Sep 21, 2014

Unbound, by J.B. Simmons

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:
Recommended Age-Group: 14+
Issues of Violence: sci-fi violence, monster violence
Intimacy Level: kissing
Language: mild
Recommendation: 4 out of 5 stars

Back Cover Blurb:
Elijah Goldsmith has nightmares he needs to ignore. Why would a rich kid from Manhattan dream three straight nights about a dragon and the destruction of St. Peter's Basilica? He's never even been to Rome. 

It's bad timing, too. He's graduating soon and applying to be a spy in the International Security Agency. That's where he meets Naomi. She's the kind of girl who makes boys like Elijah want to share their secrets. Were they brought together to learn what his secrets mean? There's more to their sparks than they think. 

This is 2066, the year the world ends. 

Initial Reaction: *****
I'm kind of over dragon books, so when I was offered an advanced copy of Unbound, I was hesitant. After all, a dragon is on the cover. Like any reader with time-constraints would do, I read the sample chapter before committing. I didn't get halfway through the sample before I replied to the author, "Yes, I'd like a copy!"

And I don't regret it one bit.

It starts out with cool technology -- you know the type: brain implants, simulations...the stuff I drool over, how could I say no? Mix that with some prophecies and crazy dreams, oh yes and traveling. Add some filet mignon, a glass of red wine, and the scene is set. You, dear reader, are a goner.

Characters: *****
The main character, Elijah, is not a believer and he views his friend (the "Christian" [insert dramatic music here]) as I'd expect any non-believer guy who's attracted to a cute Christian girl would -- weird, but attractive enough to help him overlook the weirdness.

Naomi was cool, mysterious, and normal for a character with belief in God. I appreciate these sorts of portrayals in Christian fiction.

Plot: *****
The plot, overall, kept me reading and, when I wasn't able to read, kept me wanting to read. I wanted to know what would happen with the prophecy, who would make it into "spy school" and why Elijah was having dreams of dragons. Elijah remained confused and searching -- but not the type of confused that makes the reader slap a palm to their forehead. I was confused with him and he discovered things at just the right pace.

The only thing that could have brought the plot a bit more to life would have been a little more info on ISA-7. I know it's top-secret and even the training is top-secret, but there was a lot of focus on how awesome it would be, how it was Elijah's dream, etcetera, but I didn't really see the purpose of it all. To my knowledge, that purpose wasn't shared. What did these spies do? Why would this be Elijah's dream? What was their purpose, anyway? I felt like I never really got an answer, which limited the impact that portion of the plot made on me.

However, the entire story moved rather quickly so it rarely felt slow. That's a huge plus in any book.

Spiritual Content: *****
Elijah's spiritual process took a long time and I could understand why. Everything was thrust on him from a lot of people who, frankly, seemed a bit crazy. I appreciated the time it took for him to have a "choice" moment and when that moment happened, it fit perfectly with the story. A lot of times spiritual "aha" moments can feel cliche, overdone, or over-emotional, but Elijah acted just as I would have expected him to. I'm very curious to see how this unfolds in his life in book two, now that everything has settled down enough to allow him to breathe.

The prophetic side of things remained interesting. I don't know my end-times Biblical trivia too well, but that's just it...to understand this story, you don't have to. It's still a story and not a sermon. 

Overall Impression: *****
Intrigued. Impressed. It's one of the better pieces of Christian fiction I've read lately, not afraid to be real or nitty-gritty. The ending got a tad bit confusing for me, but I think that's how it's supposed to be since Elijah was left with questions and confused, too. 

I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Christian speculative fiction, apocalyptic fiction, or advanced technology. It is a quick, clean read that leaves you intrigued. 


*I received a free ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Find the book on:
Goodreads
Amazon













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, released September 2014 from Enclave Publishing. 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.

