01 July 2013

Quickie Book Reviews for June 2013

Demi Lovato: All Access (Totally Unauthorized!) by Riley Brooks: This book may be a biography, and, therefore, non-fiction, but non-fiction can still be entertainment, especially when it's about a celebrity of any sort.  This "totally unauthorized" book was published in 2009, before Ms. Lovato had her psychological issues.  Since things have changed for her big time in the past four years, this biography is a bit outdated.  The stats--her birthdate and birthplace, for example--and stories about her past are still true, but people who are looking for up-to-date information will feel like their DVD player was unplugged when there was still a half-hour of the movie left.

Content Concerns: The photo section shows Demi and other young ladies wearing short skirts or off-the-shoulder tops.  Right at the end, Demi's most embarrassing moment, which involves accidental exposure of her private parts, is mentioned.

Score: 2.75/5
The Kingdom (Fargo Adventures, No. 1) by Clive Cussler with Grant Blackwood: Clive Cussler is well-known for his action/adventure writings, and it's books like this one that prove why.  Fun, engaging, exciting, and everything one could want from such a novel.  If you haven't read anything by Mr. Cussler...what are you waiting for?

Content Concerns: Some violence, but nothing terribly graphic.  The h-word and d-word are used about three or four times each.

Score: 4.25/5
The Search (Left Behind: The Kids, No. 9) by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye with Chris Fabry: The Young Tribulation Force's ninth outing involves one kid being captured, and the other kids putting it all on the line to save him, all while World War III has broke loose.  Exciting, intense, and gripping, this is what "end times" fiction should be.

Content Concerns: As mentioned above, kidnapping plays a big part in this book.  There is also some violence, as well as one or two depictions of smoking.  The intensity might be a bit much for young kids.

Score: 4.5/5
On the Run (Left Behind: The Kids, No. 10) by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye with Chris Fabry: The young adult end times serial continues; in this episode, one of the kids gets imprisoned.  By now, there isn't much left to say about the series, so I'll just say this: If you've enjoyed the series up to this point, you'll probably enjoy this tenth volume, too.

Content Concerns: A bit intense, but that goes with the subject material.

Score: 4.5/5
Into the Storm (Left Behind: The Kids, No. 11) by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye with Chris Fabry: Those who have been reading the series up to this point--or following my reviews of it--should know what to expect by now.  So, I'll just say that this eleventh volume is pretty much more of what the previous books gave us.  As a fan of the series, I say that's a good thing; you may feel differently based on your experiences with these books.

Content Concerns: Intensity, action, end-times theology…again, more of the same.

Score: 4.25/5
Earthquake! (Left Behind: The Kids, No. 12) by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye with Chris Fabry: As the title suggests, the ground is literally shaking throughout this twelfth entry in the series.  As such, it is probably the most intense and involving volume so far.  If you've read the series up to this point, you must continue with this one.

Content Concerns: Disaster violence and peril, which also involves characters getting injured and possibly killed.  Like I said above, it's the most intense one yet.

Score: 4.75/5
Taliesin (The Pendragon Cycle, No. 1) by Stephen R. Lawhead: Though epic in its scope, I found this trilogy-starting novel a bit hard to follow.  I think I understood the basic plot, but some of the details were confusing.  What should have been an amazing historical epic ended up being merely mediocre.

Content Concerns: This isn't really for kids, anyway, but, there was some violence and consumption of alcohol.

Score: 2.5/5
No Guys Pact (Holly's Heart, No. 9) by Beverly Lewis: After a bit of a hiatus from the Holly's Heart series, I am now back into it! This one feels like a cross between VeggieTales and Lizzie McGuire, and makes for enjoyable reading.  Of course, if you didn't enjoy the first novel or two in the series, you wouldn't even care about this one...right?

Content Concerns: Some Nickelodeon-sitcom-esque pratfalls.  A prank involves the girls' underwear being put on display, but that is vilified.

Score: 4/5
Little White Lies (Holly's Heart, No. 10) by Beverly Lewis: When Holly-Heart and her BFF Andie Martinez take a two-week jaunt to SoCal, everything seems great…until Andie falls in love with Rico, a nineteen-year-old guy! Holly knows Rico is bad news, but Andie doesn't seem to realize that.  Will she see the truth in time? Not the best of the Holly's Heart books, but still pretty good.

Content Concerns: A problematic relationship is described, but vilified.  There is some emotional intensity towards the end.

