Created To Die by James Andrew Wilson

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Title: Created To Die
Series: Children Of Eden
Author: James Andrew Wilson
Publisher: Two Crowns Press
Published: June 15, 2013
Pages: 268

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Caleb has evaded the hands of capture once again but at a magnificent cost. Ruth is in trouble and needs help. With a huge bounty on his head, he can’t trust many people, but he believes that this new group truly wants to help him and Ruth. So he follows them farther away from Eden and all it contains to try and save Ruth from a fate that Caleb just can’t let her fulfill yet, death.

In search of help for Ruth, Caleb is still greatly aware of Aramis’s mission to see him incinerated and recycled. Along his journey to find his destiny he gains new strengths, knowledge, and powers that make even Aramis himself scared. He also meets some new people who claim to want to help him but he wonders whether he can trust them or whether they want to shut him down permanently.

His journey is coming to a crucial part and they all can feel it. Hard decisions will be made and sacrifices will occur. Eventually Caleb will have to choose between his new friends, Ruth, or his destiny and the decision will determine the course of not only his life but the lives of those around him as well. What will he choose and will Ruth make it or will an option be taken off the table?
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With the first book in this series ending on a very heart rending cliff hanger, I knew I had to continue this very fast-paced and entertaining series. I was hooked and the only way to release this series’s clutch on my life was to read on. Little did I know that this book too would end on a cliffhanger, that, though not as heart rending, would still tie my stomach in knots and sink the hook deeper into my life; making me crave the third and book in this trilogy.

Not unlike the first book, this book is very fast-paced and can be a quick read because of how fast everything moves along in the story. But, this story is on a different playing field than the first. In the first, Caleb was trying to discover his purpose and, though he’s still trying to do that, he now has a clearer view of his main purpose; however, he still has no clue how he’s to accomplish said purpose or where this destiny is to take place. This journey adds some more layers to this story and allows more a complex plot to take shape. This complexity makes me love this series even more and gives me even more to mull over after I put it down.

Caleb is still a very relatable and likable character and this story never ceases to stretch the boundaries of your mind and understanding of what is human and what isn’t. This story is written for young adults but it broaches, indirectly, some very difficult and heavy topics and that is what makes it so interesting. Never before have I read a book that really begins to mess with my views of humanity and life before this book and I’m not so sure that that is a bad thing. James Andrew Wilson has gotten me thinking and reevaluating about what I really believe as I’m sure whomever buys this book will do as well.

Ruth wasn’t really a major character in this story, as she was in a coma-like state the majority of the book, but I got to “meet” some new characters that stole some space in my heart in Ruth’s absence. These new characters range from mysterious and aloof to kind and scruffy. There’s not a ton of backstory and the characters aren’t given enough time to be truly dimensioned, but that doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to this book, because it still is a fantastic read that held me until the end.

The hardest thing I had to do with this book was put it down to study. That was a true test of wills. I loved this book and the adventure that it took me on. I can’t laud James Andrew Wilson enough for taking me outside my bedroom and into a world hundreds of years into the future and into the life of a robot boy. He is truly one of the hidden gems of the self-published world and he is the reason why I still dabble in the genre. I look forward to finishing the series and seeing what other adventures he wants to take me on.

This book impressed me just like the first and I can’t wait to see what else Caleb is going to see and do in the next book. This book as a whole is perfect for the sci-fi lover or really anyone that wants to see a new perspective on things. It’s written for young adults and though it has some intense or scary scenes, it is perfect for readers of all ages. I can’t recommend this series enough. I give this book a four and a half out of five.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

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Captives

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Title: Captives
Series: The Safe Lands
Author: Jill Williamson
Publisher: Zondervan
Published: April 2, 2013
Pages: 416

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Eighteen year old Levi has just returned from Denver City with his latest scavenged finds, only to find his beloved village of Glenrock decimated, loved ones killed, and many – including his fiancé, Jemma – taken captive. Now the leader of their village, Levi knows he can’t stay behind and forget about those he loves, so he’s on a mission to rescue what remains of his people, even if it means going into the infamous Safe Lands, a walled city that seems anything but safe.

Omar brought the enforcers to his village and he knows he betrayed his brother by sending him away but he get helping the enforcers was necessary. Omar is tired of living off the land and clinging to what he believes is an outdated religion and he’s ready to change his way of life for the good. The Safe Lands have offered him power and wealth beyond Omar’s dreams if he just tells them where his village is. Omar never expected the carnage that would ensue.

