Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Prophet by R.J. Larson

Ela Roeh of Parne is just a regular seventeen-year-old girl. Without warning, she is chosen by the Infinite, her creator, to become his prophet.While she certainly feels unqualified for such a role, the bigger problem is that the prophet of Prophet of Parne has never been a goal. But the even bigger problem is that every previous prophet has died young.

Ela, the Infinite, and Ela's crippled sister, Tzana, embark on a journey save a foreign nation- both on the physical level, and the supernatural realm. Ela learns to embrace her role, but as with almost all things worth doing, it is not easy. To make things complicated above her difficult role, it seems as if the Infinite is leading her to break her duties as prophet.

Prophet starts out as a nice, poetic book. In fact, the whole book is quite poetic, really. I was able to picture every scene beautifully and down to details. Mentally, this book started out with a quiet, cinematic scene. My anticipation was instantly heightened. A little further in, and the story began to trail a predictable path, but still a pleasant one with promise. A little further, I loved the wondrously descriptive scenes, and then, smack. It sort of hit me at once. "Oh!", I thought, "This is supposed to be in the setting of the Middle East!" That thought really gnawed at me as I searched to confirm my theory, until it was dis-proven? Or was it? For the rest of the time I read the novel I was stuck trying to figure out the true setting. The setting was simply too vague and seemingly unsure of itself. I feel a map and definitive border lines would have helped. As is, the story had an almost eerie, timeless-and-lost sort of feel to it that didn't seem to blend with the story.

Another frustrating element was the predictability of the characters. I don't think a single one surprised me. I did care for them a little for a while, but their monotonous and perfect paths eventually bored me. There wasn't really much true conflict, curiosity, courage, or creativity; leaving them to be composed of naught but words. By the end, I had lost interest, and any plan of following the remainder of the story. If anything, this story seemed more like a collection of feel-good short stories and poems.
 I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House, in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Garden of Madness by Tracy L. Highley

Tia was forced into marriage at a young age, in the way many princesses are. Even being the daughter of the powerful king Nebuchadnezzar didn't change that. But when her husband dies, she finds a new freedom. Freedom is never free, however, and Tia soon learns the price. When she discovers a brutally murdered body on the palace grounds, she seeks to discover the killer. The problem lies within her lingering suspicion that she earnestly hopes is not true.

Meanwhile, other forces seek to crumble the powers set in the palace. With the king in his wild, animal-like state, the women who rule the throne are especially vulnerable. With Tia's husband recently deceased, her mother seek to quickly unite with another kingdom. While she seeks to avoid this and all costs, and to unveil the mysteries of the palace, she begins to wonder if she herself is not slipping in the footsteps of her father into the garden of madness.

I found that I really liked aspects of this book, but I didn't really care much for the story as a whole. First, for a historical fiction novel, I don't feel like the book really captured the setting. There wasn't much culture going on, and despite the fact that Tia worshiped the Babylonian gods, the book made to attempt to explain the religion at any length, but rather vaguely brushed the topic.

While I liked most of the characters, I was not a huge fan of the main character herself. This really disappoints me in books. Tia seemed too weak and full of pride. As Tia started to feel insane, the book just gave me a headache as well. I actually appreciated this in how well the character's emotions came through, but with no "wow" ending, it didn't seem worth it.

I received a free copy of this book from Booksneeze, in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Eternity's Edge by Bryan Davis

Depending on the perspective, Interfinity clashes faster with every hour, minute, or day. Nathan and Kelly have been bestowed with the duty of reversing such an unsavory ending. But when the choices fade to vague gray mosaics, the teens have trouble deciding which way is up. Every minute they waste could end the lives of billions- and yet they remain unsure if they are on the right path.

The stalkers prove to be an increasingly deadly force to be addressed. The worlds begin to sheathe one another in chaos, dreams being one of the deadliest weapons wielded. Nathan and his friends are running out of time to save the the worlds- and the ground is falling out from beneath their feet.

