Monday, October 27, 2014

Review - "To Everything a Season" by Lauraine Snelling

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To Everything a Season
by Lauraine Snelling
Song of Blessing series, Book #1
Published by Bethany House Publishers
352 Pages
Target Audience: Adults
Genres: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Christian Romance
About this book:
"Beloved Author Lauraine Snelling Returns Again to Her Popular Red River Valley Setting.

Trygve Knutson is devoted to his family and his community. With his job on the construction crew, he is helping to build a future for the North Dakota town of Blessing. Though he loves his home, he sometimes dreams of other horizons--especially since meeting Miriam Hastings.

Miriam is in Blessing to get practical training to become an accredited nurse. She's been promised a position in the Chicago women's hospital that will enable her to support her siblings and her ailing mother. Although eager to return to her family, Miriam is surprised to find how much she enjoys the small town of Blessing. And her growing attachment to Trygve soon has her questioning a future she always considered set in stone.

When a family emergency calls Miriam home sooner than planned, will she find a way to return? If not, will it mean losing Trygve--and her chance at love--for good?"
Longtime readers and fans of Lauraine Snelling’s books may enjoy this book, but as a first time reader of Ms. Snelling’s books, I was disappointed. This book did not read like a first book in a new series. The characters living in the town of Blessing are never really introduced; it seems your just supposed to already know who all the characters are and how they’re all related. And there are so many characters! I had a hard time keeping track of who all the characters were and how they were all related to each other and I had to keep going back to previous chapters to remind myself who they were. By the end of the book I still couldn’t remember who all the characters were. I realize this a new spin-off series based off of some of Ms. Snelling’s previous series and that it would be better to read the previous series before reading this one, but since this is the first book in a new series I thought it would be easy enough for a new reader to follow and would have enough back story or information about the characters to be able to understand without having to read the previous series. To me, it seems like this book would have been better if published as a continuation of another series instead of a brand new one.

The story was a slow paced one and didn’t really reflect the summary on the back of the book. Miriam isn’t even introduced in the story until nearly halfway into the book which I found to be odd since she is supposed to be a main character. The story focuses more around a bank robbery and the everyday lives of some of the characters than it did around a relationship between Miriam and Trygve. The family emergency mentioned in the summary that calls Miriam home didn’t even happen until the end of the book, so the questions asked in the summary are never answered in this book and the book ends with a cliffhanger type of ending. The summary just seems misleading.

I also don’t agree with Ms. Snelling’s beliefs that it doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian or are a follower of the Catholic faith; that ultimately you’re a saved Christian if you're either one. I don’t agree with this. Christianity and the Catholic faith are not the same thing and Christians and Catholics believe in different things.

I did like that the book was centered around a Norwegian family as I haven’t really read books where Norwegians are the main characters. That made it more interesting. And I liked the close-knit relationship the family had. It was also interesting to have part of the story revolve around the work of female doctors. But overall this book just wasn’t for me and I doubt I’ll be reading the next one in the series.

*I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review - "Thunder" by Bonnie S. Calhoun

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by Bonnie S. Calhoun
Stone Braide Chronicles series, Book #1
Published by Revell
432 Pages
Target Audience: Young Adults
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Christian Fiction, Dystopian, Fantasy
About this book:
"The Time of Sorrows is long past.
The future of Selah and her people is shrouded in mystery.
And the clock is ticking.

Hidden in the tall grasses along a shore littered with the rusted metal remnants of a once-great city, a hunter crouches. It is the eve of her eighteenth Birth Remembrance and high time she proves to herself and her brothers that she can stand on her own two feet. Selah Rishon Chavez waits not for game but for one of the small boats that occasionally crash against the desolate shoreline. Because inside one of these boats she will find her quarry--a Lander.

These people from an unknown land across the ocean are highly prized by the Company and bring a good price--especially if they keep the markings they arrive with.

Everything falls to pieces when the Lander whom Selah catches is stolen by her brothers, and Selah wakes the next morning to find the Lander's distinctive mark has appeared on her own flesh. Once the hunter, Selah is now one of the hunted, and she knows only one person who can help her--Bodhi Locke, the Lander her brothers hope to sell in the Mountain.

With evocative descriptions of a strange new world that combines elements of disturbing scientific advances, devious political conspiracy, and survival in a hostile wilderness, Bonnie S. Calhoun weaves a captivating tale of a society more like our own than we may want to admit. From the tension-laced first scene to the captivating last page, "Thunder" is an epic journey into the heart of humankind that explores how far we are willing to go when we're pushed to the limit."

