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Skeleton Creek: The Crossbones Patrick Carman

13 Sep

 

 

I have just enjoyed a totally awesome weekend and this is due entirely in part to Skeleton Creek: The Crossbones by Patrick Carman. It’s the third novel in his Skeleton Creek series of books.

The first two novels in the series, Skeleton Creek and Ghost in the Machine respectively, changed the way that a story could be told. Indeed, it was a story that went beyond the printed pages of a book.

With a story that encompassed both the written (you get to read Ryan’s journal) and the visual (you get to watch Sarah’s video’s online at www.sarahfincher.com) Carman has created a story and a world that does more than live in our imaginations.

It is the rare cross breed of a novel with multi-media elements that actually works. Both the novel and the multi-media content are top notch. You’ve got your thrilling, mysterious and truly, truly creepy storyline mixed with some incredibly produced videos that only add to the fright.

The same is true of the third novel in the series, Skeleton Creek: The Crossbones. I was a little worried and anxious to see how Carman would change it up a little bit.

The formula for the first two novels was pretty simple: twenty five pages of Ryan’s journal and then a password that would reveal a video at www.sarahfincher.com where you could watch videos that would reveal more of the story.

The same is true…and not so true here. But you know what? It still works. And it pays off in a big way.

For Skeleton Creek and Ghost in the Machine, I was left wanting more video to watch, more to interact with. In terms of looking at the Skeleton Creek Series, as an ARG (or Alternate Reality Game) it was kind of lacking.

Unlike another series (such as the Cathy Series by by Sean Stewart, Jordan Weisman illustrated by Cathy Brigg-which, on a side note, totally rocked) the multi-media portion of Skeleton Creek was pretty lacking.

There is a fan site which is kind of fun, but I always found that I wanted more videos to flesh out the story. Thankfully Carman has heeded my call (and probably lots of others too. I can’t be the only 32 year old that’s reading this series right?) and now there is tons to feast the eyes on.

Inside Ryan’s journal, you get tons of illustrations that highlight the parts of the story and its clues that Ryan and Sarah are working on. And the videos are top notch. More often then not, you get three videos at a time, which is totally cool.

The videos are expertly done. Not only do the ones made to look older genuinely creep you out, the other story central video is very much like the beautifully done Blair Witch Project, which means it’s awesome. The documentary portions actually give you quite a bit of a history lesson, which is actually a very neat angle to the novel.

Thankfully, the real power of Skeleton Creek: The Crossbones is found in the words of the novel themselves. The story rocks along at an incredible pace and you’ll finish it in no time. I myself finished it less than two days.

Skeleton Creek: The Crossbones is expertly done and wonderfully executed in every way. It leaves me thirsting for more. Thankfully I won’t have to be thirsty for very long. The forth (and final?) book in the Skeleton Creek series, titled The Raven, comes out in the spring of 2011 according to Patrick Carman’s website (which has lots of other neat videos to watch too, that give you a look behind the series itself). You can find it at www.patrickcarman.com

You’ll notice that, if you read through this review, that I haven’t actually told you anything of the story of Skeleton Creek: The Crossbones. In fact, I haven’t revealed the plot points of the previous two books either. So what does that tell you?

You’ll have to go read the books and watch the videos to uncover the mystery.

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Thaw by Fiona Robyn

16 Feb

 

“I feel strange after writing today. Like I have a blackbird in my stomach.”

What would you do if you decided to die?

You may try to leave your mark on the world in some way. You may give away all your earthly belongings. Or you may keep a journal to leave as your suicide note.

Ruth is turning thirty three years old. She doesn’t know if she wants to live anymore or whether or not she wants to turn thirty three. So she decides to keep a journal, a diary, documenting each day as she gets closer to the date she has chosen to end her life.

She has given herself three months. Three months to write every day so that she will leave behind a detailed suicide note, showing that the taking of her life was no easy decision.  In this way she hopes to provide some measure of comfort to her family that will remain behind and to leave behind her story.

As Ruth begins to write, we are pulled into a story that begins to unfold like a rose, revealing a petal at a time. And much like a rose that unthaws after a cold night and unfurls itself, grows and changes, so does Ruth.

