean Lion." Retrieved 06-27-14.
[3] "The Labors of Hercules." Retrieved 06-27-14.
[4] "Movie News Monday." Retrieved 06-27-14.
[5] "Graphic Novels." Retrieved 06-27-14.
[6] "All You Need Is Kill." Retrieved 06-27-14.
[7] "Vampire Academy." Retrieved 06-27-14.
[8] "Hercules: The Thracian Wars." Retrieved 06-27-14.
[9] "Hercules." Retrieved 06-27-14.
[10] "Hercules: The Thracian Wars." Retrieved 06-27-14.
[11] "Brett Ratner's 'Hercules' to Hit Theaters in August 2014." Retrieved 06-27-14.
[12] "Tee Set Rating." Retrieved 06-27-14.
[13] "Mystery Crime Scene." Retrieved 06-27-14.
[14] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 06-27-14.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Long Way Down: A Novel by Nick Hornby--This Book-to-Movie Comes to the Big Screen in U.S. 07-11-14 [Limited Release]!

This is the paperback edition of Nick
Hornby's, A Long Way Down. [1]
Book Review by: Sharon Powers.


     Phil and Rita are sitting in the diner at their regular table. They have a discussion about death and life and Phil tells Rita that he has just survived a horrible car wreck and that he is a supernatural being.

     Phil is a famous weatherman and on-screen personage who goes to Punxsutawney for Groundhog Day and gets stuck in a time loop living the same day, the exact same day, over and over again. Phil moves through various emotions, at first disbelief of his situation, then he feels elation, and finally despair and weariness and dread. They drive him to attempt to commit suicide but he always wakes up the next morning exactly as he did the day before.

   Back at the table in the diner, Phil tells Rita that he's survived more than just a car wreck. He says, "'I've been run over, drowned, crushed, stabbed, shot, electrocuted, poisoned, frozen, burned, and asphyxiated. [RITA says] 'Really?' [And the waiter looks at him like he's nuts.] [PHIL responds,] '--but I always wake up the next day without a scratch, without even a headache. I'm telling you, I'm immortal.'" [2]

     Here is a short film clip of Bill Murray as Phil Connor going through his series of suicide attempts. This video clip is from YouTube. Please enjoy:

     The one suicide attempt Phil doesn't mention is jumping from a tall building--but we see that he does attempt suicide this way. Jumping from a tall building is exactly what four people plan on doing in Nick Hornby's novel, A Long Way Down. The four people, however, are not stuck in a supernatural time loop. Their first jump would be their last--and that is, indeed, what they intend.

     Four people, all leading separate lives and not knowing each other, come to one fateful decision that brings them all together on the same night at the same place and time, the top of a very tall building in London, called Toppers. Ironically, as each arrives on that New Year's Eve, they, in turn, discover they are all there for the same purpose: to jump to their death from the rooftop. 

The irony of their agreement
to delay their suicide until
Valentine's Day may, or may
not have escaped the group's
notice. [5]
     The four begin talking and eventually agree to a moratorium on their suicide jump until Valentine's Day. Periodically the individuals, Martin, Maureen, Jess, and J.J., meet and the reader gradually gets to know more about each person. Their personalities and lives are disparate: Martin, is a television personality, convicted of having sex with a fifteen-year-old, and, having been in prison, is separated from his wife and daughters; Maureen is a single mother of a profoundly handicapped boy; Jess is an out-of-control teenager who uses drugs, drinks alcohol, and misses her sister who suddenly disappeared one day; and J.J. is an ex-band member who recently broke up with his girl friend and is stuck delivering pizza's for a living. 

     And then the fateful day arrives--Valentine's Day. The group has gathered on the top of the building for a second time. In a shocking turn of events, we are witness to a suicide. But what of those that remain behind? Nick Hornby pulls out all the stops and lets everyone have it. But what will be done with what is left? Will the group all eventually jump to their deaths, or will they find a way to live?

     When you get yourself in that place, the place I was in on New Year's Eve, you think people who aren't up on the roof are a million miles away, all the way across the ocean, but they're not. There is no ocean. Pretty much all of them are on dry land, in touching distance. (p.324)
     This is my favorite quote because I like the concept that we all aren't really so far apart from each other. Of course, if you read closely, you'll realize that J.J., the speaker, is really saying that everyone else is on the roof with him and not so far away from being suicidal, themselves.