Meanwhile, Mason, Omar and Levi’s brother, has been granted a position inside the Safe Lands, and may be able to use his captivity to save his people and possibly find a cure for the virus that threatens everyone within the Safe Lands’ walls. That is if he can manage to stay out of trouble and keep from falling for someone with the plague and destroying his chances of succeeding.

Can Levi rescue his people from the Safe Lands or will he fail and lose everything in the process? Will Omar realize what the Safe Lands really are or is the gilded cage enough to keep Omar satisfied? Will Mason be able to help his fellow villagers to freedom or will he get caught and get into serious trouble? Can Mason find a cure for the thin plague or will he have to choose between a girl he likes and freedom?
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With all the excitement over post-apocalyptic movies and books, I decided to see what all the attention was about and I chose Jill Williamson’s book to do that. Now I know what everyone loves and I must say that this type of book just skyrocketed up my list of favorite genres and I fully intend to find more books like it. This book was better than my expectations, and I had high ones, and completely surprised me with the intricacy of this book. Just when you think things will work out something happens to change that and it ended on a cliffhanger, guaranteeing that I’ll be back to see how all this works out.

Though this book is set in 2088, a year that is 74 years in the future, it doesn’t feel too far off or too extreme to really happen. In fact, the attitude of the Safe Landers isn’t that different from regular secular people today, it’s just a bit more extreme. With e-cigarettes and a party/casual sex attitude out world is well on its way to becoming the fictional Safe Lands. Jill Williamson’s realistic, just extreme, take on us in the future is the most fascinating part of this book and definitely makes you think and question. I think she did an amazing job if her goal was to make teens question their life choices and where their future’s headed.

Tense and nerve-wracking scenes are the pinnacle of this book and it definitely gets your emotions involved. You want the Glenrock residents to escape before impregnation but you also want Mason to find a cure, not because of all the Safe Landers but just one. It gave me conflicting feelings on top of the taut nerves and nervous stomach, leaving me absolutely involved and emotionally invested in the outcome of this book. Very rarely do I feel this so I’m incredibly pleased it was with this one.

Every character has different strengths, weaknesses, and personalities, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get to see them all. However, I do look forward to seeing them in the next books in this series. From what I was able to see, I picked a few favorite characters: Mason, Levi, and Shaylinn. I liked Mason because of his willpower and strength in tough situations, Levi because he’d do anything for Jemma, and Shaylinn because I can relate to her and her body image issues. I think no matter the person, you can relate to this book.

Jill Williamson is a new author for me but she has amazed me with Captives and I fully intend to read the next books in the series and even see what else she has come up with before this one. She’s very good at making a book a teenager, both boy or girl, will love. She even managed to do it without vampires or werewolves! I highly recommend this book for any teen and even some adults.

Overall, I really liked this book. It’s perfect for people who love dystopian novels or teen sci-fi. This book is perfect for teens, adults and maybe mature tweens. I give this book a five out of five.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

The Orphan King

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Title: The Orphan King
Series: Merlin’s Immortals
Author: Sigmund Brouwer
Publisher: Waterbrook Multnomah
Published: July 10, 2012
Pages: 220

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Thomas’s life has changed forever with a few words from his dying nanny, who turns out to be his mother trying to protect him. Raised behind monastery walls has soured him to God and all his clergy and now he must leave all he’s ever known to go on a mission that seems too impossible to accomplish. Armed with wisdom of potions and optical illusions along with a former Templar knight, a deaf and mute girl, and a pickpocket, Thomas’s plan to take the most secure city in the country seems like suicide, but he’s got a destiny to fulfill.

The longer Thomas journeys with his misfit crew, the more he learns and the more he starts to see that everyone isn’t always who they say they are. He keeps wondering who this knight is and why his speech hints at something more than just a simple knight. He also questions who this pretty silent girl is among them and whether she’s following them because she has no choice or because she was sent there. All Thomas can do is finish his mission and hope that no one is trying to stop him.

As Thomas travels, he meets characters both friendly and unsavory alike and he learns lessons from each encounter. But the farther he gets the more he realizes that he doesn’t hardly anything. His mother hinted at a group he can only guess at and little does he know that there is a whole war being waged around him between at least two different groups that mortal beings can never know about. The war of good against evil wages and Thomas is somehow stuck in the middle.