If I were to graph my intrigue towards the story of this book as a line graph, it would look like a hill. I started off somewhat unsure where it was going. My interest eventually got going, and I thought I saw this story going somewhere. It was still a bit quirky, but interesting nevertheless. Then I started to get confused again. And then the whole sci-fi universe became so abstract that the pages seemed to swim in gooey cheese.

Note that I am not against science fiction, but it has to prove itself believable on some scale. I also partake in the thought that every piece of literature I read should hold something for me to gain from reading it. Often, that may turn out as some morals or lessons, a piece of deep and nurtured wisdom that can only be learned through an indirect discovery, or simply a beautiful fictional world that I love to escape to and let my imagination run free. Yet Eternity's Edge held none of that for me. I enjoyed some of the concepts, but I felt like most of the scenes in this book were meant to be paintings- a detailed snapshot of imagination to ponder on. When these many scenes were formed into books, they became something I would expect as a nightmare after listening to classical music and watching old science fiction flicks all day.

 I received a free copy of this book from Zondervan, in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Beyond the Reflections Edge by Bryan Davis

Nathan Shepard is living the life. Not a normal life, or anything vaguely resembling one; but an interesting life, and a very wonderful one at that. His father being an investigator, Nathan has been through dozens of missions and chases around the world. He also symbiotically doubles as a violinist, in the footsteps of his mother, who is world-renowned for her talent.

Of course, that all changes very quickly when they are unexpectedly killed. His only hints at what to do next lie with a mirror his father left him, as well as noted from his last case. Nathan moves in with his father's old college friend and his daughter, Kelly. Things get strange when events that haven't happened and people that don't exist appear in the mirror.

This book was... okay. Unfortunately, that's all I can really say about it. I was expecting something vaguely reminiscent of Davis' two "Starlight" series, but got something very different instead. Beyond the Reflection's Edge was sort of a mash of three different sci-fi series I read way back, 10 different quantum physics movies, and random bits of teen culture. Not exactly what I was hoping for. In addition to this, I didn't really love the two main characters. They were much too similar to the characters Jason and Koren from Dragons of Starlight. However, these characters seemed very inconsistent and unrealistic.

While I am not really a fan of Beyond the Reflection's Edge, I am not giving up on the series yet. I feel there were some hints that the story might take a big twist, so I guess I'll have to keep reading, in order to find out.

I received a free copy of this book from Zondervan, in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Predator by Terri Blackstock

Ella Carmichael was killed by an online predator through her detailed schedule that she updated constantly on the social website, GrapeVyne. Careless? Absolutely. But it still got her killed. She was dead, and there was nothing he sister, Krista, could do about it. Except, perhaps, to hunt down and catch the killer...

Krista creates a false GrapeVyne account in order to lure in the killer. But when her trap works, will she be able to control the outcome? Even with GrapeVyne's CEO, Ryan Atkins, working with her, the game still comes down to predator vs. prey.

After my mournful departure with the Intervention Series, I knew that I had to read another Terri Blackstock novel. Predator being quite recent, it seemed the logical choice. So I went for it.

The first few chapters unfortunately took a while to pull me in. Not that this is an unusual characteristic of a mystery novel; there is so much information to convey in so few pages, but I found it a little disappointing to pop up in this novel because I was really craving something that I could chew easily, without having to poke around with my fork.

Once Predator picked up a bit, I found it a very enjoyable story. I loved that the author chose to include the CEO of a major company, for no other reason than that is a main character I have never personally encountered in the fiction world. And having that person be the parallel of an infamous person we all know from the media- very brave, in my opinion. The character would have to be spot-on or it would interfere with the story. And I think that Terri got him right. A fresh, intriguing mystery,
 perfectly set for the current media age.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Downfall by Terri Blackstock

The Covington family finally begins to get some rest now that Emily approaches two years of sobriety. Living in Georgia, they are able to separate from the pains of their past. Or, so they think. Without warning, Lance discovers a crude bomb under his sister's car, as she is leaving for school. Emily can't think of a reason why anyone could want to kill her- she has severed all of her drug ties.

