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Review – Searching for Grace – Juliann Rich

searching for graceSearching for Grace
Author: Juliann Rich
Series: #2 in the Crossfire Trilogy
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Review Copy Provided By Author

Description:
Camp is over and Jonathan Cooper returns home—to life with his mother whose silence is worse than anything she could say, to his varsity soccer teammates at East Bay Christian Academy, to the growing rumors about what he did with a boy last summer at Bible camp.

All the important lines blur. Between truth and lies. Between friends and enemies. Between reality and illusion.

Just when Jonathan feels the most alone, help arrives from the unlikeliest of sources: Frances “Sketch” Mallory, the weird girl from his art class, and her equally eccentric friend, Mason. For a short while, thanks to Sketch and Mason, life is almost survivable. Then Ian McGuire comes to town on the night of the homecoming dance and tensions explode. Fists fly, blood flows, and Jonathan—powerless to stop it—does the only thing he believes might save them all: he prays for God’s grace.

Review:
When I finished Caught in the Crossfire a couple of months ago, I was intrigued to see how Ms Rich was going to continue Jonathan’s story and with Searching for Grace, she didn’t disappoint. Searching for Grace picks up almost immediately following the conclusion of Caught in the Crossfire, when Jonathan returns home from summer camp, away from Ian and struggling with thoughts and feelings in direct conflict with how he was raised in his chuch (as a note, I’m not acknowledging that it is right or wrong, but that is how it is presented).

I will admit that I was a little bit confused at the beginning with how the story was being told because it appeared to be in a flashback format but it wasn’t easy to identify. And it was weird/ hard for me in trying to figure out who Grace was, but about halfway through, it clicked for me and I liked how the author continued to address the conflict between religion and feelings/love.

The cast of secondary characters in Searching for Grace were much more well-developed to me than the ones in Caught in the Crossfire (not saying that they were bad but I just enjoyed the SfG ones more). I loved that the author worked Simon from CitC into this story because I felt like he was one of the stronger characters in the first one, along with Jonathan. But for me, the duo of Sketch and Mason were the top. They kind of reminded me of Janis and Damien from Mean Girls (if you haven’t seen it, they are the duo that take Cady under their collective wing before she becomes entangled with the mean girls). I loved how they lived their lives and didn’t really seem to care how they were the odd-balls (for lack of a better word).

There was much more conflict within this book than the previous one, but I don’t feel like it was overly done – it felt like it would feel, if this went down in a small town – the people talking behind backs, the rumors, the feeling that everyone is talking about you and that was just the beginning. That being said, I kind of felt the Ian storyline was bordering a bit too much on the angst storyline, I know why everything went how it did, but I don’t know – it just felt a bit too forced for me – but then as a character he just felt too different from how he appeared in the first book that it felt weird. I will be interested to see where the author goes in the last book in the trilogy as she ties up all the threads.

Overall I gave Searching for Grace 3.5 stars, although it was very nearly a 4 star read for me – there were just a few things that niggled me enough that I went down half a star. I’m looking forwarding to reading the third book when it comes out.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – The Inquisitor’s Key – Jefferson Bass

the inquisitor's keyThe Inquisitor’s Key
Author: Jefferson Bass
Series: #7 in the Body Farm series

Review Copy Provided by Authors via Sisterhood of the Traveling Book on Goodreads

Description:
Miranda Lovelady, Dr. Bill Brockton’s protégée, is spending the summer helping excavate a newly-discovered chamber beneath the spectacular Palace of the Popes in Avignon, France. There she discovers a stone chest inscribed with a stunning claim: inside lie the bones of none other than Jesus of Nazareth.

Faced with a case of unimaginable proportions, Miranda summons Brockton for help proving or refuting the claim. Both scientists are skeptical–after all, fake relics abounded during the Middle Ages–but evidence for authenticity looks strong initially, and soon grows stronger.

Brockton and Miranda link the bones to the haunting image on the Shroud of Turin, revered by millions as the burial cloth of Christ, and then a laboratory test finds the bones to be two thousand years old. The finding triggers a deadly tug-of-war between the anthropologists, the Vatican, and a deadly zealot who hopes to use the bones to bring about the Second Coming–and trigger the end of time.

Review:
I’ve been making my way through this series during the course of the year, mostly because I saw that book 7 was going to be one of the traveling books in Sisterhood. And I really enjoyed the vast majority of the previous ones, but I don’t know if it was the religious mystery in this one or what seemed to be the changing relationship between Bill and his mentee, Miranda, but I just wasn’t excited to finish reading this one. In fact, at one stage, I actually put it aside for a few days because I couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to read it.

