Friday, February 20, 2015

Review of Through the Fog, by Michael C. Grumley

Through the Fog is the story of Evan Nash, an eighteen-year-old senior in high school whose life changed after a bike accident two weeks after his eighteenth birthday. The visions rob him of sleep and keep him awake every night, but that's nothing compared to what they do to his body while he's having one of them. 

Psychiatrist Shannon Mayer lost her daughter eighteen months ago when the seven-year-old disappeared from outside of her school. Shannon's husband, Dennis, was supposed to pick the little girl up from school, but he was called away to an emergency and she waited for forty-five minutes before disappearing. It's been eighteen months Ellie still hasn't been found.

When Dr. Mayer realizes that Evan's visions aren't subliminal and that he is actually seeing things, she uses him -- at his insistence -- to help her uncover the truth about her daughter.

Ugh. What a difficult book to review! I'll begin by saying that it's worth what I paid for it; And I got this book for free. At the same time, I enjoyed this short, fast-paced little book enough to finish it in a two-hour time span without putting it down except to eat.  The real problem with this book is its Kindle list price of $3.99. I couldn't justify paying that much for 170 poorly written pages.

I'm torn on this one, because it read fast and I enjoyed the book in and of itself. The quick pacing made it easy to read, and the story interested me enough to keep me reading. On the other hand, the characters were weak, the research poor, and the writing amateur. 

I might be wrong, but I get the feeling that this author could have done a lot better than what he did with this story. Too many loose ends leave me feeling unfulfilled upon finishing the book, and it had so much potential. The author needed to choose a single main character (the title character would have been a good pick) and stuck with that, then worked at expanding on the ideas in the story and on his characters.

Because of the price of this book (which is, frankly, much too high for such a short novel), I cannot in good conscious recommend it. Therefore...

I do not recommend Through the Fog (Evan After) to my readers.

As always, I want to point out what parents might want to think about when considering giving this book to their teenage children. I think that for the most part, this book is suitable for teenagers as young as fourteen, and I have no complaints as a mother. The only things you might want to look out for is listed below.
  • It contains some minor violence. It's not a lot, but there's just enough violence in this book that it might make some parents uncomfortable. I won't spoil the story for you, but I will say that the violence involves a gun.
  • It contains mature themes. While this book isn't what I would call a "mature" book, it does contain mature themes, including kidnapping and serious illness, that may not be suitable for more sensitive readers.
I have no interest at all in buying the second book in this series.

What are your thoughts on Through the Fog? Are you planning to read the sequel when it is available? Do you recommend this book to others? 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review of Bait, by Courtney Farrell

Bait, by Courtney Farrell, is the story of sixteen-year-old Jack and her crew of boys living in an apocalyptic dystopia. A pox has spread across the United States and the world. It's taken women and girls first, then the infection spreads through animals or other humans to men as well. Jack must protect her crew from the pox and from other crews, as well as defending herself as one of the few remaining females left on earth. 

Women are a valuable commodity, and once Jack is "outed" as a female, the stakes are higher, and Jack must protect herself as well as her adopted children. The crew's ability to survive the pox rests on Jack's shoulders, but how will she keep them safe with the pox targeting her -- specifically her?

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review of the novel.

This is actually going to be a tough review to write, and I want to talk to you personally and intimately about the book instead of in my usual "stiff," way. I'd like for my readers to be able to trust my reviews, but this is tough for me, so bear with me. 

I really enjoyed Bait as a young adult dystopian novel. It is exceptionally well-edited (unusual among indy authors). In the beginning I felt that it read like a series of short stories rather than one cohesive story, but this changed as the book went on and relationships established themselves over the course of time. Jack is a strong central character, and Farrell has a clear understanding of the characters in the book.

The trouble is that there were times reading this that I wasn't sure she had a clear direction for the story. It read like a series of short stories because in the beginning, it seems as though the author wasn't sure where she was going with the book, and then once she decided, it felt a bit rushed. 

On the other hand, I loved it. It would be impossible not to like Jack and her crew, or even Dr. Stuart. Jack has a clear voice, and the concept of the pox interested me because the zombification of the infected people wasn't so overdone that this became a zombie novel instead of a dystopian novel. 

In short, it's complicated.

I do think that this book is worth reading, and I do recommend it

However, as I said in my reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and Shelfari, there's one big issue I struggled with, and this is the reason I couldn't give the book five stars. The author uses certain words ("array" and "construct" in particular) in a way that is inconsistent with their dictionary definition without giving a sufficient definition of her own. This is confusing and frustrating to me as a reader. It clearly doesn't bother other readers, and it might not bother you, either, so I do recommend you give this book a try!

As always, I want to point out what parents might want to think about when considering giving this book to their teenage children. In this case, I highly recommend a pre-read of the book before giving it to teenagers. Though the main character is sixteen and surrounded by children as young as three, this is not a book I would give to my teenage stepchildren!

  • It's sexual. There are points where the sexual situations are understated (one character touching Jack's hair or her back) and there are points where it's over-stated (and I mean that the way that it sounds!). If you don't want your child reading about teen sexuality (with teens as young as fourteen), then have them skip this one.
  • It's explicit. At least one explicit sex scene between a sixteen-year-old and a younger teenager is described in detail in the novel, and this might be something you'd prefer for your child not to read. After all, you probably don't want to encourage them to engage in this sort of behavior themselves.
  • It's scary. While this might not be a problem for older teens, it could be an issue for some younger teenagers. There are points in this novel when it could be described as a "horror" story more than a science fiction story, so keep this in mind as well with younger teens. 
  • It uses odd definitions of English words. I repeat this again because I'm still not clear on what an "array" or a "construct" is in this book, or how they are used in terms of "real" English. This could confuse young readers working on vocabulary.