     The movie is scheduled for limited release, only, on July 11, 2014. After having watched the trailer, I have to say, I think the book adaptation to movie seems to change the tone of the book. Watching the trailer, it seems like four desperate people meet, help each other, and everything ends well. The music is up beat and cheerful, laughing and giggling included--anything but what you would associate with suicide. Watch the trailer and see what you think. [7]

     Pierce Brosnan will star in the movie as Martin, Toni Collette as Maureen, Imogene Poots as Jess, Aaron Paul as J.J., with Sam Neil as Chris, Rosamund Pike as Penny, and Josef Altin as Matty. Pascal Chaumeil is the Director and writing credits going to Nick Hornby (novel) and Jack Thorne (screenplay). Ratings have given the movie 6.5 stars out of 10 (2,705 Ratings users), and the metascore is 28 out of 100. The MPAA Rating is R (for language). [8]

     Oh, my, my, my. We are down to it now, aren't we? First, just to let you know, I've had a family member who committed suicide, so I don't think that suicide is funny--even in a black humor kind of way. This book has been out long enough for almost everyone to know that it is supposed to be "hilarious" and that it has "comical snap." I just don't think so. I never laughed once, or chuckled, or even smiled at any point while I was reading the book. Others may think it humorous, I don't. I will not apologize for feeling this way.

     Second, moving down to the more literary analysis, we have four characters, all so very different. Yet, I didn't really find anyone with whom I could identify OR that I could say I liked. I just didn't really care about them the way they were written. Too many protagonists, I think, makes it difficult to get to know any of them. And we had numerous supporting cast members, too (I actually liked some of them better than the characters themselves--like the orderlies from the care home.). Conclusion: character development just failed to inspire.

     Third, too much of the book jumped back and forth without any direction--like the man on the left, here, not quite sure which direction to go. I was just getting to try to understand one person and we switched to another. And we also had chaotic themes running through the book, one about falsifying a vision of an angel, starting and quitting a book club, getting involved in music, etc. I felt like a bouncing ball, or whiplash with all the changeups. It just wasn't compelling.

     Finally, I thought the ending sucked. Here is a short quote that might be illustrative for you: [Martin is speaking, and we are on page 261] "That's the thing with the young these days, isn't it? They watch too many happy endings. Everything has to be wrapped up, with a smile and a tear and a wave. Everyone has learned, found love, seen the error of their ways, discovered the joys of monogamy, or fatherhood, or filial duty, or life itself." "[O]r life itself[?]" Really? Discovering the joy of life is a bad thing?

     And that just about sums up the book. Nothing has been learned. We don't know, for sure, if they will continue to choose life. In fact, on the last page of the book one says, "So how about we give it another six months? See how we're doing?" (p.332) It just is like a slice of life with no end, just a piece out of the middle. And that seems to be what Hornby was going for, here. It may be successful in that Hornby achieved his goals in giving the reader this little slice of four people's lives, but I just don't think it worked well. Perhaps the movie adaptation will be more successful in giving the viewer a more palatable story; after all, we do see them having fun and laughing in the trailer.

     What did I like? Well, even though the premise is implausible, I liked the way Hornby used it to start the book. I also liked Hornby's writing style. It is easy-going and off-handedly casual and graceful. Some of the dialog was very pithy and well-done. What I liked, I liked very much, so it seems to balance out some of the negative elements of the book.

Search Results

  1. Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255                                        [14]
    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline


     The MPAA rating for the movie, A Long Way Down, is R, based on language. I, too, would rate the book R, but not just for the bad language. We have a very violent scene, a suicide, that everyone present sees. So, anyone who is young or of a sensitive nature should be aware of the MPAA rating from the movie.

     I'm glad I read the book, but admit I put it aside several times and had to force myself back to reading it. I probably won't read it ever again. I wanted to give it a lower rating, but felt that three stars was a fair valuation for the book. So, based on all the reasons I have given above, I give this book 3.0 stars out of 5.


     Thank you for joining me this week as we looked at the serious topic of suicide as addressed in Nick Hornby's book, A Long Way Down. This serious topic touches us all in profound ways.

     The internet can be so very impersonal. The subject of suicide is deeply personal and yet, touches us all. I may not know who you are, what your name is, or anything else about you, but every day I think about everyone of you who reads my blog posts. I try to give you a little bit of myself in the blog posts, through our mutual love of books. I feel like we are all connected. I keep you all in my prayers. And...I send you my love. The world is a better place for your being here! Stay alive. Be kind to each other.

     Please join me next week for a much, much lighter book review--we will be looking at the book and the book-to-movie, Hercules starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson that is slated for release to the big screen, July 25, 2014. [based on Steve Moore's, Hercules: The Thracian Wars]. I hope that will be more fun for you. And in the meantime, read something uplifting.

Until next time...
...many happy pages of reading!

All my love,


[1] "A Long Way Down." Retrieved 06-18-14.
[2] "Groundhog Day." Retrieved 06-21-14.
[3] "Groundhog Day [Movie]." Retrieved 06-21-14.
[4] "Groundhog Day - Suicide Scenes." Retrieved 06-21-14.
[5] "Forever and Eternity." Retrieved 06-22-14.
[6] "My favorite quote is...." Retrieved 06-22-14.
[7] "A Long Way Down Official International Trailer #1 (2014)." Retrieved 06-22-14.
[8] "A Long Way Down." Retrieved 06-22-14.
[9] "Suicide Isn't Funny." Retrieved 06-22-14.
[10] "This Crazy Thing." Retrieved 06-22-14.
[11] "...The Right Direction." Retrieved 06-22-14.
[12] "...Consensus Regarding the Ending It Sucked." Retrieved 06-22-14.
[13] "I Have 6 Months to..." Retrieved 06-22-14.
[14] "Need Help?" Retrieved 06-22-14.
[15] "These Broken Stars Review." Retrieved 06-22-14.
[16] "Sending You My Warmest Hug." Retrieved 06-22-14.
[17] "Top 28 White Roses Pictures for Free Download." Retrieved 06-22-14.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The City: A Novel by Dean Koontz...This Brand New Novel NOW Released (07-01-14)! [BONUS: "The Neighbor," The Short Story Prequel Review Included!]

The City: A Novel, by Dean Koontz is
available for purchase on July 1, 2014
from most book vendors.
has the title in Kindle (e-book), hard-
cover, and audio (or Audible)
formats. [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     My first Dean Koontz novel was a borrowed paperback edition of One Door Away From Heaven. My daughter insisted I read Dean Koontz and told me how much she loved him as an author and that if I read his books, I, too, would come to love him. She thrust the paperback into my hands. I turned it over, read the back cover, looked at the front, then, accepting the fact that I'd never hear the end of it if I didn't give the book a try, sat down to read.

     I finished the book the next day (May 26, 2009) and had to admit I enjoyed the read. I decided that I would like to read other Dean Koontz books, if they were as good as One Door Away From Heaven (I gave it 4.0 stars out of 5, recording it in my own personal Reading Journal as I always do when I finish reading a book.).

     Today, I checked my reading list and found that I've read thirty-six (36) of his books, to date--including today's book review title, The City: A Novel. I am only about one-third (1/3) of the way through Koontz's books; and since his titles number over one hundred (100), [3]  it may be some time, yet, before I make my way through them all. 

     Since starting this blog in August 2013, I have reviewed two of Koontz's books. The two books are as follows: Innocence: A Novel (and the short story, Wilderness), click here to see that book review; and Odd Thomas, an Odd Thomas Novel, Book 1, click here to see that book review. I am happy to have had the privilege to be able to read today's book, The City: A Novel, through NetGalley via an Advance Reader Copy (ARC).  Now, I'll tell you how I found the book to be.

     Jonah Kirk's best friend, Malcolm, encourages him to tell his story, and, albeit reluctantly, Jonah begins recounting his story of the light and the dark days. The publisher tells us that Jonah relates his story, about how "The City" changed him, about his need to relate the story about her and all of the "terrible...and wonderful...and amazing things that happened." Importantly, Jonah wants to share with us why he is still "haunted by them."

A young boy at the piano (Frank
"Sugar Chile" Robinson). [6]
     Jonah was born a musical prodigy, destined to be a great piano player. Coming from a musical family, his mother was a wonderful singer and his grandfather was a "piano man" who played with many of the greats of his day. Jonah is just beginning to see his talents come alive.

     Jonah's life is turned upside down when first one, and then a group of dangerous people, cross his path. Though he tries to avoid them and the consequences they bring, he is, nonetheless, brought into their world with life-changing and life-shattering consequences. Jonah tells us how "mysterious" the city is and how one mysterious night, when the group of dangerous people crossed his path, he "died and woke and lived again."

Malcolm lived across the street from
Jonah. Malcolm played the sax-
ophone and often went to visit Jonah.
The two boys played and practiced
together. [7]
     The story of Jonah and his "remarkable" family is subtly revealed in a "portrait" of the city and the world that helped to make him who he is. Koontz utilizes the boy's exposure to music, art, and architecture to show us all the dreams we share. Jonah learns about the power of friendship and of surprising heroes who also cross his path. The story, much like Jonah's pen light, shines light in the dark places, illuminating magic, "dark and light," enchantment, malice, courage and honor. The only question is, will Jonah be able to recover from the "life-shattering" consequences?

     WHAT WORKED: First, Dean Koontz's extensive experience in writing books clearly shows in the facile way he weaves multiple themes and motifs together throughout the book. Initially, Sylvia (Jonah's mother) talks to Jonah about being a whole man, not half-men like Harmon Jessup (a black man) or William Murkett (a white man). And then there are dark, scary dreams (of the past as well as prophetic dreams) versus the positive dream Jonah has of becoming a piano man. 

Some of the motifs used in the book include dark and light.
We find dark and light images, dark:  in shadows, dark
rooms, "shady characters," "dark deeds," black men, ver-
sus light: sunlight and day, candles, pendants, white-
skinnned people, etc. Koontz also points out "dark
and light magic." [8]

     Continuing with the concept of black and white, I especially appreciate that Ted- dy Bledsoe (Jonah's grand- father--the "piano man."), doesn't like categorizing people into racial groups, black and white--he thinks of all the black and white musicians he has known simply as "musicians." Maybe this is why it is so easy for grandson, Jonah, who is black, and Malcolm, who is white, to become fast friends. Their shared experiences tie them together. Loss and gain. Tragedy and triumph. And, of course, music. 

     Other Koontz concepts I enjoyed included the motifs of "orphans and adopted," versus people who were childless or adopting. And a really big one: Living from the inside out:  internal changes stemming from growth versus external changes of appearance--not living your life by being impacted by outside things such as the news, but by making your own choices along the way, not letting others or circumstances dictate how you should live.

Manzanar War Relocation Center. [9]
     Other images and motifs I enjoyed included the following: Jonah as being in the belly of the whale; the consideration of the theme of "family;" the image of "The City," personified; "juju" or "voodoo thinking" versus magical thinking, and finally, I loved how Koontz worked in all the images and stories about Manzanar and its people to reinforce "living from the inside out."  

     Finally, without going through the list of all the characters, I have to say as you read the book to pay attention to Teddy Bledsoe and George Yoshioka (a Japanese tailor, formerly from Manzanar)--love those two  men. And though these two especially touched me, I also loved how Koontz made other characters come alive (like Donata Lorenzo and Jonah's mother, Sylvia--and you have to love Malcolm, what a character).

     I can't tell you more about the plot, as it would spoil the book for your reading enjoyment. Many twists and turns abound in the novel, and I am sure you will enjoy the surprises Koontz has in store for you.

     While I liked many things about the novel a couple things didn't work for me. First, in spite of the publisher's promo about magic, "light and dark," and even in the book, itself, the same statement about the existence of dark and light magic, I didn't really see any "dark" magic. There is light or good magic. And, there was the dark imaginings of the little boy, Jonah, as kind of superstitious fears, but it was explained to him that "juju" or "voodoo thinking" just wasn't real magic. No one in the book is a witch or warlock, necromancer or evil being or thing that uses evil or dark magic. Don't get me wrong, there are very bad people in the book, the way Hitler might have been called evil, but no magic wielding entity utilized dark magic. So, I felt a bit led on about the whole "magic dark and light," thing--dark and light images pervade the book, but no dark magic. Just bad guys.

