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I'm a mommy, wife, chauffeur, zookeeper, reader and book reviewer

Monday, September 9, 2013

Classic sci-fi

The War of the WorldsThe War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Martians are landing in England and this is one unnamed man's account of what happened before, during and after.

I noticed this classic was a free e-book and decided to give it a try since we were in the middle of a move and I didn't have access to my books and wasn't allowed a library card yet. Written in the late 1800's, it was good, really good. I can see why it is considered a classic.

I didn't give it 5 stars because sometimes it seemed to drag and other times I got lost in his dialect and geography. But otherwise his descriptions of the Martians and their machines and weapons was imaginative and entertaining.

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What is temptation really?

The Screwtape LettersThe Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The reader has the opportunity to read letters written by Screwtape—a retired tempter of Satan—who is mentoring a young tempter called Wormwood. Screwtape is trying to advise Wormwood on the best way to tempt and lead astray his human assignment.

This book is an interesting perspective on the usual list of “do's and don't's” or “should and should not” that some Christians subscribe to. I know some will have a hard time stomaching that this is one side of a conversation between two demons, but perhaps those who avoid traditional religious books will find this interesting. I found it more though provoking than I expected. Due to some of the subject matter, I would recommend this to young adult and up.

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Monday, May 20, 2013

I got a little lost in the sea

The Digital SeaThe Digital Sea by Thomas K. Carpenter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The year is 2052 and everyone is living in a virtual reality. It's not quite like Matrix where no one is actually doing anything. People are viewing the world via virtual reality implants or glasses and the government encourages it by making sure to issue older, base models to even the down people and places so everyone can view themselves and the world however their imagination wishes.

There is concern that the world is becoming over populated. Someone is starting wars all over in order to manage this issue. Jartelle the journalist wants to find out who for his next big story. Zel accepts the challenge of finding out who and stopping them because she is desperate for money to save her daughter. Mekena is caught up in a kidnapping ring while trying to save some boys from being enslaved as soldiers.

While the ideas are interesting—a VR implant which allows you to manipulate your view of the world and also use the internet more readily. But with at least six different characters each in their own scene all operating in a realm called the Digital Sea, sometimes I got lost and couldn't follow the storyline.

Due to some graphic scenes and sexual situations, I would only recommend this to adults.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Honest vampire hunter

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How much do we really know our history? Could some of the mysteries be explained by … the existence of vampires? Grahame-Smith takes us on an imaginative adventure through Abraham Lincoln's life interweaving sketchy history and filling it in with vampiric fantasy.

The story does get quite bloody and gory, but I still enjoyed it. I already admired Lincoln but then to picture him as a vampire hunter made me like him even more.

Grahame-Smith's story telling style made it hard to put down. This is not for the faint of heart, however.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

A good Christian Military thriller

Congo DawnCongo Dawn by Jeanette Windle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lieutenant Cristina Robin Duncan comes from a military family. She even spent some time as a child in Africa at the embassy which added Swahili and French to her now grown-up resume. Her skill set is in demand as a supposedly humanitarian business group heads into the Congo to deal with rebelling natives that are slowing profitable mining operations.

Doctor Michael Stewart is with Doctors without Borders. He too is heading to the Congo, returning to the mission hospital his grandfather built and Michael and his sister helped rebuild. He is returning to help with the victims of the mining conflicts, the native victims.

When Duncan and Stewart run into each other in Africa, each has flashbacks of being on the same side in Afghanistan. Unfortunately this time these old friends seem to be on opposing sides of the conflict.

It took a few chapters to get into the story and excitement as there is a lot of back story and detail. However, once I did, this book was hard to put down. As a Christian military thriller it can get a little preachy but I think it also deals well with the question “Why does God allow suffering?”

I enjoyed the ride and would recommend this to adults who struggle wit the aforementioned question as well as those who enjoy a clean, exciting read.

I received this book free from the publisher to read and write an honest review.

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Much to think about

The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts EternityThe Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity by Wm. Paul Young
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story was really hard for me to read having two young girls of my own. I think this is more allegory than the typical Christian fiction. The scenes at the shack remind me of Passport to Life City—a modern version of Pilgrim's Progress.

Mack took his kids on a camping trip while his wife was away over a holiday weekend. On the last day as Mack was packing up to head home, two of his children asked to take one last canoe ride. With many cautions including the promise of life jackets, he allowed them while the youngest sat at a nearby picnic table coloring. When one child waved from the canoe, it tipped, Mack dove in to save his children; while in the commotion the youngest was kidnapped.

A few years later Mack returns to the shack—the site of the last evidence of his daughter Missy. While there he encounters God. The main concern I've heard and read is that God is depicted as a black woman—yest young explains this depiction to my satisfaction. In some ways it reminded me of the movie Contact.

