01 September 2013

Quickie Book Reviews for August 2013

Arkansas (Celebrate the States) by Linda Jacobs Altman: Yet another of my literary travels, this one is just as well-written and informative as the others. It covers all the same areas, and makes for fun edutainment. Pretty much anything that could be said about the previous two Celebrate the States books could be said about this one.

Content Concerns: One of the photos shows some boys only wearing swim shorts, and another shows a girl in short shorts.

Score: 4/5
Hostage Lands by Douglas Bond: A Christian-themed book that brings history alive, Hostage Lands was so good that I devoured it in one sitting. If you like historical fiction, you should definitely check this one out as soon as possible. The action, the intensity, the reality of it all...amazing, seriously.

Content Concerns: As the book deals with a historical war, there is some violence.

Score: 4.5/5
Indiana (Celebrate the States) by Marlene Targ Brill: By now, all of these reviews are starting to sound alike. So, I'll just say this: If you're looking for a book about Indiana, with facts, history, trivia, and such all in a convenient package...look no further.

Content Concerns: Nothing of note.

Score: 4/5
Michigan (Celebrate the States) by Marlene Targ Brill: The same as the other books...which is not a bad thing. That's about all I can say.

Content Concerns: Nothing of note.

Score: 4/5
Fool's Gold: Color Me Consumed (True Colors, No. 6) by Melody Carlson: A fish-out-of-water tale that also is a criticism of American consumerism, Fool's Gold is just the kind of story I like: engaging, easy to follow, and with a blatant moral lesson. As a bit of a shopaholic myself, I think this is definitely something I needed to read.

Content Concerns: Drunkenness, plastic surgery, vanity, and selfish attitudes are vilified. Young ladies dress immodestly...and it's not (always) vilified.

Score: 4.25/5
Blade Silver: Color Me Scarred (True Colors, No. 7) by Melody Carlson: As you might have guessed, this episode in the True Colors series deals with self-flagellation, aka cutting. Though the story and characterization were good, the ending was too quick. It's good for what it is, but it's definitely not the best of the series.

Content Concerns: Along with cutting, drug use and familial emotional abuse are mentioned throughout. Yes, they're vilified for the sins they are, but it still may be too much for some readers.

Score: 3.5/5
Bitter Rose: Color Me Crushed (True Colors, No. 8) by Melody Carlson: Magdela, aka Maggie, goes through quite the emotional struggle in this novel. As a child of divorce myself, I understood her struggles, although my situation was a bit different, as my biological father was gone when I was a mere infant. Still, Melody Carlson does very well narrating Maggie's story, though I could have done with a bit more actual Spanish. This is, in a way, better than the previous True Colors books.

Content Concerns: Divorce, implied affairs, discussions of sex, etc., all of which are just as vilified as they should be.

Score: 4.5/5
Faded Denim: Color Me Trapped (True Colors, No. 9) by Melody Carlson: Yet another book in the True Colors series, Faded Denim deals with eating disorders and body consciousness. Emily Foster starts to feel that she is "too fat," and starts binge dieting, while hiding it from everybody else. The lessons she--and others!--learn are valuable ones that everyone needs to hear. Fans of the series up to this point should definitely read this one.

Content Concerns: Binge dieting, needless plastic surgery, and bullying are all mentioned, but are also all vilified.

Score: 3.75/5
Tartarus (Kingdom Wars II) by Jack Cavanaugh: This spiritual-warfare-themed sequel features an engaging story, a wonderfully imperfect hero, and some shocking plot twists. Where it falters is the ending, which seems a bit too pat. Still, I enjoyed it for the most part.

Content Concerns: I'll have to spoil the plot a bit, so be warned: The entire book revolves around a demon who takes on human form to impersonate Jesus. Also mentioned are a human entering Sheol and the son of a Nephilim, as mentioned in Genesis. If taken literally, much of the book could be disturbing to some.

