Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thunder


20665248

Thunder
Bonnie S. Calhoun
Revell

In post-apocalyptic America, Selah Chavez is crouched in long grass on a shore littered with the rusted metal remnants of a once-great city. It is the day before her eighteenth Born Remembrance, and she is hunting, though many people refuse to eat animal flesh, tainted by radiation during the Time of Sorrows. What Selah’s really after are Landers, mysterious people from a land across the big water who survive the delirium-inducing passage in small boats that occasionally crash against the shoreline. She knows she should leave the capture to the men, but Landers bring a good price from the Company and are especially prized if they keep the markings they arrive with.
Everything falls to pieces when the Lander Selah catches is stolen by her brothers–and Selah wakes up the next morning to find the Lander’s distinctive mark has suddenly appeared on her own flesh. Once the hunter, Selah is now one of the hunted, and she knows only one person who can help her–Bohdi Locke, the Lander her brothers hope to sell.

This is a book I actually put off writing a review for…and hopefully I can explain why in the following. What was so unusual about this book is that one moment I really, really liked it- and then another moment I’d find myself thinking, “What the heck did I just read?”

There were moments when I felt the book was really good, and then it would go downhill for a couple chapters and then pick back up again. I guess what confused me the most was that there were a lot of plot elements I wasn’t expecting- despite the whole weird-symbol-appearing thing, I just supposed that it would be a typical “what-if” real-world dystopian, but there were fantasy-type elements too. I ended up really liking some aspects of the fantasy bits, but other times it just didn’t work for me.

I also ended up liking a character who (of course) died. I have a really bad track record with liking doomed characters. It’s not even funny.

Maybe the reason that I’m at a loss is simply because there were moments and bits that I really liked, and then parts that turned me off. It was an odd mix of images and plot devices that almost reminded me of a fantasy or fairy tale, and then other times it was an action/survival story. There were two different main locations that the POV switched back and forth on, and in some ways they seemed like two totally different worlds that didn’t go in the same book.

However, when all is said and done, I am going to read the next book. I know- I can’t decide if I liked it, but I know I want to read more. So maybe that’s my subconscious telling me that I did, in fact, like it?

Rating: 7


I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Entwined

8428195

Entwined 
Heather Dixon
GreenWillow

Come and mend your broken hearts here. In this retelling of the classic tale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," the eldest princess must fight to save her family—and her heart—from an ancient dark magic within the palace walls. "Full of mystery, lush settings, and fully orbed characters, Dixon's debut is both suspenseful and rewarding."—ALA Booklist

Just when Azalea should feel that everything is before her—beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing—it's taken away. All of it. And Azalea is trapped. The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. So he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest, but there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late. 

I’ve had my eye on this book for ages, and when I finally got a hold of a copy, I was ready to dance…an action which has quite a lot to do with the plotline of this lovely fairy tale re-telling, as a matter of fact.

The only thing I didn’t care for in the this book was at times the writing was a bit awkward and difficult to understand, especially near the end at the climax. Also, I really wanted more of the characters. I loved them all, but I just felt like I didn’t get enough time with any of them, except for Azalea, who I probably liked the least.

I wouldn’t say that I found Azalea unlikable, exactly; the other characters just interested me more. I really liked both Bramble and Clover, and wanted to hear more about them. And all three romances were simply- spiffing. Lord Teddie was hilarious and I looked forward to every scene he was in. Prime Minister Fairweller also improved greatly on acquaintance. And though technically I didn’t find Lord Bradford quite as memorable as the other two, I still loved him. Let’s just say the male characters were some of the greatest highlights of the story. :)

One of my favorite aspects of the novel- aside from the three eldest girls’ love interests- was the importance of family. It wasn’t done in a cheap, preachy way, but was really quite beautiful. I adored how I disliked the King at the beginning…and by the end I truly loved him. It was so sweet! And the sisters’ relationship was really believable and enjoyable- I could tell that the author herself had come from a large family simply by the way Azalea’s was portrayed in the book.

Overall, Entwined has probably made the list of my favorite fairy-tale retellings. I’ve read two other novels based on the story of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”- Juliet Marillier’s Wildwood Dancing and Jessica Day George’s Princess of the Midnight Ball. Though the lovely Wildwood Dancing pretty much belongs in a category all its own due to its originality, I think Entwined was in many ways very much like Princess of the Midnight Ball. Out of the two, I think Midnight Ball was better written and less confusing, but I ended up liking Entwined better because the characters spoke to me more. Entwined wasn’t a smooth, effortlessly written masterpiece, and there were many times I felt like the writing style needed to be a bit more mature and venture into something a bit deeper. However, I still fell in love with the story in spite of it all, and I definitely recommend it to fairy-tale fans.

