Jun 21, 2014

The Word Changers, by Ashlee Willis

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: fantasy violence
Intimacy Level: kissing
Language: none
Recommendation: 4.5 out of 5 stars 

Check out the giveaway author Ashlee Willis is hosting for this book until its release date!

Back Cover Blurb:
Her parents' marriage is falling apart. Fifteen-year-old Posy feels her life is falling apart with it. Retreating to an old library down the street, she selects a mysterious book in a secluded corner and is magically drawn into its story...

Posy finds herself in a kingdom ruled by a cruel and manipulative king and queen who have attempted to usurp the role that belongs only to the Author of their story. The princess has fled and the kingdom is teetering toward rebellion. Posy is joined by the Prince Kyran as they fight with the characters of the story against their slavery to the Plot.

Posy and the prince search beyond the borders of the story for the runaway princess. They visit mysterious places, face horrifying monsters, and fight fierce battles. They make both friends and enemies as their journey leads them into many dangers. But some of the worst dangers, Posy soon finds, lie deep within her own heart.

Now Posy must find the courage and forgiveness needed to save the story and, most important, heal the heartache she knew in her own world.

Initial Reaction: *****
The concept of The Word Changers was exquisite.

Some people fall in love with characters, or with the plot, but I'm grabbed first by the concept or world. Maybe I just didn't read the blurb thoroughly enough, or perhaps I just forgot it by the time the book arrived. Either way, I opened the book with a blank mind and no expectations. That's the perfect recipe for being blown away.

It starts in the thick of action: Posy is in a new world, she's the main character of an intimidating Plot, and she has to pretend she's the princess. Oh yeah, and she's supposed to act as the sister to a handsome, dashing, sword-wielding, war-ready hunk named Kyran.

Writing: *****
At first, the writing style struck me as geared toward a middle-grade reader. Then, as the plot progressed, it tightened the story to a YA/teen level. Sadly, I didn't have the luxury of reading this in one sitting, though I wanted to because it kept me surprised. Nearly everything I predicted turned out to be wrong, which kept the storyline intelligent and thought-out.

Characters: *****
I'll admit, I don't really like romance. I wouldn't call myself a cynic, I'm just a lot more picky about how romance is portrayed in books now that I've experienced it first hand and learned that most book versions are huge fakes.

However, I definitely got sucked into Kyran and Posy's relationship. Some other reviewers have said that Posy's age -- fifteen -- made the romance feel like a stretch, but I thought it fit exactly how a fifteen-year-old might think. She's at that stage where she wants to be an adult, she wants to be in love, and she's in a story where age doesn't mean much because everyone's been the same age forever thanks to the Plot.

The romance side of things was one area where Posy got to step forward and try to grow up. Not just that, but she also found herself in situations that forced her to grow up -- war, battles, choices that challenged wisdom, etc.

Kyran, while on occasion a little harsh toward Posy, dealt with his personal issues as I imagined a young conflicted prince would. His mixture of care and loathing for his father made him even more complex. I especially liked his tender treatment of Posy when he finally decided to accept her.

Both characters learn a great deal about maturing and addressing life issues with wisdom and faith.

Plot: *****
The Word Changers felt very Narnia-esque to me with a beautiful arc. Not sure what that means? An arc means the characters started out one way and ended up another after 328 pages of growth and trials. It also means the story progressed and moved toward the climax beautifully.

Spiritual Content: *****
The allegorical spiritual message came softly and the characters asked real questions about the Author. Everything about it had a natural, believable, and refreshing feel to it. I liked that the characters didn't get all the answers yet they still sought truth. Nothing was preachy.

The characters were challenged to think beyond what the world/king is telling them to do and believe. They are challenged to ask whether or not they believed in the Author and whether or not they wanted a relationship with Him. It was presented fully, completely, and in an engaging manner.

Cons:
There really wasn't anything I would label as a con, there are only small aspects that I think could have been presented a little differently.

1. The start of the book really struck me as a middle-grade story, which isn't bad, but when I finished the book the early chapters just didn't seem to match the style or intensity in the rest of the book.

2. I would have liked to understand The Plot more. it was a fantastic ticking time bomb -- particularly the princess's role -- that only got partially answered. In order for the characters to escape The Plot, I needed to see more of the threat. Instead, it was a blurry fear that I had to trust was bad enough to warrant the war. The entire story was still delivered magnificently, but my personal preference would have been some more insight into The Plot -- why it had taken control of the King, the bad guys, and overall the world as they knew it.



Overall, this book was spectacular. I recommend it without a single reservation to anyone who likes fantasy. Sometimes it's an unkindness to compare an author to an author, but I pay it as the highest complement to Ashlee Willis when I say I place this book on the same shelf with The Chronicles of Narnia.

If you read the Narnia series and found yourself wanting more of it -- more of that feel and fantasy -- then The Word Changers is for you. I'll definitely be reading it again. (And crossing my fingers for a sequel!)

If you want to connect with the author, Ashlee Willis, you can find her here:

Her Blog
Facebook
Goodreads
Twitter
Amazon
Barnes & Noble










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 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.
 

May 14, 2014

A Giveaway is Worth 50,000 Words

If you couldn't tell from the title, this isn't a book review.

This is a GIVEAWAY!

For those of you who don't know, I not only review books, but I write them. My first book, A Time to Die, is the start of a dystopian trilogy and comes out in September. You can read a little about it on my website. There will also be a cover reveal soon!

But enough about that. Let's get to the good stuff: how do you win a free book?

Last week, I broke the 50k word count mark on my second book. I know this doesn't mean much because book one isn't even out yet (September! September, people!) But everyone likes an excuse to celebrate. I'm celebrating with a giveaway.

