Book Review(s): The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

I absolutely loved the Divergent Series by Veronica Roth.

The first two books, Divergent and Insurgent were my favorites while the last book, Allegiant was probably my least favorite.

The Divergent Series is wonderful if you are fan of The Hunger Games

The Divergent Series is based in the future and we are introduced to Tris and her family who are Abnegation.

They live in a society where there are 5 different factions: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity and Erudite.  Each faction is known for a certain character trait.  Candor are honest to a fault.  In fact they can’t keep their mouths shut no matter how hurtful they are.  Abnegation are selfless.  They do for others but never for themselves, as a point of humility but it becomes a source of pride for many…which seems to be the exact opposite of what they want to achieve.  Dauntless are brave.  They are so brave that they die early because they become inured to harming themselves.  They HAVE to prove they are brave; the more dangerous the better.  Amity are peaceful and in their quest to do no harm they choose a path of least resistance.  That path, while paved with good intentions can often leave you on the losing side.  A non-choice is still a choice.  Lastly, Erudite are super intelligent.  So intelligent in fact, they believe every one is too stupid to figure out their game.

Tris is different.  Oh boy, is she different.  Each faction child gets the opportunity to choose where they want to be and they are given a test to show them their “path”.  Usually, a faction child will have two choices.  Tris on the other hand…is Divergent.  As the series goes on, you will find out why Divergent are treated the way that they are.  They are dangerous.  The how and why will be revealed.

I enjoyed this entire series.  I truly did.  It kept me enthralled and there were many turns and twists that I was not expecting.  I liked how Tris was hard-core and soft.  Weak and yet strong.  A dichotomy to be sure.  She was the type of girl whom I identified with because of those very things.

I hated the end of the series.  And not for the reasons most people probably did.

I was not a fan, and am still not a fan of 1st person POV.  I especially did not like the 2 people 1st person POV in the last book.  I understood it from a literary sense and why it had to happen that way…but I often felt in the 3rd book as if I were hearing Tris’ voice inside Four’s dialogue.  (He’s a character that we learn more about through out the series…he was someone I loved and then hated and then pitied.)

I thought Veronica Roth did a very good job showing the inherent good and bad of trying to be just one thing or another.  By trying to be just one character trait, we forget and often squash the others for fear of looking weak…no matter what the trait is.  Her plot and characters were well developed and I was totally invested in the characters till the very end.

I would suggest reading all three of these books in successive order.  YES, they are that good.  I like it when an author takes me on a journey and leaves me quite satisfied with the end.  My issue with the last book was not how it ended…I thought it ended rather appropriately…it was the style it was written in that I had the issue with.

These were amazing books to read…I cannot wait to see the movie…and I loved sharing these with my daughters!

 

Book Review: You Were Born for More by Harry Jackson Jr.

It took  me a while to slog through this book…and not in many way because it was bad, but because I would read and then would have to really think about what Mr. Jackson was asking of me.

You Were Born for More makes you take an in-depth look at your life and ask those hard questions.

I liked the fact that Mr. Jackson breaks things down and goes through them step by step, using Biblical references to help you look at how you can change your life through Divine Grace and providence.  And not by using God, but making those changes in your life that will positively impact all areas of your life.

He does not sugar coat things.  There will always be a bad health report.  The kids may or may not be doing good in school.  The job you were depending on may fall through.  But, as children of God, it is dependent on us, to take these moments and delve into our faith fully, wholly and unrepentantly.  Mr. Jackson recounts his own personal experiences with illness and strife to show how things came out for the better, even when the situation seemed impossible.  It brings to mind something a televangelist has said many times, “In the natural it doesn’t seem like it can happen.  But in the supernatural, God is always working for us, with us and through us to make those things work.”  Of course, I am paraphrasing here, but you get the point, Gentle Reader.

Change is not easy.  It takes a while and it take deliberate actions to do so.  Mr. Jackson gives us a thorough way in which we can do this through the promises God has given us in His word.  As. Mr. Jackson explains, You Were Born for More.

I was sent this book by Chosen Books, a subsidiary of Baker Publishing Group for review.  I am under no obligation to give it a favorable review, but I have because I liked it.

Blessings Be on you today, Gentle Reader.

Book Reivew: Made to Last by Melissa Tagg

I was recently had the opportunity to read Made to Last by Melissa Tagg.  It was sent to my by Bethany House Publishers and I have to say it was a cute little read.