Rating: 8 1/2

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Rebels

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Rebels
Jill Williamson
Blink

In this final novel of the Safe Lands series by Jill Williamson, Mason and Omar discover the true meaning of Liberation-a secret the Safe Lands have long kept from their people-but find they are trapped in the low lands with this crucial information. Meanwhile, Levi is forced to turn his attention elsewhere when his new wife, Jemma, is captured and becomes the Safe Land's new queen. His only choice to save her may be to take up the role of undercover vigilante that Omar began, leading the rebels in their quest to overthrow the government. But will that be enough to expose the Safe Land's lies and bring freedom to the people? And will they even want it if it comes?

Full disclosure: I skipped the second book in this series. I know, I know- that's pretty unforgivable when you're reading the book for a review, but things sort of worked out that way and though I would have liked to read the second book, I ended up reading Rebels instead of Outcasts.

The thing is, though I have liked this series, I wouldn't call it an absolute favorite. I do appreciate that it is in many ways very different from a lot of popular dystopian novels (especially being in the fact that it has a large cast and is NOT told in first person) but one flaw it does have in common with the others I've read is that it's difficult for me to really feel for the characters. I read because I'm interested in the plot, but I don't really have an emotional attachment to the characters (although, if I had to pick a favorite in the Safe Lands series, it would definitely be Mason) Also, this book deals with a lot of tough issues- teen pregnancy and drug abuse in addition to a flawed and dangerous government. I'm not going to lie- it was sometimes I bit much for me.

Still, if one is into this genre, this is a good Christian alternative to the other YA novels out there.

Rating: 7

I received this book for free from BookLook.com in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Selection

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The Selection
Kiera Cass
HarperTeen

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself--and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Oh man, talk about a love-hate relationship with a book. I feel like quoting the nursery rhyme about the girl with the curl down the center of her forehead who "when she was good, was very very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid."

Okay, what I liked: the general princess-ness of it. I admit it; I'm a girly-girl. Reading The Selection was akin to watching Say Yes to the Dress on TLC. Not a whole lot of substance and some objectionable content to boot, but lots of pretty dresses. I did like the main storyline- it was very much a futuristic book-of-Esther type of thing. And though the modern society was certainly flawed (something that I'm sure will come more to light in the subsequent books) it wasn't so absolutely horrid that you felt depressed about the whole thing. I liked the heroine; I liked the prince. It didn't feel total dystopian to me, and I liked that.

I did *not* like the more-passionate-and-sensual kissing scenes I attempted to skim or skip over. I really, really could have done without that, especially in what- the first chapter? After reading that I was sure I would dislike the character of America, and while I admit I lost a bit of respect for her because of it (call me prudish,legalistic, I don't care; that's just my honest opinion on the subject) I will say that overall, I really liked her, and the fact that she was determined that her sudden fame would not change her. I also liked the fact that she wasn't so terribly worried about what other people thought of her, and her (mostly) close relationship with her family. It was refreshing to see a lot of small, tiny things scattered throughout the book that was also shown in a positive light- everything from importance on family to praying.

But then there was that horrid love triangle. Like, the most annoying love triangle I've ever read. When I first started reading and you had that kissy bit with her and her boyfriend Aspen, I immediately thought to myself, okay- she's going to end up with him, so I'm not even going to entertain the notion that she'll end up with the prince. *Right.* I ended up really loving Prince Maxon and totally rooting for him...which made it really hair-pulling when *SPOILER* Aspen showed up again. Personally, though I liked how her previous relationship with Aspen affected the way she related to the prince, I personally think it would have been better had she -I don't know- got over him? But I hate indecision like this and really wish the guy had never shown up again *END OF SPOILER* Let's just say that Aspen rubs me the wrong way, and I hate how the love triangle takes a girl who I really did like and makes her bordering-on-annoying.

Yep, this was one of those books where you feel as if there had been one or two tweaks to content and plot, it would probably be an absolute favorite. Will I probably read the other books? Yeah. But does that make certain aspects of it any less a disappointment? No. And thus this book gets a really mediocre 3 stars, not because it was mediocre at all, but rather because it was one that I could neither love nor hate, even though I dearly wanted to do the former.

Rating: 7 (3 stars on Goodreads)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Corral Nocturne

22891047

Corral Nocturne
Elisabeth Grace Foley
Second Sentence Press

Before I begin- can I just say that Corral Nocturne is just a very neat title? And perfect for a western story that also happens to be loose re-telling of Cinderella?

This book reminded me a bit of the Heartsong Presents novellas, except better written- or at least, written in a style that I personally prefer. It was a sweet, clean romance that was utterly adorable. Ellie was an enjoyable heroine that I felt was relatable, and Cole the perfect western equivalent of a fairy-tale prince.

