Tag: book review

Realizing You’re Already Amazing

A few months before I graduated from college, I met Holley Gerth. Not in person. Through her book, You’re Already Amazing, but it was like we sat down day after day and talked about my dilemma.

You know, what’s going to happen when I finish college. Will I continue working as an educational assistant and pursue my writing dream on the side? Will I jump into a master’s program to become a teacher? Can this fledgling idea for a novel fly into something larger than life?

I had a dream. Since I was old enough to read, I dreamed I would write stories. My words would send people into magical realms like C. S. Lewis did for me. Or these books would comfort others in confusion, as Judy Blume had done for me.

I wrote stories, poems and filled notebooks with my personal struggles. Then I grew up. I really despise those four words. Truly.

Because adult hood is filled with advantages, but often it includes abandoning dreams that fostered a soul through childhood and motivated her during the ugly insecurity of teenager-hood.

I wish I had known Holley Gerth back then.

Let me introduce you to her now, so you don’t have to wonder about finding a purpose or abandoning a dream.

You’re Already Amazing

AlreadyAmazingBookBetween the covers of this book, I met the sweet-spirited counselor, Holley Gerth. She poured a cup of coffee. We sat on her sofa. She talked, and I listened.

Reading this book felt like a conversation. After she shared wisdom and insight, she asked me to delve into my own heart. I spilled ink on the pages.

Her next words responded to that transparency – as if we were sitting across from each other.

This is the best thing about every book from Holley. It feels like a two-way conversation. The probing questions and activities at the end of one chapter open up questions that are answered in the next chapter.

In order to use the new LifeGrowth Guide she’s releasing this month, you should read this book. Each chapter of the new guide tells which chapters from the book correspond to it.

Sure, she has excerpts from the original book in this guide (and plenty of new coaching and counseling), but experiencing the original book helps this guide make more of an impact.

By the time you finish, you’ll have a “mission” statement for your life and an idea how you can start fulfilling it.

It was this statement that assured me of my own path. I worked through her You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream book before I settled on a course of action, but the seed was planted with this book.

Do you feel like you’re standing still in your walk with God? Does each day seem like a duplicate of the one before?

You’re Already Amazing will help you understand why you’re feeling these things. Then it will show you how to move beyond those debilitating emotions.

LifeGrowth Guide

YAA_LifeGrowth_Guide_Cover_1024x1024I jumped at the chance to preview this new guide when Holley offered the opportunity to her blog followers.

I loved the original book, and since I plan Bible studies and retreats for the ladies in my church, I saw this guide as a possibility for either activity.

After reading through this new book, and watching a few of the videos, I’m certain it will uplift women at any stage in their life.

Divided into six sessions, the book works as leader and groupie guide. In fact, it could be used solo, as a woman read through You’re Already Amazing and used the questions and activities in this guide to supplement her journey.

It’s intended to be used with a small group. In fact, it has powerful potential to bind women closer together and encourage them to lift each other up. What better way to carry out Paul’s admonition for the older women to teach the younger (Titus 2:3-5)?

The reading and activities in this guide are meant to be completed before the group session. Each session begins with a short video chat from Holley, which sets the stage and opens the conversation for that chapter. After discussing the questions and helping each other digest the truths, there’s another short clip to end each session.

In the back, there are helpful outlines to be used by group leaders or facilitators.

Perhaps you’d like a more informal group, the guide helps with that aspect. Each chapter includes a hands-on crafty project. A group could gather to watch the short video and then work on that project. Conversations could flow while hands were busy creating.

Amazing Applications

When I finished You’re Already Amazing, three years ago now, I told everyone about how helpful it was.

I’m super excited about the LifeGrowth Guide because it packages my excitement in a format that can help other women.

Let’s face it, some people don’t want to read. They might scan the guide and complete the activities, but they aren’t going to wade through an entire book.

The LifeGrowth Guide could be used by this type of person. It wouldn’t take long before they wanted more of Holley’s wisdom.

My plan for this guide is to use it at the annual ladies’ retreat. I’m going to have to reorganize and condense the lessons, because the sessions really need several days (minimum) between them to complete all the reading and activities.