I’m not saying the writing style was bad, it just wasn’t working for me at the time. But I’m still interested in seeing where the series goes in the future. In fact, I’m reading the newest release by the writing duo right now, although its a prequel to the rest of the series. The Inquisitor’s Key (or The Bones of Avignon as it was released in the US) had the typically Bass writing style – its actually really hard to tell (unless you know prior to) that it is actually a writing duo. There is something that just flows smoothly – I honestly have no idea where one starts and the other ends. I also liked how while there is a significant amount of science-y type stuff in the storyline, it never really seems to get too deep/confusing or too geeky.

Overall, I gave The Inquisitor’s Key, 3.5 stars but I know I will be continuing the series in the future.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – UnWholly – Neal Shusterman

unwhollyUnWholly
Author: Neal Shusterman
Series: #2 in the Unwind Trilogy

Description:
Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simltaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished.

Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.

Review:
Sometimes there are books that just stick vividly in our minds and even a year or so after reading it – you can recall what happened in certain parts. For me, Unwind, the first book in this trilogy was like that. So I was excited to see the second book come out late last year…I pre-ordered it and everything…and then it sat, gathering dust on my bookshelf. I wanted to read it, but was too scared to, for fear that my memories of Unwind, would be ruined by a not so good second installment (I mean, it had been like 4 years since Unwind came out). Reviews among my friends were split – some loved it, others found it ok, but the majority of the reviews had the word BUT in them…like something was missing and that was concerning to me. However, I finally sucked it up and read it (or I think devoured might be a more appropriate description).

But moving on – the one thing I really liked about UnWholly was how it took the same issue, but looked at it from a wider perspective. While Unwind really focused on the micro-issues of the kids who were subjected to being Unwound, Unwholly focused on them, as well as society. I liked the touches of written ads (very similar to those we see during elections) campaigning both for and against unwinding and the various “groups” who were contributing for/against it. There was also a lot more history involved in this installment.

Plus, Shusterman introduced Cam – who might be one of my favorite characters in the series so far. He is the complete opposite to an Unwind – someone that has been created from parts of kids that were unwound. It was kind of freaky (for lack of a better word)…but he was certainly intriguing.

I can’t wait to read the third book in the trilogy that is due out later on this year and see how he ties up all the bits and pieces. Overall, I gave UnWholly a solid 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – The Meeting Point – Lucy Caldwell

the meeting pointThe Meeting Point
Author: Lucy Caldwell
Challenge: ATW80 – Bahrain

Description:
When Euan and Ruth set off with their young daughter to live in Bahrain, it is meant to be an experience and adventure they will cherish. But on the night they arrive, Ruth discovers the truth behind the missionary work Euan has planned and feels her world start to crumble. Far from home, and with events spiralling towards war in nearby Iraq, she starts to question her faith – in Euan, in their marriage and in all she has held dear.

With Euan so often away, she is confined to their guarded compound with her neighbours and, in particular, Noor, a troubled teenager recently returned to Bahrain to live with her father. Confronted by temptations and doubt, each must make choices that could change all of their lives for ever. Compelling, passionate and deeply resonant, The Meeting Point is a novel about idealism and innocence, about the unexpected turns life can take and the dangers and chances that await us.

Review:
I have to admit that I was looking forward to reading this book when I picked it for my Around the World in 80 books challenge. Over the last 8 years in the military, I have had the opportunity to visit Bahrain several times (and loved every visit), so I was really looking forward to reading a book set there and seeing how much I recognized of the country. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the result. The vast majority of the book (probably about 75%) was set in the compound where Ruth and Euan were staying while in Bahrain. Now I know that recently Bahrain hasn’t been the safest place in the world to be, but prior to the “Arab Spring” as it is called, it was a great place to visit. There was so much to do and see. so the fact that there was really only one place highlighted that was visited during the book (the Tree of Life), it was like, oh well, she can google – that’s awesome…maybe I am being too harsh, but it always sucks when you are looking forward to reading something and it is disappointing. Ruth, as a character just pissed me off (sorry for the expletive), she was like a doormat to Euan – I guess she was supposed to be the submissive wife – but she wasn’t even that…she just drove me nuts.

The aspect of the religion in the book didn’t bother me that much, because I was able to see where it was heading. But it is still fustrating to see that in the 21st century, people still believe in trying to convert others to their beliefs – yes, I know – I shouldn’t be surprised, but it is still fustrating. Especially in middle eastern countries like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia (where some of the characters actions took place without every actually being there). The mystery as to what was going on with the Bahraini girl (Noor), seemed under developed and just thrown in for some conflict and to add another character for interaction purposes.

