As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

July 27, 2011

THE PARADISE PROPHECY by Robert Browne, 2011

The Paradise ProphecyThe Myth:  When God cast the archangel Satan into Hell, ending the War in Heaven, peace prevailed on Earth. Until the fallen angels took revenge in the Garden of Eden. Ever since, mankind has been in a struggle between good and evil, paradise and apocalypse: the fall of Rome, The Crusades, World Wars, nuclear proliferation, the Middle East Crisis... The War in Heaven never really ended-it just changed venues. For millennia, God's angels have been fighting Satan's demons on Earth, all in hopes of bringing about Satan's greatest ambition, the Apocalypse. The Reality:  Satan has never been closer to his goal than right now. (Amazon)

Review by Laura Madsen, mom, veterinarian and writer

Angels and demons walk among humans, and the battle in Heaven continues.

We’ve seen a lot of Revelation-type badness recently—wars, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, nuclear accidents. Maybe the Apocalypse really is coming. Robert Browne draws from the Old Testament, Milton’s PARADISE LOST, and angel lore to tell a tale of angels and demons in their eternal war over humanity.

The main characters in THE PARADISE PROPHECY are Sebastian LaLaurie, a religious studies professor at a southern Baptist university, and Bernadette Callahan, a tough government agent who has been sent to Brazil to investigate the mysterious death of a Christian pop star.

The pop singer experienced a meteoric rise to superstar from meth addict in the slums (“The forgotten people, left to rot in their own waste, with little or no chance of ever moving beyond this hole they called home. They were born, grew up and died here—often violently—barely a blip on heaven’s radar screen”). When her inexplicably charred remains are found, Callahan suspects foul play, while LaLaurie recognizes supernatural forces.

The novel is plot-driven; we learn enough about the characters to understand their motivations, but what carries the story along is the mystery. Callahan and LaLaurie fly around the world, from Brazil to Turkey to Thailand, searching for answers. There are enough unexpected plot twists to keep you reading late into the night.

THE PARADISE PROPHECY will appeal to fans of Dan Brown’s ANGELS & DEMONS and THE DA VINCI CODE.

Market: Adult Fiction (thriller/ paranormal)
Language: explicit
Sensuality: explicit
Violence: explicit
Mature Themes: good vs. evil, demonic possession, the Apocalypse, murder, sex, drug use, spontaneous combustion

Book formats:

July 23, 2011

DRAGON AND THIEF by Timothy Zahn, 2003

Dragon and Thief: The First Dragonback Adventure (Dragonback (Quality))
Fourteen-year-old orphan Jack Morgan is hiding out. In a spaceship. Falsely accused of a crime, he pilots his Uncle Virgil's spaceship to a remote and uninhabited planet hoping to escape capture. When another ship crashes after a fierce battle, Jack rescues the sole survivor-- a K'da warrior names Draycos. It turns out Draycos can help Jack clear his name. All they have to do is team up. No problem, right? Until Jack learns that Draycos is not your average alien. (Amazon)

Review by Emily, bibliophile and high school student

This book hooked me by the title. I tend to read anything with 'dragon' in the title. Dragons fascinate me. So do thieves, for that matter. So when I saw this book, I absolutely had to read it, if only for the title. And then I read it, and it totally surpassed what I was expecting. After which, having not gotten the other books in the series, I had to wait in a fever of impatience to get to the library the next week. It was torture.

Dragon and Thief begins in a spaceship which is being attacked. It crashes, and a boy combing through the wreckage finds a dragon. Or rather, the dragon finds him. Because this is not just a dragon. Draycos is a warrior-poet of the alien race K'da, and if he cannot find someone within six hours, he will fade and die. And Jack Morgan is the only person that has come by who is not an enemy.

K'da are interesting. They shift between two-and-three dimensional forms, and they can slide underneath a person's skin - in fact, they have to in order to survive. They have amazing mental and physical capabilities, but they cannot use them unless they have a partner willing to host them. Otherwise, they simply disappear. This, coupled with the fact that most of them have a strong moral compass, is the only reason that they have not taken over all of the known worlds.

But because of this weakness, they are under attack by another race, the Valaghua, who have a weapon called the Death. It can simply slide through any material, and anything living that it touches withers and dies. To escape, they have fled to the planet on which Jack Morgan is currently hiding out. He has a warrant out on him, and for once, it was something he did not do. And now that Draycos is with him, he is once more on the run from enemies. This time, though, two whole races of beings are counting on his survival. The adventures that Jack and Draycos go through will leave the worlds forever changed.

Also, they're a really funny pair. Some of Draycos' misunderstandings of common human sayings are absolutely hilarious. In all, this series is a really good, rather quick read, with enough wit and wisdom to spare.

Market: Young Adult
Language: So far as I can remember, negligible
Sensuality: None
Violence: Moderate
Mature Themes: Stealing, moral ethics

Book formats:

July 18, 2011

Interview with Author, CAROL LYNCH WILLIAMS

Interviewed for Bookshop Talk by Laura Madsen

Carol Lynch Williams is the author of twelve young adult (YA) novels in the national market, one nonfiction book, and a number of novels in the Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) market. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and teaches Creative Writing at Brigham Young University. She is the mother of five daughters, who are the best parts of her life.

Carol’s most recent titles are:

The Chosen One     Glimpse         Miles from Ordinary: A Novel

On to the interview.

Laura Madsen: I read that your mom was an English professor, so I expect you grew up in a house full of books. What were your favorite books as a child?