     Second, the story is told from the perspective of a fifty-seven-year old, looking back at his nine-year-old self. He leads the story from the beginning to the climax slowly building the story. The story reads almost as a who-done-it with a crime to be solved and bad guys caught. I think the problem, here, is that I was ready for one kind of story, but got another.

     And finally, the pacing is a bit slow in the first half of the book and could have been spiced up with a little more action. The end of the book was good and had a wonderful climax and resolution; but like I said, the beginning was a little slow.


     This book is for adults even though the protagonist (Jonah) is nine-years-old for most of the story. Jonah is telling the story orally, recording it, including all the dark and scary parts of a very troubling time he lived through. So, for these reasons, anyone who is young or of a sensitive nature should consider the reading material before actually picking it up to read. For all adults who do not fall into this category, the book will be very enjoyable and thought-provoking.

While it had a few minor problems,
I still enjoyed this book and give
it 4.0 stars out of 5. [12]
     I enjoyed this book. It was a fun read and I am glad I read it. I would even consider buying it for a gift to my daughter who loves Dean Koontz as an author--I think she will love it. And, for all the above reasons, I would give this book 4.0 stars out of 5.

THE NEIGHBOR by Dean Koontz
[A short story prequel to the novel, The City]


     In this prequel to The City: A Novel by Dean Koontz, publishers have told us that twelve-year-old Malcolm, lives at home with his dysfunctional parents (who can't stand each other) and his best friend and sister Amalia. The geeky and socially awkward Malcolm and his beautiful and intelligent sister have their curiosity piqued when a very secretive and enigmatic neighbor moves into a neighboring house in the dark of night.

     Since I've already completed the review of The City: A Novel, we know that Malcolm is Jonah's friend. This short story takes place shortly before Malcolm and Jonah meet for the first time.

     The story is so short that if I tell you too much, you'll figure out the punchline. But, I think I can tell you that the story really goes far in showing the relationship between Malcolm and Amalia (Malcolm's sister). The two work together to figure out what is going on next door. The story is suspenseful and spooky and great fun to read.

I guess Malcolm or Amalia ate half of one of the
cookies they were taking to the neighbor! This story
was great fun. 4.5 out of 5! [14]
     The story was short, so I read it quickly. The cost was only $.99, so I thought it to be a good bargain for the quality of the story. I highly recommend this Dean Koontz short to everyone! I rate it 4.5 stars out of 5 for the reasons I have stated and just because I enjoyed it so much.
Double White Rose of Sharon. [15]
This flower is in honor of my daughter's announcement,
today, that she will be having a little girl and naming
her Sharon Kathleen. I send my daughter and my
namesake all my love and prayers. 
     Thank you all for joining me, today, as we looked at Dean Koontz's exciting new book release, The City: A Novel. Please join me, again, next week when we will look at a new title that will shortly be coming to the big screen.

     God bless you all. Be kind to each other, and don't forget to pick up a book and read for a little bit, every day. Reading is fun, good for your brain, your heart, your life. Take care, my friends, and I will see you next week. Until next time...

...many happy pages of reading.

All my love,

[1] "The City: A Novel." [Dean Koontz] Retrieved 06-17-14.
[2] "One Door Away From Heaven." Retrieved 06-17-14.
[3] "Koontz's Dog Days." Retrieved 06-17.14.
[4] "Innocence." Retrieved 06-17-14.
[5] "Odd Thomas: Odd Thomas Series, Book 1." Retrieved 06-17-14.
[6] "Young Little...." Retrieved 06-17-14.
[7] "Cool Character." staff.rockwood.k. Retrieved 06-17-14.
[8] "Hamlet: William Shakespeare." Retrieved 06-17-14.
[9] "Manzanar Relocation Center." Retrieved 06-17-14.
[10] "That Old Black Magic." Retrieved 06-17-14.
[11] "Oooh." Retrieved 06-17-14.
[12] "Fredchuckdave." Retrieved 06-17-14.
[13] "The Neighbor." Retrieved 06-18-14.
[14] "The Smart Cookie Cook." Retrieved 06-18-14.
[15] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 06-18-14.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Monster Hunter Nemesis by Larry Correia--Released July 1, 2014--Now Available!

