Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Escape from the Past Trilogy by Annette Oppenlander!

Escape from the Past: At Witches' End (Escape from the Past #3)
Annette Oppenlander

Genre: YA Historical Fiction, Time-Travel, Action/Adventure
Release Date: November 25th 2016

When Max learns that Karl helped spring him from Schwarzburg’s dungeon during the first game, he feels obligated to return the favor. Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but supposedly Max is the one who rescued Karl from Hanstein in 1473 and helped him return home. 
With Karl’s programming help Max reluctantly agrees to enter the game a third time. At least he can visit his old friends and get cozy with Juliana while he’s at it. But two years is a long time in the Middle Ages. Something foul is in the air. Lord Werner is mysteriously absent and the new guards refuse Max entrance. Even Bero’s mother is terrified to see him. With no place to stay, Max soon finds himself on the run from Schwarzburg who hasn’t forgotten Max’s miraculous escape two years earlier. 
When at last Max finagles a way into the castle, Bero is less than pleased to see him, Lady Clara is near death and Juliana is not meeting his eyes. Can Max sway his friends, help Karl and stay out of Schwarzburg’s clutches? And will he ultimately stop Dr. Stuler’s evil computer game?
This is the final book in the Escape from the Past trilogy.

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Karl showed up around nine a.m. to install a bunch of code on
my computer. I’d been up early watching my mom get ready for
work, putting up a show about enjoying my fall break. Secretly,
I’d craved her hug, but was afraid I’d fall apart.
“I can stay,” Karl said after he explained what he’d done and
I comprehended nothing. “Until…”
“I’d rather be alone,” I said, my mouth dry again.
As soon as the door closed behind Karl, I began to sweat.
Then shiver. I was having a panic attack. If Karl had made a
mistake I’d go to the wrong place, having to complete impossible
missions. I wasn’t strong enough to survive battles and diseases
and who knew what else. Not this time.
I paced through the living room into the kitchen and back.
Minutes ticked by. An hour. Then another. Unable to eat, I
gulped down a Coke. What are you waiting for? You’ve got to do this
today. You said you would.
I don’t remember how I ended up in front of my computer,
how I turned on the game. It was like some out-of-body
experience, watching myself go through the motions, my
forehead burning as if I had a fever.
The screen buzzed, showing the familiar stone gate.
Somewhere crickets and birds chirped. As the stone gate fell
away, the outline of a castle appeared in the distance. Just like the
first time. I expected to see Lord Werner and his brother, Lame
Hans, in the woods but the dirt path in front of me was empty.
The button flashed. Upgrade to master level?
With a sigh I took mental inventory of my outfit, the items I’d
prepped and stuck into my pants. You may not return this time. Just
because I saved Karl didn’t mean I’d be able to get back.
You’re nuts.
It was like the chicken and the egg. Which came first, Karl
being there and being rescued by me or me going because I’d
rescue Karl. The time-travel thing was weird because you
returned the exact moment you left. And since Karl had played
the game a long time ago, he’d also returned a long time ago.
According to him, I’d been the one to save him.
My forefinger’s hover turned into a tremble. In fact my entire
body wobbled. The game had taught me respect for historical
environments. Modern guys like me just didn’t fit in. How many
times could I be lucky?
If I wanted to survive I’d have to make my own luck. What if
it wasn’t enough? Still, all I’d do is postpone the inevitable. I was
going to play so why not now. Get it over with.
I clicked.

At Witches End, book 3 of the Escape from the Past series, begins by revisiting Max's first venture into the game, 15 months earlier, a quick reference to happenings in The Duke's Wrath, book 1. 
Returning to the past brings with it unpredictable challenges and dangers.

Karl, the head programmer for Mad Man and gaming company owner Stuler, also survived a time travel nightmare via the game, and needs Max to go back in time once again to settle things. 
Once Max it is successful, it is their goal to destroy the game. 
Which time period will turn out to be more dangerous for Max? 
Can risking it all for something you believe you must do make one understand what is truly valuable and help one appreciate living in the here and now?

Sprinkled with historical personalities and fact, deftly designed with vivid imagination, this is an exciting adventure series. Max is an admirable friend and hero. 
It is always difficult to appreciate a series you enjoy coming to an end, but when written so well, we are able to come to terms.

Escape from the Past: The Duke's Wrath

Genre: YA Historical Fiction, Time-Travel

Release Date: July 31st 2015

Summary from Goodreads:

When fifteen-year-old nerd and gamer Max Anderson thinks he's sneaking a preview of an unpublished video game, he doesn't realize that 1) He's been chosen as a beta, an experimental test player. 2) He’s playing the ultimate history game, transporting him into the actual past: anywhere and anytime. And 3) Survival is optional: to return home he must decipher the game's rules and complete its missions—if he lives long enough. To fail means to stay in the past—forever.

Now Max is trapped in medieval Germany, unprepared and clueless. It is 1471 and he quickly learns that being an outcast may cost him his head. Especially after rescuing a beautiful peasant girl from a deadly infection and thus provoking sinister wannabe Duke Ott. Overnight he is dragged into a hornets' nest of feuding lords who will stop at nothing to bring down the conjuring stranger in their midst.