I would have a hard time recommending this book to anyone and I know that I won’t be looking at any of her stuff in the future. I am actually considering possibly looking into another book on Bahrain to replace this one because I was so disappointed.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Around the World in 80 Books, Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Grave Mercy – R.L. LaFevers (@RLLaFevers)

grave mercyGrave Mercy
Author: R.L. LaFevers
Series: #1 in the My Fair Assassin series

Narrator: Erin Moon
Run time: 14 hrs and 14 mins
Publisher: Recorded Books

Description:
Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

Review:
Anyone who knows me as a review, knows that I rarely give 5 star review for books, so that fact that I am seriously considering giving one to Grave Mercy should sum up what I thought of it. I originally bought the audiobook back in July after I heard it discussed on a message board and now for the life of me, I can’t remember why I didn’t listen to it then. Now having finished it, I want to kick myself for not listening sooner, but at the same time, so glad I didn’t, because now I only have 4 month wait for book 2, rather than a 9 month wait (and I can tell you that it is going to be torture…). Really hoping that the audiobook is going to be available for pre-order so I can start it on the day of release. But back to Grave Mercy…

The first thing that sucked me in (aside from the recommendation) was the cover – I love the current popularity of girls in these fancy dresses on the cover, and this one totally suited the time period that the book was set in. Plus, she was carrying a cross-bow – I mean, how bad-ass is that ;) Then there was a time period. Having a mom that is a french/history teacher has made me a sucker for books set in unique time periods (thanks Mom!) And the history of France, and Brittany is one that has intrigued me in the past. I can’t think of any other books off the top of my head that are set during that time period (maybe a Julie Garwood romance, but not sure). Wow, have I managed to get distracted again…I totally have a case of BSN disease (bright, shiny, new…ohhh pretty!)

So anyways, cover, time period in history, oh yeah, assassin nuns…ummm, ’nuff said. I loved that Ismae wasn’t a typical wilting heroine that seems to predominant in many books (the kind of heroine that I often want to beat over the head). Although, she did have a few moments of dumb-assery (and yes, that is a real word according to Dee, and probably urban dictionary), for the most part, she was fairly level headed – while at the same time, maintaining the naitivety of a teenager, because ultimately that is what she was (I think maybe 17-19 in the book, if I can do my math).

Yes, there is romance, but it isn’t the sickly sweet, insta-love, but rather a slow developing, burning/smoldering flame. It felt real to me (and having read romances for like 15+ years now, I have a lot to compare it to). I liked the ending because everything wasn’t tied up in a pretty bow, because a) history isn’t all pretty like that (and if you google this time period and the individuals mentioned you will know why) and b) she is writing 2 more books that I am hoping/guessing will take place in roughly the same time period.

Someone commented on an Amazon message board about currently reading YA that they weren’t necessarily a fan of all the political intrigue. but for me, I really liked it – it reminded so much of what I remember reading in my history books in high school and college – there was just so much back-stabbing, jealous, planning going on. I did manage to figure out relatively early on who the traitor was (but don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you). But I did like seeing how it was all revealed as part of the plot.

Erin Moon is a new narrator to me, like so many of the audiobooks I have tried this year. She had this sweet teenage-esque voice that I think suited Ismae to a tee – but at the same time, was able to make the multiple male characters (Duval, Beast, DeLornay) sound masculine. There were a few of the lesser male characters (Francois, and the Captain of the Guards) that I felt weren’t voices as well. Mostly because they didn’t have as much of a speaking role and many of the others. I’m really hoping that she ends up narratoring the next book in the series – I don’t know (off the top of my head), any other narrators who I think could do it as well (maybe Natalie Ross or Xe Sands).

So yeah – overall, read it, listen to it, devour it…just get a copy of this book in some shape or form and read it. You won’t regret it (and if you do, well then, I plead innocent of all charges – it wasn’t my fault).

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2012 in Audiobook Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Ice Cold – Tess Gerritsen

Ice Cold
Author: Tess Gerritsen
Series: #8 in the Rizzoli and Isles series

Narrator: Tanya Eby
Run Time: 9 hrs 51 minutes
Producer: Brilliance Audio

Book Description:
In Wyoming for a medical conference, Boston medical examiner Maura Isles joins a group of friends on a spur-of-the-moment ski trip. But when their SUV stalls on a snow-choked mountain road, they’re stranded with no help in sight.

As night falls, the group seeks refuge from the blizzard in the remote village of Kingdom Come, where twelve eerily identical houses stand dark and abandoned. Something terrible has happened in Kingdom Come: Meals sit untouched on tables, cars are still parked in garages. The town’s previous residents seem to have vanished into thin air, but footprints in the snow betray the presence of someone who still lurks in the cold darkness—someone who is watching Maura and her friends.

