Honey Butter by Millie Florence

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Title: Honey Butter

Author: Millie Florence

Published By: Sprouting Pen Press (2017)

Synopsis:  Jamie Johnson is a seven-year-old girl with an annoying older sister, a short attention span, and an odd hobby of collecting paint sample cards. Laren Lark is an almost thirteen-year-old girl with a love of books, a talent for poetry, and a past full of road school adventures. This Book is a whimsical story about what happened to them one fateful summer, with a pound of friendship, a gallon of family, and a ton of everyday joy. (Taken from Goodreads.)

Review:

What a sweet book! The author truly has tremendous talent for pulling the reader right into the setting; we can practically hear Jamie’s flip flops flop or imagine Laren’s excited voice. I was blown away from the first page!

It truly is such a sweet story, too, just a simple but beautiful portrait of a summer from the eyes of a 7 year old—and how genuine and realistic that 7 year old viewpoint is, too! It perfectly captured both Jamie’s enthusiasm and disappointment, as well as her interactions with friends and family. We watch friendships grow and families come closer together, all through the eyes of one little girl and her paintbox of colors. I really thought this was super sweet—I know I keep saying sweet, but it’s really the best word to describe the book

On the flip side, I felt the plot wasn’t as strong as it could have been. A mostly character-driven story, I really only kept reading because I liked Jamie, not because of what was going on. And granted, there are plenty of books that can completely pull this off. I just thought that in this case, a little more overaching storyline to knot it all together would have produced a stronger story. Sure, there were small side things that happened and dramatic events along the way; but there was no overarching plot pulling it altogether, and that unfortunately left the book feeling a little too scattered, in my opinion.

Overall, though, it was a truly exceptional story, even if lacking a bit in the plot area; it was full of living, breathing characters embarking on radical adventures. I was blown away by the amazing ability of the author and I recommend this book to anyone and everyone!

Negative Content/Notes:

None.

Overall:

A truly exceptional story, if lacking a little bit in the plot area, full of live characters and fun adventures.

Rating: 4.0

Recommended to: Anyone and everyone!

Reintegration by Ashley Bogner

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Title: Reintegration (Reintegration, #1)

Author: Ashley Bogner

Published By: CreateSpace (2017)

Synopsis: 

A perfect citizen. A captured rebel. One decision could destroy them both…
As a Regulator, seventeen-year-old Katherine Holliday’s duty is to protect the people of the Federation from a group of violent rebels who have exiled themselves to the mysterious wilderness. When one of these rebels is captured within the Federation, the government leaders propose an alternative to execution, a procedure they call Reintegration. The procedure involves erasing the rebel’s memory and attempting to make him a member of society. The rebel, a young man named Matthew, is not the violent criminal Katherine expects, and she can’t help but befriend him. A few weeks after Matthew’s Reintegration, Katherine realizes the procedure failed and she is now presented with a choice no one else can help her make. Can she warn her superiors that Reintegration failed, which could mean death for Matthew? Or will she defy everything she knows to help him escape—and risk her own execution? (Taken from Goodreads.)

Review:

I really liked this book. If nothing else, it’s going on my wish list for books to own! I found this dystopian world unique, though lacking detail (for example, if kids grow up separate from their parents, where do they grow up at? On their own?), but compelling nonetheless. Katherine was a decent lead for the book. Her heart changes felt a little rushed, but not completely unrealistic. Her love for Matthew was unique, beautiful, and adorable, yet mature, too. Matthew was well rounded and full of depth. I thought the author mastered his character and the delivery of the concept through him—the concept of even loss of one’s memory but somehow still knowing morality.

I felt that it got a little cheesy with the gospel presentation and the Intolerants being Christians and all, but I’ve read worse, so I’m not complaining. Besides, I actually really liked how the author tied in Christians as a whole and the “underground”. It made for a really eerie feel, which I like, because sometimes the those books are the ones that make us think the most.