To get the most from the book, a woman needs to invest time and thought into her answers. Season each page with prayer. Meditate on the deeper queries and return to them the next day.

A two-day retreat doesn’t provide time for all that. But I still think this curriculum will work.

It would certainly work as a weekly or bi-monthly Bible study.

If you had people who really wanted to write a life purpose statement, you could tailor this guide to be used for a one-day seminar. As long as there is ample time for independent thought, three of the sessions could be juxtaposed together and rock a woman’s Saturday.

If your life feels stale or you’re at a cross-roads, you need this book. If you yearn for women to come alongside you, this guide could open the way for that to happen.

Once again, Holley Gerth delivers a piece of her heart to her readers. And she’ll make you realize You’re Already Amazing, too.\

The Storyspinner

Magical realms call to me. You know it. You’ve seen what I like to read – and write. It’s no surprise that Becky Wallace’s The Storyspinner has been on my Goodreads to be read list for many months.

In fact, each time I see the cover and read the blurb, I want to open the book. This is why I’m thankful for Amazon wish lists (note to self: add that to your 365 days of gratitude list).

I added the book to my wish list. One of my children purchased the book for me at Christmas. Of course, the pile of books I hauled in that day (which doesn’t include the electronic versions) will take a few months to devour.

(On a side note: I love the title to this book. As a spinner of stories, it set my imagination on fire. Kudos to the author for writing a story worthy of such a compelling title.)

I should have started with The Storyspinner. It is an epic fantasy (even by the definition given be fantasy faction) and I loved it anyway.

Yes, you read that right.

Usually, epic fantasy doesn’t float my book boat. There are too many characters that I don’t like, but I have to be in their heads for the sake of the story sprawl. The author generally kills off the ones I do like (yes, George R.R. Martin, I’m looking at you). And there’s too much description bogging down the pace.

Why am I giving five stars to this book that is the first in a new young adult epic fantasy series then?

The Blurb

StorySpinner CoverIn a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

My Review

This book has the main ingredients any fantasy novel needs to grab my interest: an interesting magical system and a strong heroine (or hero, preferably both).

The books starts off with only a few pages from Johanna’s normal world. We get to meet her father and see inside her idyllic family life. By the end of the prologue, all that changes.

I’m intrigued by The Keepers. The small glimpse we get inside their government makes me think of wizards only more political. The magic they wield is elemental magic, but accessed in a unique way. In fact, much about the magic was left to my imagination (which I prefer), but it will be interesting to learn more about its origin and adaptation as the series continues.

There is romance – two of them even. I’m usually not a fan of the “hate each other at first sight” trope, however, Wallace uses it effectively. The first meeting between Rafael and Johanna can’t help but create some animosity. It took me longer to understand and accept Rafi’s negative responses, but in retrospect I see this as well-written by the author.

Action piles on top of action. There are sword fights, magical fights, and tension on every page.

If you like the bard character in medieval literature, you’ll enjoy this story since that’s Johanna’s performing strength. Although some stereotypical Gypsy performer elements were present, there was a new element infused into it that made those characters more than that.

I’m interested to see where the author will go with the idea of The Keepers being considered deities among some of the people. I like that the “good guys” are appalled by this idea, while the “bad guys” use that reverence. They twist it into fear and use it to enslave people.

Johanna didn’t act like a typical teenager. She’s older and thrust into a position of responsibility, which explains part of it. Most of the time I forgot I was reading about a sixteen-year-old.

Still, all the characters were well-drawn and pulled me further into the story. I enjoyed jumping between the different perspectives, not finding any of them tedious to read.

My Recommendation

There are a few thematic elements and scenes of violence that might be difficult for younger readers. I would suggest this book for mature teens only (I won’t put an age because some are more mature at thirteen than others at eighteen).

This novel is perfect for a fantasy lover (like myself), someone who enjoys action and adventure and even those who like historical fiction. Yes, this is set in a different world, but it has many elements associated with the medieval time frame. Apparently, that’s a requisite for epic fantasy (see this post).

The romantic elements are present but not overwhelming. The adult romance toes the line of becoming too descriptive, but it isn’t a book that needs disclaimers about sex.