Knowing that the end of her life is coming soon, she begins to throw caution to the wind and do things she never would have done normally. This includes sitting to have her portrait painted, trying to maintain relationships instead of shutting people out and reliving memories that she would prefer stay buried.

As Ruth gets closer and closer to the date she has chosen to die, she begins to thaw and change and become someone different than she was. But the question remains: does she want to live? And how many ways are there to die?

Thaw is the third novel from accomplished author Fiona Robyn and is one of the best books I have ever read. That doesn’t do the book justice; there are no words or adjectives to accurately praise this book. It is beautiful beyond words.

Part of the novels power lies in the strength of Robyn’s writing. Ruth’s voice is so pure, so real, that you feel as if you know her after only a few pages. She could be your sister, your close friend, your aunt. Ruth is a real, living, breathing woman who’s hurts are ones we recognize and empathize with right away.

Most authors spend years trying to achieve the balance and poise that Robyn has achieved and she does it with beauty, grace and a deft hand. Ruth is so real that she seems to live beyond the printed page. Her voice is so real, so tangible, that she stays with you long after the last page of Thaw has been turned.

What Robyn has really given us is an intimate study of human nature; of what drives a person to make the choices they do, regardless of the consequences. Robyn has given us hope and despair, joy and sadness, true emotions bottled up and stored within the pages of her novel.

I went through a whole gambit of emotion while reading Thaw. I laughed, cried, smiled, felt fear, joy, sadness. It takes a very talented author to evoke emotion in a reader, emotion that is true and pure. Thankfully, Robyn has that talent and more.

I have been thinking of Ruth since finishing Thaw and while there is sadness there, there is joy too. Joy that Robyn has given us the gift of Ruth, one of the most incredibly real literary characters to come along in years.

Prelude to a Super Airplane by Brian Spaeth

22 Mar

 

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Almost everyone has flown on an airplane at least once in their lives. They are huge and intimidating, able to conquer the skies and the power of flight. Everyone has fantasized about being able to fly, about being able to fly through the clouds.

But none of us have flown on a super airplane: 47 floors high and able to fly at incredible speeds. But it is the people concerned with the airplane that are our focus here, the ones that think about airplanes constantly that draw our attention.

The year is 2012 and America is on the verge of Civil War. One side wants flying cars to be the main method of transportation; the other wants the new super airplane to be the only method of transport. At stake in this war? The entire future of transportation.

Our world as we know it will be forever changed…

Prelude to a Super Airplane is unlike anything you have read before. More literary experiment than a novel, Prelude to a Super Airplane is essentially one hundred and seven little stories about airplanes. Some follow the plot that you’ve just read above.

Others, well…did I mention that this was unlike anything you’ve read before?

Spaeth wrote Prelude to a Super Airplane over a period of seven days. And man what a ride! Though the book zooms along and sometimes you’re wondering who you’re reading about, it doesn’t matter.

This is a book with a sense of humour that never takes itself very seriously. It’s a quick, roller coaster of a ride that is anything but boring.

In fact, I laughed out loud several times and enjoyed every word. It really is unlike anything ever before attempted and this is part of the novels strengths.

Though sometimes the stories of the characters get lost amongst the more autobiographical portions of the book, you’re holding on for sheer life as the pages seem to flip themselves.

Even though Prelude to a Super Airplane is more literary experiment than a novel, it’s one hell of a good time. I’ve never had so much fun reading a book. From the first page, I was intrigued and, by the third page, I was hooked.

Prelude to a Super Airplane promises to be the first comedy-political thriller – mystery- drama-romance-action/adventure-science fiction-showbiz insider- horror-family energy drink- industry insider- holiday autobiography, Prelude to a Super Airplane is one hell of a great ride.

At times confusing, intriguing, hilarious, bizarre and all kinds of wonderful, Prelude to a Super Airplane is THE beach book for this summer.

Read it and feel like you’re flying.

From Zaftig to Aspie by DJ Kirkby

26 Dec

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How many of us take the life we live for granted? How many of us never stop to consider where we came from, what made us who we are? How many people never stop to think of what defines us, what shapes us into the people we grow to be?