But when Emily learns that the wife of one of the recovering addicts at her job has been murdered the same morning, she knows it can be no coincidence. And then she remembers talk of a double murder at the rehab center. It seems to bizarre to be true, but yet, one of the victims that was spoke of was now dead. And Emily was the only witness to the conversation...

The final novel in the Intervention Series did not disappoint. Once again, I was at the edge of my seat the entire book. And again, the exposed reality of the drug world was great. This time, it was mostly about the stage of long term sobriety.

As much as I loved Downfall, finishing it was truly bittersweet. Though the Intervention Series was only three books, I truly loved the characters. Yes, they are book characters, but they are some of my favorites, and I feel like I said my final farewell. I suppose it is only fair, though. The Covington family has been through enough already! Plus, the ending was perfect and left me smiling.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The 13th Tribe by Robert Liparulo

 (In The 13th Tribe) Back when Moses met God on Mt. Sinai, the people of Israel sinned and created a golden calf to worship. Thousands were killed, but 40 were dealt a much different card- the curse of immortality on earth. Over time, the seriousness of their curse settles in, and they will do anything to earn salvation. Eventually this group who dubs themselves the 13th tribe turns to killing sinners in the hope that they will please God enough to earn their salvation.

Jagger Baird has recently been in a horrifying and traumatic car accident. He lost his arm, his friends, and his love for God. In an attempt to start over, he and his family move into a monastery by Mt. Sinai. Being a security guard for an archeological dig, Jagger is on the lookout for anything suspicious. Unsuspecting, Jagger finds just that; and much, much more.

When I first saw the current cover of this book, I instantly pictured an epic clash of ancient Greek immortals with Einstein knowledge, therefore also possessing weaponry and technology a century before their time. And then my mind went wild with the idea, and basically by the time I started the book, it was like I had already seen the movie. Except... they were two completely different things.

I would like to address the whole immortality deal because in novels, immortality can mean several different things. These immortals are not "deity-grade" immortals. That is to say, they can still be injured. To give you an idea of the type of immortality they have, it would be somewhere above Middle Earth's elves, but below Homer's Achilles. Well, they would be below the Greek demigod Achilles if he hadn't died. Does that make sense? Swords don't fling off of them, no. But they are still ridiculously hard to kill.

So what was this book like? For my fantasy mindset, it was nothing like my mental movie. Yet, that does not mean it disappointing. The 13th Tribe is equal parts God/theology, suspense, and thriller. While some of the plot-turners I had seen coming early on, others were quite surprising. I loved the characters in this novel- they really grew on me by the end. As far as pacing and suspense? There are seldom few books that force me to flip through the pages as fast as this one did. The suspense got my heart beating so fast at one point that I actually set the book down and went for a jog to use up the energy! I got very immersed in the story. I'd also like to add that the theology in this book really got me thinking. Being able to see the world from the view of the immortals about the mortals, and then the mortals about the immortals was quite fascinating. Anticipating the next installment in The Immortal Files!

 I received a free copy of this book from Booksneeze, in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Illusion by Frank Peretti

For 40 years, the magic act "Dane and Mandy" has been renowned. But all of that ends when Mandy's life is brutally ended. Or does it? Dane, mourning his wife, stumbles into who appears to be his wife, but 40 years younger. Could it really be her, or is he going insane?

Things get stranger when the Mandy look-alike displays masterful magical skills. Stunts Dane can't even begin to imagine how they are executed- even with 40 years of experience! Squirming feelings rise up inside him as he doesn't know what to think. As the girl's powers increase, suspicious characters run surplus. Whatever this all may amount to, Dane knows that it amounts to much more than a mere illusion.

I've haven't read many Frank Peretti novels, but when I heard about his first novel in several years, I was quite intrigued. Then I read the description of the book and was instantly hooked. As soon as I started, I instantly blended with the characters. I realize I often point out how believable and formed characters are in a novel, but at least in my opinion, they can make-or-break your reading experience. And in the case of Illusion, despite the fact that many of the characters experience constant confusion and a persistent sense of deja vu, their character still shines through, and you cannot wait to reach the conclusion with them.

