Apr 21, 2014

Insurgent, by Veronica Roth (Divergent #2)

Disclaimer: All reviews are the result of my personal opinion from a Christian stand-point. These reviews are provided for those who share my beliefs and morals, to help guide what fiction a reader may wish to pick up. For those who do not share these beliefs, please refrain from hateful comments. It is due to rude commenting that I must now include this note prior to all reviews. For more information, visit my purpose behind this blog. Thank you for your understanding.


Summary:
Intended Age-Group:  16+
Issues of Violence: some graphic images (shooting, stabbing, torture)
Intimacy Level: kissing/making-out
Swearing: b*st*rd, h*ll, using God's name for exclamations
Recommendation: 4 out of 5 stars

Blurb:
"One choice can transform you -- or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves -- and herself -- while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.
Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable -- and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and fuilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so."

Initial Reaction: *****
Insurgent grabbed me from the beginning when Tris started exploring different factions and finding out their stances on the war. The only downside to this was confusion since I hadn't read Divergent for a while. I had trouble keeping straight the new characters, locations, newly developed serums, and who led which faction. BUT, that's my own weak memory's fault. It just means Roth wrote a multi-layered story and I can't complain about that.

Plot: *****
Such a strong plot! Veronica Roth doesn't dumb anything down. The story picks up from where Divergent left off without even a blink between scenes. As the plot progresses, so does the depth, tension, growing uprisings, and action. What I loved most about this plot was looking at how different factions respond to the same problems. It was absolutely fascinating.

I greatly appreciated the lack of love triangle or dystopian-turned-romance. So often in YA, the girl just obsesses over the boy (or vice versa) and we read a lot of kissing and inner turmoil. Thankfully, Tris and Tobias seemed to realize that saving the world trumped their romantic turmoil and stuck together through it all anyway.

Characters:  *****

To be frank, Tris annoyed me a little, but she had a good excuse. She was going through a lot -- dealing with the regrets of murder, the loss of loved ones, the danger of being Divergent, the uprising of her faction, etc. I thought she handled these in a very...human manner. I felt her pain and understood why she made the decisions she did.

Okay, let's move on to Tobias. NOT my favorite person in this book. The strong mysterious leader we met in book one has been replaced with a man who doesn't seem to understand Tris (or care about understanding) or care that she's struggling with so much. He struck me as a whiner who threw out ultimatums to the girl he's supposed to love. He lost my affection.

HOWEVER, these reactions from Tris and Tobias are realistic to how I would expect normal people to react to their lifestyle being destroyed. I can't fault either of them, but I also loved them a little less. ;)

Spiritual Content: *****
Tris starts questioning "her parents' faith" more and more. She sees a different display of relationship with God when she visits Amity and I felt it shows the multiple ways we can relate to our Creator. I liked watching her ask these questions, even though the story didn't dig too deep into them.

Overall Recommendation:
I enjoyed Insurgent, especially reading it right after Divergent. It picks up the story without even a blink between scenes. I recommend it as a very strong sequel in a great dystopian series. It stays clean with mild language, some kissing, but overall driven by thick plot.

Do it, my friends. Read it. And tell me what you think.
 






Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, releases 2014 from Marcher Lord Press, the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at http://nadinebrandes.com.

Mar 28, 2014

Mortis, by Hannah Cobb

Disclaimer: All reviews are the result of my personal opinion from a Christian stand-point. These reviews are provided for those who share my beliefs and morals, to help guide what fiction a reader may wish to pick up. For those who do not share these beliefs, please refrain from hateful comments. It is due to rude commenting that I must now include this note prior to all reviews. For more information, visit my purpose behind this blog. Thank you for your understanding.


Summary:
Intended Age-Group: 13+
Issues of Violence: knife fights, poisoning, falling into a pit of spikes 
Intimacy Level: One kiss
Language: none!
Recommendation: 4 out of 5 stars

Book blurb:
In an underground school rife with duels and deadly classes, Jane hides in the shadows to stay alive. She is the invisible assassin. But as she prepares to graduate from Mortis and take her place in the world as a fully-trained killer, Jane stumbles over shadowy secrets revealing dark truths that affect more than her world. Will she embrace the darkness, or betray the school that raised her -- and the boy she loves? Once Jane sets herself against her school, there is no turning back because in Mortis, failure always means death.
A clean book about a school of assassins? Why yes, it can be done. Just ask Hannah Cobb -- she's the master (though not a master assassin...I hope.)