Growing up in Canada in the 1960’s, DJ Kirkby experienced a life that many of us would have taken for granted. Living in and around Canada, Kirkby lived with her hippie mother and followed her mother wherever her whims took her.

Living with hippies, Kirkby was exposed to a world that was all around us but only few seemed able to see it. She lived with people who “recreated the rules”, who lived their own lives and shaped their own existence.

And what an existence it is.

From a young age, Kirkby knew she was different. She had a different way of looking at the world that had nothing to do with her hippie lifestyle and upbringing. She knew inside of herself that she was different than everyone else around her.

But there were no words to describe her condition, no words to explain what she felt inside of her.

Those words, those powerful words that would put her entire life into perspective, would not come until she was forty years old when she was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome.

From Zaftig to Aspie, Kirkby’s moving, incredible memoir of her life, is an incredible, emotional read. There is no way a mere review can recount the richness of Kirkby’s life, the emotion that crackles off the page or the experiences that shaped who she is today. There is no way I could sum up the life that Kirkby has lived in only a few words.

It is a moving, beautiful account of one woman’s fight to understand herself and come to grips with the world around her. It is part memoir, part life puzzle that, once put together, creates a stunning picture of a life in words.

From the first page, I was drawn into Kirkby’s story and just had to keep reading. I have never read something so honest, so moving and so incredibly captivating. More than a study of human nature, what Kirkby has given us is really a life map.

Using select memories to mark her progression from her younger years to the time she was diagnosed with Aspergers, Kirkby is really marking the path she has travelled with memories. She has given us a true gift of a life and has invited us to turn the page and look inside of her.

I could not read From Zaftig to Aspie fast enough. In fact, I’ve read it twice so far and am awed by it’s incredible beauty and it’s story of living life to the fullest and overcoming even the most difficult obstacles. More importantly, it is a portrait of a very misunderstood condition. More people need to read From Zaftig to Aspie so that more people can know about Aspergers Syndrome.

From Zaftig to Aspie is a moving, incredible story of one woman’s will to understand herself. It is an important book and everyone should read it so that they, too, can understand more about Aspergers Syndrome.

More importantly it is the best memoir I have read in years. I laughed, I cried, I laughed some more. And was awed by the power of Kirkby’s words.

Read From Zaftig to Aspie and be enchanted.

Accidential Enlightenment by Stephen Banick

25 Jul

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Normally, I hate travel books. 

 I know, I know. I can hear a lot of you saying: Now wait just a minute! What’s wrong with travel logs? Well, in my opinion, they’re boring, dull and quite often have as much life to them as a day old piece of toast.  

So I will admit that I was a bit weary of Accidental Enlightenment at first. A travel book AND a self help manual? How could such a thing be possible? I opened the cover to the first page and was prepared to be sceptical of anything and everything in the book.  To my chagrin, however, I was charmed and, oddly enough, enlightened.  

From the preface (where Banick makes his own comments about travel books) to the very last page, Accidental Enlightenment was a complete and utter joy.

Imagine, if you will, being discontent with your lot in life. You wonder where you’re going, what you’re meant to be doing. Are the answers to your questions to be found inside you, or out in the real world?  After being offered a high powered job at a software company, Banick decides to drive instead of fly to his destination. This choice starts him on a journey that will change his life.

Along the way, Banick picks up hitch hikers and learns, for the first time, to really talk to people honestly. But more importantly, he learns to listen.  

When he finally arrives at his job, he’s able to listen to his heart and he knows that his heart and soul aren’t in the job; that he no longer wanted the confining walls of an office building.

So than what is a man to do? Banick decides to continue the travels he started with that innocent road trip and, like so many before him, go exploring.  But what he explores is different from so many others.

While he travels across many different lands and places in Canada, the United States and countries all over the world, what Banick explores is the different cultures he encounters, the different people.  

And still he listens. While he listens, Banick learns and begins to discover things about himself he never thought possible. By listening and learning about others, he learns hidden truths about himself that shake his world and reform it into something wonderful…. 

Accidental Enlightenment is an amazing book from start to finish. My small summarization of the plot does not even come close to describing the wonders that Banick encounters in his fellow human beings. Humanity and the world around him are present in all of Banick’s words and I believe that this is what is missing from so many other travel books.  

