Summer Reading: Mini-Reviews

As summer has progressed, I’ve gotten busier. The good news is I’ve managed to keep track on writing. The bad news is that my reading list has suffered.

summer-2016-books1

Some of you might remember was writing monthly reviews on what I’d read, but I realized I’d only be posting about one or two books a month, so I decided I’d settle for writing seasonal mini-reviews on the fiction I’d been reading.

a-branch-of-silver-a-branch-of-goldOverview: When Heloise’s sister vanishes, she will do anything to get her back. No matter the cost.

Technical aspects: Writing: 4.5 of 5 – Characters: 5 of 5 – Dialogue: 5 of 5 – Theme 4 of 5

My thoughts: I loved the depth of the fantasy world and the characters. I also liked how there was very little romance…a few hints of what could happen towards the end, but that was it. This is the first book in a series and, while ending the story, A Branch of Silver, A Branch of Gold was left very open ended (obviously). The climax of the book was exciting but *spoilers* I did feel like it more involved Heloise reacting to situations and accepting help than actively forcing a conclusion.

Recommendation:  4.5 of 5. This book was an exciting read and I enjoyed how the focus was more sibling orientated than romance orientated…though that is something which I’ve a feeling won’t continue through the series.

elantris

Overview: Once a transformation called the Shaod gave ordinary humans power. Now it is a disease. For those who are struck, there is no cure and they are thrown into the city they once ruled, Elantris. But while Elantris is rotting from the inside, not all is well in the lands under its shadow either.

Technical aspects: Writing: 5 of 5 – Characters: 5 of 5 – Dialogue: 5 of 5

My thoughts: This is the closest to an ‘epic’ fantasy I’ve read in awhile. The book is long, but I didn’t find it slow. Also, three cheers for a story contained in a single book! I loved the depth of the fantasy world and the multiple threads of politics and religion with influence the story. The themes of loyalty and doing one’s duty are strong, but Elantris is not a Christian fiction book so the religions are just that, belief systems of the world. They’re not allegorical, they are just there. There is also a magical element in the story with an abstract force which can be tapped into by those with the right abilities.

Recommendation:  4.5 of 5. I love fantasy, so I loved all the subplots and threads of this story, but this book isn’t for everyone. However, if you enjoy world-building and don’t mind an abstract view of magic or fictional religions (they play a fairly large part in the story, though their details aren’t gone into much…it’s political as much as anything else) then I’d definitely recommend the book for those 13 and up (due to an element of violence which isn’t graphic, but is still present).

cave-worldOverview: Donny enjoys writing about his science-fiction world where all worlds are connected by the caves of the planet Arrax. What he doesn’t expect is to be caught into his own world.

Technical aspects: Writing: 4 of 5 – Characters: 4.5 of 5 – Dialogue: 4 of 5 – Theme 4 of 5

My thoughts: Cave World was a fun read. I loved the humor included as well as the idea of meeting one’s characters and entering a world one has created. The characters were fun and the plot moved quickly.

Recommendation:  4 of 5. An enjoyable read, but I’d recommend it for those 13 and up since it is on the darker side of Christian science fiction when it comes to violence.

Overview: What if some people have the gift to read characters out of books? And what happens when the villains escape and want to use the reader’s gift for their own profit.

Technical aspects: Writing: 4.5 of 5 – Characters: 5 of 5 – Dialogue: 5 of 5

My thoughts: I’ve read Inkheart and Inkspell, and Inkdeath is on my list sometime soon. These books are charming and well written with great characters. The first one started a little slow, the next one not so much. But even if it takes 100 or so pages before the story is moving quickly, they are also 500+ pages long so there is plenty of time for action. Warning: there are a few minor swear words, mainly when the aunt is talking.

Recommendation:  4.5 of 5. I’ve enjoyed these books very much. As I mentioned before, I love writers meeting characters and the idea of going into a book.

the-secret-of-the-lost-settlementOverview: A Colonel must find proof to save himself and his friend from the gallows while two brothers eager for an adventure take it upon themselves to help him.

Technical aspects: Writing: 4 of 5 – Characters: 4 of 5 – Dialogue: 4 of 5 – Theme 4 of 5

My thoughts: Secret of the Lost Settlement brings Colonel Nobody from The Boy Colonel and Lawrence and Chester from Brothers at Arms together in one adventure. This is a fairly quick and enjoyable read.

Recommendation:  4 of 5. If you’ve read the first two books, then this book is a fun sequel where you can see your favorite characters again.

What about you? Have you, or will you, read any of the books I’ve mentioned? What have you been reading this summer?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

 

Books Worth Reading – May 2016

I’m delighted to be able to share with you some of my bookish discoveries this last month.

It’s not all fantasy this time. My second great love, after fantasy, is futuristic fiction. There’s more connecting the two genres than might appear: one gets to create the world and do pretty much whatever one pleases, either with technology or fantasy type power. The rules can be bent and history invented. So, first on of all…

Futuristic Fiction

I read the first book in the Out of Time Series, A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes. Yes, the title made some of my family give me strange looks, but it is perfect of the theme. What would you do if you knew the day of your death? And if that day was almost upon you?

Writing: 5 out of 5; well written and engaging. The style, while following a basic story arc, reminded me of how a biography would follow a person’s life more than the normal novel.Hence, there were some parts which might seem a little slow in a novel where every scene is building towards one single goal, but I think it works in this book.

Characters: 5 out of 5; oh the poor characters. I can’t believe how much Nadine hurts them. Even as a writer, there were still some parts which shocked me. And then it got me thinking…and that might not be good news for future characters of my own. But I digress. I loved the characters in this book. And I loved Parvin, the main character. Her fears, her doubts, the raw realness of her struggles in and with faith… it was excellent.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5; Fresh, strong.

Theme: 5 out of 5; Very clear and foundational to the story, but at no time does Parvin’s struggles seemed forced or sections turn preachy.

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; I highly recommend this book. I just bought the second book, A Time To Speak and am looking forward to reading that as soon as I get though some library books. And the last book, A Time To Rise, comes out this fall. *squeals* Which is another reason I keep putting off A Time To Speak; once it’s over, I won’t have the next book to read until later this year.

Fantasy Books

I heard about The Blades of Acktar series from a friend who highly recommended them. In a fantasy land, set in some obscure corner of our world, Christians must worship in secret to escape the wrath of an evil king and his handpicked blades; assassins proficient at spying and fighting with knives. And the best thing about Dare and Deny is that the third (and, I think, final) book in the series just came out yesterday. I’m eagerly looking forward to reading it.

Writing: 4 out of 5; the beginning of the first book was a little slow, but not enough for me to stop reading.

Characters: 4 out of 5; the characters are deep, but not broad. Each character has a distinguishing characteristic by which they are defined, and that characteristic is present in almost every interaction. But I still love the characters, even Renna, who’s doubt and fear sometimes made me sigh. This, by the way, is simply personal opinion; but while I like and know there needs to be room for character development, I do like reading about main characters with a little more confidence.

Dialogue: 4.5 out of 5

Theme: 4.5 out of 5; Very clear and very up front, but it didn’t proceed to the point where it was annoying and preachy.

Recommendation: 4 out of 5; I love the blades, and I love Leith. And my only consolation for the end of the second book was that the third book was about to come out. The mixture of a fantasy land in name, along with real life Christianity works well. While not my absolute favorite books, mainly because I like my characters to have more breath and nuances, I would recommend them as an interesting and exciting read filled with danger, turmoil, and treachery.

Other…Book

I’m not sure what to call The Hidden Oracle, the first book in the Trials of Apollo series. It’s not really fantasy; more a mix of modern and mythology. The premise in all of Rick Riordan’s books, of which he’s written quite a few (the Percy Jackson series being my favorite) is that the Greek gods are real. Not real in that they are God (the idea of there being an all-powerful God is left open ended), but they are immortal beings which tinker in the affairs of men and who have children with them. These children are called demigods and are the main characters in most of the books…except this one, where the main character is actually Apollo, who Zeus has made human. (Apparently that happened twice in mythology…and now once in Riordan’s books.)

Writing: 5 out of 5; Rick Riordan is an excellent writer who makes me laugh with the most outrageous random lines.

Characters: 5 out of 5; the characters are all layered, distinct, and play off each other in a very humorous manner. Also, there is an arrow that talks in Shakespearean English near the end of the book. I’ve read of talking swords, but never about talking arrows. It was absolutely hilarious.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5

Theme: Umm, this is the one reason I debated between mentioning the book, but the talking arrow tipped the scales in the story’s favor. Rick Riordan is not a Christian author. Actually, his books are some of the few fiction books I read outside of the ‘inspirational fiction’ area. There are good themes of loyalty and courage, but Riordan’s view of life, and of marriage is not the Christian view of one man and one woman. Not that there is overwhelming romance of any kind in these books, but when it is touched on in minor subplots, the worldly view of ‘marriage’ is treated as normal and perfectly fine.

Recommendation: 4 out of 5; because of the book’s theme not being Christian as mentioned above, I can’t recommend it 5 out of 5 like I’d really like to. I enjoyed the book, and love most of Riordan’s works that I’ve read. But, in the end, you’ll have to decide if you want to read a book which treats some sins as fine and normal, recognizing that the author’s worldview is wrong, or if you’d rather forego it altogether.

Flashback Fantasy

And I figured, since there’s lots of books I’ve read which I won’t be rereading any time soon but still want to share with you, to have a ‘Flashback Fantasy’ section each month. So, without more ado, the Wingfeather Saga, everyone!

I started reading this series when a friend sent me the first book for my birthday. She sent me the second book a few months later, and then I eagerly bought the last two books in The Wingfeather Saga before handing them off to my brothers who also loved them

Writing: 5 out of 5; the writing is for a younger age group than I normally read; probably 12-15. But who cares? I loved the story and I loved the humor, even when it was a bit silly in the first book or two.

Characters: 5 out of 5; very distinct, each character with their own humorous addition to the story which sometimes covers painful secrets.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5

Theme: 5 out of 5; these are fantasy books, but the Maker (God) is mentioned and referenced as a part of life, not just some abstract and distant force.

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; These books made me laugh. They made me cry. I ached for the characters and I loved them. It’s an especially great series to read out loud to younger siblings. I just might do that this summer…

How about you? Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned and what did you think? What other Christian fantasy books do you love?

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.