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.

Feb 26, 2014

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

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: gunfire, explosions, murder, 
Intimacy Level: minor kisses
Language: bulls**t, b**ch, h*ll, F-word, a**, sh*t, d*mn, f*g, bas***d,
Other: Mention and use of brothels and online brothels. Deaths from robbing a store and overdosing on drugs. Mention and encouragement of masturbation. Sexual insults. Flipping off. Crude humor. Mention of rape. Lots of drug comments.
Recommendation: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Completely gripping and original.


Book blurb:
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. 
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

Initial Reaction: *****
Slow start. The first chapter was interesting, but chapters 2-6 were basically a long history book on things I didn't really care to know the history on. This included a long dialogue on how we destroyed the world with global warming and a giant message of how the real world is awful and all the happiness was either made up or destroyed, so it's better to escape into a virtual game world where nothing you do matters.

Characters: *****
I didn't like the main character, Wade, at first. His "reason to get up in the morning" was the pursuit of money through the Oasis and that was distasteful to me. He also didn't seem to care about family one iota even when he puts them in danger. Art3mis, however, brought me hope -- that someone can desire goodness in wealth. I admired her for this and appreciated her humor.

After my initial dislike of Wade, he started to change. Slowly. And the change felt natural, relatable, and admirable. He started caring for more than money, for people other than himself, and for the well-being of those involved in the Oasis. Sure, he was a bit angsty, but who wouldn't be when the entire world is watching you and trying to kill you and trying to bribe you and you have to figure out the hardest clues in the universe that lead to the biggest prize in the universe before everyone else in existence.

The side characters were all well developed and likable (or hate-able when it was the bad guy.) They brought just enough support to keep the story moving (although the love interest got a little annoying for me, but I'm not a huge fan of romance at any level.)

Plot:  *****
This book was fantastically written from chapter 7 on. If you grew up in the 80s (which I did not) then you'll find a lot of nostalgic memorabilia. For everyone else...you'll probably hit large sections of boring game/movie/music references. I'm also not a gamer so a lot of that went right over my head. Still, the author did a very good job pulling me into a completely foreign world.

The idea of building an enormous virtual world in which the closest thing to real life can exist left me fascinated. Mostly, because I think it could actually be plausible. That doesn't mean I think that's what will happen to our culture. I just think that it could happen under certain circumstances.

The main driving plot of this book was searching for Halliday's prize. It was thrilling working out the riddles with Wade (though I never solved any of them before he did.) And the adventures he underwent under the scrutiny of the universe made me cheer loud and long. The climax of the book was amazing and left my jaw on the floor for a long time. Just thinking about it makes me want to re-read the book.

As a side note. My entire reading group and I all finished this book in about two days. I can't remember the last time a book kept me up until 2 in the morning. I love that feeling.

Spiritual focus:  *****
None. In fact, belief in God is looked down upon. In one of the many sections of long narrative explaining history and life, the main character expresses his belief in evolution and makes fun of God. He delivers God as a fairytale, made up just like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

Dislikes:
Oh my stars, the language. Now, I know I've been raised in little Christian bubbles here and there, but I consider myself at a pretty good medium between the bubble and the world. I can handle swearing. But there is a lot in this book. Too much for me to ever recommend it to a fellow believer with a clear conscience.

Not just that, but there is a lot of crude humor, drug mention, sexual insults, etc. The main character indulges in virtual brothels (I'm not even sure how that would work) and encourages masturbation. In fact, the book delivers a little belief system (under the guise of an old journal) on how important masturbation is as a bodily function.

I do not hold these beliefs. They disturbed and saddened me.  

Overall Recommendation:
I'm in a quandry because, without the disagreeable content and infodumps, I found the book incredible. I give it three and a half stars which, according to my rating system, means I liked it, but there is disagreeable content that hinders my recommendation.








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.