Who is good and who is evil and what do they want with Thomas? Will Thomas be able to take the city that kicked his parents out when he was just a baby or will the city be too impenetrable to conquer? Will Thomas be taken in by the evil who and whatever it may be or will he stick to what he knows is right? Will Thomas be betrayed by those around him or will they be loyal to him? Will Thomas figure out who’s lying to him before it’s too late or will they suck him in before his plan is executed?
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Like most of the books that I pick, I picked this book solely by cover and title. I expected something completely different. I expected something more fantasy-like and what I got was medieval England and it was a pleasant surprise. This book was kind of a mixture of a Christian Harry Potter feel mixed with action and it was perfect for teen boys or, if they’re like me, teen girls. I think this book is a healthy alternative to Harry Potter or Percy Jackson novels.

This story is very vague and kind of keeps you on your toes. In fact you end the book not fully knowing which side is the “good” side and which side is the “bad” side. The thing that I liked about the story though, was that people weren’t good or bad based on their situation but by their actions, which is a nice lesson for teens to learn. This story is chock full of lessons and mystery. It even ends on a cliffhanger and it makes want to read the other books in the series due to the questions left unanswered at the end of the book.

There was a bit of romance in this book but I use that term loosely. It was an attraction but not too much to turn off a tween or teen boy. It was, however, enough to keep a tween or teen girl interested and enough to add another mystery aspect to the story. It was a nice little facet to this somewhat complicated storyline. I felt that it made the story as much for girls as it was for boys.

I think this series is a perfect alternative for the very popular Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, etc. books. It delves into magic and immortality but it has a moral to the story and teaches the reader some important lessons that, unfortunately, most adults don’t learn for most of their life. Also, all the magic is explained scientifically and is all using herbs and acids, so it makes sense and seems like you could make them today without magic.

I’ve never read a book by this author, but after this one, I fully intend to. This author is a great storytelling and managed to capture my heart in a measly 220 page book and that’s not easy to do. I’m now a fan of this author and I want to read more from this author past, present, and future. I don’t know if this is a good representation of this author’s work or not, but I truly enjoyed this book and want to read more from this author.

Overall, this is a great book and is a healthy Christian alternative to the popular magic books out there now. I highly recommend this book to any tween or teen boy or action loving girl. I think even some adults could love this book. I give this book a four out of five.

*I received a complimentary copy if this book from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

Mother Of Pearl

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Title: Mother of Pearl
Author: Kellie Coates Gilbert
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Published: September 1, 2012
Pages: 304

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Barrie Graeber has two great kids, a loving husband, and a respected job as a high school counselor in a close-knit community. Without warning, life as Barrie has known will be turned upside down when her daughter is betrayed and falls apart. Disaster strikes and now the secrets her daughter harbored don’t have any chance of being revealed. At least not by her.

Now this mother must conquer grief and try and pick up the pieces of her life. With a husband and another child to care for, she knows she can’t grieve forever, but questions how she can move on when all she wants to do is grieve the loss of part of her. Her husband doesn’t understand and her son doesn’t feel loved, but she doesn’t feel like keeping things together.

When she starts putting together the pieces of the tragedy that befell their family, she finds a horrifying secret that the beloved football coach has been harboring for years. She now must decide what to do with this shocking discovery. She needs to decide if she’ll follow her husband and mother’s advice, ignore it, or wether she’ll do what her lawyer wants her to do, fight.

Will Barrie move on from the grief that has been slammed into her world or will she fall apart as we’ll as her family? Will she fight or will she ignore the secrets she’s revealed? Will Barrie lose everything because of her grief and unwillingness to let things go or will her husband stand behind her even tough he doesn’t agree with her?
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Being a debut author I had nothing to really go on other than cover, both back and front. Sometimes you find a diamond in the rough and sometimes you find a book that needs a lot of work. Unfortunately, this book was the latter. It was a good concept but just wasn’t executed in a way that felt put together. It was a book that just felt disjointed and, at times, unbelievable.

Like I said above, this was an awesome concept it just wasn’t very fluid or fully believable. I felt that the grief element was accurate but Barrie’s husband’s reaction to her grief and search for the truth about her daughter was unrealistic and actually at times down-right mean. I don’t know, I’ve never experienced the loss of a child so I don’t know if this is how people really act, it just felt off to me.

