Book Review: Killing Floor by Lee Child

killingfloor_small*Sigh* I picked this author up on the recommendation of some readers and writers I trust. And, of course, I agree with a lot of the good things I’ve heard them say.

Which is why this book is kind of hard for me to review. I really loved the writing; the main character had good voice and I was easily drawn in by the story.

Unfortunately for me, some of the content was vulgar. I mean, most of us know what goes on between inmates in prisons. However, I read to escape the real world a bit and am not at all interested in reading about some of the gross stuff. Another example, one of the murders in this novel includes forcing one victim’s severed body part down another victim’s throat. Ick.

I’m also a little torn about the main character. He’s interesting to read because he’s so much different than the standard mc in a lot of thrillers. But I also felt like some of his behaviors were reflective of emotional immaturity that isn’t resolved in this novel (perhaps later in the series). Overall, I’m not really sure how I felt about this book. I like the writing; I can easily tell this author is good. But some of the content is just not my cup of tea.

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Book Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

Let me first of all say, this is not in my usual genre range. I like YA novels; I like dystopian fiction. But the whole girly, pageant-like vibe is not something I’m interested in. It took a lot of arm yanking and three recommendations from people I trust before I even started watching Once Upon a Time. Because as my mom now says, “Let’s watch the fairy princess show!”

But for some reason, the cover caught my eye when I was walking through a bookstore. I’ll admit, I set it back down. I thought it looked interesting but was worried the author wouldn’t deliver. After all, I had never heard of her; honestly, that says much less about her than it does about me. Anyway, I told myself I’d look it up later to make sure it was clean (minimal swearing/sexual content etc). I forgot. Only when I was stalking a blog and found a raving review did I remember that I had thought it might be a good book.

Bought it the next time I was in the bookstore. Got razed by both husband and mother…”I can read a girly book if I want to! And besides, I bought this one too.” *points to a somewhat boyish spy thriller akin to Tom Clancy*

Well, I read it and loved it. While there was some minor sexual references, the book was mostly clean and the story was engaging. This tomboy is going to pick up the rest of the series…

Book Review: The Calling by Rachelle Dekker

Yesterday, I finished the sequel to Rachelle Dekker’s debut novel. I was lagging behind on this one for awhile. I think because I was afraid it would not have the same impact on me that the first novel (The Choosing) accomplished. I was wrong.

I’ve described the premise before but here’s a quick recap: in a pseudo-post-apocalyptic America, the Authority rules with a heavy hand. Women who are not chosen by a young man during their selection ceremony are destined to become indentured servants; men who are imperfect for some reason (think birth defect or chronic stutter) become members of the militaristic police force. It’s the only way of life, until a mysterious man named Aaron begins planting seeds in the hearts of the citizens.

The first novel was written entirely from Carrington’s perspective. She fails to get chosen and tries her hardest to accept the fate that the Authority tells her is God’s Will for her life. The second novel is in Remko’s point of view. As he tries to lead a group of rebels outside the Authority city, he finds every step he takes leads them closer to capture and death. Wow, I thought my heart really empathized with Carrington; Remko, on the other hand, totally resonated with me. His struggle through regret and self-blame really hit me hard.

Even more, his journey to true freedom. I’m waiting expectantly for the last book in this series

Book Review: The Girl In Between by Laekan Zea Kemp

Ok, so here’s another eBook I picked up for free from Kindle. The premise: a girl, Bryn, with the rare disease KLS (where the sufferer falls into something like a deep sleep for long periods of time) finds herself strolling through her memories instead of being catatonic during her episodes. Everything is safe and familiar until a boy with amnesia washes up on the beach in her dreamland.

I think my interest in this was somewhat superficial. How does someone with a disease like that function on a day to day basis? How does it affect their relationships, schooling, and mental state?

I found the details really interesting, so I have to give the author props for hooking me on that. Also, somewhere kind of late in the game, the book explicitly mentions that Bryn is American but has Colombian heritage. Also, you later find out that the boy is Italian. So, props for having diverse main characters. But, I will mention that from the first pages of the book, I occasionally forgot and thought Bryn was British. I thought maybe that was just some of the author’s voice slipping in: an unknown author with a unique name could have any number of origin stories and “accents” that might bleed into their writing. Fine by me but maybe something the author should be aware of.

