Dead Man's Hand - Eddie Jones
I won this as a First Reads giveaway. I was given an ARC. The only thing I felt cheated out of was the pictures that are suppose to be included. I could tell since there was place holder text at work. I would have loved to see those pictures. =(

For my star rating - I think this book is actually a 3.5 stars. However, I'm rounding up based on charity and benefit of the doubt. I mean this is a first book in a series which does avoid a lot of problems first books face and it is indeed an enjoyable good read. I will look into the next book in this series, but I have a bit of concern on how that book is going to play out. For specifics, it's at the end of my review under the spoiler link.

I'm an adult who love young adult books. I think this is a good book for young readers and adults a like to enjoy. It is on the clean side. So for those of us who like young adult fiction that delves into real issues like [b:Crank|270730|Crank (Crank, #1)|Ellen Hopkins||262457] does, this is not it. It's a good clean fun mystery. Think Hardy Boys, only not as lame. Now if you're a parent I do suggest you read this with, before, or along side your child. There are things brought up that you probably want to clarify or talk about like the actual history of the Old West and religion, specifically the Bible being brought up.

I really enjoyed this book. Nick Caden was well done. There's a fine line when writing teenage characters, especially for teenage readers. You need the character to be believable and relatable so the character needs to be up to date. On the other hand sometimes with an over load of pop culture references, slang terms and attitude teenage characters will be overdone obviously by an older author trying to come off as cool and hip. The teenage character becomes cringe worthy and a caricature. Thankfully, Nick Caden falls into the former category. He's a relatable believable 14 year old boy. I'm quite fond of him actually. I was won over by his love of NCIS and Criminal Minds.

I think basically all the characters were well done. Nick's family and their dynamics was among the high points. I'm a bit iffy on Annie though. She didn't seem to come together very well. Of course, maybe there's just some detail we're missing in her background that really brings her together. She does remain a mystery.

I loved the mystery and Nick's stubborn logical view of things. It was refreshing. It actually put me in the mind of Scooby Doo and that's quite a good thing considering how awesome that show was (the original, of course, not that new CGI crap with live actors) and how much I love Scooby Doo. Too often with mysteries you can see it coming from a mile away. Not true in this case. I really was guessing til the end of the book. The plot with it's twists and turns was well done. I have no complaints in this department. It's actually the best part of the book. The part that made me want to keep on reading and find out how it ends.

Minor Issues:

Why is a 14 year old having to worry about cholesterol? There's no mention of why. He certainly seems physical fit in the book based on certain things he did and no mention of anything to give the reader any impression otherwise.

At the end of the book there's mention of him wearing glasses but it's not mentioned any place else. With all the running, climbing, riding and whatnot going on you'd think Nick would mention glasses. Especially since given the physical activities going on the glasses would get slippery due to sweat or fall off or be a hassle.

They never did reveal how the awesome special effects are done. I mean the special effects really were far too advanced for anything we have going currently. The gun part was explained but the whole 'people becoming translucent and dissolving into the ground right in front of visitors' wasn't. Unless we're just suppose to assume they really are ghosts? I guess that's what the line "nagging questions of the ultimate destiny of a person's body, soul and spirit?" in the blurb was getting at.

On page 62, there's some dialogue regarding the Bible and some crazy passages in there about ghosts, zombies and vampires. Oh my! It's a great poking fun at some of the outrageous claims in the Bible.

For specific quotes regarding the Bible and my take on them:
Nick's mom, says on page 61
"I don't know that I would necessarily believe everything you read in that book. Back then people knew a lot less about science and how the world worked. It's been my experience that if you try to have a reasonable debate with someone who takes the Bible literally, they end up calling you an over-educated elitist who doesn't believe in God."

This statement I agree with and have had the same terrible experience. I do however, not like the Mom's statement of not having an issue with what's in the Bible, just what it does to people. I certainly have issues with both. So really, she had no problem with rape, selling the rape victim to the rapist, justifying genocide and stupid things like 'don't wear mixed fiber clothes'? Huh. That's not okay.

Nick's mom continues later on page 62,
"There's no way to prove that what's in the Bible is true or not. Or that there is a God. What I'm saying is, you can gather all the clues you want, but in the end, it's just a matter of believing something you can't prove."

This is untrue. Science certainly has disproved the global flood theory aka Noah's Ark (Hint: Geology), that the Earth is only 6,000 years old (Hint: Earth is a lot older), and that God created humans as they are today (Hint: Evolution). I could go on and on about this but that's not directly my point.

At the end of the book, Nick is now flying off to investigate Jesus Christ. Now, Dead Man's Hand was a believable place for a kid to wind up in and get involved in. But now convincing his entire family to go so he can investigate Jesus Christ? Uh huh. Maybe the next book will elaborate more. I will certainly give the next book a shot, I'm just a bit worried. I can totally see this dissolving into religious lecturing and unscientific bull. Or it could be a great rational, skeptical, scientific look into mythical and historical Jesus Christ. I'll just have to wait and see. I'd hate for it to have such a great start only for the author to pull a bait and switch.