Upon finishing, I raced to Amazon to purchase the sequel. Sadly, it isn’t available until March 22.

And, yes, it’s on my Amazon wish list.

Because sometimes those wishes are granted.

(Un) Bidden by Melissa Haag

I am not a huge fan of vampire or werewolf stories. I loved the first book in this series and decided to invest in the whole thing. I will post my own complete review on this blog next week.  My Amazon and Goodreads reviews are already live.

Without further ado, I give you Book 4 in the Judgments of the Six series!

 

I left home because I didn’t want to end up in a cage like a lab rat. Hitching rides, begging for cash, and sleeping on the ground got old fast. That was the only reason I braved an overgrown path to a group of buildings. I’d hoped to find a bed and a decent night’s sleep. However, what I found was a place overrun by werewolves.

While on the run, Charlene finds herself surrounded by werewolves, creatures she can’t control with her mind like she can humans. Their existence has her believing she’s found a safe place to stay, a place where secrets are okay. However, she soon discovers she’s anything but safe. Charlene must learn how to use her abilities to influence the strange new species because if she can’t, the next bite she suffers might just kill her.

Read how the cycle begins, and have no doubt. Charlene’s past will shape the future of the Judgements.

BUY IT ON AMAZON: http://bit.ly/UnBiddenAM

Have you read the first book, Hope(less), in the series? It’s currently FREE!

Gabby’s brain is like a human fish finder. It comes in handy when she wants to avoid people. Mostly men. They seem to like her a bit too much. It’s lonely being different, but she’s adapted to it. Really. She just wishes she knew why she is different, though.

In her search for answers, she discovers a hidden community of werewolves. She immerses herself in their culture, learning about their world until she meets Clay. He’s unkempt, prone to mood swings, intense without saying a word, and he thinks Gabby is his.

It’s going to take every trick she knows to convince Clay to go away, and every bit of willpower not to fall for him when she discovers the man beneath the rough exterior.

Delve into a riveting world of werewolves and young women with unexplained abilities, in Hope(less).

BUY IT AT:

Amazon: http://bit.ly/HopelessAm

B&N: http://bit.ly/HopelessBN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/HopelessKobo

Smashwords: http://bit.ly/HopelessSW

iTunes: http://bit.ly/HopelessiT

~*~ABOUT THE AUTHOR~*~

Melissa Haag currently resides in Wisconsin with her husband and three children. Touch is her first published novel. She is currently working on book five of a separate six book series. To learn more about her upcoming projects, visit her at: http://melissahaag.com , and you can connect with her on: https://twitter.com/imagine2live & https://www.facebook.com/author.MelissaHaag

 

Reaper’s Rhythm: A Book Review

I “met” author Clare Davidson at WANATribe in 2012. At that time, I read her first book Trinity and gave her my honest feedback.

I picked up her second book, Reaper’s Rhythm, at the recommendation of another young adult author. It sat on my Kindle for several months before I finally read it. Not because I wasn’t interested in it but because I have quite a collection of books to be read and reading those in the young adult fantasy genre always take precedence.

Review

This story begins with the death of the main character’s sister. The remainder of the story involves her quest to prove it was not a suicide.

The main character, Kim, was well-crafted. Her emotions and motives seemed clear. Sure, she makes some poor choices but she’s only 16 and she’s suffered a massive loss.

I had a hard time connecting with her but I think that was mostly because her interaction with her real friends was limited. I felt like I only saw her as the freaked out victim and wondered what she was like beforehand. In essence, I see the need for giving us “normal world” before plunging us into the deep mystery.

Most of the other characters weren’t fully developed but it didn’t affect the story. There is a clear problem and growing conflict to keep the story moving along. I was most disappointed in the rendering of Matthew. He obviously had strong feelings and motives but he was allowed to be a cold, aloof bystander in the heroine’s life.

Response

Most of my objections to this story have nothing to do with craft or the story itself. They are based on personal preference.

If you love paranormal stories, you will enjoy this book. If you’re looking for romance, look elsewhere. Everything in this book is one-sided and shallow as far as the romance is concerned. If you like mysteries, you might find this a good read. I felt it lacked the proper dispersal of clues and leads to be considered an effective mystery.

Even though strange occurrences in this book are referred to as “magic,” I didn’t find that an accurate assessment. It seemed like a clear demon versus angel setup. The demonic element was woven through music which I found rather cliché (of course, I did grow up during the “back-masking” scare era).

In any case, the “magic” system didn’t have adequate explanation so I didn’t buy into it. There were contradictions about see-ability for the two “magical” races. The backstory for the creation of the Shimara seemed shallow and contrived.

I read the book in a short time and the plot compelled me forward, but the world created by the author was unconvincing. Will I read the sequel? Maybe, but it isn’t high on my priority list.

Recommendation

If you’re looking for an emotional, fast-paced read, pick up this book. I don’t believe you’ll be disappointed.

If you want to be blown away by unique fantasy elements, you won’t find that here. While there is a mystery, the story doesn’t progress as a mystery should. If you think one-sided attraction constitutes romance, you will find the story romantic.

In the end, this story will appeal mostly to paranormal fans with an understanding of British customs and language. While I wasn’t distracted by those things, I believe my obvious relation to American teenagers kept me from relating fully to the British characters.

On Goodreads, I gave this book four stars. After all, I finished it in a day and it held my interest.

If you’ve read this book, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment.

A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr

Image from Goodreads

Like several other fantasy series, I found this book because the author offered the first installment for free on Kindle. A book for free? I’m there.

Two reasons I pushed this book to the top of my “to be read” list and the plethora of other books previously waiting on my Kindle:

It is from the Christian fantasy genre I’m trying to break into (even though it is really more of a “New Adult” rather than “Young Adult” book).

The allegory seemed to be strong and subdued at the same time (hopefully I’ll make this clearer than Northwest Fog before the post is done).

I have to admit, I didn’t really like this book in the beginning. The main character was a drunken sod whose only goal was getting enough coin for his next tankard of ale. Not my sort of hero. A dark reason for his obsession is hinted at but not revealed until well into the novel.

It took a few hard knocks before Errol was able to let go of that craving and embrace the destiny thrust upon him. Carr did a good job ramping up the tension and throwing another monkey wrench into the plot when things seemed to get a little better for the hero. By midpoint, I was routing for Errol and trying to figure out the huge secret everyone kept hiding from him.

The allegory in this book is clear to me but not too overt as to be offensive to people who don’t want to see it. Carr has built an entire religious system around worship of “The Three” and shows us the divisions among that system. There are heroes and villains inside the church system; people who are only in it for power or wealth or position, which relates well to the world in which we live.

The fantasy elements contain both the tried and true and unique. Rather than using familiar beings like elves and dwarves, Carr creates his own unique races of people and steers away from using any of the classic terms. This creates more work for him, but he does a great job dropping the information we need to understand along the way.

I found the “magical” system intriguing and will be interested to see how the author develops it in the next book. As you read, you will see that the mystical is tied to the religious beliefs of the participants. No wizards or witches here. Instead, healers and herbwomen or readers and omres.

Yes, there were a few things that seemed to happen too easily or made me think “really? That’s how you’re going to solve that?” But is there a perfect book? No. Even the books I love contain little things that could be improved. After all, I’m a perfectionist and an author.

My Recommendation

This is a New Adult novel, I think, but mature young adults and older adults like me will also find it enjoyable. There is plenty of tension and action and the characters are engaging.

As I mentioned, this is the first in a series called “The Staff and The Sword.” I purchased the second book from Amazon for my Kindle. I didn’t start reading it immediately, but as I finish this post for my blog, I’m halfway through.

What’s the rush? After all, the third book won’t be released until February 18, and it is priced beyond the top of my “I’ll pay that amount for an eBook” range.

Guess that means I might have to buy it in paperback.

The Book Thief

Sometimes friends urge you to read a book, extolling it as classic or calling it riveting. When you open the cover, your expectations soar. A few pages in, you begin to wonder if you have the right book. By the end of chapter three, you can barely keep your eyes open.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is not this sort of book.

Did my friends encourage me to read it? *nods head* Several teachers I deeply respect seemed amazed I hadn’t read it. Not amazed in a good way either.