A word about the magic performances in this book; I wasn't quite sure how this would turn out in book form. Yet Frank Peretti managed to wow me with the stunts- mere written words! But they are so much more than that. I had such vivid mental images for every scene, and as such I was blown away. When my jaw drops while reading a novel, there is no doubt that it is a great one.

 I received a free copy of this book from Simon & Schuster, in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Land Beyond the Portal by J.S. Bailey

Laura awakens at the bottom of a flight of stairs with amnesia. She cannot even remember her own name at first, but she does have a haunting, bloody memory associated by fierce guilt. But if that isn't enough to disrupt Laura's life, stumbling through a portal to an unknown land is.

Laura ends up in a secluded, timeless village. The village gives no clue as to where it is located on whatever world it may be on. But the village itself proves to be perplexing itself. The people mindlessly worship a strange, fierce deity without question. There are harsh rumors circulating, but no one will confess a word. And the lives of the populous are kept in line by the sheer force of fear.

Initially, I was unsure of what to expect from this book. What exactly is this land beyond the portal? What genre is this book? All I knew was that it caught my interest, as I am somewhat drawn to mysterious portal-type books (think The Song of Albion Trilogy or The Chronicles of Narnia). And I do not want to reveal a whole lot, because that is part of the wonder of the book- figuring everything out. As for what I will reveal, it is sort of a small-town-big-secret story. This probably instantly creates a mental response, aliens. Don't worry, it is not about aliens. In fact, I actually was greatly surprised as things became clear. I hardly guessed much of the story, and that is always a wonderful characteristic. Keep me surprised, and I'll keep reading. The characters were wonderful and easy to relate to, and the flow was spot-on. I could hardly put it down. Absolutely five stars. I am eagerly waiting for the next book by J.S. Bailey.

I received a free copy of this book from the author, in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Diviner by Bryan Davis

Koren knows it will not be easy to sever her ties with Taushin. But even if she uses every bit of willpower within her, will that still not be enough?

Elyssa and Jason discover even more brutalities that the dragons inflict on humans. Does the suffering never end? Yet still, many of the slaves hardly want to be saved, thinking they are as free as possible.

Elyssa also discovers new aspects of her powerful gifts. She learns the secret after all these years as to what makes her a diviner.

After reading Third Starlighter, I was, thrilled to read the next chronological book in Bryan Davis' twin Starlight series. I was hoping that it would continue immediately, and all that would have changed was the cover. Well... not quite. The two series are a bit different than I before realized, mainly because of focusing on different characters, and the fact that each deals with a different half of the equation. Especially in the case of Third Starlighter and Diviner, it is almost humorous how you can mentally align events but somehow, the characters rarely meet. I really enjoy the full spectrum that provided.

Now for Diviner itself, as I stated before, I wanted to jump right in. As it turned out, for whatever reason, it actually took me a little while to get into this book. Not long, and I was completely hooked after, but the first few chapters failed to grab my attention. Another nice thing in this book is how we finally got to spend more time with some of the characters who were minor in the previous books, but had major roles in this one. And while I am sad that these series are coming to an end, nevertheless, I still cannot wait to read Liberator.

 I received a free copy of this book from Zondervan, in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Waking Hours by Lis Wiehl

It begins with an old woman chanting in Latin and hosting unnatural strength. But things get more serious when a teenage girl is found brutally murdered. When all of the witnesses seemingly display amnesia, this is a tough case to crack. Old friends, Tommy Gunderson, former NFL player, and Dani Harris, forensic psychiatrist, must work together to solve this unusual case. But they can't help but wonder is this case might involve more than just humans.

Waking Hours took a little while for me to get truly into the story, but once I did, the novel was very suspenseful. My biggest complaint with this book was the characters. I didn't really connect with them like I do with characters from many other books. I also found the characters reactions and interactions quite predictable. However, even though I consider this to be a major flaw, I still loved the story line itself. It was the sheer force of suspense, intrigue, and mysterious supernatural happenings that made me enjoy this book.