My main complaint with this novel was not the story itself. That was totally fascinating and I loved it. My problem was the large quantity of mature content. As a YA novel, it felt realistic in that there was a ton of vulgar language, conversations that were drug related or had sexual references. Yea, it’s the real world. Coworkers tell unsavory jokes, the guy at the supermarket swears profusely when his debit card malfunctions, TV ads…OK no more ranting…

When I’m reading, that’s the world I’m trying to escape. I don’t really want to escape into a world where it’s just as adult. Another good reason why I read a lot of Christian fiction. Regardless, I powered through the first novel only to reach the end at a totally unexpected part.

This is a strategy I’ve seen in a lot of eBook freebies. You get the reader hooked then end the novel in with just enough concluded that you can say “Finito!” but other parts of the narrative require the purchase of the sequel to keep you from throwing a tantrum. Well, I’m getting mighty sick of this strategy. Perhaps, I’m a bit sensitive because I recently read this blog post on authors leaving things “unresolved.” http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2016/05/i-intend-to-multiply-when-do-i-break.html

Or maybe I’m a bit naive and the author totally thought the narrative arc of the novel was complete but in my opinion there was too many loose ends. Will Bryn die because of the changes to her dreamland? Why did Roman get stuck there in the first place? What’s the deal with the shadows? What’s the deal with Bryn’s grandmother? These all seemed highly important right until the last page when none of them were resolved.

I was so mad (and annoyed by the mature content) I actually resolved NOT to buy the sequel. Unfortunately, Kindle recently updated and when I tried to scroll through to the page where it used to tell you the price of the next book in the series, I accidentally clicked on BuyNow for the next book. *rolls eyes in annoyance at technology*

Book Review: The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker

Recently, at VStock, I parsed the Ted Dekker section…”Got it, got it, got in on Kindle, got it.” Since this bookstore carries new and used books, there’s always a chance I could find one of his lesser known novels. (For example, I only have one of the Martyr’s Song series.)

Ok, so in lots of stores, I’ve seen authors with similar names (i.e. various Decker’s) but never another Dekker. Jokingly, I picked up The Choosing, “Hey look someone else has Ted Dekker’s name,” I said to the hubby. “This does NOT look like a Ted Dekker novel,” I point at the cover with a picture of a funnily dressed woman staring down at her feet. Again joking, because I had the impression his spelling of the name was unique, “I wonder if they’re related?”

And then I actually looked at the cover and description more closely; it was written by his daughter. Mystery solved. And though the cover made me think it was some sort of historical romance, once I read the description, “Hey, this sounds good. Can I get it?”

I’m happy to report that Rachelle Dekker is a good storyteller. The world she builds is a future city where the Authority takes control after a semi-apocalyptic event. At first, that’s a good thing; the Authority is like a council with a police force but it follows Judeo-Christian teachings. As the story unfolds though, you realize it follows them to ritual extreme.

The main character, Carrington, becomes a Lint (basically a servant) after failing to get chosen at her once-in-a-lifetime Choosing Ceremony – where all the young men of a certain age get to choose their spouse. The Authority tells the Lints it’s their own fault and it must be God’s will for them.

But a strange circumstance leads the Authority to allow one of their own to be choose a bride, only from the Lints. Carrington thinks Authority Knight’s choosing her is a blessed second chance at a normal life. Boy, was she wrong.

I can’t tell you much more but I can say this was an excellent and engaging novel. I love how the main character finds out the difference between ritual religion and a relationship with God. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel. I don’t think I have a negative thing to say about this novel.

Book Review: Insignia by S.J. Kincaid

Insignia is a Young Adult novel. I’m not sure I’m qualified to chunk it into a genre but it is set in futuristic America (more or less) where various world governments have formed political alliances based on economic monopolies supporting them. The different alliances are at war with each other but in a new way. Battling starships in space remotely. Seems pretty cool. Control of the ships is based on a neural implant that allows the combatants to sort of mind-meld with the computers.