While other authors give us an account of what they saw, Banick gives us an account of what he felt, what he sees and hears. We are with him on his many travels, breathing in the truths of others. What is so incredible about this book are the truths, the tid bits of wisdom and knowledge that you pick up while reading it. 

 I found myself quite often reading what I thought was a simple conversation only to have parts of what I read come back to me later once they had sunk in. The truths, the power of the human spirit, is right there; we just have to keep our eyes open while reading.  

Banick’s approach is fun, simple and light. It’s never preachy, never heavy handed and as we learn about Banick’s discoveries we can’t help but learn about ourselves. Accidental Enlightenment is an absolute joy. Banick should be applauded for sharing his journey’s with us.  For as the world changed him, he has changed me and my view of the world around me.

This is an incredible book and I know I won’t ever look at my surroundings in the same way again.  

Imagine This by Sade Adeniran

5 Jul

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Imagine This

Sade Adeniran

www.imaginethisthenovel.com     

Imagine this: being taken away from all that you cherish, all that you love and being thrust into a landscape that is frightening, bizarre and so incredibly different from all that you know.  

This is exactly what happens to nine year old Lola Ogunwole. Born in London to Nigerian parents, her world is torn apart when her mother abandons Lola and her brother Adebola.  They find themselves in a foster home until their father comes to claim them.  Lola thinks that her troubles are over; but they have just begun.

Rather than lose both his children, he takes them from London to Nigeria to live with family members. Lola and Adebola are separated from each other for the first time in their lives. Adebola goes to live with an uncle in the small town of Lagos and Lola finds herself living with an aunt in  Idogun.  

Idogun is unlike anywhere that Lola has lived before. Poverty is rampant in the village and there is no electricity, no indoor toilets, and no conveniences. Only a hard life and a world so removed from civilization that Lola feels like an outcast. Her one constant, her brother Adebola, removed from her, Lola feels more alone than ever.  

Her family does not make it easy for her either. For no reason that Lola can think of, her aunt hates her. She is made to walk miles and miles every morning for water. She has to learn to adapt herself to a life of hardship; a life of difficulty and a father that seems to be cutting himself off from her.  

But like all things, time passes and hardships increase. Lola starts to change and mature. No longer is she the spoiled little girl from London. Lola starts becoming a woman. But when she is tested, when something so earth shattering happens that Lola does not speak for days, something inside her changes.  

She knows that she must fight to get where she wants, otherwise her heart and her spirit will perish…. 

My brief summary of the plot does not do the scope of this novel justice. Told in diary format, we are really reading Lola’s journal; her inner thoughts, her inner demons are poured out onto the page for all of us to read. Because of her words, I find myself changed forever.  

I can’t express how good, how utterly amazing, this novel is. The fact that this is Adeniran’s first novel is astounding. There is so much depth here, so much feeling and emotion that it is hard to believe I’m not reading the work of a seasoned writer. Imagine This is pure, unadulterated storytelling and the power of it is incredible.  

Because it’s told in a diary format, we see into Lola’s head and her thoughts a lot more clearly than if the novel was told in first person or third person. Indeed, we get to read her private wishes, dreams and aspirations for the future.

After a while I forgot I was reading a novel and could picture Lola scratching away in her diary. I felt I could reach out and touch her.  

Few authors are able to render a character so completely. Lola becomes not just a character on a page or words on paper. She lives and breathes alongside you as you read her story.  I can honestly say I was blown away.

Few books have affected me as strongly as Imagine This and I know that my spirit carries a piece of Lola with me where ever I go now.  I am haunted by her; by the sound of her voice in my head, her words on the page it’s hard to believe that Lola does not really exist. It’s hard to believe that I can’t reach out and touch her. This is the power of Adeniran’s amazing first novel.

Imagine  This is not just a story, not just a novel. It’s about having the courage to face obstacles head on. It’s about finding the strength to survive and succeed that you didn’t know you had inside of you. But most of all, Imagine This is about the triumph of the heart.  

If you read one good book this summer, make sure that it is Imagine This. Your heart will thank you for it.