The book has been on my “to be read” list for months. It has hardly been alone. At least 20 others books kept it company.

My sister received a Kindle for Christmas and the next week I benefitted. Imagine my surprise when I perused the email telling me she had loaned me an ebook. (“You can do that?”) After I figured out how to return the favor, I opened The Book Thief and began to read.

Why I hadn’t been eager to move the book to the top of my list

I like happy endings. What a Pollyanna, you say. *Shrugs* I can’t help it. Life is full of sad beginnings, middles and endings. When I open a book, I want to escape all that.

Zusak’s book is set in Nazi Germany. That was enough to help me pass it by on several occasions when my teacher friends handed it my direction.

If there is a more UNhappy time in history, I don’t know what it is. Please don’t tell me. The eradication of six million innocent people because some maniac didn’t like their ethnic background gags me just fine, thanks.

Incredible things about the writing

In Nazi Germany, there is only one person whose point of view we haven’t read a story from. No, not the Fuhrer. Death.

It is the irony of the narrator being Death that immediately drew me into the story. Seriously, if anyone can understand that time period, it would be him. Death reigned (not the Fuhrer, regardless of the man’s delusions of grandeur).

Reading the story from such a unique (and dare I say, hopeless) perspective compelled me to keep reading. By page ten, I was feeling a little sorry for Death. After all, he was overworked and saw no chance of a vacation in his future.

Blasphemous thought, isn’t it? That Death might need a vacation. Even on a regular day, thousands of people die. A day in Dachau in 1940? You get the picture.

Dachau Concentration Camp

The point of view aside, the voice is authentic. I could hear the tired sighs of Death. I could sense his amazement at the inhumanity of man to his own kind. Why should we be surprised when Death thinks murder and mayhem are socially unacceptable? After all, these things mean he has to work overtime. And he’s long overdue for a single day off.

Zusak uses unique turns of phrase in his description.  His writing has verve and pizzazz, but isn’t too sophisticated for young adult readers – his target audience.

Liesel and her supporting cast come alive. No cardboard caricatures here. Well, maybe the Hitler Youth bully and the spoiled rich criminal, but none of the major characters were anything other than round and relatable.

In the end, I cried. There’s no such thing as a happy ending from this setting. However, the overwhelming theme  and the takeaway feeling for the story pack a knockout punch. The last line of the book clues you in: “I am haunted by humans.”

Consider who tells this story and let that sink in for a few moments.

Wow.

Right?

My recommendations:

  • Every person between the ages of 12 and 120 should read this book.
  • There are German words and phrases. Don’t stumble over those.
  • Death narrates, so there is death and destruction galore. It’s gasp-worthy but won’t cause you to turn away like the first ten minutes of Saving Private Ryan.
  • You will cry. Okay, I cried. Maybe you don’t cry when you read books, but if this one doesn’t choke you up, there could be a deeper issue.

Reading this book will help you appreciate the life you live. How can Death tell a story and make you want to hug everyone you know and celebrate being alive? Read. The. Book. Then you’ll understand.

Have you already read The Book Thief? Share your observations and reactions below.

Mixed Feelings about “Allegiant”

Coming to the end of a series always provokes mixed feelings. If we love the characters, we’re sad to see them go. Exciting plots make us anticipate the final climactic resolution.

Or it might be anti-climactic.

I read the first two books in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series in the Summer of 2012. At that time, waiting a year to get the final installment seemed cruel. Truthfully, I had forgotten much of my earnestness by the time the package arrived from Amazon containing the newly released conclusion to the trilogy.

The craze of dystopian fiction, especially in the young adult age group, may have reached its peak. I have read four series from this genre and half a dozen stand-alone novels in the past three years.

This type of story appeals to me because it’s interesting to see where a creative genius (pretty much any author) takes the question “what if a catastrophe happened?” and runs with it. There might be a society where children fight to the death as a means of keeping the populace cowed. Maybe lawlessness would prevail.

The possibilities stagger me. In reading such an assortment of dystopian fiction, I’ve seen a few common threads and been interested to see some similarities. More on that later. Maybe.

