"The one characteristic of a beautiful form is that one can put into it whatever one wishes, and see in it whatever one wishes to see; and the Beauty, that gives to creation its universal and aesthetic element, makes the critic a creator in his turn, and whispers of a thousand different things which were not present in the mind of him who carved the statue or painted the panel or graved the gem." - Oscar Wilde, "The Critic as Artist"
Author: Jennifer R Povey Publisher: Aitune Press Published: January 10, 2019
Goodreads Blurb: Laura led a sheltered, middle class existence. Oh, she knew she was adopted, but what did it matter? A lot when her birth mother is murdered and the killers come after her next...for reasons that are deep in her very blood.
My Thoughts: Laura leads a normal life, she just started college, and she wants to teach school. Her biggest worry is whether her classmates like her or not. Or it was. Everything changes one afternoon when Laura is whisked away into police custody due to the murder of her birth mother Ella Miracle (a high end hooker). Laura is more than a little confused seeing as she has never met her birth mother and has no ties to her. The police seem to think that whoever went after Ella is coming for Laura next. Laura isn't so sure, until she is shot at at the law office holding her mother's will. But it's not just that she's shot at, it's that her mind and body move into hyper-speed, moving her out of the way of fire, and even attacking back. Whatever wounds she received from the fight are healed within hours. Who is Laura Maxwell?
Honestly, that's the question for about the first half of the book. Who is her father really? Why do so many people seem to want her dead? (like soooo many people) Why does she have heightened senses? Why is she such a good shot? Is she even human? All these questions will be answered . . . sort of.
Turns out the old gods (think every pantheon - Norse, Greek, Roman, Egyptian) are returning to Earth. They aren't happy that during the last Olympics the Olympic Truce was violated. The worlds are merging and not everyone is happy. Along with centaurs and faeries come dragons, goblins, and man-eating ivy. Oh, and Laura? Turns out she's a demi-god, daughter of Ares.
Laura starts a race against time as the two worlds come closer and closer, and the sky turns to gold, opening a window into yet another world - this one spells immediate death for humans. Can she figure out how to appease the gods and the earth itself before everyone's souls are sucked into the golden ether?
The answer is yes. But wow is it complicated and I still don't really understand what happened. The solution is that people have to take responsibilities for themselves and those around them. From what I understood, that means being vigilant for yourself, and your community, without impeding the choices of others. It also means checking government and police power - they need to enforce the laws, but the people should have a say in how it's enforced. The people agreeing to take charge of their own lives and to try and help each other is what knits the sky back together and closes (mostly) the doors to the mythical world.
My favorite part of the book was Lady Liberty. Instead of just being a statue, she was portrayed as a goddess represented by a statue. But she was weak, because the American People had not been respecting her. They had been trying to limit other's choices, and elevate their own. This was one of the main reasons that the sky split the worst directly above Manhattan. I liked that idea that Liberty isn't just an ideal, but a sentient creature that does all she can for us, but we have to be willing to let her in.
So, overall, it was an interesting story idea, with a very creative deep solution, but the rising action went on for-freaking-ever. I kind of felt like the story was stretched along as long as possible, and could have been told in a much more concise manner. The end was SUPER confusing. I also wasn't a fan of the F-words. I give it 2.75 trees out of 5. (Yes, I just decided I could do that).
After Mike goes through a gut-wrenching betrayal by his fiancée, he finds himself in what he thinks might be the afterlife. But this is no heaven. The gods made a mistake and created another Earth in a parallel universe, putting both universes in peril. They need someone from his planet to destroy the alternate, and Mike is randomly selected for the job.
Trapped in an impossible choice, Mike accepts his mission and is returned to an Earth—and a body—so unlike his own. There, he meets Jane, who is—unbeknownst to him—the secret leader of an organization bent on tracking down Earth's saboteur. In the face of her passion for humanity, Mike's resolve falters. If Mike won't complete his mission, the gods will.
What I have to say:
When I heard about this book, I was dubious. The premise sounded… odd. But something made me pick it up anyway.
