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Archive for September, 2011

Book Reviews – A How To

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

How to Review a Book

After reading the fantastic reviews from our blog contributors, you might think to yourself, “I’d like to give that a shot!” We second that. If you’d like to review a book, but you aren’t sure how to get started, we’re providing some tips. There is no right way to write a review, but this guide should give you some suggestions on how to begin.

 

First Things First

Before you begin of course, above all, read the book! This may seem like a no-brainer, but it bears noting. Don’t begin a book, decide you don’t like it, put it down and write a review on how bad it was. Obviously, to write an informed review, you have to read the whole book thoroughly.

While you are reading, it helps to make notes. This makes it much easier to remember and reference pertinent information. Even if you don’t go back and read your notes (not that we suggest this), just writing them will highlight in your mind parts of the book that stand out and are most likely perfect fodder for your review.

After you have read the book, think critically about what you’ve read. Brainstorm and develop your thoughts before deciding on the focus of your review.

Outshine with an Outline

As with any piece of writing, you’ll want to anchor your review by creating a thesis. This should be one central perspective, argument, or proposition you intend to support or maintain. Unifying your ideas into one concise thought will help you form the rest of your review and improve brevity. As long as the rest of your review supports your thesis, you will know you are not getting off subject.

After you have created your thesis, consider which points you wish to make to support your thesis. You can use a separate paragraph to support each point; not only will this make your review easier to write, it will be easier for the reviewer to follow.

Create an outline for your review by beginning with the thesis, then each point, and beneath each point record the details that will become the meat of your paragraphs. If you are citing information in the book, save yourself some time by writing the page numbers of your citations next to each detail. When you are ready to begin writing, use your outline as your guide.

When it comes to the content of your review, keep a balance between concrete examples and your opinion.

Stating the facts

You’ll need to give the title of the book you are reviewing, the author’s name, and the book’s theme(s) before the end of your first paragraph. This keeps the reader engaged so they don’t have to look back to the header of your review for this information.

Summarize the plot, but don’t divulge too much detail. This is particularly important for fiction, because you don’t want to give away the story.  Keep in mind, your assessment of the story’s delivery should take priority over describing the story itself.

Use citations from the book when they illustrate your ideas. You don’t want your review to feel like reading the book verbatim, but referencing specific quotes where appropriate, will enrich your review. Be sure to cite each quote accurately, and in the appropriate style for your piece.

Aside from the information in the book, you may want to include context that affects the reader’s understanding of the work. This may include the period when the book was written, details about the author, critical reception of the book at its release, etc.

Your Two Cents

The Good:

Writing a reviews is about sharing your opinion on the book.  You’ll want to include your opinion on several aspects of the piece, for instance:

  • The author’s purpose,
  • The method of development,
  1. For fiction, this may include the development of plot, characters, themes, etc.
  2. For non-fiction, this may include discussing how well the author supports the main idea of the publication or how well an account is presented.
  • Effectiveness of literary devices,
  • The book’s appeal on a logical or emotional level,
  • What possibilities are presented by the work.

 

Of course, you can write about any parts of the book that stuck out for you. Your personal opinion of the book is an asset and is what makes the review uniquely yours. Don’t be afraid to use your distinct voice and be creative!

The Bad:

Feel free to challenge the author’s ideas or approach, but be sure to provide specific examples to back up your argument. Don’t criticize the book for not being something it was never intended to be. Consider the author’s purpose and evaluate how well he or she achieved that purpose.

If you were disappointed with the work, don’t be afraid to express that either. Just note that even if you don’t like a book, that does not mean the book is not good. Keep in mind that one man’s birdcage lining is another man’s favorite book, so even if you did not enjoy reading a particular work, attempt to identify and describe its merits.

The Ugly

Avoid cliches; instead, write plainly and express your thoughts in your own voice. Precise language will allow you to control the tone of your review.

Don’t jump from one vastly contrasting idea to another. Connect your paragraphs logically, thereby mastering the art of the segue.

Correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation are important. It’s easy to overlook these things as the writer of the review, but your reader will appreciate a solid work that doesn’t have the speed bumps these errors will cause.

If you have a relationship with the author – other than as a reader – disclose it in your review.  Here are some examples: “The author and I have shared a long friendship, giving me a full appreciation of her anecdotes”, “The author and I met while traveling…”, “The author, my cousin, allowed me to preview the manuscript in it’s infancy…”; you get the idea.

In Conclusion

Finish with a summation of your review. Include your overall impression of the book, and the book’s effectiveness. You may want to reword and restate your thesis in the conclusion, to emphasize it and remind the reader of your purpose.