Score: 3.75/5
Freshman Frenzy (Holly's Heart, No. 11) by Beverly Lewis: When Holly and Andie's junior high school becomes overcrowded, they get bumped up to high school!  Andie decides to run for class president…but her choice causes a rift between her and Holly! This is back to normal for the series; this far into it, that's about all I can say.

Content Concerns: Nothing of note.  It's as clean as the average episode of Lizzie McGuire.

Score: 4.25/5
Mystery Letters (Holly's Heart, No. 12) by Beverly Lewis: When Holly-Heart starts writing a column in her school's paper, she starts getting letters from a secret admirer? Who could he be? Yet another enthralling story in this series.

Content Concerns: None at all; this one is completely innocent.

Score: 4.25/5
Star Wars: Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader by James Luceno: An old friend once criticized Attack of the Clones by saying, "No matter how cute they make Anakin, everybody knows he's going to become Darth Vader." Dark Lord wasn't exactly cute, but its lackluster feel due to everyone already knowing what will happen to that infamous black-clad cyborg. I seriously struggled to finish it.

Content Concerns: I had trouble following this one, but, as usual for science fiction/fantasy works, violence seemed to be the main concern.

Score: 1.25
Miss Match (Lauren Holbrook, No. 1) by Erynn Mangum: This Christian "young adult" novel tells of a twenty-something lifelong single who watches as her friends and family find romance, yet she gets none of it herself.  As someone who has always been sans significant other, I can identify with Lauren's feelings and frustrations.  This series is off to a cracking good start.

Content Concerns: Nothing worse than a quip or two and usage of words like "gosh" only once or twice.

Score: 4.5/5
The Haunting (Forbidden Doors, No. 4) by Bill Myers: I started this series early this year, but it took me months to get my hands on more volumes of Forbidden Doors.  As with the first three books, this one deals with spiritual warfare, which is a rather creepy subject.  It also discusses what truly being a Christian is, and why it is wrong to plot revenge.  Anyone who has enjoyed these books up to this point will find plenty to love about this fourth entry in the series.

Content Concerns: The subject matter--demons--is inherently creepy, which makes this inappropriate for the very young.  Even some teens may be freaked out; consider whether or not you could read something like this before you actually do.

Score: 4.5/5
The Guardian (Forbidden Doors, No. 5) by Bill Myers: Mr. Myers' spiritual warfare serial continues right where the prequel--see above--left off.  Though well-written, it is, as usual for this series, a bit freaky.  The cliffhanger ending left me panting for the sixth book; thankfully, I already have a copy of it.

Content Concerns: Pretty much the same as what I described in the above review.

Score: 4.5/5
The Encounter (Forbidden Doors, No. 6) by Bill Myers: Things continue to get crazy for Becka Williams, her family, and her friends.  The intensity and supernatural drama that have been prevalent throughout this series so far go even further.  Scary stuff, but gripping nonetheless.

Content Concerns: Spiritual warfare is the topic, and it is depicted in rather lurid detail; if that would creep you or your kid out, you/he/she probably shouldn't read this.

Score: 4.5/5
In the Shadow of the Sun King by Golden Keyes Parsons: Usually, when people say, "Don't judge a book by its cover," they're not really talking about literature; in fact, I've found that the front and back covers of most media--books, CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, etc.--are usually a fair judge as to whether something is worth buying or borrowing.  The cover image of this book is badly photographed--look at the weird expression on that lady's face!--and that's indicative of the internal contents.  Bad writing, uninteresting plot...it has to be one of the worst books I've read in a while.  I struggled to get as far as a did, and I was about sixty percent through it before I quit.  If my copy hadn't been water damaged, it would be taken to the used bookstore ASAP.

Content Concerns: Oh, who cares? If you read my review, you won't want to read it anyway.

Score: 1.25/5 
Damascus Countdown (The Twelfth Imam, No. 3) by Joel C. Rosenberg: By now, most readers should know what to expect from Mr. Rosenberg: action and espionage seemingly ripped from tomorrow's headlines that is based on Biblical prophecy.  For fans of his works--such as myself--this is great news.  The writing, action, and everything else are just as great as we've come to expect from this "modern Nostradamus".  Where will the series go from here? The ending--which I won't give away!--adds a whole new wrinkle to the story.

Content Concerns: Plenty of violence, some of it bloody.  Definitely not for young children, as it would scare and confuse them.

Score: 4.5/5

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