I'm not sure yet whether or not I'm going to be reading the next book in this series. Finish it and you might see why.

What are your thoughts on Bait? Did you have the same trouble I did with strange word use? Was it easy for you to understand how the compound was laid out? Will you be reading the next book?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Book a Day?

cc by-sa 2.0 Enokson on Twitter

I recently stumbled across a blog that reviewed one book a day. While I'm quite sure that this blog is written by multiple people reading short books, it got me to thinking about the possibilities of reading one entire book a day.

A long book takes me a while to read. I'm a slower reader than some of my book blogging peers and I believe that it's dishonest of me to review a book that I've only skimmed over. When I read (especially to review), I always take notes about the book I'm going to be reviewing and concentrate on what I liked about the book as well as what I don't like about the book, so that I can give my readers the most fair and honest review of the books that I read. 

I've been doing my reviewing on Hubpages lately, and have just now decided to start bringing my reviews back to my (rather out-dated) blog. It makes me cringe to think about how long ago I read Divergent (and then Insurgent, and didn't quite finish Allegiant). There are three reviews on Hubpages right now, which tells me just how slow I've been at getting these turned out for anybody who's following and reading me.

Reviews on Hubpages are more detailed, less reader-friendly. They look like this review of Surviving the Stillness on Hubpages. It takes time and effort to work out these types of reviews, and I believe (based on feedback I've gotten from two of the three authors whose books I've reviewed on that site) that these detailed reviews are more helpful to the author than they are to the reader. 

I also believe that the less detailed reviews are more helpful to the reader, but that's not my point here.

What I'm trying to say is that I find it impossible to read and review a book a day if the book is longer than one hundred pages. However, I'd like to be reading and reviewing more books, so I've picked up some shorter freebies on Amazon in the hopes of getting some new reads reviewed for you guys.

While I can't do a book a day (I doubt that anyone reading anything more than 100 page-long books can read that many and pay attention), I'm hoping to get to reading more (both fiction and non-fiction) and to provide more reviews for my readers.

Right now I'm reading on my Kindle Paperwhite. If you are an author with a book that you'd like for me to review, you may e-mail me and request a review!

Review of Surviving the Stillness, by Jessica White

Surviving the Stillness, by Jessica White, is the story of two orphans in Montana struggling to make it through the winter while the elder keeps a dark secret from her new friend, the doctor's son. It's a story of love and survival and the way that trust and faith in God can heal the hearts of those who reach out to Him in their time of need.

Abigail must learn to trust before she can heal her own broken life, and Matthew (the doctor's son) must learn that God has not abandoned him and has been there all along, waiting for his perfect timing in the Masons' lives. The orphans will change the lives of Dr. Mason and his son Matthew for good, if the doctor and his son can let them.

The author of Surviving the Stillness (Jessica White) is a friend of mine, and she provided me with a free paperback copy of this book to read and review. When I received the book, it was nothing like what I had expected. Not only was it longer (over 400 pages) than what I'd been anticipating, but the beauty of the prose and the speed with which this novel sucked me in astonished me.

In so many ways, Surviving the Stillness simply blew away my expectations of the book. Without knowing what to expect, I could never have anticipated the artful way in which the author uses a series of flash backs to illustrate the main female character's history to the reader. Abigail's secrets come to light one at a time, leaving the reader wondering what she's experienced to make her so closed off to people, but to bring her so close to God.

Abigail and Matthew are both well-developed characters. The author has paid close attention to making sure that they are three-dimensional and realistic. Both characters are beautifully flawed but in possession of incredible talents, which they use to build the story and to express the ultimate point of the book: That God will help you through anything that life throws at you.

While the editing (particularly in the latter half of the book) leaves something to be desired, the author has done well to avoid many common copyediting nightmares (such as passive voice and improper use of being verbs) and apart from a few mis-placed commas, the book flows well from the style and grammar perspective. I found it easy to read without becoming distracted or bogged down by editing mistakes. 

The author has assured me she plans to hire a professional copy editor for the next book in the series. 

This book is written beautifully, but should be a relatively easy read for young adult through adult readers. If you enjoy Christian fiction, this is an easy but serious read that will keep you turning the page. I had to put it down a few times because of the heavy nature of the book, but some people may find that they can handle the more serious themes of the novel without worrying about needing to take breaks.

As always, I want to point out what parents might want to think about when considering giving this book to their teenage children.

  • It's heavy. The main themes of the books are heavy. It takes a certain type of person to be able to understand what Abigail has experienced in the time since her parents died, and this subject material may be difficult for some younger readers to understand. This is more apt to affect enjoyment of the book than it is to traumatize your children.
  • It's religious. If you have a particular religion you're raising your children with or you don't wish them raised with religion at all, you may wish to review this novel before passing it on to your children. The orphanage that is the central location in the plot is a Catholic orphanage.
I personally believe that this book is acceptable for all age groups.

This book is a good read for lovers of Christian fiction and need an inspirational pick-me-up. The novel itself is mostly non-denominational and emphasizes trust in God rather than pressing a particular denominational belief system. If you are a believer, this book should inspire you. When I read it, it was just what I needed!

Yes! I will be eagerly awaiting the next book in the series!

What are your thoughts on Surviving the Stillness? How does it compare to other Christian novels? What did you enjoy about it?