Do not introduce new points in the conclusion. You are wrapping up your review, and the reader should have a clear view of your thoughts after reading. Adding more points that aren’t carefully explained leaves the review feeling unfinished.

The Once Over

Proofread your review. Look for technical errors, but also pay attention to style and flow. Be sure your review is easy to read and follow.

The review should be concise. An average review will be between 300 and 1500 words. If you have more or less to say, that’s fine. Just make sure you have presented all the necessary information so that the review makes sense without straying from the point.

Keep your audience in mind. For example: PBS blog posts, your audience, for the most part, will be PBS members (although nonmembers have access to the blog as well). Members and nonmembers who visit our blog are generally deciding whether or not to order the book through PBS or perhaps if they would like to purchase it new from the PBS Market. Your review will help others make these decisions. You want to be somewhat objective, but you should express whether or not you believe the audience will appreciate the work.

 

Now you are ready to write your review. Do your best and have fun!

 

If you are interested in writing a review for the PBS blog we would love to hear from you.  Please send an email to Blog@PaperBackSwap.com.

Gay Romantic Suspence Review – Dirty Kiss

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

 

Dirty Kiss by Rhys Ford

Review by Cyn C. (Cyn-Sama)

 

I’m always thrilled when I buy a book on impulse, and end up falling in love with an authors writing.

See, I’m a sucker for a pretty cover, and that leads me into picking up some rather dreadful books.

I’m also a sucker for stories with Asian characters, but usually end up throwing them against the wall in disgust.

I enjoy Asian characters.  It stems from my background studying Japanese culture, and listening to Asian pop/rock music.

Many times an author falls into what I term ‘fangirl/fanboy’ mode, where the author thinks that by throwing in a ton of foreign words and pop culture, it will make their writing feel more authentic.

This usually ends up in having me cringing and groaning, because it reads to me like a fourteen year old who’s just discovered an awesomely shiny new thing, and want to show everyone how awesome this awesomely shiny new thing is.

Now, someone who has never been exposed to this shiny new thing may think it’s fantastic, but if you’ve been thoroughly entrenched in the shiny, it gets annoying.

Thankfully, Ford does not fall into this trap.

Reading Ford’s writing just makes me want to believe in their characters.

The book revolves around Cole Kenjiro McGinnis, an ex-cop and PI who is of Japanese/Irish heritage. Cole is still grieving over the death of his lover, an attack that left Cole with physical and mental wounds, and precipitated his retirement from the police force.

In his position as a PI, Cole just expects to handle run of the mill cases.  Nothing funny, just checking on cheating spouses mostly, until his brother asks him to check on a suicide of a prominent businessman’s son.

During the investigation, Cole runs into Kim Jae-Min, cousin to the deceased.

This brings Cole and Jae into a dangerous world of sex clubs and murder.  With all the danger and mistrust, it seems that their budding romance is doomed to failure.

Add in a demonic cat and some truly colorful characters, and this book was truly a delight to read.

Interview about the Cruise for PBS Members Feb. 2012

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Interview by Elizabeth B. (Cattriona)

It is my pleasure to interview two members, Mary (kilchurn) and Cheryl (Poncer), who have organized the first ever Cruise for PBS Members, coming in February, 2012 on Carnival Cruise Lines.

 

Elizabeth: First off, tell us a bit about yourselves.

Cheryl: I have been a PBS member since October of 2005. PBS has filled a special place in my life. I was one of the first Tour Guides and am now honored to be a Tour Guide Assistant Coordinator. I have found great books and great friends here. I am really looking forward to spending time with some of them on the cruise and the PBS Team. Mary has been a member since June of 2007. Mary is very active not only as a Tour Guide Leader but as a Book Image Approver and in the Games Forum. She has been an amazing help organizing the PBS Cruise and has become a dear friend.

 

Elizabeth: What is the PBS Cruise? 

Mary: It is a Cruise (on a ship) to the Bahamas (islands off of the coast of Florida) for PBS members that has been organized by the PBS Tour Guides.

Cheryl: We are going on a ship to the Bahamas with PBS members on a Cruise, organized by PBS Tour Guides 😉

 

Elizabeth: Where and when is it? 

Mary: The Cruise takes place on a ship and we depart from Jacksonville, FL on Saturday February 4th and return Wednesday February 9th.

Cheryl: A Really Big Ship.

 

Elizabeth: How did the idea come about? 