 The guard yanked me to face the group. Not ten feet away
towered one of the largest horses I’d ever seen. Its humungous
head swung back and forth as if it were proud of the armored
breast and nose shields. On top soared Knight Werner whose
piercing blue eyes searched my face. For a moment, the world
retracted into stillness. I felt my knees wobble.
Any moment now they’d cut off my head. Hadn’t Bero said
the Lord would kill me? Yet, the Lord of Hanstein neither showed
anger, surprise nor fear. Nobody spoke as I stood pinned between
the guards, their hands iron cuffs on my arms. I smelled them,
their unwashed bodies and filthy hands. I wanted to leave the
game. Return to the safety of my former life. Now! I sucked air.
My room might as well have been on the moon. Werner’s men
waited, probably ready to charge on command.
“Your name is Nerds,” Werner finally said. The blue eyes were
I stared up in surprise. “I’m Max.”
“Then what is the odd script on your robe? Are you a ruler’s
son?” He pulled his sword and pointed toward my chest. I kept
my eyes on the tip of the blade when I remembered. The right
side of my T-shirt had a kind of logo showing the word Nerds
underneath a crown. Despite the filth, the printed word and
image were clearly visible. Bero hadn’t noticed because he
probably couldn’t read.
“I…it is a fashion where I come from,” I stumbled. I wanted to
kick himself, having opened the door to more disaster. Werner’s
knights broke into chuckles.
Werner retracted his sword. “Most interesting. Tell us, you
come from where?”
“A distant place, My Lord,” I said, attempting to buy time.
“I’ve traveled afar, a pilgrimage to Jerusalem ten years ago.”
Confidence radiated from the knight’s voice. “You speak like a
foreigner. Are you on a quest?” Werner’s expression was still
more curious than suspicious. A glimmer smoldered in his eyes
as if the blue had been turned into gas flames.

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I was fortunate and happy to read Game of Life...An Introduction by Annette Oppenlander just before beginning this first full book of the Escape From The Past series. It really set the scene and tone for understanding and enjoying this entertaining read.

At first I found it a bit difficult to believe that a sixteen year old boy who prefers gaming to other activities knew as much history and natural medicine as he did, but the book keeps the pace moving and I was able to suspend that disbelief. Maybe it will even encourage readers of the same age group to pay more attention to their studies. You never know when and where that knowledge could come in handy.
There is a scene near the beginning of the book that is difficult to read, as it details graphic physical harm, but considering the death and destruction of many video games, it pales in comparison.
The historical aspects of the book were easy to follow and I felt described life believably. There were details that one does not often consider, such as water quality and unusual fare.

Not all my questions were answered so I look forward to reading the next books in this series.

Escape from the past: The Kid (Escape from the Past #2)
Annette Oppenlander
Genre: YA Historical Fiction, Time-Travel
Release Date: February 26th 2016

Summary from Goodreads:

Time-traveling gamer, Max, embarks on a harrowing journey through the Wild West of 1881! After a huge fight with his parents, Max tries to return to his love and his best friend, Bero, in medieval Germany. Instead he lands in 1881 New Mexico. Struggling to get his bearings and coming to terms with Dr. Stuler s evil computer game misleading him, he runs into Billy the Kid. To his amazement Billy isn t at all the ruthless killer history made him out to be. Trouble brews when a dying Warm Springs Apache gives Max a huge gold nugget to help his sister, Ela, escape from Fort Sumner. Shopping for supplies Max attracts the attention of ruthless bandits. Before Max can ask the Kid s help, he and Ela are forced to embark on a journey to find his imaginary goldmine. This is book 2 in the Escape from the Past trilogy."

The voice was deep and cold as the wind. Something hard and
unyielding dug into my back. Maybe it was one of Werner’s men
or had I run into Schwarzburg’s guards? But something felt
wrong, something I couldn’t put my finger on.
Before I knew what to do, the ground shifted as several
shadows rose around me.
“Wade, what is it?”
“Found us an intruder,” Wade said. “Showed up like a stray
coyote.” For emphasis he shoved at my ribs. I suppressed a yelp
as the pain spread to my stomach.
“You sleeping, Wade? Let someone walk in here like that.”
This voice was scratchy as a cheese grater with an Irish-sounding
A sudden light stung my eyes. One of the shadows had lit a
match not five inches from my nose.
“Look at that. What is that?” the man with the Irish voice said.
“It’s a kid.”
I caught a glimpse of a reddish beard, a grimy bandana on the
neck below and a leather vest. Definitely not Duke Schwarzburg
or Werner.
Wait a minute.
I gulped as new panic sucked away my air and turned my
stomach. Though they spoke a weird dialect, these men spoke
English. I understood them clearly.
I was nowhere near Hanstein.
I shook my head. It had to be the game. I’d been able to
communicate with Bero and Juliana even though they spoke
some kind of medieval German. What if they were speaking some
other language entirely and it was all an illusion? What had
Jimmy’s father done?

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You might think that after having struggled to survive and wondering if you'd ever make it home to your own time, you would hesitate to (or avoid) unpredictable time travel again. Then again, how unpredictable and changeable are sixteen year old boys?
While Max had hoped to return to the same place and time he had traveled in the previous book, The Duke's Wrath, this time he lands in a situation totally new to him, again. And he meets another cute girl.  Could this time be the one he is supposed to stay in?
The fast pace doesn't give much time to breathe, as Max and Ela find themselves taken hostage, Max has an encounter with a rattler and needs to find a healer of this era.
What would an old west tale be without a famous gunslinger - here in the form of Billy The Kid, written unlike you've read before.

As in her other books, the author has a talent for creating settings and situations that keep us on the edge of our seats.

 About the Author

Annette Oppenlander writes historical fiction for young adults and anyone who loves stories set in the past. When she isn’t in front of her computer, she loves indulging her dog, Mocha, and traveling around the U.S. and Europe to discover amazing histories.

"Nearly every place holds some kind of secret, something that makes history come alive. When we scrutinize people and places closely, history is no longer a number, it turns into a story."

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