Days later, Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli receives the grim news that Maura’s charred body has been found in a mountain ravine. Shocked and grieving, Jane is determined to learn what happened to her friend. The investigation plunges Jane into the twisted history of Kingdom Come, where a gruesome discovery lies buried beneath the snow. As horrifying revelations come to light, Jane closes in on an enemy both powerful and merciless—and the chilling truth about Maura’s fate.

Review
I figure after greatly enjoying the last few books in the series, I was about due for a dud. But even saying that, Ms Gerritsen’s dud’s are still better than a good majority of other fiction out there (oh the irony). I can’t even really describe what it was about this one that made it only ehhh for me – I think it was because I had pretty much figured out the who done it early-ish in the book (like not long after the introduction of said character). I also think that it might be the fact that one of the things I love the best about the series is the interaction between Jane and Maura and that was decidedly lacking in this series as they spent 90% of the series separated by several thousand miles. It made me realize how much Jane is the dominant character in the series – while Maura has this quiet strength and perseverance, which was highlighted in this book – Jane is like the gun powder – explosive and on the go. Which is what I prefer – maybe because she is opposite to me – I definitely identify more with Maura than with Jane, which is why I like reading about Jane’s antics. The one interesting thing for me in this book was how various cult’s and the development of Cult’s were discussed. It made me want to read more about some of the ones that have become famous in history (Jonestown specifically), so I am on the look-out for books (if anyone has any ideas – let me know).

Going into the narration, I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of Tanya Eby’s work. I had heard a few negative reviews about some of her work and I was a bit worried – but I was pleasantly surprised. I can’t say that this was my favorite narration ever, because its not, and it definately wasn’t my favorite of the series (Anna Fields has that spot all tied up), but it was enjoyable. One of the comments other listeners had made was on a lisp – but I didn’t hear anything that wasn’t easily gotten used to in listening. However, I wasn’t a fan of how Jane sounded in her parts – she didn’t have the Boston Irish accent that I had gotten used to in previous narrations, so that was lacking. However, I didn’t mind her narration of Jane and thought that she did a pretty good job with the narration of the various males voices that occurred through-out.

Overall, I would give both the book and the narration 3 stars. I liked it, but didn’t love it. It will be interesting to see how I enjoy the narration in future books, as it appears that Tanya Eby may become the primarily narrator (she has done the two most recent books).

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2012 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – I am Forbidden – Anouk Markovits

I am Forbidden
Author: Anouk Markovits

Book Description:
A family is torn apart by fierce belief and private longing in this unprecedented journey deep inside the most insular sect of Hasidic Jews, the Satmar.
Opening in 1939 Transylvania, five-year-old Josef witnesses the murder of his family by the Romanian Iron Guard and is rescued by a Christian maid to be raised as her own son. Five years later, Josef rescues a young girl, Mila, after her parents are killed while running to meet the Rebbe they hoped would save them. Josef helps Mila reach Zalman Stern, a leader in the Satmar community, in whose home Mila is raised as a sister to Zalman’s daughter, Atara. With the rise of communism in central Europe, the family moves to Paris, to the Marais, where Zalman tries to raise his children apart from the city in which they live. Mila’s faith intensifies, while her beloved sister Atara discovers a world of books and learning that she cannot ignore.

Review
Aside from reading some Chaim Potok back in high school, as well as Night by Eli Weisel, I have really not read a lot of fiction books in the past where religion, and specifically Judaism, play a huge role. However, after seeing I am Forbidden show up as a highlighted book on goodreads, as well as on another website, I was intrigued enough to pick it up.

Words can’t really describe how much I enjoyed the book, as well as how much I learnt from it. While I had heard of the Hasidic sect of Judaism before, I had never heard of the Satmar’s which is a movement within the Hasidic branch. The majority of Satmar jews come from the Hungarian/Romanian part of the world and many were Holocaust survivors. The book itself, started off in Romania during World War 2, followed the Stern family to Paris where the majority of Mila’s (one of the Stern daughters) takes place and then travels to Williamsburg (in New York, not Virginia, like I was expecting), when Mila Stern marries Josef. There was so much detail about life in a Satmar household, that a simple book review cannot cover it all. From the preparations that a woman goes though when she gets her period, traditions governing wedding night protocal and so many other glimpses into the daily life.

It came of no surprise to me, when I read the brief bio of the author on the dust-cover of the book, that she grew up in a Satmar household and then left when she was 19. As a reader, following this discovery, I had to wonder if she had modelled any of the characters on her family, whether Atara (Mila’s sister) was supposed to represent her in some form. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about Judaism as a whole, as well as the various movements within. As well as anyone that is looking for an intriguing family saga that encompasses over 50 years of living and multiple generations. The writing style is easy to get sucked into and I had a hard time putting it down.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2012 in Book Review

 

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