Mary: It was Cheryl’s idea – we were paired-up as Diva buddies, in the (PBS Games Discussion Forum) last June and met for lunch.   As we were leaving she told me she wanted to put together a Cruise for the PBS Tour Guides – it has spiraled from there.

Cheryl: For years I had seen people posting in the PBS Forums about organizing a cruise for members. I kept waiting to see an announcement for one so I could sign up. When I realized that if I wanted to cruise with other PBS members, I had better do something, I mentioned it to Mary. She took the bait, and as they say, the rest was history. Not to mention, I took my PBS nickname from Ponce de Leon!

 

Elizabeth: How did you get involved?

Mary: Um – I was dragged in kicking and screaming?  Seriously, I volunteered the minute Cheryl said “I want to put together a Cruise for PBS Tour Guides.”

Cheryl: Another Tour Guide member, Elizabeth R. (Esjro), came to Atlanta for a business trip. While she was here Mary, myself and some other PBS members planned a dinner out with her. We invited some members from the PBS Team and we broached the idea to them. They were all for it and it was a go from there.

 

Elizabeth: Will PBS benefit from this Cruise? 

Mary: We are hoping that PBS will get some pocket change from this.

Cheryl: Yes, PBS will benefit. If only that the Team will be joining us on board and will get to meet the Cruise-goers. They can get lots of great feedback, in person, from lots of great members.

 

Elizabeth: Will there be special activities or will everyone just be reading in deck chairs? 

Mary:  You mean reading in a deck chair on a cruise ship is not special?  We are hoping to have enough attendees to do some special things. We are hoping to have enough attendees to have a cocktail party the night we set sail. There will be a presentation by the PBS Team where the attendees will have a chance to ask questions and make suggestions about the site.  We are also going to have places reserved so that the various PBS groups that have formed in the PBS Discussion Forums (Divas, Belles, DOS) and the various volunteer groups can have some private time to hang out.  We are also planning to have a “Live-Real-Time” White Elephant Swap.

Cheryl: There will also be a Genre Dinner. That should be great fun.

 

Elizabeth: What’s a Genre Dinner? 

Mary: A Genre Dinner is where you are seated with others who read the same genre of books as you.

Cheryl: At the Genre Dinner, the Cruise attendees will be seated according to the genre they pick. It will be a great way to meet other members who read like books and get to make new friends. Of course if someone picks 19th Century French Poetry as their genre, we may have to seat them at the Romance table.

 

 Elizabeth: Will there be any special guests? 

Mary: Several members of the PBS Team will be sailing with us.

 

Elizabeth: How many PBSers will be there? 

Mary: Right now we have just over 100 members booked

 

Elizabeth: Can I bring my spouse/kids/mom/partner? 

Mary: You can bring anyone you want.

Cheryl: Sure, you can even bring your imaginary friends with you.

 

Elizabeth: How many books should I bring? 

Mary: Hmmm.  Books are heavy and airlines charge by the pound, but bring at least 1 Wish List book for use in the Elephant swap.

Cheryl: Unless you have use of a Sherpa. Then bring many books.

 

Elizabeth: Does “exposure to ocean breezes, suntan lotion and fruity drinks” make a book unpostable? 

Mary: Ocean breezes are fine, but suntan lotion and fruity drinks might lead to staining….

 

Elizabeth: I’ve never Cruised before — why should I come? 

Mary: It isn’t so much about the Cruise as it is about the people.  I am so excited to finally be able to put faces with names of people with whom I have been interacting for years.  The Cruise part is just a perk.  Also, where else could you sit on the deck of a large ship, drinking a margarita with friends, talking about good books.

Cheryl: I’ve never cruised before myself, so that will be something new for me. I, too, am looking forward to laughing and hanging out with lots of PBS friends I have never met before.

 

Elizabeth: How can members sign up to attend? 

Mary: They can contact our Travel Specialist, September Holstead (800.727.7601 ext. 229) or fill out the registration form online (you will still need to call to make your deposit payment).  Please note that September is in the office Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

 

Elizabeth: Is there a sign-up deadline? 

Cheryl: You can book through January, but after September 30th, we can’t guarantee the pricing from Carnival.

 

Elizabeth: What are you most looking forward to about the Cruise? 

Mary: Meeting everyone! (and a day at the spa)

Cheryl: Meeting everyone and the food!

 

Elizabeth: What have you learned in the process?  

Mary: READ THE FINE PRINT!

Cheryl: Then read it again!

 

Elizabeth: What has surprised you the most?