I'm not sure what to think of the discussion on responsibilities and expectations. Personally I felt the Festival of Friends was unnecessary and too speculative. Then the way the rest of the story was wrapped up was too tidy for me.

All in all, the conversations at the shack were interesting and did cause me to think. I really had to consider various religious traditions and what is truly Biblically sound.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

A Phantom sequel

The Opera Ghost LivesThe Opera Ghost Lives by Ann M. Kraft
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Opera Ghost Lives by Ann Kraft is intended to be a sequel to Phantom of the Opera. It tells what happened to Erik after he lost his dear Christine to another man.

While the Phantom of the Opera seemed to me a mix of Goth and Comedy with a bit of romance, The Opera Ghost seems more a Christian romance. Unfortunately this will affect my review as I am not a fan of romance.

The themes of “God's grace can redeem anyone, no matter how bad they think they are”; and “what you look like on the outside doesn't matter it's what's inside that counts” are obvious. In my opinion the most exciting part and a bit of a twist comes at the end. This book wasn't what I expected it to be, but it has some good themes.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

If Tinkerbell were a rebel with attitude

Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, #1)Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Twelve-years-old and an appetite for untapped resources, even if they are legendary or mythical. Artemis Fowl is still young enough to believe faeries exist but smart and sneaky beyond his years. He concocts a scheme to learn the ways of faeries and get their gold.

Holly is a faery, but not the Tinkerbell type. She is an officer with a rebellious streak and attitude to boot. When Artemis and Holly cross paths, chaos ensues.

Colfer includes futuristic technology, mythical characters with lots of personality and even farting dwarves. If you liked Lemony Snicket's series, you will probably like this. I will handing this off to my 5th grader so she can enjoy the adventure next.

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Survival of the fittest

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Katniss Everdeen is a sixteen year old girl whose main goal is survival. Survival for herself, her mother, and her little sister Prim. Daily she hunts and trades to keep her little family alive.

The powers-that-be in the Capitol of Panem—what is left of North America—use survival to keep the citizens of the 12 districts in line. Each year a boy and girl between 12 and 18 are chosen for the Hunger Games—a brutal game of survival of the fittest.

The plot of teenagers fighting one another for survival was hard for me to stomach. However, the writing style kept me turning pages and the character development is excellent.

I would classify this as young adult though I know there are middle schoolers and upper elementary who are reading it. For these kids, I recommend a parent read it first then decide if it’s right for your child.

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Friday, March 1, 2013

Finally ... I don't get it

Twilight (Twilight, #1)Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

If you like Twilight, you may not want to read this review.

I am a Harry Potter fan—I’ve read the entire series and watched all the movies. I used to watch Forever Knight with my mom. I get the intrigue of these mythical creatures. But after having read the first book of the Twilight saga, I have some problems with it.

First, there’s Bella. Isabella Swan. From what I can tell, her mother is rather flighty and scattered. She probably needs to see a counselor but manages to get by. Bella recognizes her mother’s erratic behavior and has shouldered the burden of taking care of her mother. This has possibly gone on for several years. A high schooler should not have to carry this kind of burden and who knows how young she was when she first started taking care of herself and her mother. I think this has made Bella a perfectionist and a people pleaser which leads to lowered self-esteem. A dangerous mix that makes her more independent—not in a good way. Neither of her parents, Charlie or Renee, know how to deal with any of this and give Bella too much space. So Bella falls into the arms of the only one who is strong enough to weather the emotional storm with her.

Edward is different from everyone else she has ever seen. Edward’s entire family is different. Pale skinned, graceful, mysterious—I think she is attracted to them because they look as out of place as she feels, yet they have their own clique. But just as quickly as she is attracted to him, she begins to believe they are so different that he is way out of her league.

As a Young Adult romance, they fall in love, against all odds, yada, yada, yada. I’ll admit I’m not a fan of romance but that doesn’t change Bella’s character. As a perfectionist and people pleaser with lowered self-esteem it sets her up to make excuses and allowances for Edward’s behavior because she is desperate for a different kind of love (than her mom and dad had). A forever kind of love and she wants to prove herself tough enough to withstand anything. She feels guilty when her mom wants to travel with her new husband but chooses to stay behind for Bella. She feels guilty when Charlie offers to stay home from fishing to spend time with Bella. She feels guilty that Edward has to restrain himself because she is a frail human. So she is willing to lie and sacrifice for other people to be happy (move to Forks, spend days by herself, and willing to sustain pain and danger).

What concerns me is that there are too many youth out there who can relate to Bella and are willing to try to live their lives like Bella—if she can do it, so can I—overlooking the fact that she is a fictional character in a work of fiction. Also, there are middle schoolers and upper elementary students who are reading this and watching the movies who do not need to be exposed to romance as described in the story.