Aug 22, 2014

Armored Hearts, by Pauline Creeden & Melissa Turner Lee

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: 12+
Issues of Violence: fantasy violence
Intimacy Level:
Language: none
Recommendation: 4 out of 5 stars

Back Cover Blurb:
When a crippled young lord rescues a girl falling from a tree, it reveals a secret about himself and his mother's side of the family that could put him at the center of a war with beings he thoughts only existed in fairy tales. Tristan Gareth Smyth lived his entire life stuck at home at Waverly Park, left behind while his Grandfather makes trips to London, all because of his blasted wheelchair. Then an American heiress falls in his lap, literally, and he must find a way to keep her at a distance to protect not only his secret, but everyone around him from an assassin sent to kill him.

Initial Reaction: *****
I was skeptical at first. It took me a few chapters to really get in to the story or understand some things, but once I did I read through it at lightspeed! Well...at least it felt fast to me. ;)

Writing: *****
The writing is very simple and it took a while for me to get connected to the characters. The positive side of the simple writing means it was a quick read. After a few chapters, it didn't stand out to me anymore and I was able to fully engage in the story -- simple writing or not. :)

Characters: *****
I hate lies and secrets, especially between a couple. And one of the most infuriating things for me in a novel is when those secrets and plans that will eventually cause hurt and need a "great reveal" last through the whole book. It's like an ominous pendulum ticking down the seconds until relational chaos.

So...imagine my joy when Jessamine and Gareth actually talked out some of their problems. Without waiting until everything crashed down around their ears! They acted like a real couple might. Granted, real couples keep secrets, too, but I was so relieved when they pursued communication instead of secrecy. It surprised me. It surprised Gareth, too, but it was perfect.

The characters, after you get to know them a bit more, become very alive and well-developed.

Plot: *****
There's nothing I love more than watching a character make bad plans and then those bad plans don't work. Truly. Every book in which this happens sticks out in my mind as realistic, engaging, and surprising. Too often we're forced to watch characters play dumber-than-the-average-man (or woman) and then follow awful plans into predictable ruin.

This was my first steampunk novel so I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. But the plot fascinated me! Steam mechanics and inventions mixed with fantasy. Creeden and Turner delivered it beautifully and I wasn't disappointed.

Favorite part: When Gareth and Jessamine finally became a team.

Spiritual Content: *****
Honestly, it's been a few months since I read this and I can't remember the details. From what I recall, The spiritual content was light, but present. The authors did a great job of bringing in morals and lessons without forcing them.


Overall, the entire story was uplifting, wholesome, and positive. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys clean fantasy.

Find the book on:
Goodreads
Amazon
Pauline Creeden's Goodreads Page
Melissa Turner Lee's Goodreads Page












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 September 2014 from Enclave Publishing. 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.
 

Aug 15, 2014

Dystopian book Giveaway!

You read it right: Who wants a free copy of my book, A Time to Die?

For those of you who follow this blog, you should probably know (if you don't already) that I'm an author. My debut novel comes out September 23rd. It's dystopian -- think Hunger Games or Divergent or Matched only with themes and messages based on Christ. Here's a little blurb:

www.nadinebrandes.com/my-books/

How would you live if you knew the day you'd die?
Parvin Blackwater believes she has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government’s crooked justice system.
But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall -- her people's death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her clock is running out.
This is book one in the "Out of Time" trilogy (subsequent volumes coming in 2015 and 2016).


I got the advanced review copies (ARCs) of my book in the mail a couple weeks ago and am giving out one a week until I run out. To receive an ARC means that a few special readers will get to read A Time to Die early...in real book form! (So old-fashioned.) ARCs go out to readers in exchange for an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads, and all those other great book sites.

A couple notes about ARCS:

  • These are a little different than the final copy of the book. The back of the ARC has all sorts of marketing info. Meaning...it doesn't make a great birthday gift, 'cause it's kind of ugly. ;-)
  • The ARC may have some last little typos in it (author nightmare!) but the final book won't have said typos.
Enter to win an ARC through the Rafflecopter entry form below. Or, go here to enter and follow me on my author website! You have at least two more chances to win! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway