A Question of Courage by Jesseca Wheaton

Title: A Question of Courage (Questions of War, #2)

Author: Jesseca Wheaton

Published: 2017

Synopsis:

A man. A decision. A destiny.

Rafe Sullivan never imagined the war would come to his doorstep. But when Pearl Harbor is attacked and America’s focus suddenly shifts to the pacific, he finds he can’t ignore the problem anymore.
Leaving the life he loves behind, he joins up to do what he does best. Fly.
Yet, nothing could have prepared him for the horrors of war, and the struggle that is going on in his own heart. As an outstanding navy pilot, he is stationed on one of the few Pacific carriers. But could God be calling him to step out in faith, and go beyond the call of duty?

Lily Wilson gives her all to help the hurting community around her. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the war is brought home to many American families. And as a nurse, she longs to be able to relive some of the suffering. Yet, her own grief is still fresh in her heart, and though she’s made the decision to get on with her life, she can’t seem to leave the past behind. When healing at last comes, the guard she placed around her heart slowly begins to crumble.
But when she receives the news she hoped she would never again hear, can she trust that God’s plan is always right?

Arthur Warrington saw the Navy as an escape from the life he left behind. And it seems good for him. He is able to forge new friendships and distance himself from his past. But when his best friend makes a decision that rocks his world, he is left grappling with the question: what is true courage?

Three lives. One War. And a search for the Courage to go on. (Taken from Goodreads)

Review: 

Wow!!!!! I was so impressed!

Every book the author writes, she gets better, no doubt; but this book took not just one step forward, but several. I was blown away by not only the accuracy of the tale to the historical period but the author’s ability to show me so vividly what it felt like to be there. She so rawly communicated the emotions plaguing our dear characters, not shying away from harder scenes but handling everything with a beautiful delicacy.

Not every character was full and real, but I was okay with that, because the characters that were important were most definitely real, distinct, individual, and easy to love. I really liked Rafe and his determination to stand up to the ways of the world around him. Though at times I felt the messages told through such resistance—such as treating women right—were ladled on a bit too heavily, it wasn’t enough to discourage my fondness for the story and of course I did appreciate the messages.

The romance between Lily and Rafe was beautiful. At first Lily seemed too one-dimensional to me, with everything going on in her mind from losing Gil and trying to decide if she loved Rafe. And to be completely honest, that was the one area I actually didn’t really like as much in general. It wasn’t done lazily or anything, but I felt we just needed more time for some of that development to happen and we didn’t get it. However, by the end of the story I liked it a lot more, and the last few chapters had me rapidly turning pages, unable to put it down.

Negative Content/Notes:

No negative content, but some brief descriptions of war.

Overall:

Not sure what there’s left to say…I was impressed!

Rating: 4.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Fans of historical fiction especially, but I think almost anyone could enjoy this story! Ages 12+.

 

**I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.**

A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen

Title: A Night Divided

Author: Jennifer Nielsen

Published By: Scholastic (2015)

Synopsis: With the rise of the Berlin Wall, twelve-year-old Gerta finds her family divided overnight. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, to think forbidden thoughts of freedom, yet she can’t help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city.

But one day, while on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Then, when she receives a mysterious drawing, Gerta puts two and two together and concludes that her father wants Gerta and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom? (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

I LOVED this book! This was one of those books that reminds me how good historical fiction can be. I especially love juvenile historical fiction novels—they always have such a sweet and touching message to them—and this was no exception. It felt just like a child telling the story—which it was—but not in a negative sense; it was written beautifully.

I thought at times the plot was a little bit dragged out, but it didn’t feel watered down and oppositely had me turning pages all the faster. It was historically accurate as far as I could tell and certainly explored in a new, more vivid way!

Negative Content/Notes:

None.

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Ages 10+!