So, I get the intrigue of the mystical creature. And if you like romance and/ or vampires, then you will probably enjoy the book. But there is a reason it is Young Adult.

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The gray between black and white

The Light Between OceansThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tom Sherbourne has survived the loss of his mother, a way, and now thinks the best way to live the rest of his life is out at a lighthouse, by himself. Until he meets Isabel Graysmark. Her smile brings a light to his life he didn’t know he was missing. She is a spunky, young woman and they can’t help but fall in love. But life is hard out on Janus at the lighthouse pretty much shut off from the rest of Australia, much less the world. So when a crying baby and a dead man wash up in a boat, it seems to make up for anything they had lost.

The Light Between Oceans shows how gray the area in between the white of right and the black of flat out wrong can be. I think it is also a good illustration of the power resentment and forgiveness can have on our lives.

The story was well-written. Even though some lingo was definitely Australian, overall it was not hard to follow. Though this is not of the genre I typically enjoy (it was a book club selection) I found it hard to put down.

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Friday, February 8, 2013

New Interactive Steampunk Adventure

Phantom Hearts Part 1: Bound (A steampunk fantasy)Phantom Hearts Part 1: Bound by Chris Michaels
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Phantom Hearts follows three different characters from three different backgrounds.

Hannah Blue is a slave girl who sorts bodies on the battlefield. She decides who can be saved and who can’t.

Jason Everett descends from an important family. His father wants him to carry on the tradition and family name in the government, but Jason doesn’t want anything to do with it.

Marissa Cabbott is a soldier who doesn’t tolerate anyone getting in her way. Though she hunts and fights magic, her relationship to the forbidden might be closer than she wants to admit.

Hannah and Jason are in love. When she thinks she has lost him forever, Jason’s best friend Travis introduces her to magic that is supposed to be in her blood and might save Jason. Unfortunately, Hannah crosses Cabbott’s path. Now Cabbott is on Hannah’s trail.

This is a great steampunk fantasy. The prologue was very creative and funny! I peaked at some of the interactive features via the code and website. This is how more ebooks should be written. I loved it and look forward to a sequel.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Are you making the difference you should?

You Matter More Than You Think: What A Woman Needs To Know About The Difference She MakesYou Matter More Than You Think: What A Woman Needs To Know About The Difference She Makes by Les Parrott III
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We are using this book as part of our Bible study materials at our church. What peaked my interest most was how did the author process and deal with the traumatic news: her father, a pastor, had been having an affair and was leaving them for the other woman. While this is what I was curious about, the book focuses on how we make a difference—whether those differences are big, small, or even cause a domino effect. But it isn't just a pep talk reminding us that we do indeed make a difference, she also reminds us not to get so caught up in making a difference for others that we neglect ourselves.

The only thing I didn't like is the way she seemed to devote two chapters to gender differences. I agree men and women are different, but I don't think making an impact should be analyzed according to whether you're a man or woman.

This book shouldn't just be read by someone who is questioning why they are on this earth or what they can do with their life. I think this book is also for the woman who knows what her gifts and talents are and believes she is using them to God's glory. It definitely made me take a second look at how I'm serving where and if there are any changes I should make.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Spiders, spaceships and the color pink

Escape from the Drooling Octopod!Escape from the Drooling Octopod! by Robert West
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This time the adventures for Beamer, Scilla, and Ghoulie start when they are asked by their school teachers to deliver some school supplies to a house in the neighborhood. Of course this is no ordinary house. It's pink—everything around the house, everything inside the house—except the things made of glass. When they drop off the school things, they thought they saw a girl in pink in the shadows; so they make it their mission to discover why this girl is prisoner in a pink palace.

The tree-ship takes them on another adventure—though like this others I'm not sure where or why. The mystery of Molgotha the giant spider with the glowing web is kind of resolved, but then again, not really. For me some things were wrapped up in too neat of a bow, while others seemed to be left dangling.

I would still recommend this book and the rest of the trilogy for upper elementary looking for a Christian sci-fi adventure.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

This isn't your mom's Christian "how to"

Everything: What You Give and What You Gain to Become Like JesusEverything: What You Give and What You Gain to Become Like Jesus by Mary E. DeMuth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having grown up in church, I have been handed many a “How to be a better Christian” type books. I’ve read a few. However, this is not a step-by-step book. DeMuth does not try to be THE expert. She writes from her personal experience—what has worked for her and what hasn’t. She writes from observations of Christians she has admired through her life.

It is a relatively short book, yet even as a voracious reader, DeMuth’s words made me read slowly and think. I wouldn’t say this book completely transformed my life, but it was definitely worth the time to read and gave me some things to noodle.

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