30 September 2013

Quickie Book Reviews for September 2013

Author: Evan Angler
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Published: May 1, 2012
Swipe (Swipe, No. 1) by Evan Angler: Evan Angler's first novel starts off what seems to be a crackling good series. With plenty of intensity, a bit of romance, and a world that is decidedly dark but eerily smacks of our own, this book had me hook, line, and sinker. This one may be considered "young adult" fiction, but I have a feeling that older readers will be just as enthralled. I hope I can get my hands on the later books in the series very soon.

Score: 4.75/5
Author: Isaac Asimov
Publisher: Fawcett Crest
Published: November 1953
Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids (Lucky Starr, No. 2) by Isaac Asimov writing as Paul French: This second entry in the Lucky Starr series by "Paul French" (actually, Isaac Asimov) feels like an abridged version of previously published novel. Though the story is good, it's a bit rushed, and it seemed like some of the plot threads could have been expanded upon a bit. I have little doubt that Asimov fanatics will adore this; for those of us who are casual fans of the Grandmaster, you might want to wait until you've read all his other works before reading this one.

Content Concerns: Some sci-fi action and peril.

Score: 3/5
Author: Margaret Wander Bonnano
Publisher: Pocket Books
Published: September 30, 1991
Probe (Star Trek) by Margaret Wander Bonnano: This book reminds me of my first experience with Star Trek...but that isn't a good thing. When I was in high school, I attempted to watch Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and couldn't finish it because it was quite boring. It wasn't until I saw Nemesis that I became a fan of the franchise. Probe was also rather unexciting, and is likely to turn off potential readers of other Trek novels if this is their first experience with such literature.

Content Concerns: As usual, there is a bit of language.

Score: 2/5
Author: Ruth Bjorklund
Publisher: Benchmark Books
Published: April 28, 2000
Kansas (Celebrate the States) by Ruth Bjorklund: Seriously, just go see my previous reviews of the books in this series.

Score: 4/5

Author: Robin Carroll
Publisher: Multnomah
Published: September 16, 2008
In the Shadow of Evil by Robin Carroll: This Christian-themed mystery isn't anything special, but it made for an enjoyable read nonetheless. Any fan of Christian fiction who hasn't already read this should do so, but don't expect it to be groundbreaking.

Content Concerns: As usual for mysteries, murder and mayhem occur throughout. Fires are set, and they endanger or kill multiple people, including a baby.

Score: 3.5/5

Author: Melody Carlson
Publisher: Multnomah
Published: September 16, 2008
The Other Side of Darkness by Melody Carlson: A literary critic once said that Melody Carlson writes the hardest-hitting novels in all of Christian fiction, and this book proves him/her right. Though very bleak in tone, the narrative is so amazingly written and compelling that I must give The Other Side of Darkness five stars. Ms. Carlson's story of a woman's spiritual struggle that unwittingly wreaks havoc on her family and friends is flat-out amazing. Even those who aren't usually fans of Christian fiction will probably still enjoy this.

Content Concerns: If this were a theatrically released movie, the MPAA would likely give it "PG-13 for thematic material". The narrator sees demons at every turn, and goes to great lengths to eradicate them from her home, even going as far as destroying her family's Christmas tree. There are also accusations of sexual abuse and implied swearing. This is definitely not kid stuff, and probably too much for even some teens and adults.

Score: 5/5

Author: Ted Dekker
Publisher: Center Street/FaithWords
Published: September 13, 2011
Forbidden (Books of Mortals, No. 1) by Ted Dekker: Ted Dekker is a rarity: a Christian author who has consistently had mainstream success. One look at his writings, and it's not hard to see why: he tells a compelling story, and does it amazingly well. The Books of Mortals series is off to a crackling good start with this premiere novel, which I read for the second time so I could re-familiarize myself with the story arc before I read the last entry in the series. Anyone who enjoyed Mr. Dekker's Circle trilogy should definitely check this out.

Content Concerns: The length alone makes it not for kids, but it's also a bit too edgy for the very young.

Score: 4.75/5

Author: Brandt Dodson
Publisher: Harvest House
Published: March 1, 2006
Original Sin (Colton Parker, No. 1) by Brandt Dodson: Does adding in a few positive references to God and Jesus automatically make a book "Christian"? That's the question I asked myself after reading this. What seemed like a mere murder mystery spent much of its time talking about the porn industry. Granted, the author kept it tasteful, but I couldn't shake the feeling that it was merely a censored version of a trashy television show. Ephesians 5:12 says, "It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret" (NIV), and this book comes a little too close to that for my tastes. This is one case where I wished I hadn't shelled out the cash--okay, store credit--for more than one entry in the series at my local used bookstore.