Mary: The amount of detail and information necessary to book a cruise was surprising. I’ve cruised before and I don’t remember it being so involved.

Cheryl: All of the details that go into planning an excursion like this. And all the hard work and support of the Tour Guides who have volunteered for the Cruise Committee. They are even more awesome than I knew.

 

Elizabeth: What’s the one thing you’d like PBS members to know about this Cruise? 

Mary: Be there! or be SQUARE!

Cheryl: There will be free hugs and unlimited opportunities for laughter and good times.

 

Elizabeth: Thank you, ladies! Those interested in more information on the PBS Cruise can check out the special thread at the top of the Club Member Thoughts in the Discussion Forums, titled “2012 Cruise for PaperBackSwap Members

 

Talk Like A Pirate Day

Monday, September 19th, 2011

ARRR…..thar be Pirates about!!!!!

By Gail P. (TinkerPirate)

 

Today, September 19th is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. And, who better to blog than I … PBS’ very own pirate … TinkerPirate!

My fascination with pirates started when I was but a small child growing up in a small town just about smack dab in the middle of Illinois. For a child surrounded by fields of corn, soybeans, and wheat, the possibility of an encounter with the denizens of Davy Jones’ locker was pretty much slim to none. But, the Fates had other ideas.

 

It was bowling and beer that led to this unlikely encounter. Family friends owned the town bowling alley and the local Budweiser distributor had a free hand when it came to giving out tickets for Cardinal games. At least once a year, those tickets came my Dad’s way and the whole family would hop into the old green station wagon and drive the 90 miles south to St. Louis for a game. For some reason, it always seemed to be a Cardinal vs Pirates game. And, for reasons still unknown, I always rooted for the Pirates. OK, admittedly, these were not “real” pirates, but the seed was still planted.

 

The attraction to pirates was nurtured through my childhood by a love of old movies. Seriously, who could resist Errol Flynn stabbing the main sail with his dagger and then riding the sail down from the crow’s nest to the fighting below on the deck in “Captain Blood”.  And, then there was the classic of “Abbot and Costello Meet Captain Kidd”. And, what about Bob Hope in “The Princess and the Pirate” or Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance” (Come on, everybody sing “For I am a Pirate King! And it is, it is a glorious thing to be a Pirate King!”)?

 

I hit a slump as I made my way through nursing school and then joined the masses as they slogged through Monday-Friday work and household chores Saturday-Sunday. But, all that changed in 2006, when my inner pirate got rejuvenated by Johnny Depp agreeing to bring Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride to life! It was also the year my daughter badgered me into joining PBS.  And, the second swap I tried was aboard the S.S. Stupidity!  Pirates AND silliness!!!!  I was HOME!!!!  I had found my PEOPLE!!!!

 

OK, so this brings us to today’s holiday.  Why have an International Talk Like a Pirate Day?  I say “Why not?”  Or as it is stated on the TLAPD official website “The best explanation came from a guy at a Cleveland radio station who interviewed us on the 2002 Talk Like a Pirate Day. He told us we were going to be buried by people asking for interviews because it was a ‘whimsical alternative’ to all the serious things that were making the news so depressing.”  Unfortunately, that is just as true today as it was 9 years ago.

 

So, clear your throat, take a deep breath, and practice some piratey words with me:

 

Arrr! – This is essentially the pirate equivalent of surfer-speak “dude”. It can mean pretty much anything you want it to mean.

Bilge Rat – Think ex-husband/ex-wife, used car salesman, or politician.

Grog – Just what you think … alcohol … but primarily rum.

Keelhaul – A rather unpleasant trip under the hull of the ship usually used on bilge rats because they so obviously deserve it.

 

But, before I release you to practice your new found pirate-linguistics on your unsuspecting friends and coworkers … and, perhaps, a bilge rat or two, may I offer a little insight into pirates?

Why YES, TinkerPirate! Please grant us some of your wisdom!

Well, if you insist……

 

Pirates were not all burly men. Despite being of the “fairer sex”, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and Grace O’Malley were fearsome pirates. For example, Bonny, Read, and an unknown male pirate were the only pirates on board the Revenge to defend their ship when it was attacked by a British Naval vessel. The rest of the pirates were drunk below decks. When cowardly louts refused to come up to fight like men, Read shot several of them through the hatch; thus saving the British several yards of hanging rope. Grace O’Malley was known to commanded 3 galley ships and over 200 men. In her spare time, she was also the chieftain of the Ó Máille clan in Ireland.

