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Christian fantasy is one of the most challenging genres to write, in my view. It has to be exciting, thrilling, even, and to be grounded in the Truth found within the tenets of Christianity. It almost sounds as if it is an endeavor that is purposefully designed not to work.

However, in the right hands, this genre can and definitely does produce gems. And one of these gems is the novel called REALMS, written by Mr. K.T. Kimbrough. I have had the tremendous blessing of having a copy sent to me by Mr. Kimbrough for review purposes, but let me assure you that every word you are about to read is true to my own impressions and thoughts about this book. Otherwise, I would not be able to do it justice.

Seth Ivory is a rock star through and through. He lives, loves and breathes through music. And he seeks greater meaning in his life and his songs. Then, suddenly, his life is turned inside out when he is involved in a road accident that leaves his motorcycle in shambles, his body in a coma and his spirit drifting between two worlds. His witty guardian angel will have a load of work cut out for him as he defends him from legions of demons that seek to condemn him to eternal damnation, while his lover, Summerlann Valentine, known as Summer, and his bandmates, seek to unravel the mystery of his accident, in a story filled with thrills, chills, and a huge amount of heart. Seth will learn the real story behind the nature of religion and the difference between religion and a relationship with God(that part actually blew my mind and had me cheering like crazy), from his faithful friends, Will and Tabby Patel, whose love will prove crucial for the story of Seth and Summerlann.

As a Christian who is big into rock, I found this book to be an extremely pleasant surprise. It is a non-stop, gritty, heartfelt roller-coaster ride through the world of rock and the realms of the supernatural, that pulls no punches and aims straight for the heart. To those who like their Christian fiction on the gritty side, the few instances of profanity will not be a problem.  There are also depictions of demonic summonings, but they are very relevant to the story, and give it an edge unlike anything I have ever read in Christian fiction. It left me wanting more, and not in the dissapointing cliffhanger kind of way.  I could seriously see a sequel going on with Requiem of Eden in a Battle of the Bands type of contest with some black metal band that seeks to summon an archdemon of sorts.   And it is obvious that this gloriously gutsy Christian thriller with a rock edge gets a 10 outta 5! Great job, Mr. Kimbrough. You rock!

The struggle between Good and Evil has been at the core of every self-respecting story that has ever been called compelling, because, in its essence, it is the one story that helps us, as humans, make heads or tails of the world around us.

Being the quintessential story of human existence, it is only natural that the story of the struggle of Good and Evil has been told in countless manners across the entire gallery of the arts.

One particularly thrilling example of how to tell this timeless tale can be found in ANNO DOMINI, the chilling, compelling debut novel by Mr. Robert DeAngelis.
The premise is simple, yet startlingly effective: what if, today, in our modern world, the reality of Satan were as tangible as possible. And what if he was everything we fear he could be…and more?

The book opens with a pair of chilling supernatural events which, wishing to give away as little as possible, made me vow to never look at jackals and tsunamis the same way again.
Then, the action moves to a small Wisconsin church, where a sermon by Father Tom Slouti is brutally interrupted by an assailant from the depths of the underworld.
His name: Ia(pronounced E-ah). His nature: the Fallen One. His aim: Becoming the One True God.

Ia is undoubtedly the most original take I have ever seen on Satan in fiction. He is scary, but eerily alluring, an eight-foot-tall with a bluish glow to his skin and a huge tail. His presence is intimidating and commanding. I could very well picture him voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. All over the world, Ia promises neverending prosperity to those who pledge their loyalty to him. Those who refuse perish in hellish manners. Mr. DeAngelis enlightened me regarding the symbolism behind the name Ia: it points to the ego, to „I”, whether resembling „I”, „Ich”, „Io”, or any other such forms, for the Devil most often clings to our ego.

Faced with Ia are Kalvin Sorenson, an investigative reporter known for his skepticism and bitterness toward religion, and Madeline McCoy, a faithful woman tormented greatly by Ia for her devotion to God. These two people get to know the terror of living in a world where Satan is not only a concept, and it is brilliantly shown through these pages. I felt the chill of his presence and the menace of his evil every time he was in a scene. I really enjoyed the story arc of Kalvin, the nonbeliever who is forced to accept the supreme supernatural force of evil and what he goes through while trying to prove the existence of Ia. His journey to the Vatican and his reaction to the skepticism of Catholic priests, as he experiences the evil of Ia firsthand are strong points of the book.
However, in my view, the strongest point is in the faith of Madeline McCoy. It is so simple, and yet so profound and respectfully represented, that I could not help but love it. In fact, the whole „backbone” of the book is the contrast between the evil of Ia and the purity of Madeline. As for the ending, without giving it away, I will just say it is the most hopeful ending for a supernatural thriller that I have ever come across. I am a better, more faithful person for having read this book that manages to thrill and inspire. Solid, solid 10 out of 5!
Though I am grateful to Mr. DeAngelis for the signed copy of the book he provided me with, the views herein are my own!Thank you, Mr. DeAngelis. Helluva job, if I do say so myself!