Counted With the Stars by Connilyn Cossette

Title: Counted With The Stars (Out of Egypt, #1)

Author: Connilyn Cossette

Published By: Bethany House (2016)

Synopsis: 

Sold into slavery by her father and forsaken by the man she was supposed to marry, young Egyptian Kiya must serve a mistress who takes pleasure in her humiliation. When terrifying plagues strike Egypt, Kiya is in the middle of it all.

To save her older brother and escape the bonds of slavery, Kiya flees with the Hebrews during the Great Exodus. She finds herself utterly dependent on a fearsome God she’s only just beginning to learn about, and in love with a man who despises her people. With everything she’s ever known swept away, will Kiya turn back toward Egypt or surrender her life and her future to Yahweh? (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

Wow. I do not usually read Biblical fiction, mostly because I really was unaware it existed. I loved this book immensely, so maybe it’s a genre I need to look into more.

Authentic to its time period and to the Bible story, this tale had a tangible feeling of reality attached to it as the author showed the story in a new way. Now doubtlessly no story, no matter how well written, can replace the original when it comes to Bible stories; but a talented author can still make a well-known story come alive in their own style, and that’s exactly the case with Counted with the Stars.

Obviously fictional—for there is no place in the Bible that talks about Kiya—but still believable, this story was thought-provoking from the start. After all, when you stop to think about it, surely there were Egyptians that escaped with the Hebrews. I was really enthralled by the concept of this story and it took hold of me. It made me think and really ponder the truths of God’s love in a new light.

I loved the characters and how the author wasn’t afraid to show their flaws right along with their good qualities. They were real and raw, yet true to that time period from what I could tell; it was truly incredible, when you think about it, how characters that have such a different upbringing and mindset than today’s culture can still be so relatable, and the author did a fantastic job portraying this.

I especially loved Shira and Kiya’s friendship; it was so beautiful and so tearjerking at the same time. I liked the romantic side plot. While the story might have gone on a bit too long for my taste, I’m not sure what could have been condensed and still produced the same effect. The very fact the author can write this well for this long goes to show how much talent she has! A lot of stories like these tend to get worse as they go on, but her breathtaking way of holding the reader was consistent all the way through.

Negative Content/Notes:

A few more mature things are mentioned. There are implications that the main character has slept with others. Later, she is kidnapped and thinks her attacker is going to rape her, but nothing actually happens.

Overall:

I was very impressed and pleasantly surprised, not just by the talent but also the incredible authenticity. I look forward to continuing this series!

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Readers 14+.

Life After by Katie Ganshert

Title: Life After

Author: Katie Ganshert

Published By: Waterbrook (2017)

Synopsis:

It could have been me.

Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.

A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why?Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.

Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake. (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

It has been a good long while since I stumbled upon a book this good. (Or maybe I just haven’t been reading as much lately.) This book is AMAZING.

First of all: Ganshert is one of the most talented writers I’ve read. Period. Her descriptions pull you in as she masterfully weaves together an enthralling tale about a very real, relatable, mysterious woman and a very secret-laden, protective father, tying everything together in skillful knots and not leaving anything significant untied. Every scene flowed right into the next, connecting naturally so much so that if I found out this was based on real life, I would not blink an eye. 

Autumn, Paul, Reese—they’re developed down to the tiniest bit. The author perfectly captured the turmoil and emotions of Autumn, bringing her to life more and more with each paragraph. Mysteries untangle as the story continues, enhancing our reading experience and leaving behind a tangible feel of reality, leaving us pondering over questions presented. I could not put this book down, and I missed it the moment I finished reading.

I loved the way everything was knit together in a concise way, not dragging the story out but also long enough to really understand the minds of these people that feel so real.

Reveals were breathtaking. Sometimes they felt a little unnatural, coming close to changing the feel of the story for being out of place, but they never did. A few times I found a few flaws—Reese is mentioned being one place at one point, and later it is said she is another—and a few loose strings possibly dropped out of the knot, but nothing big enough to lessen my affection for the story.