Sometimes the story felt stereotypical—with a main female lead solely dedicated to her society but suddenly turns when she sees the truth; the romantic, mysterious love interest; the shallow best friend; the evil political leader who starts out good but slowly is revealed is evil—but for the most part it felt original.

Negative Content/Notes:

Overall: I thought it was just a good book with some good themes and I’m looking forward to reading more in this series.

Rating: 4.0 

Recommended to: Ages 12+

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

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Title: Beyond the Bright Sea

Author: Lauren Wolk

Published By: Dutton Books for Young Readers (2017)

Synopsis: 

Twelve-year-old Crow has lived her entire life on a tiny, isolated piece of the starkly beautiful Elizabeth Islands in Massachusetts. Abandoned and set adrift on a small boat when she was just hours old, Crow’s only companions are Osh, the man who rescued and raised her, and Miss Maggie, their fierce and affectionate neighbor across the sandbar. Crow has always been curious about the world around her, but it isn’t until the night a mysterious fire appears across the water that the unspoken question of her own history forms in her heart. Soon, an unstoppable chain of events is triggered, leading Crow down a path of discovery and danger.
Vivid and heart wrenching, Lauren Wolk’s Beyond the Bright Seais a gorgeously crafted and tensely paced tale that explores questions of identity, belonging, and the true meaning of family.
(Taken from Goodreads.)

Review:

I wasn’t impressed. It was okay, I guess. While the writing had spectacular moments, the plot failed to keep up with it. I immediately was fascinated by Crow, an apparent orphan living on an island with Osh, her caretaker, and an orphan’s search to find her parents is a storyline that always intrigues me. However, I really didn’t feel like it lived up to what I thought it would be. Rather than compelling me, captivating me, enthralling me, this story rather felt like the author grasping at straws and making up for the lack of story by extravagent (and they WERE good) descriptions, paragraphs, chapters. The story really just felt really weak, like a watered down version of what it could have been.

However, I did like the themes of family that crept in. I especially liked how even in the depths of her search for her “real” family, Crow is still insistant to Osh that he is more her father than anything else. Despite not having a storybook family, Crow really does have a family, and she has all she needs, and I really liked that aspect of the story.

The rest of the book felt like a bland narration, without much emotion, but just excitement to make the book more interesting, not to move the plot forward. I never once was scared by Mr. Kendall or even midly intimidated; the only thing that left me unsure was the unpredictability of the author—what happened regarding this mysterious character literally could have gone either way—but it being I didn’t have a strong tie to Crow or Osh, I really could have cared less regardless. Everything felt very one-dimensional; and nonetheless it was a good one-dimensional story, but I just think it could have been a lot better with a little more characterization, a little more emotion, and a little more length. Every action was piled on top of the previous one, leaving no room to breathe, process, or feel anything for any characters.

On the other hand, though, even though I just said it lacked characterization, to an extent the characters were developed well enough to be able to predict their behavior, but it backfired, for the story became boring.  The characters were too solid, too predictable, and I guess that was my main problem—none of them felt real, for none of them had any real flaws. Crow, Osh, Miss Maggie: they were all perfect in their own way. Not once can I remember seeing any fraction of a flaw in any of them, which made the story feel bland and fake.

I also was extremely disappointed with the ending. Leading up dramatically, and then just ditching the plot so quickly, made no sense to me. All this drawn-out, built up suspense, clues, and mystery about Jason and it literally went nowhere. Just dropped off the face of the story a few pages before ending. Again, the feeling like the author was grasping at straws. If I were the editor, I would have deleted Jason altogether. It added absolutely nothing to the story save for a feeling of having wasted one’s time reading.

Negative Content/Notes:

None.

Overall:

While the writing and descriptiveness was exceptional, and the themes were beautiful, the rest of the story was watered down and weak. The characters had no flaws, making them feel fake, and the plot was weak and hardly held together for the duration of the story.