The storyline felt choppy to me as well. Certain issues that were a huge part of the storyline were resolved but not in front of the reader. I felt left out of the story and I was left lurching by the sudden changes in plot and the character’s perspective. Not to mention the book was read in first person which in this case made it extremely difficult to connect with. I felt like I had to force myself to finish this book and that’s a feeling I hate.

The faith in this book is weird too. The friend that’s a Christian in this book is like a Stepford wife and it felt like the author was trying to say that Christians live like her, which isn’t true. The family goes to church but you don’t get to see the transformation to Christ or anything. It felt like the author kind of forgot that her book had to have some faith in it and so she just added it in. It was definitely strange.

This author is brand new to writing and I hope that she improves in her writing. I don’t know if I’ll pick up another of her books for some time. I do intend to watch her though. Who knows, I might just pick up another of her books later. I think she’ll do well in her drama genre if she improves and makes her stories more fluid.

Overall, this book was the typical debut book. Nothing too extraordinary but nothing too terrible either. I recommend this for someone who wants a different story on a topic most people don’t know happens in school. I give this book a three out of five.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

The Best Friend

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Title: The Best Friend
Author: Melody Carlson
Series: Life at Kingston High
Publisher: Revell
Pages: 224
Released: June 1, 2012

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Lishia Vance went from having friends to totally abandoned. There’s no explanation, just complete and utter social isolation. All after that new girl Chelsea cam to town. The worst part, even her best friend Janelle isn’t giving her the time of day. Lishia is now completely lost and lonely. She is baffled that she now has to find a new friend to hang out with.

When she reconnects with Riley Atkins, it seems like she may have a new best friend, but after all her ex-friends were put through by Riley she wonder if Riley is really as good of a friend as she seems. Her desperation for a friend and to possibly make the cheer squad again have her completely ignoring her conscience and her faith. Not to mention making her do things she wouldn’t normally to stay on her “best friend’s” good side.

After her antics make her in too deep to get out unscathed she has to make the hardest decision of her life. Lose her only friend and do the right thing, or continue down the path she’s on and potentially lose her soul. With Riley pushing her and pushing her she can only last so long before her conscience leads her, but she’s scared of what will happen to her if she tells.

Will she end up doing the right thing or will she be too scared to tell all? If she does tell what will Riley do, leave her alone or enact revenge? Not mention how will her friends and family feel about her if she tells? Why does high school have to be so complicated?
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I’m a huge fan of Melody Carlson, have been since I started reading in the young adult genre, and again she didn’t disappoint my expectation of a realistic teen book that makes a teen think. I found this book to actually be better than the first in this series as far as making a girl think or convicting her. I loved it!

Melody Carlson is known for her incredible view into the teen brain and she does a fantastic job, even after all these years. The thing that I love most about her books is that she brings current teen interests into her books as well as spiritual learning that is subtle enough to make anyone enjoy it, but “out there” enough for someone to know what they’re learning. I also love how she give each book a theme, this one happened to be confession.

The conflict Lishia feels throughout the book is something pretty much anyone who’s gone to school ever has experienced in varying degrees. Because of that, It made the story even more realistic and believable. It makes you feel for the character and it drags you along for all the drama- not that you’re complaining. This book is added to the long line of proof that shows that this author can think just like a teen. It constantly amazes me.

Unlike a lot of her books- or at least the ones I’ve read- there’s no real romance in this one. There a small section of dating but it’s insignificant to the story and is only there for about two small chapters. It was a refreshing change to have a teen book with no real relationship between the lead and someone else. It showed a whole new side of teen dating. That it doesn’t need to happen. It was nice to see a teen book that didn’t put too much stock in it.

This book hasn’t stopped my love of Melody Carlson’s books, in fact, I think it increased it. In my mind, she’s the queen of teen fiction and, until someone can dethrone her, she’ll always be my favorite and set the bar for all other young adult novels out there. Not to mention she’s doing this to help guide girls in their faith. What’s better than that? Do guys have an author like this? If not they need one. I hope someday I can sit here and be reviewing an incredible teen fiction author for guys. If anyone knows of one, if they’re out there, please let me know. Who knows I might just get a peek at how guys think.