Content Concerns: See above.

Score: 2.25/5

Authors: Jason Elam and Steve Yohn
Publisher: Tyndale
Published: January 1, 2010
Blackout (Riley Covington, No. 3) by Jason Elam and Steve Yohn: It's funny how the amazingly talented author Joel C. Rosenberg endorsed this series, because, while reading this third entry, it felt like a knock-off of his works.  There's plenty of action and excitement, but it feels a bit lackluster, and the annoying space-wasting format made the thickness of the book deceptive.  Fans of thrillers might enjoy this, but, everyone else should stick to Mr. Rosenberg's works.

Content Concerns: The usual action, violence, and suspense that is always present in these books is just as prevalent here.

Score: 2.75/5

Author: James Kahn
Publisher: Ballantine/Del Rey
Published: October 12, 1980
World Enough and Time (New World, No. 1) by James Kahn: This first book in a time-travel trilogy is enthralling despite its content problems. A page-turner without the annoyingly brief chapters, it proves that James Kahn can create his own stories instead of just adapting others'. I look forward to the next one in the series; I'm glad I already have it!

Content Concerns: Some language and occasional sexual descriptions are present.

Score: 3.5/5

Authors: Beverly Lewis
Publisher: Bethany House
Published: May 1, 2009
The Secret (Seasons of Grace, No. 1) by Beverly Lewis: It's no question that Amish stories are the most popular genre of Christian fiction. Beverly Lewis, who has written countless volumes about the Plains people, does well once again with The Secret, which is the start of yet another series. Fans of Amish fiction will find plenty to like about this one.

Score: 4/5

Authors: James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet
Publisher: Multnomah
Published: December 14, 2009
Witch and Wizard (Witch and Wizard, No. 1) by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet: Though tales of magic and sorcery have been around for ages, the insane popularity of J. K. Rowling's "Boy Who Lived" has spawned countless "spellbinding" movies and books.  Veteran author James Patterson, who has authored everything from the Alex Cross legal dramas to the sci-fi/superhero series Maximum Ride, tries his hand at such a yarn with Witch and Wizard.  How does it stack up? Well, it's definitely different than Harry Potter; about all the two have in common is that they're fantasy stories intended for young readers.  Still, James Patterson's typical page-turning writing made for a captivating, edge-of-your-seat story.  If you've already blown through Maximum Ride more than once, and are looking for another great read, check this out.

Content Concerns: Along with the expected use of magic, this book contains some language, violence, and frightening scenes.  You may want to "screen" this before handing it to a young child.

Score: 4.5/5

Author: Kim Stanley Robinson
Publisher: Bantam Spectra
Published: June 1, 2004
Forty Signs of Rain (Science in the Capital, No. 1) by Kim Stanley Robinson: Ever since I watched The Day After Tomorrow several years ago, I have been interested in what some would call "disaster fiction".  Unfortunately, this movie feels like the first part of a blockbuster flick; it spends its time merely foreshadowing what's to come.  I'm hoping that the next two books actually have a bit more intensity.  Not only that, but some of the punctuation errors were quite atrocious, especially from an experienced writer.  It seems that Mr. Robinson and/or his editors were sleeping on the job.  If you can overcome those issues, this is worth reading, though I would suggest getting the sequels and reading them soon after; otherwise, you may feel like someone unplugged your DVD player only thirty minutes into the movie.

Content Concerns: Quite a bit of profanity, including right many f-words.  A woman breastfeeding a baby is luridly depicted.  A character feels that the world is doomed because of people who "believe in God" and "probably vote Republican".

Score: 3/5

Author: J. R. R. Tolkien
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Published: July 29, 1954
The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, No. 1) by J. R. R. Tolkien: I have to be honest: I tried reading this book when I was younger, and I didn't like it. Why? At the time, I would have told you that I couldn't follow it; now, I realize that I felt that way only because it was a book instead of a Nintendo video game. Now that my priorities have changed and my interests have broadened--only for the better--I am now old enough to appreciate such a work. This first volume in J. R. R. Tolkien's trilogy is epic in its scope, detailed in its writing, and has an ending that leaves you wanting to read the next one. As I said in my review of The Hobbit: If you're a fantasy fan, and haven't read this yet...what are you waiting for?

Content Concerns: If you're old enough to read any other book of this length, then there's nothing in here that's inappropriate for you.

Score: 4.25/5

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