Rating: 3.0

Recommended to: I’m indifferent to this book. If you want to read it, read it, if you don’t, don’t. I really have no suggestion either way.

Daisy: The Homeschool Kids by Riley Rawls

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Title: Daisy: The Homeschool Kids

Author: Riley Rawls

Published By: CreateSpace (2017)

Synopsis: Daisy Freeman is a Christian, teenage homeschooler, whose freshman year has just gotten started! The school year kicks off on the first day of co-op, when Daisy will finally see her best friend Harley again, who has been away on vacation. Freshman year will be a breeze with her by Daisy’s side! But her day goes far differently than she’d expected when she learns that Harley, the preacher’s daughter, and her family are moving away.
Daisy can’t understand why this is God’s plan! Why? Daisy’s family and friends try to convince her that God always has a plan and a purpose for everything, and she just has to accept that and trust in Him. But will she ever learn to do that as everything seems to fall apart around her?

Review:

Omigosh, the world needs more books like this: happy books that so perfectly capture the Christian homeschool lifestyle. This story brought back so many co-op memories for me and I related to so much of the story!

While I thought the characters could have used a little more characterization, they weren’t flat or underdeveloped in the least. I really came to love these different personalities, and I’m so looking forward to getting to know them even more in future books!

I thought the storyline flowed well, with good structure, and no fluff or pointless drama. The plot of the story was fast-paced but not dramatic; just regular everyday life done exceptionally well.

The one setback I had was how it ended with everything tied up in a perfect little bow. Granted, that is just how the story was written to be, from what I can tell—to be a sweet story about the life of homeschoolers, not anything super deep, and I have absolutely no problems with that—but it felt a little stilted, maybe because those kind of perfect reconciliations don’t always happen in real life.

Still, like I said, I think this book was meant to be more of a happy, sweet story with subtle morals, and looking it at from that angle it made total sense to have everything wrap up so well. And I do think the author did a good job with it!

Negative Content/Notes:

No negative content!

Overall:

Honestly, like I’ve said, the world needs more happy books like this, and it truly does capture the homeschooler spirit! On that same note, though, I’m not sure anyone who’s not a Christian homeschooler will really enjoy this book the same way a homeschooler might. But I could be totally wrong on that!

Rating: 5.0

Recommended to: Anyone who is homeschooled, all ages!

The Journey by Alleece Balts

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Title: The Journey (The Crowd, #2)

Author: Alleece Balts

Published By: CreateSpace (2017)

Synopsis: How do you keep moving forward when the path you’re on comes to an end?
At nineteen years old, Ella Parker is a star on the rise. With her vocal training at Juilliard underway, she’s more than prepared for a glittering performance career with the rock band Wicked Youth, and anticipating the prospect of becoming engaged to her billionaire boyfriend… Someday. But when she collapses on stage during a summer concert and receives a chilling diagnosis, the promise of someday suddenly slips away.
Forced to confront her darkest fears, Ella must not only find the courage to go on after her once certain future has disappeared, but also to track down her runaway friend, Lucas, before time runs out. (Taken from Goodreads.)

Review:

Are there words to describe how much love I have for this book? I’m not sure, but I’ll definitely try in this review.

Picking up where the first book left off, The Journey continues to follow Ella and (aaah!) Jack through life as new problems suddenly begin to arise. Character-driven yet strongly plotted, this book ended way too soon. I laughed and cried my way through this amazing novel.

I liked Ella better than I did in the first book, but she also stayed true to her character. Maybe she’s just grown on me. I loved Logan’s side plot and how cleverly it was worked in. Ella, while not maybe extremely likeable, was still very real and relatable. Her responses and emotional reactions to events and bad news in her life seemed round and full, relatable and realistic.

The one thing I was confused about was the whole school situaiton—like, is she in school or not? Is she graduated? It seemed a little hazy. Ultimately, it didn’t negatively impact the story, though. I thought this was perfectly paced, and in fact ended too soon for my taste, though I did squeal at the announcement at the end of a 3rd book! I really liked how different this one was from its predecessor plot-wise, yet both still flowed together and made sense. I also liked the Christian aspect that didn’t predominate, nor control, but simply slipped in, which I felt was true to many real lives and would be very powerful and relatable.

