Friday, January 4, 2019

Review: Jamhuri, Njambi & Fighting Zombies by Ted Neill

About the Book

Published April 20, 2018 by Tenebray Press

GoodReads Description

A Delight for Young Readers and the Young at Heart. 

A princess trapped in a high tree and a brash young man determined to “rescue” her; a devoted daughter searching for a magical spring to save her ailing father; a teenage girl who is forced to replace her mobile phone with a machete to protect her family from zombies—all their stories interweave in a stirring alchemy set in a rich African backdrop. Ted Neill moves readers from folktale to action, comedy to cosmology, rural to urban, material to spiritual, with the ease of a master storyteller, crafting an adventure along the way that will appeal to the head, the heart, and the soul.

About the Author: Before becoming a writer, Ted Neill worked in Global Health and Education. These stories were inspired when Neill was volunteering and living at an orphanage for HIV+ children in Nairobi Kenya. He wrote Jamhuri, Njambi, & Fighting Zombies when the children requested stories featuring people and places that reflected their own culture and their own world.

My Thoughts

What I Liked

  1. The world-building in this piece is amazing.  Although Neill doesn't take much time to explicitly describe parts of each scene, he truly brings the African backdrop that this world is set in to the reader's mind.  It is absolutely obvious how beautiful Sia's home is and how breathtaking the spirit world is.  I think there are several authors who could learn from Neill's expertise here.
  2. In many anthologies, the short stories never connect.  I was blown away by how well the first two stories connected in and with the third.  Everything finally comes together.  Although I don't know a lot about African culture, I understand that connectivity is very important to them.  I like that the culture was represented in this way as well as in the scenery, animals, plants, and people described.
  3. This book would be a lot of fun to teach.  Many textbooks have African literature that is very difficult for students to relate to.  The characters in this piece would give them the connectivity and relevance that they require.  Neill takes his time to introduce foreign flora and fauna which would give World Literature students a great place to dive in to foreign literature.

What I Didn't Like As Much

  1. This book definitely needs a pronunciation guide.  I was sooooooooooo beyond grateful for the audiobook because it was the only way I knew that I was pronouncing so much wrong!  I felt very culturally insensitive because of my mistakes.  I always expect my students to pronounce names as intended, but this book did not make that easy for me to do.  
  2. Several concepts were explained once and then later revisited.  However, they were often revisited much later, so I'd already forgotten what that concept was.  It would be helpful if there was a little bit of a refresher for these ideas.
Overall, I really liked this book!  The description is not kidding when it says this book is for young readers and those who are young at heart.

My Rating

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Review: A Second Chance by Jodi Taylor

About this Book

Published on February 11, 2014 by Accent Press

GoodReads Description

St Mary’s is back and nothing is going right for Max. Once again, it’s just one damned thing after another.

The action jumps from an encounter with a mirror-stealing Isaac Newton to the bloody battlefield at Agincourt. Discover how a simple fact-finding assignment to witness the ancient and murderous cheese- rolling ceremony in Gloucester can result in CBC – concussion by cheese. The long awaited jump to Bronze Age Troy ends in personal catastrophe for Max and just when it seems things couldn’t get any worse – it’s back to the Cretaceous Period again to confront an old enemy who has nothing to lose.

So, make the tea, grab the chocolate biscuits, settle back and discover exactly why the entire history department has painted itself blue …

My Thoughts

I have no words for the emotional flogging I suffered at the hands of this book. I hope that wherever she is, Jodi Taylor is proud of herself for destroying me.  How the H*** does she think this is OK?

In all seriousness, this book brought a new level of accomplishment to Taylor's writing.  Yes, she still does a fantastic job of world building and characterization as in Just One Damned Thing After Another and A Symphony of Echoes.  Here, however, she uses both of those things against her readers.

The relationship between Max and Leon has never been stronger.  I never rooted for them more than in this book.  And then all heck broke loose.  I was flabbergasted.  Taylor had definitely lulled me into a false sense of security with this couple in the first two books.  It was like she blew up a balloon of happy, tingly, joyful emotions and then popped it without the slightest of warnings.

If there is one thing that I never gave Taylor credit for it's that she knows exactly when to throw a wrench in the works.  She knows exactly when to hit the audience with a shocking event that will force them to clench the pages and keep reading in miserable delight.  Through each of the first two novels, I knew that something strange had to happen to keep the momentum of the plot.  The third installment was most definitely an exciting difference. I was so enthralled that I had to keep reading and finished the last two hundred pages in one sitting.  

After this novel, Jodi Taylor has gone from being an author I like to an author I will end up cramming down everyone's throats.  I am so excited to see what the next books in this series bring.

My Rating

Sunday, December 30, 2018

A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor

About the Book

Published October 18, 2013 by Accent Press

GoodReads Description

Book Two in the madcap time-travel series based at the St Mary's Institute of Historical Research that seems to be everyone's cup of tea.

In the second book in the Chronicles of St Mary's series, Max and the team visit Victorian London in search of Jack the Ripper, witness the murder of Archbishop Thomas a Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, and discover that dodos make a grockling noise when eating cucumber sandwiches.

But they must also confront an enemy intent on destroying St Mary's - an enemy willing, if necessary, to destroy History itself to do it.

My Thoughts

If you read my review of Just One Damned Thing After Another, you are already aware that this book series is currently taking up all of my bookish thoughts and love.  Jodi Taylor definitely knows what she is doing!  

I was a little concerned that the second book wouldn't be as amazing as the first.  I mean, how do you top something as amazing as that?  Well, she didn't top it.  But she did meet its caliber.  

One of my favorite things about the first book was the excellently accomplished world-building.  Taylor did a superb job in this novel as well.  I absolutely adored all of the descriptions of scenery both in the different time periods as well as in St. Mary's itself.  No matter where she takes her characters, Taylor makes sure that she takes you with them.  She makes sure that the world you read about is as real to you as it is to her characters.  I love the way she turns this series into a movie in my mind.  It's been a long time since I've read one, let alone two, books that are this terrifically descriptive.

There were so many times throughout this novel that the relationship between Leon and Max almost killed me.  They are so realistic and they share a love that is so believable that their pain and strife is also believable.  These two are quickly becoming my all-time favorite couple. 

I am so in love with this series!  Whatever Jodi Taylor does, I have faith in her writing skills.

My Rating