This book did feature something that most crime novels are seriously lacking in: forensics. Amen! When reading some suspense novels you just have to ask (mentally), what about a fingerprint? Can't you test the blood to see whose it is? Footprints? Clothing? Well, this book meets the questions of the average cop-show-watcher. Another element of this novel that I enjoyed was the subtle but lingering supernatural eeriness.

I received a free copy of this book from Booksneeze, in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Baker's Wife by Erin Healy

On the wing of a lie everything changed. Audrey's husband lost his job as a pastor, and her son, his college scholarship. Even through the hardships of being so ignorantly shunned, while much heavier, Audrey's love and focus remains the same. But though her life is strenuous enough, it all gets turned upside down when she hits a motorcycle with her car, leaving a pool of blood and no body...

Erin Healy wowed me yet again with her powerful style of storytelling that dives into the muck of the heart. Excellent believable characters. I almost felt genuinely sorry for most of them. The story flow was seamless, following a nicely paced trail of suspense and wisdom.

The theme of the book is greatly centered around pain, suffering, and perseverance. The novel held several surprises that I did not expect. And, as I had hoped, this book really got me thinking.

Now I do have to give something of a warning: this book will make you hungry! One of the main settings is indeed in a bakery, and oh! I had a few snacks along the way... I do owe Erin Healy a thanks, because you helped me discover the delicious rosemary potato bread. A wonderful novel, and except to pull out your bread maker!

 I received a free copy of this book from Booksneeze, in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Third Starlighter by Bryan Davis

Adrian continues to search for Fredrick's slave refuge on Starlight. But while he hoped to find a home base to help the slaves escape, he found something entirely different. Between a murderer, rumors of the Bloodless circulating, and a child displaying wisdom years beyond her age, Adrian finds plenty to keep him busy.

Marcelle returns to Major Four separated from her mortal body and wearing a cloak of earth. As with Adrian, she runs into more than she gambled for. Being labeled as a sorceress, she finds it near impossible to convince the military to journey to Starlight.

In a word: wow. I absolutely loved this book and read it every chance I had. It contains that addictive quality that all of my favorite books have, but I can never quite seem to pin it. Third Starlighter dove right into the heart of the story, answering so many of my questions about the story. While it seemed Warrior explained everything, in actuality it only gave a piece of the story, and now I can appreciate the brilliance of having the two companion series. For this tale, it is symbiotic.

This novel also dealt heavily with the concepts of humility and building character. The story is written in a way that focuses on individual's experiences, but still provides a complete aspect with excellent pacing and description.

If you're looking for an engaging series, I would suggest you read both Tales of Starlight and Dragons of Starlight. You don't want to miss this series.

I received a free copy of this book from Living Ink Books, in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Vigilante by Robin Parrish

I will show you a better way. 

Nolan Gray endured the most cruel and inhumane tortures while serving overseas. Narrowly escaping with his life and sanity, he returns to America as a war hero. There is only one problem, evil thrives over here too, just in different forms. Nolan decides to do something about that, he will show everyone a better way.

Vigilante is basically a super hero story in novel form. No super powers, it relies more on gadgetry and fighting techniques is a fashion similar to Batman. Of course, there is a villain present, and what what a super hero story be if it didn't take place in New York City? Okay, they don't all take place in New York City, but this one does.

I wasn't really sure what to expect when I started Vigilante- there isn't exactly an abundance of super hero novels. I was afraid it would be cheesy, but this novel manages to successfully minimize that. It's almost more like a government mission, except that Nolan is of course a Vigilante.

The suspense was good short term, that is to say, between chapters. However, the overall page turning, must-read-entire-book-now suspense was lacking. I didn't feel a need to return to the book. What I did really like was the characters. They are very full and realistic. And the ending is perfect.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Eat This and Live! by Don Colbert

Nutrition these days is something of a war zone. Finding nutrition in foods can be both easier and more difficult than we think. But with flashy advertizements, tempting aromas, and foods under the guise of being healthy are everywhere. Combined with the seemingly high cost of healthy food, it's hard  to know what healthy really is.