Negative Content/Notes:

100% wholesome; there was nothing here that was red flag for me. The author didn’t run away from more mature topics as some writers do, but simply wrote about life and expected the readers to understand, which, frankly, I loved. For example, one character finds out his wife has an affair, but there are no details provided or sexual aspects mentioned. The story just moves on, leaving it up to the reader to know what an affair is.

Overall:

Masterfully written and expertly brought together with vivid characters, this is easily one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Readers of all genres, ages 14+.

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber

Title: The Evaporation of Sofi Snow

Author: Mary Weber

Published By: Thomas Nelson (2017)

Synopsis:

Ever since the Delonese ice-planet arrived eleven years ago, Sofi’s dreams have been vivid. Alien. In a system where Earth’s corporations rule in place of governments and the humanoid race orbiting the moon are allies, her only constant has been her younger brother, Shilo. As an online gamer, Sofi battles behind the scenes of Earth’s Fantasy Fighting arena where Shilo is forced to compete in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. But when a bomb takes out a quarter of the arena, Sofi’s the only one who believes Shilo survived. She has dreams of him. And she’s convinced he’s been taken to the ice-planet.

Except no one but ambassadors are allowed there.

For Miguel, Earth’s charming young playboy, the games are of a different sort. As Ambassador to the Delonese, his career has been built on trading secrets and seduction. Until the Fantasy Fight’s bomb goes off. Now the tables have turned and he’s a target for blackmail. The game is simple: Help the blackmailers, or lose more than anyone can fathom, or Earth can afford.  (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

I HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE CONFUSED IN MY LIFE.

I had high expectations for this book. And I don’t know that I’d say I was completely disappointed, because at the end of the book, the strongest emotion I felt toward the book was not disappointment. It was utter befuddlement.

To start, the book is a super tech-savvy story and by that I mean over half the story is virtual and the other half is the characters talking about codes and coding and internet and online programs and overall even to me, being a fairly tech-savvy person, it was incredibly confusing and hard to keep track of. The author drew the line between virtuality and reality very sloppily, and I was never really sure what was real and what was virtual. So that wasn’t a great basis to start out from.

Secondly, the plot was also very hard to follow. To be honest, I’m still not really sure what the plot was–what it was about, what the point was. I was grasping at straws as I read this, constantly flipping back pages trying to figure out what on earth was going on, what did she mean by that, what did that reveal, why that even was a reveal, where they were going, and so on and so on.

And thirdly: the last few chapters. We get a few reveals that don’t sting (probably because I was too confused to remember or understand why it was significant) and then suddenly: flashback. Mystery. Another supposedly shocking reveal that confuses me further. No summary or explanation of how this relates to the rest of the book, or why this is relevant to anything in the story, even though it definitely meant to be relevent by the suspenseful way it’s written. And then you look to read the next sentence to get some clarity, some conclusion to make your read worthwhile, except bam! The book’s over.

Maybe I’m just not smart enough to understand what on earth was going on or why it connected at all?

Also, the book was half fluff. I felt everything could have been condensed a lot more. It made reading this book very tiring, for it just moved so, so, slow, and when you’re already grasping at straws trying to figure out the plot, it makes for a very difficult read. Okay, don’t get me wrong: I suppose the writing was good enough and I’m not denying the author has talent. It just didn’t really manifest in the right way in Sofi Snow.

As for characters, I really was confused about Miguel and Sofi and why it was important and why it existed and just why in general. I didn’t really like Sofi or Miguel. Sofi was supposed to be such a fascinating character, but I felt like I was just watching a painting of her the whole book, not living in her shoes and experiencing her emotions.

Her love for her brother was real enough, but not emotionally compelling. I found myself feeling very aloof from all of it.

The Delonese added a strange aspect and really just confused me more. The FanFight was confusing. I don’t understand how this all connects together. I don’t understand why any of it was important. I don’t understand any of the characters. Everything that I could distinguish fell into a predictable pattern and nothing felt real.

I also did not get the whole romantic side of things and why on earth it was important in any way. It’s one thing to develop a side romance. But it’s a whole another thing to go on and on about how Sofi sleeps with lots of people and then go on and on about other characters sleeping with others (and by the way, that’s the only way it is ever described—“sleeping with”). And it didn’t honestly make any sense to me. It wasn’t necessary and felt like the author was just trying to put adult content in to put adult content in, even though it never went past literally the phrase “sleeping with”. Or maybe she was trying to send a moral message to teenagers about such a thing, which would be good—except that if she did, it got lost in the jumble a long time ago. If you want to write a book to send a message to teenagers why sleeping around is bad, write a book to teenagers about why sleeping around is bad. Don’t write an already confusing sci-fi novel about computer codes and weird aliens and missing children and then just shove it in.

Also, the human trafficking aspect also made no sense to me. It just kind of appeared out of nowhere and then that was it. It didn’t tie in at all.

Negative Content/Notes:

Several mentions to sleeping with people and sex.

Overall:

I don’t know. I didn’t necessarily dislike it completely. I just am extremely confused and wasn’t impressed with the parts I was able to understand.

Rating: 3.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: I would not recommend this to anybody.

Purple Moon by Tessa Emily Hall

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Title: Purple Moon

Author: Tessa Emily Hall

Published By: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (2013)

Synopsis: Selena’s life isn’t turning out to be the fairy tale she imagined as a kid.

That hope seemed to vanish long ago when her dad kicked her and her mom out of the house. This summer might finally hold the chance of a new beginning for Selena … but having to live with her snobby cousin in Lake Lure, NC while waiting for her mom to get out of rehab wasn’t how Selena was planning on spending her summer. She soon begins to wonder why she committed to give up her “bad habits” for this.

Things don’t seem too bad, though. Especially when Selena gains the attention of the cute neighbor next door. But when her best friend back home in Brooklyn desperately needs her, a secret that’s been hidden from Selena for years is revealed, and when she becomes a target for one of her cousin’s nasty pranks, she finds herself having to face the scars from her past and the memories that come along with them. Will she follow her mom’s example in running away, or trust that God still has a fairy tale life written just for her? (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

I truly wanted to like this book. No, I take that back—I hoped to love this book. It seemed like such a beautiful and touching premise, seemed to be deep read with significant themes, and all the reviews were just glowing…it seemed like the type of book which I love.

While this definitely doesn’t qualify for anything near “falling flat”, it didn’t live up to my expectations, either. The depth was fantastic in some areas, but didn’t come through at all in others. It was almost as if there was too much depth to articulate in one book and thereof laxed in some places. For example, the Hilarie storyline (more on this below).

Romance: while I did like the romance in some areas—and I really admired all the Christian themes that it communicated—I didn’t appreciate other aspects at all, such as the way the author painted kissing to be so okay before Selena even wasn’t sure she liked Austin. While I certainly agree that Christian authors have to be careful around romantic topics, not to scare off readers but also to say the truth, some fall through and I did not like the way it was done in Purple Moon at all. Aside from that, I adored Selena and Austin together.

I thought there were plenty of powerful themes sent about life in general, and I absolutely LOVED the way the author delivered the Christian message. It was so clever and wonderfully done.

The family storyline was realistic and done nicely. I know that’s rather a bland description, but that’s all I have to say about it. No complaints, but nothing super exceptional.

And I was really dismayed that we never got closure or any sort of follow-up on the Hilarie storyline. Like, what did she decide? How did she go through that? What happened? It was a geniunely captivating side plot, and when it disappeared it gave the impression the author wrote it in just for the purpose of Selena finding out the truth and nothing else. I was very disappointed. I wish we could have gotten at least a hint at what happened.

Also I found Whitney’s “apology” super cheesy and quixotic….maybe that’s just me though.

Overall:

Good premise and overall good story, it just lacked follow through in quite a few places and didn’t line up with the depth it implied. It was quality writing though, excellent characterization and great descriptions, storyworld, etc, so I did enjoy it. Just some elements bothered me.

Rating: 4.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Readers 13 & up.