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*

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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: 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.

Book Review: A Rush of Wings by Kristen Heitzmann

Hi all,

So I’ll put this right up front. I liked this book. In all honesty, it’s not really my typical genre (horse ranch plus some romance) but it was Christian and free so I thought I’d give it a try.

The plot is more or less: traumatic event triggers panic in pampered rich kid, Noelle. She runs as far as she can before exhaustion drops her in a small town. As the tour bus loads up and leaves her behind, she finds out the town only has two rental places, one rundown shack or the horse ranch. The owner of the ranch, Rick, usually only rents to fellow Christians (and his stubborn brother, Morgan) but is led to let her stay. Painting the beautiful mountain scenes brings in enough cash to pay her rent for the summer months but the ranch is a seasonal business. Rick gives Noelle an ultimatum: tell him what she’s running from so he can decide whether or not he’s willing to help or she will have to find another place to live.

Unfortunately, you can’t run from the past forever. Eventually, it catches up. And leads the characters on a somewhat heartbreaking journey toward forgiveness, faith, and healing.

Again, not being familiar with the author, I was a little concerned this book might take the overused basis: girl meets charming Christian boy, temptation and trials ensue, girl conveniently finds her faith just before boy’s interest is lost forever, happily ever after. I am happy to note that this was not the case. Noelle’s road to salvation occurred on both a realistic timeline and over an emotional growth that was believable. Kudos, author.

As far as criticism goes, no serious complaints. I thought the plot seemed reminiscent of Safe Haven by Nicolas Sparks. *Shrugs* A lot of books remind me of other books or movies. No problemo. I do have to agree with other reviewers that the writing was longer than necessary but all authors have their own styles. Ms. Heitzmann’s style seems to be more literary than I’m used to.

Noelle’s behavior was sometimes a bit weird to me. I blamed it on her life as a sheltered rich kid and her PTSD. Also, I’ve also known people who seem to pick the stupidest of all possible choices no

matter what. A lot of people out there are emotion-driven and will throw common sense out the window when they get upset or scared. So that’s not really a big deal to me because I know people who would act like that.

Overall, I liked the book. If I happen to notice other stuff by this author in stores and the plot looks compelling, I’d buy it.

Book Review: The Sanctuary by Ted Dekker

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. Some of it is genre research and some of it is just stuff from my favorite authors that I found at the local used bookstore. Of course, every time I go through the mall, I make a pit-stop at the aforementioned bookstore. I always check to see if there’s any Ted Dekker books that I haven’t read.

For those of you who don’t know, Ted Dekker is actually pretty prolific. I own or have read a lot of his stuff. Imagine my surprise when my last bookstore visit went something like: “Got it, got it, got it, read it, got it…got it. Wait do I have that one? (Picks up like-new, hardcover copy of The Sanctuary and skims the flap description.) I don’t think I’ve ever read this one.”

Which leads to my current problem: I don’t know how I feel about this book! Most books I read have some message behind them. The Biblical parallels in The Circle Trilogy (*cough* you can’t add a fourth book to a trilogy *cough*) Series are beautiful and unique. Skin talks the reader through a discussion of true beauty. The Sanctuary guides the reader down a path that I’m sure is laden with something…I just can’t figure out what.

From the very beginning, you’re introduced to two characters with immense love for each other. Renee is a neurotic mess fretting over the fate of her beloved. Danny is behind bars, serving time after confessing to murders Renee committed. Danny’s not so innocent himself. He’s murdered his own fair share of people.

I’m not opposed to a good vigilante story. And after Danny tells you why he killed those people, well you don’t really feel that bad for his victims. The plot comes in where Danny is transferred to an experimental prison run by the Warden. The Warden is intent on “breaking” Danny by torturing him until he renounces his recent vow of nonviolence and kills somebody. The Warden doesn’t really care who, his prisoners are pawns in his creepy game.

Meanwhile, Renee enlists the help of a former cop when she gets a ransom-like “I’ll kill Danny if you don’t do what I want” warning. This sets her and the former cop on a somewhat epic adventure. Here, I’m thinking one female lead, two male leads. One of the men is going to die. That’s just how these things work. Ok, I was wrong; the main characters don’t die. Kudos to Ted Dekker! The only author who I’ve allowed to kill off a main character (without my renouncing his/her books forever and wanting desperately to throw the book and maybe the author across the room) is Dean Koontz. Plus, The Sanctuary twisted things in a way that defied my expectations.

But I’m not sure I’m ok with that this time. No spoilers here: but I was somewhat disappointed in the final reveal. Shocked, yes, that’s always good. But also annoyed. I don’t want THAT to happen. Urgh. Well, it’s not my story and the ending did turn out pretty good anyway but really Mr. Dekker? *loud sighs*

Also, I’m still not sure where the lesson came into this one. If you love someone with love as strong as God’s love for you, you won’t be able to control the need to protect and defend them? I’m just not sure if I’m getting this one.

Overall, it was a good book. Not a favorite of mine but everyone has their own tastes. As usual for a Dekker book, the language was clean. Some fighting, torture, and reference to sexual abuse. Maybe not good for the faint of heart. But if you’re faint of heart, I’d never recommend a Ted Dekker book anyway. They’re too robust. Too scary, too thought-provoking. Too real. Which is why I’ll still keep picking up his books.