Granted, the story is a novella, so there's not a whole lot of time for character development, and the plot is fairly simple and focused on the romance. However, in my opinion it was a romance novella done right. Being both cute and short, it makes a great before-bedtime read, because who ever outgrows bedtime stories?

Rating: 8 1/2

I received an advance reader copy of this novella for free from the author in exchange for my unbiased review.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Faces of the Dead

20578956

Faces of the Dead
Suzanne Weyn
Scholastic

When Marie-Therese, daughter of Marie Antoinette, slips into the streets of Paris at the height of the French Revolution, she finds a world much darker than what she's ever known.

When Marie-Thérèse Charlotte of France learns of the powerful rebellion sweeping her country, the sheltered princess is determined to see the revolution for herself. Switching places with a chambermaid, the princess sneaks out of the safety of the royal palace and into the heart of a city in strife.

Soon the princess is brushing shoulders with revolutionaries and activists. One boy in particular, Henri, befriends her and has her questioning the only life she's known. When the princess returns to the palace one night to find an angry mob storming its walls, she's forced into hiding in Paris. Henri brings her to the workshop of one Mademoiselle Grosholtz, whose wax figures seem to bring the famous back from the dead, and who looks at Marie-Thérèse as if she can see all of her secrets. There, the princess quickly discovers there's much more to the outside world - and to the mysterious woman's wax figures - than meets the eye

I was interested in this book for two reasons: 1) because ever since reading The Scarlet Pimpernel I've been more curious about the French revolution and 2) because wax figures simultaneously freak me out and intrigue me.

However, not after I began, I could easily tell that this book was not really one for me. The beginning wasn't bad- although perhaps over simplified and a bit unrealistic historically- but as the Reign of Terror went into full swing it began to get a little graphic for me. Given the subject matter, I was expecting a bit of gore, but not to this extent in what is considered a middle-grade book. Also, it started to hint at voodoo and magic and not only do I take issue with that from a moral standpoint, but it also didn't fit a story I thought was at least going to try to be historically accurate. Then looking at some other reviews, I quickly decided that this book really wasn't worth any more of my time, so it's one of the few only books I've gotten for review that I haven't finished.

I really hate not finishing books, but I have a growing TBR pile- all for review -and I just really couldn't get into this one. The writing style itself was pleasurable, but the content didn't match. The plot seemed almost sloppy in comparison. Anyway, I'm not going to totally rip it up- after all, technically I didn't finish and it could have gotten better. But quite frankly, I didn't care enough to find out.

Rating: 3

I received this book from netgalley.com in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Playing By Heart

20665063

Playing by Heart
Anne Mateer
Bethany House

Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But when she receives a shocking telephone call from her sister, Jewel, everything she's worked for begins to crumble.

After the sudden death of Jewel's husband, Jewel needs Lula's help. With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister. But the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Neither subject belongs anywhere near the halls of academia, according to Lula!

Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year, determined to do well and prove herself to the town. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys' coach, Chet, to learn the game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She's returning to college as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet. 

However, the more time she spends in Dunn, the more Lula realizes God is working on her heart--and her future is beginning to look a lot different than she'd expected.


Though I'm not into basketball and the plot detailed on the back of the book didn't immediately snatch my interest, I have enjoyed a couple books by this author before, and as she has a sweet writing style that's simple but pleasant, I decided to try this one.

At first, I thought the character of Lula was going to be really hard to like; however, as the story went on I began to understand her point of view, and how her personality and actions stemmed from trying to be seen as something other than the flighty girl she had once been. Though I still became annoyed with her at times, I never flat-out disliked her as I did the main character in the author's last book, A Home For My Heart.

One thing I did really enjoy was the cast of secondary characters- Lula's nephew, J.C. as well as Blaze & Nannie, two basketball players from the girls' and boys' teams. The World War I element was also used, and it gave a good background to the story, although I think I probably would have liked a plot that had been a bit more centered on that. But that's totally just my own personal preference.

And though I'm rating this book about the same as A Home For My Heart, I will say that I enjoyed Playing by Heart MUCH more than the last; not only were the characters more likable, but the plot- even though I'm no fan of basketball :)- was also more interesting. Still, it was a bit too romance-centered for my taste. I mean, it was still very clean, but it seemed like there was just so much time where the characters were thinking about each other and how they didn't have time to be distracted by "broad shoulders" or "pretty eyes"- you know what I'm talking about. Though this doesn't bother some people (Indeed, some readers seem to enjoy it) that's just not my thing. That's kind of how I view this whole book- it was not bad by any means, it's just didn't really stand out to me among the stack of Christian Historical Fiction I've read before.

Rating: 7

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
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