Initial Reaction: *****
The premise of this story had me instantly hooked. The writing was tight and fast-paced, but about 1/4 of the way into the book, I kept wondering, "Okay, what's the threat/goal/driving force going to be?" The worldbuiling and culture were very intriguing, but not enough to carry the story. Thankfully, right about when I asked that question is when purple-eyed Nathan Wade stepped up. Nothing like a handsome enemy sneaking into the main character's story. I didn't mind one little bit.

Characters: *****
We follow main character, Jane, through most of the story. It didn't take me long to like her and root for her like a baseball fan at the World Series. She had many admirable factors -- her morals, her determination, her stealthiness, and the fact she was an observer, which meant she was a thinker.
I like thinkers. It makes the character smart, which then makes me feel like it's worth investing my time in her.
Her growth through the story felt very natural. I could understand why she made the choices she did and why she cared about certain things (and people.)

Plot:  *****
The intensity of the story escalated the further I read until I absolutely couldn't put it down unless I finished. On occasion, the story moved too fast for me and I wasn't sure what was happening. I figured out most of it by the end, though.
The plot in general is solid. It's a great mixture of character struggles, creative worlds, and twists. I liked Jane's choices and what she learned about her school. I especially liked that she decided action must be taken. But now I'm getting back into the character side of things. [grin]
Good solid plot.

Spiritual focus:  *****
While there was no spiritual focus, the morals were good and the book was 100% clean. No swearing, no alternate gods, no excessive gore.

Likes:
Um...the ball. Need I say more? What's more fun than wearing a gorgeous dress covered in jewels with knives hidden in your hair? (Or, for the men, with a glittering sword at your side?)

The artwork at the start of each chapter. Very rustic, simple, but intriguing all at the same time. It really added to the feel of the book.

Jane's friendship with Willy. Both of their personalities were conveyed in a way that, within pages, I knew what to expect from them. Their friendship was sweet, deep, and very touching. Strength to the BFFs!

Dislikes:
Romance -- I'm not a huge one for romance, but when a book is telling me there's supposed to be chemistry, then I start looking for it. I didn't feel a single flicker of chemistry between the chosen couple until about 3/4 of the way through. When it did come, I was quite pleased, but there could have been more to it to make it feel natural. I expect to see this build in book two.
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Description -- I could have done with some extra description. Some readers don't like the paragraphs of visuals. I, however, thrive off them. I felt like I could only visualize parts of the story and characters. But that's subjective reading for you. ;)
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Setting (and this may go hand-in-hand with description) -- I didn't realize the world had a fantasy element to it until Jane talked to a horse and it talked back. Prior to that, I thought maybe it was very similar to our world. But it didn't take me long to catch on.



Overall Recommendation:
Overall, I was pleased with this book. It was well-written and the plot built beautifully. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy, sword-fighting, and adventure.









Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, releases 2014 from Marcher Lord Press. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at http://nadinebrandes.com.



 

Feb 28, 2014

New Book Discovery: Of Sea and Stone, by Kate Avery Ellison

YA author, Kate Avery Ellison has just released the first book -- Of Sea and Stone -- in her new trilogy, Secrets of Itlantis.


Here's a blurb:

All her life, clever Aemi has been a slave in the Village of the Rocks, a place where the sea and sky meet. She's heard the stories about the fabled People of the Sea, a people who possess unimaginable technology who live below the waves in the dark, secret places of the ocean. But she never dreamed those stories were true.

When a ship emerges from the ocean and men burn her village, Aemi is captured, and enslaved below the waves in Itlantis, a world filled with ancient cities of glass and metal, floating gardens, and wondrous devices that seem to work magic. To make matters worse, her village nemesis, the stuck-up mayor's son Nol, was captured with her, and they are made servants in the same household beneath the sea.

Desperate to be free, Aemi plots her escape, even going so far as to work with Nol. But the sea holds more secrets than she realizes, and escape might not be as simple as leaving.

I'm excited to read it. Who doesn't like the idea of underwater cities, slaves, and magic? Also, the author is hosting a giveaway for a $50 gift card.

Be sure to check out Kate Avery Ellison's dystopian series, The Frost Chronicles.





Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, releases 2014 from Marcher Lord Press. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at http://nadinebrandes.com.