And for that I’m very glad because as soon as I started reading Challenges of the Gods, I fell in love.
Wait… I just realized the title is a wordplay thing. Cause like, the gods have challenges but also the gods assign challenges to the people in the book and… never mind. Let’s move on.
Turns out the premise is slightly misleading (*spoilers ahead—but like, spoilers you find out in the first two chapters*): the main character doesn’t die and go to heaven. At first, when he finds himself inexplicably in a strange alien landscape, he thinks he’s died and gone to heaven. The truth is much more complicated—and terrifying.
Our main character (and how much do I love that we don’t even find out his real name until near the end of the book? Yeah, you guessed, I love it a lot) has been sent to another realm, where he meets the messengers of the gods before heading to Earth on a mission: find a way to destroy the entire planet and everyone on it—or watch as his own planet is destroyed—with everyone on it. [Also, yeah "Mike" is his alias but not his real name.]
Because there’s another variable in this game: someone from Earth has been sent to our hero’s planet—and now he has to destroy Earth before his own planet gets wiped out.
As you can imagine, various complications arise. Not the least of which being our hero’s growing affection for the people of Earth, and his stark sense of morality (planetary genocide is a hard thing to sleep with at night).
Meanwhile, every night he returns to the realm of the messengers, where he engages in a series of war games against the people of Earth.
Oh yeah, no one on Earth knows who he really is, and he manages to assimilate very well into their team.
So it’s a bit like The Hunger Games meets The Night Manager meets Ender’s Game.
It’s also heck of good.
I was alternately fascinated, terrified, heartbroken, shocked, enraged, and relieved. But through it all, riveted.
Also, I laughed.
The narrator has a great sense of humor, and when he dryly points out the differences between his planet and our Earth, it’s funny in that (almost) Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy kind of way. You laugh, and then you think, wait, but why is it like that?
Not only does it make you question stuff like the social customs we have on Earth, it makes you appreciate the way things are on this planet. Like, we have a moon and it’s beautiful.
Do other planets have moons in their skies? What if we didn’t have the moon? Or what if it was too far away to see? Just another tiny star in the night sky? What if someone who’d never seen the moon before came to our planet and looked up at night. What would they think they were seeing?
It’s the differences as well as the commonalities between alien races of people that form the heart of this story. And maybe, at heart, it’s about connection—finding it, making it, or just looking for it.
But that’s not the whole of the story. Challenges of the Gods is a thrilling page-turner. It’s an interplanetary spy drama with plenty of twists and turns, mysteries, moments you never saw coming, epic sci-fi battles, and romance. Also, a quick round of applause for awesome character development.
Before I wrap this up, can I mention how hard it is to end a good book? It’s hard for the reader. It’s hard for the writer. But let’s talk about the writer for a moment. And this isn’t just a problem for books.
I’m sure everyone can think of some form of entertainment—movie, play, TV show, book, even a comedy sketch—that left you wanting more at the end. Maybe it was totally awesome all the way through, but then it ended and you went, “What?” Or maybe it ended and you sat there scratching your head for a minute, wondering why you didn’t feel satisfied.
This book is not like that. Holy cow it has the most satisfying, beautiful, perfect eucatastrophe (Thanks, Tolkien) of an ending.
Not only that, but it ends exactly when and where it needs to. I finished and thought, “There’s an author who knows how to end a book.”
(OK, my thoughts probably weren’t that well-formed. It was more along the lines of “wwwwwwwhhhhaaaa yeeeeessss oh yes woooooow.”)
And then I had to face the fact that it was over and yes, ending a good book is also hard for the reader.
Hello, beautiful literate people. You give us hope for the future.
Speaking of which, today's guest post came to us through a wormhole in the space time continuum (or something like that).
Historical novelist Jim Wolfe hails from the distant future, and we'll let him tell you in his own words about the inspiration behind his book The Making of Heroes.
For a long time I’d been wanting to write about Abigail Eastwind. But where do you start, with such a well known figure? Already there are novels, biographies and more than one H-Box production.