Not all pirates were lawless men who owed allegiance to no country. The difference between a “pirate” and a “privateer” was in the eye of the beholder … or more accurately which side of the boarding you were on. If you were the person with the “letter of marque” by a government and you were doing the boarding, you were a privateer with a legal right to board, plunder, and scuttle merchant ships of the government’s enemies. If you were the boardee, they were pirates.

 

Pirates were surprisingly democratic with specific rules governing pirate life. Black Bart’s Pirate Code of Conduct went something like this:

  1. One pirate, one vote – even the captain didn’t get a bigger say in who would be plundered next
  2. Share and share a like – everyone got a fair turn at the booty
  3. No gambling for money – obviously, this code was written before the advent of cruise ships and river casino boats
  4. No lights at night – pirates needed their beauty rest
  5. Keep your weapons clean –a dirty cutlass is a rusty cutlass
  6. No boys or women on shipboard – well, I guess that must be why Bonny and Read dressed like men
  7. Don’t even think about calling in sick during a battle – Read seemed to take that one personally
  8. No fighting between pirates – save your energy for plundering
  9. Early workers comp – lose an arm…..800 pieces of eight
  10. Musicians available for entertainment – except Sunday….even for pirates!

 

If you would like to learn more about pirates (and you are lucky enough to live in Denver), go see Real Pirates at the Museum of Nature and Science! It is a truly wonderful exhibit chronicling the only pirate ship to ever be positively identified. You will discover who the pirates were, get to touch real pirate artifacts, and find out what it took to be a pirate.

Before I go, I have to leave you with a little information about some land-locked pirates I had the misfortune of encountering while living in Chicago. It’s a towing company that was immortalized in Steve Goodman’s song The Lincoln Park Pirates (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daDQLptd5TI&feature=related)

 

The Pyrates by George MacDonald Fraser

Fluffy: Scourge of the Sea by Teresa Bateman & Michael Chesworth

Expedition Whydah by Barry Clifford & Paul Perry

Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton

 

The Pirate Life by John “Chumbucket” Baur & Mark “Cap’n Slappy” Summers

 

AND AS A REWARD FOR MAKING IT ALL THE WAY THROUGH THIS BLOG…

I have an autographed copy of The Pirate Life that I will give to a lucky PBS members who comments here on the Blog. A winner will be chosen at random. The winner will be announced on September 27th. Good luck!

 

 

Western Review – Blood Trail

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Blood Trail by Gardner Fox

Review by Chris C. (chrisnsally)

 

Do you know Gardner Fox? He is the man who scripted an estimated 4000 comics during his career at DC comics where he was employed from the mid 1930s until 1968. I hope the recently released Green Lantern movie had a credit Mr. Fox because he created The Flash, Hawkman, the Justice Society of America and co-created Sandman.

As if his contributions to the comic book industry were not occupation enough, Mr. Fox was also a prolific producer of Pulp Fiction novels in genres across the board.

I acquired his Western novel Blood Trail through PaperBackSwap and enjoyed it as much as anything I have read by Mr. Fox.

Blood Trail is the story of a hired gun named Abel Kinniston who attempted to reform his days as an outlaw. Kinniston, along with his plan, was gunned down while he was attempting to implement it, now he is hunting the men who’ve interfered with his lawful intent. Like a true cowboy and frontiersman, Kinniston plays many roles during his tale; he is an outlaw hired gun, a lone wolf outlaw, a ranch hand and lastly a ramrod for community action.

The plot of Blood Trail is rather vague about the location where the actions are played out.   But, at the beginning of the tale Kinnistion has been on the trail of three men for three years. Fox mentions the Wyoming Territories and the Rio Grande in the same sentence as if these locations where a day’s ride down the trail from one another. Three years is certainly plenty of time to ride the expanse of the Western Territories but I admire Fox’s talent of using time to distort space. This places the actions of Blood Trail into a mythological “Old West” inhabited by generic towns named; Dodge, Carbine and Wardance.

Blood Trail has a romantic theme too. Early in the plot Kinniston is briefly diverted from his man hunt to save a damsel in distress. The damsel, Fay Mercer, becomes part of the main plot as the romantic interest for a man who is normally, to barrow a modern term, “a one man wolf pack.” When the outlaws burn down the Mercer family ranch the lone wolf must play nursemaid to a she wolf with a bullet wound. Kinniston was injured by the fire too so he and Fay are forced to hideout in the mountains around Carbine until they can recover from their injuries. The brief hideout provides time for Ms. Mercer and the old wolf to become more acquainted in the innocent manner of traditional Old West novels and programs.