Score: 2.75
Timepiece by Richard Paul Evans: I'm largely unfamiliar with the writings of Richard Paul Evans, so, Timepiece was an introduction of sorts. Since it's apparently a prequel to an already-written book, it ends a bit abruptly, presumably leaving it open for the sequel. As such, I wasn't exactly satisfied with it, though it did prove to be somewhat enjoyable.

Content Concerns: Some usage of profanity.

Score: 2.75/5
Breath of Angel (Angelaeon Circle, No. 1) by Karyn Henley: Though I appreciate Christian fiction, this whole angels/Nephilim trend needs to stop. Not only is a a mere knock-off of the vampire and zombie stories that are popular worldwide, but these books about said otherworldly creatures are terrible. This one in particular is such a mess, I don't even know what to make of it. Shape the culture, people; don't imitate it!

Score: 1/5
Crater (Helium-3, No. 1) by Homer Hickam: The author of the beloved book Rocket Boys, which later became the movie October Sky, now is trying his hand at fiction, and the end result is actually very good.  A fun, kid-friendly interstellar adventure, Crater is well-written and enjoyable.

Content Concerns: Mild violence, a scant few instances of implied profanity, some intensity...about as innocent as what you are likely to see on the Disney Channel.

Score: 4.5/5
The Blue Door (Threshold, No. 1) by Christa Kinde: Ever since I read Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness a few years ago, spiritual warfare novels have enthralled me.  However, this one fails because there isn't enough intensity.  Though battling for the souls of mankind is mentioned, the angels act more like imaginary friends than warriors, and much of the book focuses on Priscilla "Prissie" Pomeroy attempting to make friends.  Even the scenes that should be intense don't feel that way.  As much as the topic of spiritual warfare has been written about, there are likely tons of better books on the topic.

Content Concerns: Anyone who can't/doesn't understand spiritual warfare should avoid this.  Of course, even if you do comprehend such matters, you'll probably want to avoid it, too; see above for why.

Score: 1.5/5
Arizona (Celebrate the States) by Melissa McDaniel: This literary trip uses both well-written descriptions and wonderful photos to show what Arizona is all about.  Though it may be intended for younger audiences, even some adults who are unfamiliar about the youngest state within the lower forty-eight will learn plenty here.

Content Concerns: A section mentions that several cities/towns have the word "hell" in their name.  People are seen in swimsuits in two or three photos, but they're far off in the distance, and the pictures are really meant to show the scenery.

Score: 4/5
The Dragon's Touchstone (Dragon Nimbus History, No. 1) by Irene Radford: This is the only book I have read to date that I can say gave me rather weird, disturbing dreams; regardless of that, the book never reaches above mere mediocrity. Fans of dragon stories would be better off reading something by Anne McCaffrey, Bryan Davis, or Donita Paul. Even the grammar--at least, in the edition I had--was pretty bad.

Content Concerns: Descriptions of lust and orgy-like festivals are quite prevalent. There are quite a few profanities. Some may quibble with the usage of magic, and that the heroine is a "witchwoman".

Score: 2/5
A Matter of Trust (Mia Quinn, No. 1) by Lis Wiehl with April Henry: After trudging through several mediocre or terrible books in the past few weeks--see my previous reviews--this was exactly what I needed. Fast-paced, wonderfully written, easily readable, suspenseful...what more could you want? Lis Wiehl has joined the likes of Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker, and Jack McDevitt by becoming one of my favorite authors!

Content Concerns: As usual for Ms. Wiehl's works, this one is quite edgy. Violence is depicted and referenced throughout, and homosexuality, suicide, sex crimes, and such are all discussed. If that's too much for you...stay away.

Score: 4.75/5
Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn: Have I fallen out of love with Star Wars? I'm not sure, but, most of the Expanded Universe novels I've read lately have been mediocre at best, even ones published before the prequel trilogy came out. Scoundrels is a decent novel, but definitely nothing special. Though most fans of Lucas' space opera have already read this at least once, those who are new to the EU should check out the Thrawn trilogy first.

Content Concerns: A few profanities and a bit of violence. The story is pretty much criminal vs. criminal, though anyone familiar with the original movie trilogy knows that Han ends up being a hero.

Score: 2.75/5

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