Made to Last centers around Miranda “Rand” Woodruff who is a pseudo celebrity because of her home improvement show.  She is cute and bubbly onscreen and can really show people how to build things with her hands.  She is not just a prop for the show.  She is also a good person who is making and who has made bad decisions in her life.  We, the reader, catch her as she is on the decline of some of those bad decisions.

Matthew Knox one of our protagonists of the story is  a reporter, also seeing the decline of his career due to some bad decisions both in his personal life and his career.  Matthew is thrown a bone and is sent out to South Carolina to write a serial blog about Miranda Woodruff.  For Matthew, this is about as low as a reporter can go, but he has other fish to fry so the  money is important.

Add in two other men, a real ex-fiance and a real fake husband…and Miranda has her hands full.  Hot on her heels is another home improvement show and Miranda is getting heckled by her network to produce her “husband” whom she has spoken about but never produced in the 3 years she’s been on the show.  All this surely spells disaster, right?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it was cute.  It was not terribly thought-provoking and was just a cute read.  The characters are well-developed but they do not have a lot of depth…and not in bad way.  I mean that these characters do not attach themselves to you in a super meaningful way.  The story itself was well-developed, the plot moved along and it was good.

I would like to read Blaze’s, the fake husband’s story…because obviously, there are unplumbed depths there!

 

All in all if you want a cute and sweet read…then Made to Last is your book.

Book Review: Into the Whirlwind by Elizabeth Camden

LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! this book by Elizabeth Camden.

Into the Whirlwind is definitely a whirlwind book.

The book takes us through the tumult the Great Chicago Fire and the aftermath.  We meet two people, Mollie Knox and Zach Kazmerak.  Mollie is the owner of the 57th Illinois Watch Company.  Zach is the lawyer and main procurer for a large department store.  They know each other on a purely business level but we begin to understand that Zach is more than a little interested in Mollie.

Zach’s employers wants to make a deal with Mollie to buy her watch company.  This includes all papers, watch designs, parts…everything.  Mollie does not understand everything and is a bit overwhelmed by Zach and his speed of doing business.  Mollie is a plodder.  She needs to view a situation, make calculations and then decide on what the most favorable outcome will be.   But some unfinished business between her father and the owner of the department store brings about a large share of mistrust and miscommunication between Zach and Mollie.

Will the two of them ever be able to come to an agreement or will there always be mistrust between them?  Will Mollie ever get her watch company back up and running after being destroyed physically and spiritually by the Great Chicago Fire?  You have to read to find out.

I really enjoyed this story and it truly sucked me in.  I liked the development of the characters and the pacing.  Mollie Knox is someone I can relate to and she is likable.  I understand her feeling of being overwhelmed running a business and trying to keep it afloat.  There is an isolation in that no one, but a fellow business owner can understand.  So many people depend on you!

I fell in love with Zach Kazmerak.  He is street smart, business savvy and a bit ruthless.  But under that polished exterior lays a poet who wants love but can never get it unless he compromises his loyalty to his boss.  And it’s his loyalty as well as his unflagging strength that pulled me to him.  I have always been a sucker for a hidden poet…whose easy on the eyes and who also knows the importance of a long days work.

I really felt for Mollie and Zach.  I think part of that reason it intrigued me and sucked me in is that I can relate to the whole fire experience.  We had our own little fire in our town almost a year ago and so I can totally commiserate with the whole thing albeit on a much smaller scale.

Character development, plot line and story pacing are wonderful.  There is plenty of descriptive writing and enough history woven on the pages that you actually feel like you could be reading a first hand experience of what happened to many folks during those awful 36 hours and the subsequent aftermath.

If you like reading a little bit of history melded with a wonderful love story and hard-working folks then Into the Whirlwind by Elizabeth Camden is a great start.

I was sent this book by Bethany House Publishers and I am not required to give it a good review but I did because I liked it.

Book Review: King by RJ Larson

King by RJ Larson was a fantastic 3rd book in the Books of the Infinite Trilogy.

The third book follows the decisions that the king or Akabe is making.  Akabe is frustrated because the Infinite is silent and so instead of waiting in patience, Akabe starts making decisions based on what he thinks the Infinite wants…not on what the Infinite actually wants.  Akabe flounders and makes tons of mistakes.  There’s a lot of espionage afoot, assassination attempts and general unrest in may different areas of his life and Akabe feels alone.

We can see the direct parallels between Akabe and how the Kings of the Bible must have felt and their trials and tribulations.  Rebuilding when everything has been destroyed with enemies at all sides, it’s no wonder they sometimes made huge blunders!  I sometimes have a hard time deciding what we are going to have for supper…so I cannot imagine the magnitude of pressure these great men must have gone through.  Whole nations rested on their shoulders.