This is as good a Western as I have ever read. Often, while reading this novel, I felt I was reading the screenplay to an old film or television show.  It, like most Westerns, is “G” rated except for the implied violence of the gunfights. The good guys win all the gun fights so, in this case, killin’s okay too.

I recommend Blood Trail for fans of the Western genre or any readers just looking for a relaxing read.

Ruminations on Reading

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Ruminations on Reading

by Cyn C. (Cyn-Sama)

 

Like most people on the PaperBackSwap, I have always been a voracious reader.  Books have always been an escape for me.  A way to hide from the world.

There are some authors that I gobble up like junk food.  Mercedes Lackey, J.R. Ward, and Lisa Kleypas are my top guilty pleasures.  Some people may complain about clunky plotlines or implausible characters, but, I don’t care.  I love them.  I can read them over and over again.  Reading these authors is like watching my favorite movie.  They are warm and comforting; mac and cheese for my frazzled brain.

Then, there are times when my brain craves the beauty and the word mastery of authors like Henry Rollins, Poppy Z. Brite, Neil Gaiman and Juliet Marillier.

Aside from my beloved Hank, you may notice that these authors lean ever so slightly into the world of pure imagination and fantasy.

I remember the first time I read Daughter of the Forest by Marillier.  The book is a retelling of the legend of a girl with seven brothers who were turned into swans.  Part of what she has to do to break the curse that was set upon her brothers is not speak until the other tasks set out for her are completed.

Each time I read this book, I start to feel like I’m unable to speak.  The spell of the book has sucked me in so completely that I am transfigured.

 

Poppy sets up a different tone for me.  I discovered them during my formative teenage years, when I thought that there was something broken in my wiring.  Something that made me as a female enjoy reading about two men in love.  Reading Poppy helped me to realize that I wasn’t broken.

 

 

Gaiman is the master of modern mythology.  I have always loved his concept that as long as a deity has believers, they will still exist and influence the world.  Given that thought, we can also create new gods.  Gods of propaganda and electronics.

 

 

Then, there’s my Hank.  He is the writer I turn to when I want to find blunt and honest truth.  Truth that I sometimes don’t want to see inside myself.

 

 

 

The joy of discovering new authors and new worlds to explore is only a part of why reading is such an escape for me.  My favorite thing is still curling up with an old friend I have read a hundred times before.

 

Fantasy Friday – On A Pale Horse

Friday, September 16th, 2011

 

On A Pale Horse by Piers Anthony


Review by Jennifer (mywolfalways)

 

 

When Zane’s latest scheme to get money fails, he decides that it’s time to surrender early to the inevitable.  Unfortunately, his plan is interrupted by the intervention of Fate and  Zane unexpectedly finds himself inheriting the job of the Incarnation of Death.

 

With the help of the death steed, Mortis, and the intermittent assistance of the other Incarnations, he quickly learns his job.  The job is intimidating at first, but he quickly gets used to the simple task of retrieving balanced souls and determining whether they should go to heaven or hell.

 

As he learns more about how people’s souls are weighed however, he starts to have second thoughts.  Despite risking his own immortal soul to hell by breaking the rules, Zane decides to start relegating the souls to the realms he sees fit and even extending some people’s lives to give them a second chance at improving their status.

 

Everything seems to be going fine until Satan, the prince of evil, schedules Zane’s girlfriend for early termination.  Conflicted between his duty as death and his love for Luna, Zane makes the decision to challenge Satan.  Will the Incarnation be able to defeat the ultimate evil or will the entire world fall into Satan’s hands?

 

Anthony introduces an imaginative world that is a mix of fantasy, myth, and futuristic present that will satisfy a variety of palates.  While Death has his classic scythe, he has many other tools, such as a watch, balancing stones, and even a computer.  People on earth drive cars and ride magic carpets all while passing billboards advertising both magical and technological items.

 

While this novel can be read as just a fun fantasy read, I think many readers will find themselves challenged by Zane’s moral struggle to do his job properly versus what he thinks is right.  It’s a problem that most people experience almost every day.  Zane develops from a self-loathing character to a person who truly cares about his clients.  Many of the scenarios Zane faces with his clients are heart-wrenching and readers may consider what they would do in his place.  As they continue reading, some readers may even find themselves uncomfortable as they question their own preconceived notions of life, death, and the choices that they and others make.

 

I enjoyed this novel the first time I read it in High School and I enjoyed it the second time around as an adult with more life experiences to draw from.  A few years from now, I know I’ll be reading it again, just to see how my point of view has changed.