At the end of Insurgent, everyone was in limbo. A video disclosing the truth that the factions inside Chicago were just an experiment of the government floored everyone. It was a cliffhanger. Fifteen months later when I got to read what happened next, all the urgency had vanished.

I recommend rereading the first two books before you pick up this wrap-up to the series. It took me more than 75 pages to reorient myself with the characters and begin to connect with them again. That said, I don’t believe this book has much appeal as a stand-alone read.

The main character we followed in the first book, Beatrice Prior, shares the narration duties with her boyfriend, Four or Tobias. I found the transition between their two minds choppy and I never truly felt they were distinct. The writer’s voice sounded the same inside either mind.

I make it a point never to include spoilers in my book reviews. To me, the purpose of the review is to help you decide whether or not you want to spend money on this book or borrow it from the library.

This book had the weakest plot of the series. The stakes seemed inconsequential until about three-fourths of the way through the book. My disbelief wouldn’t be suspended because I had a hard time with both Tris’ and Tobias’ reactions to their revelations in this story.

Each of them had a separate mission to accomplish at the end. In my opinion, Tobias’ resolution was too contrived and obtainable. On the other hand, I connected with Tris and her actions were much more believable, but I hated the outcome.

If you want to find out what happens to this cast, you should read this book. Story enjoyment is subjective. I didn’t feel like I had wasted my time reading this book, but since I hadn’t recently had my appetite whetted for the conclusion, I could have missed it and lived happily ever after.

Related articles

Dystopian Novels

The Start of the Series

After completing Michael Grant’s Gone series, I began wondering why I’m drawn to dystopian novels over vampire stories or other types of science- fictional fantasy. I happily read Divergent and Insurgent during the summer of 2012 and will most likely buy a copy of the third book, releasing in August.

Since it is sitting in the library at my middle school, there are definite things I didn’t like about Grant’s series .

Too much graphic violence

When a kid got ate by mutated worms, I thought Grant had gone too far. It wasn’t a pretty mental image. In the latest book, a little girl lights other kids on fire while laughing gleefully. If there’s a more disturbing picture anywhere, I don’t want to know about it.

Sex =Love

Caine and Diana treat each other with criticism and cynicism. Eventually, they have sex and – BAM – they’re suddenly in love with each other. It’s slightly better with Sam and Astrid because their relationship was based on friendship and mutual respect before the physical side was added. Still, it gives emotionally and sexually charged young people the impression that love is sex or vice versa.

Too many characters

True, Grant had a huge world to run and his story needed bodies to sacrifice to the evil inside the FAYZ. I have too many middle school students who can’t keep track of more than six or seven characters, so these books frustrated them.

If he would have focused less on the intricacies of how things ran, he could have spared us the enormous list of characters. However, the thing I liked about the series is that I could imagine this place and it was believable because he hadn’t overlooked any administrative details.

Of course, I read the entire series. Obviously, I must have liked a few things about it.

  • I liked that he started right at the point of the inciting event and gave us the necessary backstory of the characters gradually.
  • I loved the protagonist, Sam, but I felt like Grant made him less heroic as the series progressed. Sam lacked confidence, which is fine at the beginning of the series, but the fact that he had a similar view of himself after a year of defeating all sorts of mutated creatures annoyed me.
  • I certainly didn’t want him to become cocky. Caine took the cake in that category. Most of the kids believed in him and relied on him, but he didn’t believe in himself. Of course, the way Grant let Gaia beat up on Sam while he acted helpless reinforced that self-image.

Defeating the big boss should have been a group effort. Instead, Little Petey saves the day. It makes logical sense that since he created the FAYZ, he would need to destroy it, but it was anti-climactic. Everything Sam suffered inside that makeshift world seemed pointless at the end.

Dystopian novels entertain me because the author’s use uninhibited creativity to present scenarios that suspend disbelief. We can imagine a huge underground shelter for a select few before the end of the world comes at the hands of man (City of Ember). Or that war might cause our world to become a desert of conflict, guided by the law of “only the strong survive” (Blood Red Road).

Scientists and government officials desire to manipulate us. If they created an enormous lab test in Chicago, it might look exactly like Divergent. If the government decided to segregate the population even more, it could look like The Hunger Games.