Negative Content/Notes:

Ella and Jack are very romantically involved and are indeed working toward marriage—Jack actually talks about his intention to propose. They kiss an awful lot, though not always detailed. What I wanted to note was how Jack mentioned a lot of times how “temptin” Ella was, followed by sly implications of going further, including hints at taking off clothes. When questioned, Jack boldly responds that “we aren’t harvesting the corn before it’s planted, sir”, implying that they will not sleep together before marriage. Still, the innuendos are there and did bother me to an extent, considering this is Christian fiction and I do expect a little more from such books. Still, I did not feel uncomfortable with any parts of this book and I do hold fast to my opinion that it was all presented in an overall wholesome light, not glorifying the wrong things but, in my opinion, just simply written for a more mature audience.

Overall: I LOVED IT I LOVED IT AAAAAH (very rarely do I get this excited about a book….)

Rating: 5.0

Recommended to: Due to the few sexual innuendos and content I would say probably ages 14/15+.

The Crowd by Alleece Balts

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Title: The Crowd (The Crowd, #1)

Author: Alleece Balts

Published By: CreateSpace (2013)

Synopsis: Whitfield Preparatory Academy ought to be the perfect school… Not only does the Academy boast a distinguished faculty and lavish campus, it is also home to the privileged youth of the upper class. They will one day hold the reins of power in the business world and political arena – but for now, they exercise absolute authority at the Academy.
For seventeen-year-old Ella Parker, acceptance into the prestigious Academy is a dream come true. But her delight quickly turns to dread when she finds herself in the crosshairs of an elite group of ruthless students dubbed “the Crowd.” Ella’s been at the center of unwanted attention before – but never like this – and she’ll do anything to make them stop. Anything, that is, apart from accepting the advances of popular and wealthy playboy Jackson Montgomery, the leader of the Crowd.
Will Ella be humiliated, or triumph over her tormentors?
An irresistible story of faith, friendship, betrayal, and romance, The Crowd will immerse readers in Ella’s tumultuous struggle from the very first page.
(Taken from Goodreads.)

Review: 

I don’t even know where to begin. I loved this book so, so, so much. The plotline was clever, amazing and naturally felt realistic, and the romance was sooooooo sweet!

I loved the way the “crowd” was done…though I do feel it wasn’t exactly the prominent feature of this story but more apart of Ella’s story as a whole; the story was really focused on Ella’s journey and growth, and the crowd was just apart of that. I can’t wait to see how the next installment works with this one. It was just a unique and beautiful story with great themes and the characters tying everything together. I thought the author did a fantasic job especially with the characters; they are just so perfect for this story, any other characters and the story just doesn’t work. It was so beautiful! I appreciated how the Christian message was hinted at, subtly, in the background, always guiding but never being shoved down the reader’s throat.

The one thing I didn’t like was that Jack and Ella were kissing before they were even sure they liked each other—that’s not really a message I think of as positive to send to young readers—but it was super sweet, and, considering this book was painted to be more of a fairy-tale like story, I absolutely loved the romance after that. It was the first story I’ve read with an actual good love triangle—in terms of two actual options—though I am totally team Jack just saying!

Negative Content/Notes:

From the summary, I was a litttle nervous becuase it described Jack as “a playboy” and I was concerned with how that would translate in the book. However, having finished it, I feel it was almost a mis-label. This book was completely clean. There are quite a few kisses, but not in a way that I’d say was dirty. There are a few times a character would make an implication to more sexual things, but it was never in a wrong light and I was not uncomfortable with anything presented. As a whole everything was presented in a wholesome way. I found it very refreshing and sweet and I LOVED IT!!!!

Rating: 5.0

Recommended to: Ages 13+!