Due to biological reasons, teenagers are the best candidates for these neural processors. Only the best and brightest are chosen. They are scooped up by the military, sent off to training, and download their homework directly into their brains. Yea, I wish.

The main character, Tom, is the homeless son of a gambling deadbeat dad. Tom illegally makes enough money to put himself and his father in a hotel room by making bets on various virtual reality games. He’s very good at the games and catches the military’s attention. They recruit him and he starts training.

In his tactics class, Tom he notices that the enemy has a particular combatant that just can’t be beat. Her call sign is Medusa and Tom becomes obsessed. He watches footage of all her battles over and over again. When Tom starts meeting Medusa in virtual reality games, he hardly thinks about it being treason. After all, he’s just trying to beat her; he’s not sharing confidential secrets. But when an information leak occurs, Tom must prove to himself and his superiors that his meetings with Medusa were not to blame.

Here’s my opinion: for a good portion of this novel, I had an entirely Ender’s Game feel for the book. It could be because I read that recently and it just blew me away. Ender’s Game was one of those books that when I closed it after the last page, I knew. I knew it would be hanging over my head, affecting my opinion of every book I ever read after it. Very few books have done that to me. (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Hunger Games, The Book Thief, Ender’s Game)

While Insignia was not one of them, I did really like it. And it did share some things with Ender’s Game. They both have a kids-fight-space-wars premise. Both characters are abnormally good at what they do and have been deemed “vicious.”

By around the middle of the book, I found this comparison less weighty. I really enjoyed the book and will probably buy the next in the series. The author knows how to pull you in; the dialogue seems both realistic and appropriate for the ages of the characters.

As far as moral appropriateness, there is some minor toilet humor. I don’t recall any foul language. A few innuendos that are probably acceptable for most teens and preteens. The one example of this I can think of: when Tom first gets put into a simulation as a female character, his friend Wyatt (female) has to tell him not to explore his new boobs in front of her. Otherwise, a pretty clean read.

Book Review: The Eye of Midnight by Andrew Brumbach

Hi all,

I recently received an ARC of The Eye of Midnight by Andrew Brumbach as a contest winner for the incredibly useful blog Literary Rambles (http://www.literaryrambles.com/). Of course, I’m always willing to read more books so here’s my opinion on this one.

Recently, I read somewhere that the young main character going off to a grandparent’s / other elderly relative’s home for summer vacation is a tired trope. That premise inspires no disdain or otherwise negative feelings for me; so I’m fine with the premise of this book.

Which is: young cousins William and Maxine are sent to their grandfather’s manor for the summer. Maxine arrives at the manor first, and upon exploration finds no one present. She holes up in the library for awhile until William arrives. The cousins get the chance to explore more thoroughly before Colonel Battersea (their grandpa) finally shows up. After receiving a weird telegram though, he rounds the children up and starts traveling for NYC. He tells the kids that he’ll put them to bed in a hotel and then head off to collect a package from a courier.

When the group gets off the train though, Colonel Battersea disappears. The kids try to get help from law enforcement but eventually decide their best bet is to meet the courier. This decision starts a grand adventure to rescue the courier’s package from gangsters, their grandpa from secretive assassins, and themselves from all the danger in between.

In my opinion, this was a fun story. The characters are engaging, the plot appropriately paced. The language was a bit flowery, almost in a poetic way. I’m not sure if that’s a product of the author’s voice or the historical setting. Regardless, it was done well and not overdone so I like it. Also, I’m glad to say that this book is totally kid appropriate (good thing since it’s aimed for a younger audience). And Colonel Battersea’s adventurous ways are built up with some good wisdom and hopefulness that shows up near the end.

Accolades to the author; I would be intrigued enough to buy into this if he intends to make it into a series. (It seems like that’s where this is headed since the kids’ summer isn’t over and now they’re on to a new adventure.) Particularly, I want to know about Nura’s (the courier) journey to bring the package to Colonel Battersea.