Carol Lynch Williams: We did have a lot of books when I was growing up. And I loved the way they looked and smelled. We didn't have a lot of kids books in the home, though. In fact, I remember getting a kid's book in the mail and being surprised about there being such a thing (this was when I was way young). However, the library (my grandmother took me all the time) had plenty for me to choose from and I read The Borrowers, The Boxcar Children and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz books. At home, though, I was reading Twain, Faulkner and Steinbeck. Those were my great loves, and my first writing teachers. Maybe that's where my dark side arose? Hello, Grapes of Wrath and Light in August, not to mention Wise Blood.

LM: You write the “Throwing Up Words” blog (great name!) with author Ann Dee Ellis (THIS IS WHAT I DID), and your daughter Kyra. Has blogging helped your fiction writing?

CLW: No, not really. That probably means that I'm doing the blogging wrong or something. It doesn't even rev me up to want to write. Sheesh!!! AND I notice my life ticks away much faster because I have to have something new written every Monday morning. Do you know how often that is? Weekly. And then some!

However, it's lovely to hear from people. And I love to read what Ann Dee and Kyra have to say in their posts.

LM: You have five daughters, yet some of your books have quite disturbing mother-daughter relationships. How have your relationships with your daughters informed your writing?

CLW: My girls are  my best friends. Each one will say to me, "Mommy, you're my best friend," and then I say, "You're my best friend, too." One of them (I can't remember who) said to me, "I love the way you make us each feel like we're your favorite even though you're telling us all the same thing." I swear, these girls have helped me get through some hard times.

The True Colors of Caitlynne JacksonThe strong parts of my girl characters many times come from my daughters. For example, in The Chosen One, my Kyra plays the piano and loves to read and actually was the first one in the home to read The Harry Potter series. My other daughter Laura, is a girl I think who would have run away from a polygamist community, guns a-blazing. In True Colors, Caitlynne is a tomboy and so was Elise growing up.

Mostly, I think--after the book is finished (I don't worry about this when I'm writing)--I hope to have written a book for one of my girls. Cait (who's 18) feels like the two books I'm working on now were written for her--especially the novel coming out with Simon and Schuster. That's important to me. We're not that different. If my girls like what I've done, maybe another girl will like what I've done. Maybe another girl will connect to the words.

LM: I understand that you started writing GLIMPSE right after 9/11.

CLW: Yes, that night I couldn't sleep and I went in and sent an email to a friend and realized that I had the beginning of a novel.

LM: The plot centers on a girl trying to discover the reasons behind her sister’s attempted suicide. Even though the book isn’t related to the terrorist attacks, did writing it help you deal with 9/11?

CLW: No, but Celexa did-- a bit. And I'm still dealing with September 11. I'm still angry about it. Still heartbroken. I still email my New York friends and tell them I'm thinking of them on that day every year.

24 Games You Can Play on a Checker BoardLM: You have published one nonfiction book, 24 GAMES YOU CAN PLAY ON A CHECKERBOARD. Do you have plans to write/publish other books outside of the YA genre?

CLW: I kind of fell into young adult writing as I pushed my characters into more difficult situations. Some of my first published books  were upper middle grade--I'd say about six were true middle grade novels, and ten or so were younger middle grade novels.

Since, I have written two picture books that I hope get pubbed someday, and  I have a pretty funny novel I started that's a true mid grade. We'll see what happens with that--not sure when I'll get to it. An editor is looking at another middle grade that I sent her a few months ago.

I have an early reader series that I hope will be picked up some day (it's sitting on an editor's desk right now and I heard we'll be hearing back about that soon). I've just queried two editors about some nonfiction and I have an upper mid grade (possible) series going on in my head. Plus a friend has asked me to think about writing a book for adults with her.

I always have ideas, all kinds, in my head.

LM: You live in a conservative state and teach at a conservative university but your novels deal with some pretty intense subjects: polygamy, forced marriage, child prostitution, death, abandonment, etc. Do people criticize you for the tough subjects?

CLW: Yes, I get some criticism, but not here in my conservative state or at my conservative school. I have gotten more unhappy letters from people who feel like my being  Mormon is the reason why I allowed Kyra to live the way she did in The Chosen One. They think Kyra would have thought differently if I weren't a Mormon, but any writer knows change comes to a character in baby steps, not just leaping off a cliff and becoming a feminist as you fall.

LM: Have you felt pressure to make your novels “happier”?

CLW: Again, not from my community. There are nay-sayers everywhere, but I have been honored at LDS Storymakers, and from the Association of Mormon Letters and Tim Wynne-Jones once spoke about my novel at BYU making me--as a writer-- sound much smarter than I am!

I have to tell you, those awards from the LDS writing community were so touching. I had worried writing about modern-day polygamy would make some people uncomfortable. But the book was accepted with open arms. It was a true honor to receive awards.

LM: You are co-organizer of the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers (WIFYR) conference, a week-long workshop for authors and illustrators of children’s books, from picture books to young adult. How did you get started with the conference?

CLW: A good friend of mine, Chris Crowe, came to me and said, "If you could attend any kind of writing conference, what would it be like?" He, John Bennion (another wonderful friend) and I developed the conference that has now been in existence for 12 years. Yahoo!

LM: Who are your favorite authors to read? The ones you say to yourself, “Jane Doe’s new book comes out next week and I can’t wait to read it!”

CLW: I've started this answer over and over. The fact is, the list is too long for me to name every writer I love. I have so many writer friends and most all of them are fantastic writers and I'm always, ALWAYS excited to see their books come out. I can tell you what I'm reading right now: Fractions=Trouble by Claudia Mills and Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld.

A big, BIG thank you to Carol Lynch Williams for spending some time with us on Bookshop Talk!