Title: The Elephants of Shanghai
Author: Stephen Jared
Published: May 2013
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
My Scource: Author (thank you!)
My score on Goodreads: 4 stars
It’s 1942. With war raging, and millions of lives hanging in the balance, the world faces an urgent need for chin-up heroics. Having barely escaped South American headhunters in his last adventure, Jack Hunter seizes the chance to prove his courage. He uses “skills” picked up as a former actor so he can pretend to be a Chicago gangster and pursue spies collaborating with the mob.
A bold plan, however, is not always a clever plan, and when Jack goes missing hope falls on Maxine Daniels, the great love of his life, to pick up a trail that leads all the way to Shanghai, China. Once there, she finds Jack in a race against time involving priceless jewels, secret weapons, a mysterious Chinese singer, and a fiendish warlord.
It’s been five years since they survived the Amazon. This time Jack and Max set out to save more than each other – and end up facing a greater danger than they ever could have imagined.
Also included, a book bonus – Jack and the Jungle Lion, Jack Hunter’s first adventure.
Rave Reviews for Jack and the Jungle Lion…
"I was delighted with it from page one to the end. It's amusing, rollicking tale will make you nostalgic for the old days of glitzy Hollywood when fantasy and reality were often too close to tell apart." – Ron Fortier, Pulp Fiction Reviews
"... has the crackle and snap of a thirties comedy. There's also plenty of the cliff-hanging action of a Saturday morning serial." – Kendahl Cruver, A Classic Movie Blog dot Com
"Here's a debut novel that will knock your socks off. The pacing is spot-on, the characters believable and endearing, the action jumping off the page. Stephen Jared has just staked his claim as a pre-eminent voice in the growing legion of writers producing retro style adventures. Jack and the Jungle Lion is a topnotch entertainment." – Errol Flynn biographer Thomas McNulty
"Jack and the Jungle Lion may be an affectionate tribute to adventure serials and screwball comedies of the 1930s, but it stands on its own as a great fun read. The story is as entertaining as it is refreshingly free of cynicism. I loved Stephen Jared's first novel, and sincerely hope it's not his last." – Indiana Jones and Star Wars author, Ryder Windham
Reading this book was like watching an old movie like Casablanca. From the beginning on I noticed the ability of our author, Stephen Jared, to picture a whole scene without using too many words or long descriptions. He seems to know the just amount of words/sentences needed to bring a story to live and give us the feeling we are in this story as well. Being an actor himself, Stephen did a very good job in depicting his main character Jack Hunter as an actor too. Thing is I had the feeling we only got to know the "star" Jack Hunter and it was hard to discover his true feelings although they sometimes slipped through. We know he loves Maxine Daniels, but that's all. We don't know his favorite food, color, music,... Just NOTHING! Maybe the author did this on purpose. "Jack and the Jungle Lion" as well as "The Elephants of Shanghai" start with a little introduction. An unknown person (and I often wondered who he/she could be) lets us know he/she will tell us Jacks story just like Jack told him/her. It is possible this narrator doesn't know more personal details about Jack. He also says in the beginning: "Everyone liked Jack Hunter. The whole world knew him - or thought they did. His movies were marvels of light-hearted heroics, quick wit, and charm, each almost perfect portraits of the dashing star himself." (p. 11) Maybe Jack didn't mention personal details while he told his story because he wanted to focus on his heroic deeds.
As mentioned above, this book consists of two stories. You start with "Jack and the Jungle Lion" and you end with "The Elephants of Shanghai". I have to admit I liked the first book a little more. The story just seemed to be a little more coherent while the second book raised a lot of questions. In the first one we get to know Jack and Maxine. He's the movie star who catches a plane to his new film set, meets the animal trainer Maxine, falls in love with her and accidentally falls into a big adventure with her. Ok, we all get that. The second story though has nothing to do with Jack as a movie star. Now he just tries to be a "real" hero, he wants to save the world for real,... I didn't get it completely although Jack tried to explain Maxine why he changed so much. He didn't want to be useless, he wanted to mean something and help people. Hmmmm... Maybe author Stephen Jared could have wrote this story linking it to a new movie Jack was going to appear in. Now our main character just seems so different. He has a whole new idea of the world and his role in it and we didn't even notice this change in him. We just had to discover it when he already thought different on things.
Besides this difference there was one other thing I didn't like switching from the first to the second book. In "Jack and the Jungle Lion" we also meet Maxines adopted children (the cousins she takes care of after her sister died in an accident). Lindy and Tyler are great characters. Two honest children who adore their auntie and admire the "hero" who accompagnies them on their unsuspected trip through the Amazon. In "The Elephants of Shanghai" Lindy and Tyler are only mentioned in the beginning but they don't play a role in the rest of this story. That's a shame because they made the first one lighter to read. They also were a great help to Jack in the first book. Luckily Jack always meets a young boy with a piece of clothing that's too large. In the first book it's a boy who wears the hat of Clancy, the pilot who's also in this adventure. In the second book it's a boy with a part of a too large suit. Both of these children help Jack and his friends to get out of the awkward circumstances they're in.
I know it seems like all I do is complaining about the fact I didn't like the second book as much as the first one. But I gave 4 stars and did that with a reason. I really enjoyed reading these books. Even though the second one was a little more chaotic than the first one, I liked the story. Even though I didn't always had the feeling I knew the characters, I liked them. (couldn't always connect with them because of the lack of info, but in these circumstances (having an actor as main character, having somebody else telling us the story) I didn't mind)
I recommand this book to all kinds of readers because it's a story with love and action in it. Also it's written in a beautiful way and I really believe Stephen Jared has a gift for telling stories and bringing big adventures to live.
P.S. What a beautiful cover!!!