In my view, the secret to a great young adult novel is the grace and urgency with which it tackles issues that readers are struggling with. Adolescence is essentially an age of struggles, an age at which everyone seeks to define themselves in the most authentic of manners.
Although I have quite long ago passed the age which would place me in the center of the YA demographic, I could not ignore such gems as GIRL IN PIECES and THE HATE U GIVE, which were HUGELY impactful to me because they revealed that YA books are truly about more than cardboard heroes and heroines in ever-twisting love triangles. They were works with a powerful social component, which left me wondering when someone would do for disability what THE HATE U GIVE did for racial issues and GIRL IN PIECES did for young people struggling with self-harm issues.
And, to my hugely pleasant surprise, I found it. And I found it in a novel written by someone who KNOWS disability because she has it. She experiences it. And she uses the experience to teach, to educate, to inform, and to inspire, without striving to be what has become shallowly known as „an inspiration”.
I am talking about Ms. Christina Minaki and her wonderful novel, BURNING THE BOATS. This book is special, in more ways than one, and I will try, and fully place my hope in succeeding, to explain why.

Naomi Demas, the protagonist of the novel, is seventeen. She loves horses, she is faithful, she is surrounded by an eclectic and loving family, and she struggles greatly with big stuff like love, belonging and other such emotional and deeply personal themes in the life of everyone. And she has Cerebral Palsy. It is not coincidental that I put the diagnosis last, because Naomi is the kind of person who does all she can for her disability not to be the only thing that defines her. There is enough troubled history in her family as it is, with a dead twin and a mentally ill mother who took off with her older sister, while her father was left to care for her the best he can. Add to this the fact that all her friends have problems, from alcoholism to learning disabilities and abusive environments, and you can safely say this girl has her work cut out for her.
The truly great thing about the novel, in my view, lies in the self-awareness of our protagonist. Naomi really, really knows she is different, and yet, she embraces it with something one may not be remiss in calling stubbornness. Naomi knows who she is and needs no one to label her. I can certainly relate to that, as my own life experience has shown me that being disabled is not something that makes a person inherently inspirational(this word has REALLY become a huge cliche, to be completely honest). This is by turns a funny, sad, gritty, tender, authentic and inspiring look at what living with a disability is truly like, and like the aforementioned YA novels that come before it, it speaks with great wit and warmth about a theme that, in my view, should be addressed more often and more boldly. Ten out of five, for a great, great novel.
Though Ms. Minaki was kind enough to provide me with a copy iof her novel for review purposes, these views are my own, and I am proud to say so! Thank you, Ms. Minaki. A truly wonderful job!

In my previous review, I was talking about the excitement I felt when I found out that one of the classics of my late childhood/early adolescence, THE THREE MUSKETEERS, had a sequel from a probably unlikely source: an American writer with a Russian resonance to his name, Mr. Nikolay Kharin.
This review is a follow-up to the review for the first book, in which, of course, I will address the sequel.
Given the title, I would say it is rather obvious where his daring deeds have landed our favorite Gascon when the first epic novel was concluded. D’Artagnan is now in the most infamous of French prisons, due to the machinations of the ever-scheming Cardinal Richelieu. And it is up to his ever-faithful brothers-in-arms Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, to rescue him at all costs.