 This review is hard for me to write as there are extremely few books I’ve read that I would completely not recommend, and I dislike writing negative reviews. Honestly, I didn’t even finish this book and I can’t remember a time when I’ve done so purposefully, instead of not finishing a book due to lack of time. I tried to read the whole book, I truly did, but gave up about 268 pages into it.

I enjoy reading some dystopian books and when I saw a new book fitting that genre being published by Revell, I was excited to read it. That excitement was short lived.

My first problem with the book is that the summaries I’ve read about what the book is about didn’t disclose what Selah and the Landers are. When it comes to books dealing with the spiritual world or paranormal like themes, I am extremely picky and discerning with what I choose to read. While not officially stated that the characters are such by the point in the book that I read up to, it seems that Selah is basically some kind of a half angel (the angels being the Landers) and half human hybrid. One indication of this is that the Landers’ mark is wing shaped. If even that bit of information had been disclosed in the book’s summaries it would have been helpful as I could have figured out what this book was most likely about. Even if I’m wrong and the Landers aren’t supposed to be angels, and Selah a half angel and half human hybrid, they are definitely some type of supernatural beings. Had I known that I would have passed on reading this book. I know there are differing opinions on reading books that deal with descendents of angels and humans, but I personally choose not to read books that deal with that subject. I think writing about half angel/half human hybrids or hybrids similar to such in fiction is messing with the spiritual world in a way it shouldn’t be.

Needless to say, once I figured this out early on in the story I wasn’t enthusiastic about reading this book. But I received a review copy of this book and felt like I should still continue to read it to give a proper review. I thought I could at least read it and review other aspects of it. But the more I read, the less I cared about the book and eventually gave up reading it.

My biggest concern and what caused me to give up on the book is that the Landers started mentioning auras and channeling and such a few times. While really not detailed, I just don’t think that this stuff belongs in a book marketed as a Christian book the same way I wouldn't want the Christian characters, or if not Christian characters, the "good guys" of the story to be involved with witchcraft or something similar as it makes those things look harmless or good. It just really bothers me when this stuff is put in "Christian" books.

As for the supposed romance between Selah and Bodhi, it seemed to be based on nothing more than physical/sexual attraction and felt more like lust for each other than anything else. By the time the story got to the part that was supposed to be romantic
, I was basically rolling my eyes because the characters really didn’t even like each other. All they seemed to care about was how good the other looked (ex. How good Bodhi looked with his shirt off) or how they felt when they saw how good the other looked or were near/touching each other, such as Bohdi giving Selah “shivers” or how "adrenaline freshened her nerves, and sent electricity up her arm" at a point when their fingers touch and stuff like that. To me, nothing but sexual tension and I would like there to be more to a relationship than that. Let’s just say I could really care less about their romantic relationship up to the point I read.

As for other sexual references, Selah is assaulted/attacked by guys twice, the first time being in the first chapter. One part says that one guy is looking her up and down and she felt like he was groping her. They hit her more than once and hold her down in the sand to the point where she almost passes out. A man also did something to a girl that is a character in the story at one time, but no details about this had been given by the point I read up to. It was mentioned a couple times though, and I assume he abused her.

These are my main dissatisfactions with the book. There are more, but I won’t continue with other things that may be considered spoilers.

As for the storyline or plot itself, it was okay, but not great. The parts relating to the Mountain got to be boring. Ultimately, for a book in the dystopia genre, the world the characters live in just didn’t draw me into the story like it normally would. I guess it’s because I was expecting a more realistic "what might happen in the future United States after a catastrophe occurred" type of world, but instead got some kind of paranormal fantasy world I wasn’t expecting that was supposed to take place in the United States’ future 150 years after a nuclear attack. It didn’t even feel like the story took place in the United States to me, but in some fantasy world instead. It’s as though the author couldn’t decide what type of story to write or what genre to base their story on. The end result is a book combining several genres in a confusing mix that really doesn’t make sense.

The only thing I can actually think of that I somewhat liked about the story was the sisterly bond that Selah had with her siblings and others in the story and how she thought better of some characters than they deserved.

Will there eventually be some kind of allegorical message to this series by the time it is finished? Will Selah’s and Bodhi’s relationship be about more than physical/sexual attraction to each other? Will there be some kind of clear reference to Christianity which I have yet to see at some point in this series? Maybe is my answer to all of these questions, but I have no interest in finishing this book or reading the next installments in the series to find out.

* I received this book for free from Revell Reads in exchange for my honest review.