Monster Hunter Nemesis, Book 5, by Larry
Correia. RELEASE DATE 07-01-14. [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

  "I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel." 
(Chapter 10, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, 
quoting Milton's Paradise Lost.)

    "I knew his secret. The thing that we all knew as Agent Franks had been the inspiration for the fictional Frankenstein's monster, and had been around for a very long time. His creator, the alchemist Konrad Dippel, had died in the seventeen-hundreds, so Franks had to have been first stitched together sometime before that. His very existence piqued my curiosity, but it was all for naught...[for every question I asked him, I got the same response,] 'Classified'" (The speaker is Owen Pitt, from Monster Hunter Le- gion by Larry Correia, Kindle loc. 1733].

     Agent Franks is peppered throughout the Monster Hunter International Series. In Monster Hunter Legion, we learned a good deal more about Agent Franks than we had in all the previous books. If you look, you can see how Larry Correia is already setting up the Nemesis book that will be the next foray into the Monster Hunter International world. In Correia's previous books we learned that Agent Franks was not classified as human. 

     And yet, he had a contract for services with the U.S. government. We learned that Franks was secretive about himself--and ultra-sensitive when it came to Project Nemesis. In Legion, for example, when one Special Task Force Unicorn agent (STFU--this could also stand for "Shut The F*** Up.") tells Franks, "If it were up to me, we'd dismantle you and bring back the Nemesis Project." Franks "...switched from Obsequious Government Employee Mode to Kill Your Ass Mode...[and said] I've been ordered to tolerate you people. If you ever mention Nemesis around me again that tolerance ends, along with your life" (Loc. 1695). This is, of course, demonstrating that Franks is very serious about Nemesis. 

     As mentioned, above, Agent Franks, is seen threaded throughout the story arcs in the previous books in the series, appearing in Monster Hunter Nemesis as the main character. From previous books we know that Agent Franks' is a man cobbled together from bits and pieces of fifty different bodies. Few people know more about Franks, and that's just the way he wants to keep it.

One of Larry Correia's specially
signed books with a person-
alized drawing. Here, Agent
 Franks is punching an "iconic
monster from Warmachine." [3]
     Publishers tell us that the nearly indestructible Franks was given an "alchemical substance" which helped bring him to life...but even his creator didn't know that a spirit older than mankind seized the opportunity to dwell in the body of the cobbled together man. Although Franks has done a lot of violent things, he contracted with the government to protect the country from all supernatural enemies. The contract also absolutely prohibited the creation of any more beings like himself; the government wouldn't want to violate that provision because they wouldn't want to see Franks get angry. Would they? 

     A super secret government agency, invisible to all, with a budget hidden inside of other budgets, and headed by an influential and powerful man, the same agency that Agent Franks works for, has done the unthinkable--Project Nemesis. With his own agenda, the Director manipulates his way through red tape, acting under a cloak of secrecy and silence, he oversees the creation of not one new cobbled together man, but thirteen. Agent Franks gives new meaning to the old saying, "Hell hath no fury...."

     I must admit I am wildly happy to have had the opportunity to read this book and review it for NetGalley. I have been a huge fan of Larry Correia's Monster Hunter International Series from its inception. I have grown to know and love Owen--and all the characters. In fact, in this book, Monster Hunter Nemesis, even though he is a new character to the series, I grew to love Strayhorn. I'm also pleased that we have back (from Monster Hunter Alpha, and briefly, Monster Hunter Legion) Deputy (Heather) Kerkonen; she's a great addition to the series. In fact, it looks to be her on the cover--Kerkonen has red hair and appears as a red werewolf.

     I won't say who, because I won't spoil it for you, but as with any good series, we eventually lose a few characters along the way with which we may have formed a connection and love. It is so in this book. While this book is an action-packed book, Correia gives the reader a sanity break and permits a few quiet moments in which to feel the loss of a few of the characters. I think because he limits those moments to small intimate scenes, it is far more effective than a huge dramatic melodrama.