This is a big, brash, beautiful brick of a book. It is probably the fastest-moving sprawling epic novel I have ever had the chance to read, and there is so much happening in it that an adventure-hungry reader will find themselves in the closest place to Paradise they have ever been to. Conspiracies, spies, courtroom intrigues, mysterious religious orders, it is all there. I have to say, these two books are probably the most faithful to the style of any classic novel that I know of. I could swear that Mr. Kharin has some sort of a time-travel device and has had quite a few talks with Monsieur Dumas-pere. I think that these novels would really show that there is actually little need for fancy modernizations such as the 2011 CGI-heavy Paul W.S. Anderson affair that made the heroes look like something out of Assassin’s Creed. One just needs to simply understand the story and what made it tick in such a timeless manner that it excites anew while maintaining its sense of familiarity. I like comparing reading a good book to savoring the richest hot chocolate possible, letting the fullness of its sweet, smooth flavor delight your palate. This was the feeling this book gave me. I was always on the edge of my proverbial seat(or bed, given that I read this over two weekends, upon waking up), wanting to know how the Inseparable Four would continue their daring deeds. and most of all, how they would pull off the seemingly impossible task of freeing their faithful comrade. Since I like comparisons, if I could compare this book to a person, I would call it the literary equivalent of a super-heavyweight full-contact sport champion in his prime: it is deceptively nimble for its size, and it pulls absolutely no punches.
If you are looking for an adventure novel that will take you back to the good ol’days of dreaming about being a hero, and especially for proof that people still appreciate GOOD stories, regardless of their age, these two books are for you. Like its predecessor, THREE MUSKETEERS AGAIN, BOOK II, gets 10 out of 5.
Though Mr. Kharin was gracious enough to provide me with a copy of his work for review purposes, the views herein are my own, and I am proud to state so, and incredibly grateful too. Thank you, Mr. Kharin. Great, great job.

When uttering the word„iconic”, there are few associations more often thought of then France and Musketeers. I grew up, like many a boy worldwide, with the adventures of the Three Musketeers(although it would be more correct to say „four”) as imagined by the legendary author Alexandre Dumas.
Imagine my surprise and delight, when I found out that there are actually sequels to The Three Musketeers, and written by an American author with Russian origins, nonetheless.
Let me tell you this, dear readers of old-fashioned historical adventure novels of the cloak-and-sword variety. If the name on the covers of these two books in the Three Musketeers again did not give away said Russian origins and if the author info on the back did not reveal that the author lives in the USA, one may actually believe that the novels are written by Alexandre Dumas himself. No exaggeration there. They are that good and the writing is that well-studied. Reading these is an immersive experience, right down to the proverbial avant-la-lettre fourth-wall-breaking techniques that were present in the originals.
Picking up where The Three Musketeers left off, the novel starts in La Rochelle, in the autumn of 1628, during blazing siege warfare between Catholics and Protestants. Our beloved hero, D’Artagnan, is a spy for the Catholics, disguised as a Protestant known as Monsieur de Castelmort. There is plenty of intrigue, backstabbing, betrayal, romance and high adventure of the most pristine of qualities. Cardinal Richelieu is ever-plotting and scheming, seeking to manipulate events in his favor in the war with Spain and to gain the edge over those who seek to ruin him and support the foes of France. There is also quite a bit of romance for our hot-blooded and honorable Gascon hero, still mending his heart after the loss of Madame de Bonacieux, and some very interesting adventures in the New World, with pirates. It is too bad that the BBC made the decision of canceling its Musketeer series. This novel and its sequel would have been excellent sources of inspiration for further seasons. In a world so filled with superhero blockbusters, not that there may be anything wrong with that, to me, this book served as a good, solid, old-fashioned throwback to the days when the greatest excitement a nerdy kid would find was between the covers of a Dumas novel. Herein lies the literary equivalent of a „cover” that I, for one, find as thrilling, vibrant, dramatic, laugh-out-loud funny and chock-full of adventure as the classic which inspired it. I am a richer, more joyous soul for having read this awesome book by Mr. Kharin. Destined to become an adventure classic for ages to come, THREE MUSKETEERS AGAIN: UNKNOWN ADVENTURES OF ATHOS, PORTHOS, ARAMIS AND D’ARTAGNAN gets fifteen stars out of five! Thank you so much, Mr. Kharin! You have done my shelf a great honor!
Though I was provided with a copy of Mr. Kharin’s work in exchange for review, this bundle of words is a summation of my own thoughts, and I would be a dishonorable knave should the situation be otherwise!

When one thinks of Spain, „passion” is among the first words that come to one’s mind. If there is one European country that seems filled to the brim with it, Spain certainly fits the bill.