Eat This and Live! is a guide to just that. Pointing out how normally foods can be unhealthy, explaining processes and chemicals that go into things like white flours, artificial sweeteners, and trans fat. And at the same time, providing a guide to what actually is healthy, and how we can incorporate it into our daily diet.

In this age, a lot of Americans are realizing that we need to care about our nutrition. You can't just eat whatever you want and somehow expect to be healthy. But there is so much conflicting information about what healthy food is, it's difficult to find what is actually true.

After reading countless online health journals, and a handful of health books, Eat This and Live! stands out. It is a go-to guide that explains some of those gray areas, explaining things like refined, bleached flour, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose, MSG, and pesticides and herbicides. This book actually explains in depth what these things are, how they are produced, and the health effects. It also explains the nutrients and enzymes in healthy food, good sources, and their health effects. Confused on all the information on saturated fats, omega-3 and ALAs, and poly and monounsaturated  fats? It is all about to make sense.

Also included is a guide to eating out healthy, and how to prepare healthy foods in the best way. I highly recommend this book to those trying to eat healthier.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Stuff Christians Like by Jonathan Acuff

Sometimes Christianity can be funny- all of our little habits and ways of speaking. This book is filled with the humor found in faith- including topics such as the culinary magic of the crock-pot, finding typos in worship music, secretly Christian bands, and holding hands.

Need some help in your spiritual walk? Jonathan Acuff has got you covered. There are go-to lists for which meals to pray before, which position to go for in a prayer circle, and the likely story behind how you came to own 14 copies of the Bible.

As a first note, I would only recommend this book to those who have been Christians for several years. It's basically about the little habits we can pick up over the years.

This book is flat-out hilarious. I was laughing out loud during a good quantity of the book. I showed the book to a few of my friends, and they were laughing out loud too. The humor is simply excellent.

A lot of the sections were great because I found out how many other people do the same things I do. It is a peculiar language we speak, and this book translates it. On a more serious note it pointed out some of the things we as as Christians need to change.

I will, however, say that a few of the essays seemed a bit over-the-top. The humor is sarcasm, but I think a couple of the things went a bit too far. Though, as I previously stated, this is as much of an eye-opener of what we need to stop doing as it is to get some laughs.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Warrior by Bryan Davis

The prince of dragons has hatched from the black egg. Jason and Koren flee to the Northlands in search for aid. But who is this white dragon who dwells there? Elyssa and Wallace are hot on their trails.

In Darkspere, Randall and the crazed Tibalt are accompanied by dragons as they try to prepare the planet for the arrival of the Lost Ones.

As I mentioned in my review of Starlighter, it was a good book but seemed very much an introduction to the series, it didn't dive into the heart of the story, per se. So I was really hoping that Warrior would blow me away. And I am happy to report that it did just that. The story was very suspenseful, intriguing, and layered. The story goes between several scenes and each one is so intense and full that you almost forget the other plots entirely until read of them again.

Even on the spiritual elements this book hit head-on. It raised excellent questions and had something of the theme, "How much are you willing to sacrifice?" Very hard to put down; I am very much looking forward to read the remaining novels in the Dragons of Starlight and Tales of Starlight series.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Starlighter by Bryan Davis

Rumors of a world where humans are enslaved by dragons have been circulating in the world of Jason Masters (younger brother of Adrian Masters).

The legend of a world of humans and no dragons now seems impossible to Koren. At the same time, Koren discovers that she has a gift that holds a power she didn't know possible.

Jason and Koren will have to work together to link the two worlds with a portal.

Starlighter is very similar to Masters & Slayers in many ways. Basically, they tell the same story, but two different sides. They even include many of the same events and scenes. It is slightly irritating to read something basically twice. Overall, though, it was cool to see multiple sides and thoughts on events in the books. What questions I had in Masters & Slayers were answered in Starlighter. So even though you can to choose only read either Dragons of Starlight or Tales of Starlight, I recommend reading both to get the full picture.

As for the book itself, it was excellent. The characters were well defined, the flow was good, and the story was very intriguing.