So for many years I wrote, as it were, around her, chronicling the V-Cities in all their magnificent glory. But always somewhere, to the back of my mind, figures, characters, backstories, incidents and plots were forming and - gradually - becoming more and more insistent on being recognised and recorded.
One day, I skimmered to the massive ruins of V-CityB. As usual, a guide was conducting a tour, conjuring images of the past with a wave of its hand. Sometimes it would morph - as VFs are wont to do - into the characters it was speaking about. The small group - there were maybe six of us - trailed along the curving passageways while around us the events of over 500 years ago were brought into shimmering, 3D life.
I knew most of it of course, having already written extensively about this period. So I wandered off.
After a few turns and random changes of direction I found myself alone. The air was slightly stale, but not unpleasant.
And as I walked I could hear the quiet, distant echo of my footsteps. I could easily have been the only person to go this way for centuries.
I fell into a reverie. And from the entangling mists of thought, pulled remorselessly into a fictional reality, a powerful figure emerged.
Spiker Gomez, padding along at that steady trot that eats up the miles. Going home with snared rabbits. And above, far beyond the sky, the planets indifferently clicking into place.
I had the start of my story. And the other figures, some - like Spiker - fictional, others - like both Allegra and Abigail - historical fact, began to assemble and take shape, waiting to come on stage and make themselves known.
Heroes, villains and ordinary people all caught up in the great flux of a tumultuous time.
I had my book. I had three. An epic.
Of course they found me: a guide fizzed into being and announced the last Skimmer of the day was about to depart. Back in mundane reality, I returned to my Dome and began to write.
Does being immune to becoming a zombie still make a person human?
Caleb tried to live a normal life after the uprising. He moved into the city, found a home, and worked a job. He yearned for days full of tedium and schedules. Instead, he discovered he was immune to becoming a zombie, and his life was turned upside down.
Fear and uncertainty have replaced normalcy. Caleb no longer knows if his immunity makes him human or something else … something monstrous. He knows who is after him, but to find out what his captors want and what he is he'll have to play their game and give up his freedom. His sacrifice may or may not lead to the answers he desperately craves.
What I have to say:
Edge of Humanity continues the story that started in Humanity's Hope, which, by the way, has an incredibly killer ending. So needless to say, I was only too eager to read book two in the series.
This one also had a killer ending, so looking ahead to book three.... yeah, you can count me in.
But let's return to the present.
It's apocalypse now, and Caleb may or may not hold the answer to saving humanity from the zombie scourge. Sadly, a lot goes wrong and by the end of the book, he still doesn't know whether or not he holds the key to saving humanity (like how I worked in the series title there?). One thing he does know is that his life really sucks.
Caleb is kind of a cool character, and he's easy to get behind. He's got a troubled past as the only survivor of his family and a guy who's been running from zombies for a long, loooong time. He's a suicide survivor and has a lot of anxiety. Not too good with people, either--though I think he has a good heart. He's basically a traumatized action hero.
To complicate matters, there's the issue of his apparently being a vampire (I know--what?). Seems like he's survived a zombie bite only to become a monster of a different kind. And that brings me to something we should get out of the way.
This book is gross. As gross as you'd expect a book about zombies, vampires, and strange medical experiments to be. So don't read it while you're eating. OK, end of side note.
Book 2 didn't quite captivate me like the first one did--maybe that's because there was more of a mystery element in the first one (who's targeting Caleb? Which of his friends can he trust?) But Edge of Humanity was still a wild ride, and one that I enjoyed.
I especially liked it when the story takes an unexpected turn, like when Caleb runs into a civilization of humans outside the city. (True--the girl he meets there--might have been my favorite character.) It's also interesting when we find out the relationship between Samuel and Dr. Maudaus.
And I enjoyed the flashbacks to Caleb's family. That makes his story more heartbreaking and more compelling. We can only pray that his future holds hope--and not just for humanity, but for Caleb himself.