However, given the image that I just discussed regarding Spain, how well does it work as a setting for a thriller.
Well, if said thriller is BULLSEYE, by Ms. M.M. Ruiz, the answer is VERY well!
The story in BULLSEYE follows Peter, a widowed, amnesiac journalist whose life, like his memory, is in shambles. His father-in-law needs an exciting topic for his newspaper, and so, through a crazy, drunken dare with a friend called Paul, Peter ends up going to Spain to experience the thrill of a bull run. However, when he gets there, he experiences a similar, but entirely different kind of thrill when he witnesses a bullfight. And it is in that moment that his trajectory and his life changes suddenly. At a breakneck pace, Pete seeks to immerse himself in the world of bullfighting.
And trust me when I tell you, the immersion is complete, total, and utterly maddening. And the book pulls absolutely no punches about it.

Bullfighting is a subject that has divided people for a very long time now. There are still voices that rise against it, deeming it cruel and undignified, and others that defend it as a long-held tradition that, in a certain way, has become ingrained into the life of the Spanish people. Both of these perspectives are to be found here. Those who believe that it is a glorification of violence will see why. Those who see it as their tradition will find a thoroughly researched romp through the long, complicated and bloody history of bullfighting, with plenty of flamenco and boiling gypsy blood. This is a non-stop, full-speed-ahead roller-coaster ride, really loud, fraught with excess, and larger-than-life. Solid five out of five for a breakneck thriller!
Though Ms. Ruiz was gracious enough to provide me with a copy of her book for a review, the views herein are entirely my own. Thank you, Ms. Ruiz. Heck of a job!

Comic books are such a unique artform. The combination of text and images must be perfect so that the right emotion in the right dose gets to the reader. Obviously, some of the most iconic figures in popular culture have sprung from the loud, colorful pages of comic books.
An exception to this rule that was so well-developed that she became comic book canon afterwards, is Harley Quinn, who was created for the acclaimed „Batman” animated series which turned Kevin Conroy into a 90s icon for many kids, myself included.
The book I am about to review represents the biggest honor in my lifelong comic book fandom. I am talking about HARLEY QUINN: MAD LOVE, the prose adaptation of the comic book which is, in its turn, the adaptation of the episode that turned Harley Quinn into a household name. I have had the privilege of receiving a copy of this book, signed by the lovely Ms. Pat Cadigan, co-written with the iconic Paul Dini, a name very familiar to „Batman TAS” enthusiasts, for which I am truly and wholeheartedly grateful. Diaclaimer out of the way, I will say that every single thought that you will read about this book if you decide that this review is worthy of your attention is my own. And such a gem of a book deserves it!

First of all, this is not merely an adaptation of a comic book story. In the deft hands of Ms. Pat Cadigan, this becomes the definitive origin story for one of the most iconic supervillains in all of comic-book history.

Harleen Quinzel, a “tough cookie” from Brooklyn, starts out seeing very bad people doing very bad things to her small-time crook father Nick, whom she adores. Readers get hints that her life at home, with her parents and three baby brothers, is not at all a bed of roses. She needs a way out, and finds it in two things: gymnastics and psychiatry. Though intending to keep a healthy body AND a healthy mind, things do not go as planned once she gets to work at Arkham Asylum, home to some of the most dangerously psychotic individuals in Gotham City. All thanks, of course, to Batman, the polarizing Dark Knight, my favorite vigilante of all time.
It is at Arkham City that Harley will encounter the man who becomes a turning point in her life: The Joker. Known only by that moniker(apart from others like “Puddin'” and “Mistah J” the garish clown-visaged maniac is initially a study subject for the brilliant Harleen.
And herein lies the brilliance of this awesome book, because readers spend a lot of time with her as she grows in physical aptitude and in knowledge, only to get to see her becoming progressively warped as her relationship with the Joker transcends the boundaries of what is normal between a doctor and a patient.
I love how an apparently zany, and yes, cartoonish character is fleshed out here as a woman of great intelligence and passion, a woman who grows to believe in herself after experiencing a great deal of trauma, and ends up losing herself to the sheer diabolical genius of a gleeful maniac. It is a tragic story, in its essence, but one can definitely feel the fun that the author had telling it to the audience. I see it as the one Harley Quinn story that the world never knew it needed. This. Is. A. MUST. If you are into all things Batman, do yourself a favor and read this tale. The nuanced characters, the big themes, passion, madness, identity, morality, justice, all make HARLEY QUINN: MAD LOVE a masterpiece of comic-based novelizations. The finest I have ever read. Thank you, Ms. Cadigan. AMAZING job! Solid, well-earned TEN OUTTA FIIIVE! HAHAHAHA!