I chose three books that influenced my writing in some way. The winner of the giveaway will get to choose which of the three books he or she would like. Here's a little bit about each one:

Love Does, by Bob Goff: this is a non-fiction book that inspired me to pursue life actively. My husband and I started doing the things we always said we'd like to do someday. Active living and active thinking for God is a main theme in my books.

Amazon link

Goodreads link
Cinder, by Marissa Meyer: a dystopian, sci-fi, fairytale retelling. It's absolutely fantastic and one of my favorites. It showed me that, if you're a good writer, you can even take a cliche storyline and make it uniquely astounding. (You can read my book review on Cinder here.)

Amazon link

Goodreads link
Plot vs. Character by Jeff Gerke: One of my most invaluable writing help books! This digs into all aspects of the book and reaches the plot-first and character-first writers. Whatever your weakness is, this book will help.

Amazon link

Goodreads link




Everyone is welcome to enter. All fellow authors who I do or don't know. Friends, family, non-writers, readers, you name it. if you want one of the books then go for it! There will be one winner and that person will be notified via e-mail. Then they will choose which book they'd like me to send!

Which of these three books interests you the most?

a Rafflecopter giveaway




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.

May 8, 2014

Monument 14: Savage Drift (book 3), Emmy Laybourne

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.




Click to read my review of book 1 -- Monument 14.
Click to read my review of book 2 -- Monument 14: Sky on Fire

Summary:
Intended Age-Group: 9th grade & up
Issues of Violence: stabbing with knife to the point of mutilation, gun fights, deaths from post-apocalyptic disasters, fist fighting, murders in various way (neck breaking, ripping out someones guts with their hands)
Intimacy Level: kissing, sex
Language: Use of "God," "Christ", and "Jesus" for exclamations. Hell, SOB, b****,  a**, d*mn.
Other: Underage drinking/intoxication, drug use, conversations revolving around sex, drugs, getting high, violent animal-like behavior from air toxin.
Recommendation: 3.5 out of 5 stars with high reservations (see end of entry)

Back Cover Blurb:
The survivors of the Monument 14 have finally made it to the safety of a Canadian refugee camp. Dean and Alex are cautiously starting to hope that a happy ending might be possible.

But for Josie, separated from the group and trapped in a brutal prison camp for exposed Type Os, things have gone from bad to worse. Traumatized by her experiences, she has given up all hope of rescue or safety.

Meanwhile, scared by the government's unusual interest in her pregnancy, Astrid (with her two protectors, Dean and Jake in tow) joins Niko on his desperate quest to be reunited with his lost love Josie.

Initial Reaction: *****
This book was so predictable.

I predicted a tense, tight plot: bingo!

I predicted that it'd be a page-turner: check!

I predicted that strong characters would steal my heart: tada!

Are there no dull boring plot-writers left in this world? *Sigh* I suppose I will have to succumb to the mind-blowing, gut-wrenching aftermath of reading a fantastic book. My emotions are in upheaval.

If you haven't figured it out yet, I loved Savage Drift. It was just as strong as the first two M14 books and I expected nothing less from Laybourne.

Characters: *****
This time, we followed Dean and Josie's points of view (POVs.) At first I was hesitant entering Josie's head. I wasn't sure how it would fit with my current view of her. But it worked. In fact, it worked really well. I never once, in all three books or POVs, got confused as to who's head we were in. That's tough to pull off with first-person.

Josie's story broke my heart. At one point, a character refers to the "O Camps" as a concentration camp, and that's almost what it was like. Her struggles with figuring out who she was internally -- monster or human -- were realistic and bittersweet.

Dean's POV was also gripping, even though we've been with him through all three books. A favorite part about Savage Drift was watching him grow up. Dean became such a leader in this book, which was a true miracle when you think back to who he'd been at the start of this whole story.

Plot: *****
Okay, we've established the characters are strong. Now, what about the plot? Weren't we all happy and safe at the end of book two?

Well, not all of us. Josie! We had to rescue Josie! Not just that, but Astrid's about to pop out a baby and that's a scary thing for a seventeen-year-old to handle, especially when the government is kidnapping pregnant women.

I never got bored with this book. I read it in a day. I admit, when I first picked it up I thought it would be hard to make the plot as tight or interesting as the first two. But Savage Drift gets into the government's reaction to all the chaos. What are they doing about it? What are they hiding? And what are all these experiments they keep stealing people for?


Spiritual Content: *****
This obviously isn't a Christian series, but the faith aspect and turning to God grows with each book.

Josie kept praying and praying for a sign that she should end her life. Almost wanting confirmation that it was okay with God for her to give up and die. Finally, frustrated with His silence, she prayed for a sign that she shouldn't end her life. A sign that she should keep fighting.

And that's when He answered.

It was sweet. It was perfect. And it completely fit.

There are also other examples of characters praying and turning to God. It was neat to see this progression and how it affected their choices.

Cons:
There was some violence I could have done without. You know, ripping out guts by the handful and repetitive stabbing. That sort of thing. Also, certain steps of intimacy bother me in YA books. A couple has sex, but the writing is not gratuitous. I just don't agree with the message that sixteen-year-olds should sleep together if they're in love.

There is also attempted rape and older men demanding sex in return for protection (so, manipulative rape)

The language is pretty strong, but that was the same in the first two books. I caution all readers against the mature content and some undesirable elements, but if those don't bother you I think you'll really enjoy the series.



Overall, the book was fantastic. The entire series has left me impressed. And what a sweet ending! I won't give anything away, but it concluded everything that needed to be concluded and left me sad to say goodbye, but fully satisfied. I recommend it for older teens and up.

I rate this a 3.5 star mostly because of the mature content. But the story, underneath all that, is worth reading if you're a fan of dystopian or post-apocalytpic.






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.