The Tsuchiguomo: An artists concept of the spider (mon-
ster) who is able to create illusions around herself and
others near her. She can make herself or another look like
someone else. The Tsuchiguomo in Monster Hunter
 takes the form a Japanese girl. [4]

     I've already indicated for those who do not know about this series, that this book and series is action-packed. It is full of guns, explosives, knives, halberds, canons and special weapons of all sorts. We also see a wide variety of monsters from Heather Kerkonen (a werewolf), and Agent Franks (non-human/Frankenstein-like), to an evil Tsuchigumo (Spider Creature with "Illusion" powers), and even a human under a Fey curse named Renfroe (with pecular abilities able to manipulate electricity and also act as an "electrical ghost"), just to name a few.

It is the inescapable agent
of someone's or something's
downfall. [5]

     One of the best things Larry Correia does, as I briefly mentioned, above, is set up the series so the threads of plot lines are carefully developed and lead from one book to the next. Such was the case with Monster Hunter Nemesis. The term, "Nemesis" or "Project Nemesis" was dropped along the way; even though we did not know what that term meant, we could see from Frank's reaction that this was some serious stuff. By the time we got to this book, Monster Hunter Nemesis, we were ready to find out all the dirt about the project and how it impacted all the characters and the individual plot lines.

This is the quintessential
image in most people's minds
of Frankenstein's Monster:
Boris Karloff. Our Agent
Franks looks a bit different.[6]
     In this book, Franks serves as the focal point for revealing the details of the project. And, as the publisher's indicated in the information they revealed about the book, Franks is Dippel's creation--partly; to be exact, he is an ancient spirit inhabiting the shell of that body. So why is Franks, inhabiting the body in the first place? Why is he here? What is he doing inhabiting this cobbled-together body for, literally, hundreds of years? Why has he chained himself to a contract of service to the United States government with such serious consequences if it is broken? Why is Project Nemesis such a bad idea? And, why does the Swiss Guard make an appearance in the book?  Oh my, my, my....such delicious answers to these questions. You will...LOVE...them!

Can't deny it. I love the book!
It's my favorite of the whole
series! [7]
     All right. I have to say, "I LOVED this book!" Larry Correia is just getting better and better with his writing, with his characters, themes, and plots. He puts it all together in such a cohesive and pleasing package, that the read is exciting and action-packed, certainly, but also thoughtful and pleasurable. He has become a master weaver with words, not pretentious and not base or low. Just plain ol' action-packed fun. I loved that he provided surprises for the reader, answered questions, and then left us wanting more as we think about the imminent war--and what happened to Owen, Mosh and their dad at the end of Monster Hunter Legion? I can't wait to find out. And just so you know, there are some pretty big reveals about Agent Franks that I just couldn't tell you about. You are really going to love them.

The Sig 510--one of the many guns we read about in the
Monster Hunter International Series. [8]
     First, if you have a problem with guns, in general, this book may not be for you. I would say this book is meant for adults, due to violence, blood, gore, and injury and death. Any one who loves high action stories, monsters, guns, shoot-em-ups, explosions, and mayhem, will like this book.

     Also, keep in mind, this book isn't about mindless violence. Larry Correia is an excellent writer and never fails to deliver a thoughtful well-planned adventure for readers. Moreover, somehow, he is able to manage elements of suspense and intrigue, as well. This book was, for me, one of the most enjoyable books I've read this year! I have been waiting in anticipation of its release...I was NOT disappointed! Thank you, Larry Correia.
All right, these are not stars. They are
little monsters--in honor of the book,
Monster Hunter Nemesis!
4.5 monsters
--I guess Franks
cut one in half! (ha, ha, ha!) [9]

For all the above-listed reasons, I give this wonderful book 4.5 stars out of 5. 

Until next time...

...many happy pages of reading!

My love to you all.


[1] "Monster Hunter: Nemesis." Retrieved 05-07-14.
[2] "Monster Hunter: Legion." Retrieved 06-12-14.
[3] "Super Special Autographs." Retrieved 06-11-14.
[4] "Tsuchiguomo." Retrieved 06-12-14.
[5] "Do You Know What the Word Nemesis Means?" Retrieved 06-12-14.
[6] "Happy Birthday Boris." Retrieved 06-12-14.
[7] "We Love This Book." Retrieved 06-12-14.
[8] "Sig 510." Retrieved 06-11-14.
[9] "Dippy Reviews." Retrieved 06-11-14.
[10] "Top 28 White Roses Pictures for Free Download." Retrieved 06-12-14.