Shouldn’t seeing all that could go wrong with society be depressing? What is the draw? If you like dystopian fiction, I’d love to hear from you.

Book Review: Rebel Heart

rebel heartSince I reviewed Moira Young’s first novel here, I thought I’d check in with readers about the sequel. The series is called Dust Lands and it looks like it will be a trilogy.

The book starts from Jack’s point of view, which is a good choice on Young’s part. He’s said to “betray” Saba in the flap copy, so seeing where that begins gives the reader sympathy for him. Later, more evidence piles up against him and Saba “sees” his betrayal with her own eyes. Her goal in this book is to find Jack, just like finding her brother was the goal in the first novel.

Saba disregards everyone – pretty much like before – to set out on her rescue mission. Of course, her brother and sister refuse to be left behind (did she really think she could leave them?) so they end up facing danger with her.

This time, the dystopian adventure goes awry. Through foreshadowing, the reader expects Saba to make another connection with Demalo, who is now the leader of New Eden and a new movement to remove the aged, infirm and unsavory from the planned Paradise. He’s put a price on her head, but she keeps dreaming about him.

It would have been nice if Saba could have kept one redeeming quality by the end of this sequel.  Unfortunately, I was sitting with Tommo by the campfire, sharing his spiteful thoughts: “Hurt. Betrayed. Decieved.”

As I write this, I’m rethinking my earlier assessment that Saba blows Katniss out of the water in terms of heroic qualities. It seems Young goes just a little too far trying to give Saba flaws. By the end of this book, only Jack is still talking to her, and we’re all imagining he wouldn’t be if he knew how she had betrayed him.

If you read the book, please chime in here and let me know what you think. It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy reading it; I was just frustrated that we still didn’t figure out Lugh’s issues and that Saba acted like a self-centered, lovelorn teenager, and she seemed so far above that in the first book.

Source: Young, Moira. Dust Lands: Rebel Heart. New York: Simon & Schuster Children’s Pubishing Division, 2012. Print.

 

Blood Red Road

Apparently, the sequel is out (and the teacher I work with has it), so I felt this might be the perfect time to review Moira Young’s debut young adult novel, Blood Red Road. Since it’s a dystopian novel, I volunteered to add it to my reading list – even though I didn’t really have extra time on hand for reading.

The librarian who recommended this book to our book group compared it to The Hunger Games. I see very few similarities. In fact, except for the use of dialect writing, Young’s book surpasses Collins’ best-seller in every way.

First of all, Saba, the 18-year-old protagonist, trumps Katniss. Saba might not have the ability to shoot arrows like Katniss, but she has something Katniss lacks – a determined purpose. Saba’s strong character compelled me to connect with her and read on to learn how she would solve her problems.

Wouldn’t you agree that Katniss seemed driven by her circumstances? Even at the end of the series, she was unsure what would truly make her content. She’d decided to willingly settle for whatever came her way.

Not so, Saba. When her twin brother is kidnapped, she sets out to rescue him. Her only plan is to rid herself of the burden of her 9-year-old sister and follow the tracks of the horsemen who stole him away.

Unfortunately, Saba has no experience with the “real world.” Her father kept them in an isolated area far from the remnants of so-called “civilization.” If this isn’t enough to hamper her quest, the fact that her little sister is just as stubborn as Saba adds conflict and complications.

Even though this is the first book in a series, it satisfies. The main problem in this story is solved at the end. Sure, there are enough loose ends to keep people reading the next book, but it offered its own catharsis. This is something I’ve learned more about during my play writing workshop (perhaps more on this later).

I wouldn’t recommend this book to any of my students who struggle with reading. The fact that Young uses phonetic spellings to add distinctiveness to her prose would hinder their ability to read and enjoy the story. I was able to adapt to the style (though I’m still debating if it served a purpose) and read the book quickly.

I highly recommend it to fans of dystopian novels. Young’s world resembles what “could be” enough that it doesn’t need tons of extra description. When she introduces new places, though, she does so with verve and keeps the action going at the same time. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel almost as much as I’m looking forward to the conclusive novel in Michael Grant’s Gone series.