Overall, another incredible book from this well known teen author. I highly recommend this for any teen of high school age. I also recommend any of her young adult novels. They’re just that amazing. I give this book a four out of five.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Glamour

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Title: Glamour
Author: Melody Carlson
Publisher: Zondervan
Pages: 224
Series: On the Runway
Published: February 15, 2011

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Paige and Erin are back for the fifth installment of the On the Runway series and things are just as crazy as before. Paige’s engagement to Dylan Marceau shocked the fashion world and Runway fans. Even though Paige seems to be happy, Erin can’t but wonder if the engagement is true love or just a desire for attention and publicity. As Paige’s love life takes off, Erin starts to feel pressure from Blake to become more than friends. But she doesn’t know if she’s ready.

Amidst all this, they still have their TV show and all the drama that comes with it. As they prepare for a trip to the Bahamas they realize that paradise isn’t all its cracked up to be storms of different calibers and types. Will they be able to do the right thing in a business that encourages the worst? Or will they crack and put aside their virtue for fame?
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As I’ve mentioned before, Melody Carlson is by far one of my favorite, if not my favorite young adult author. She has a knack for expressing just how teens feel and act. This book is no different. She perfectly expresses how a Christian teen would feel in the spotlight trying to hold on to her values. It’s amazing how accurate her books are.

Another thing this author is great at is making her characters realistic. She makes the characters’ struggles understandable and believable. They make mistakes, they learn, the struggle. It makes her characters that much more likable. The character development isn’t a massive part of the story, just because character development was pretty much already established in the first four books of the series.

Romance is still under construction in this book, Paige has a fiancé, their mom is married now, but Erin’s relationship with Blake is still in question. I can’t help but root for that relationship I work out. The author left a question mark on that topic, hopefully it gets worked out in the next book.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the light that the author paints fashion. She basically puts that fashion isn’t wrong, even for Christians. That it’s actually a good way to share your faith and make a difference in the industry. It makes me, and those who read this, rethink any opinions that they have about fashion.

Overall, this the best installment of this series yet. I highly recommend this series for any teen or preteen girl who likes fashion. I give this book a four out of five.

*I received this complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

First Date

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Title: First Date
Author: Krista McGee
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Pages: 336
Released: January 10, 2012

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Addy Davidson just wants to get a scholarship at an Ivy League college and she doesn’t want anything to get in the way of that. The last thing she wants is to be on a reality TV show where the prize is a prom date with the President’s son. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens when she is chosen to be one out of a hundred girls to compete to catch the eye of Jonathan Jackson.

Now, she’s competing in a competition she never auditioned for and never would’ve. She just wants to go home and have her first date with someone she knows well. Thankfully, she finds a friend, if only the other girls were as friendly as Kara. And if only they made it easy to share her faith with them. Will she win the competition? Or will she do more important things?
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This book is a fun teen book with a good amount of cheese. It’s cheesy, however, I think that life needs a bit of cheese every now and again and as long as it isn’t a constant thing I enjoy a cheesy book every once in a while.

Though it’s a tad cheesy, the author comes up with a great reality TV idea: a mixture of America’s Got Talent, Survivor, and The Bachelor. It probably won’t become an actual TV show, but it was a fun idea that was the reason for the book’s cheesiness. It allows the reader to see just how much the girls aren’t well-rounded, unlike what the producers want. It’s a physical and mental challenge for everyone involved and not necessarily because of the challenges in the show; when you put a hundred girls in close quarters and have them fight over a good-looking guy, it’s surprising that at some point there wasn’t a hair pulling, screaming fight.

Despite the cheesy reality show, this book is actually really good. It’s a story about a girl who grows in her faith and comes out of her shell. There are things in this story that are mixed up. Some things are too hard on her and some things are way too easy on her. The other girls and host of the show are way too hard on her and sharing her faith, particularly with Christian hater, is just way too easy. However, the author makes it work well and you put down the book with a feeling that the author understood teens completely.

This author really did write a book that understood teen perfectly. She wrote a fun book that deals with the fears and insecurities of Christian teen girls. Will that push this book onto my favorite list? Probably not. It did make it onto my keeper list though. It also made me look forward to her next book, Starring Me, with Kara as the main character.

Overall, though it’s cheesy, it’s a fun read for any Christian teens and possibly preteens. I recommend it for preteens, teens, and even adults who want to learn how teens think. I give this book a three out of five.

I received this complimentary copy of this book from the Booksneeze program for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.