RJ Larson introduces us to a new character, Akabes Queen, who at times I feel equal parts pity and anger.  She irritates me because she is steadfast in her ignorance.  But then after reading about her life with her family, her mistrust is understandable.  I don’t actually get to like her until the very end.

The plot is fast-moving and I would say the only challenge a reader would have is that if they did not read either Prophet (Book 1) or Judge (Book 2) they might get a little lost.  A lot of the book comes from prior knowledge of what happened in the first two books.  I don’t think it would be necessary to read the first two books, though I highly recommend it, to be able to get the gist of the story, but if you were to pick up this book without prior knowledge, I think the reader would get a little lost.

Ella and Kein are perfect in their own way.  Kein has matured so much and would be a person I would like to call friend.  He exemplifies meekness and humility while Ella is the picture of pure obedience, even though she doesn’t want to she does.  I can totally commiserate with Ella.  And even in fear, she rests in the Creator, the Infinite to get her through.

All in all, King was a well written end to an amazing trilogy.  It was fast paced, action packed and exciting.  There are things that made me happy (FINALLY!!! but I won’t tell you Gentle Reader what happens) and there are things that made me irritated with the wilfulness of the characters.

I was sent this book by Bethany House Publishers and I am not required to give a favorable review, but I liked it, so I did.

Book Review: Undeniably Yours by Becky Wade

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Note: I don’t own this cover art and am using it for reference purposes only

I was sent this novel by Bethany House Publishers to review…and honestly, I was a little skeptical.  I read another Becky Wade novel (read my review here) and while I liked her plot line and characters, the almost co-dependent nature of the two characters had me a little on edge.

I was pleasantly surprised when I really took to the two main characters of her newest novel, Undeniably Yours.

Meg Cole is a rich girl who doesn’t want the trappings of wealth confining her.  She has been burned in the past because of her wealth and has a few confidence issues.  Her father unexpectedly passes away and she is obligated to run his mega-rich Oil Company and holdings.  Meg is sweet and not extremely business savvy but she is trying to tread water and make her dad proud.  First things first, get rid of all the holdings that were pet projects of her father’s.  The Ax-man…er woman cometh!

Bo Porter is the manager of Whispering Creek Ranch.  It’s a horse ranch that Meg’s dad started to breed Thoroughbreds and race them.  His whole livelihood is wrapped up in the ranch.  He brokers a deal with Meg to get the Ranch self-sufficient within 6 months so she won’t close it down.  A lot of people are depending on him, including his brother Jake.  Both Bo and Jake were in the Marines and both did tours overseas, but Jake is wounded both physically and mentally with the scars to prove it.  What will happen to the ranch workers and his brother if the ranch is closed down?  It’s a heavy weight to bear.

Sparks fly in a good way between Meg and Bo.  She has some mental issues (don’t we all?) namely a severe case of anxiety.  Bo is strong and calm…just what Meg needs.  But they both realize that they cannot have a relationship because there is so much riding on what is going on around them.  Can they make it work?  Will love find a way?  Will past events affect their future?  Well…you will have to read to find out.

I liked the quiet strength of both these characters.  I liked that when things get tough, they don’t rail at God but lean into him as we are commanded to do.  The cast of supporting characters is great and overall, I thought this was a very well written novel.  Character development was fantastic.  Plot line was great.  Everything was excellent.

I am hoping that Becky Wade decides to do follow-up novels of the Porter siblings of Jake, Dru and Ty.  They made such an impact on me as a reader, I would hope that as an author, she would follow-up with them.  Jake…the war veteran who has demons to be cleansed and faith to find.  Dru…the spit fire who is trying to grow up too fast and forgetting where she came from.  And Ty…the pro circuit bull rider…I mean, c’mon you know there’s a story in there!

Ahh, gentle reader, this was a great little get away for me!  Happy Reading!

Book Review: A Place to Belong by Lorraine Snelling

I was really excited to read this book when I received it from Bethany House Publishers to review.  I mean, I loved the second book in this series (Wild West Wind) about Cassie Lockwood and her merry band of misfits.  There was romance and adventure in the air…who could resist that?

The conclusion of this series, A Place to Belong, really left me wanting more…and not in a good way.

I couldn’t really get into this book.  It was slow and plodding, and at times tedious.  I understand that Cassie had to recover a lot after she was shot but…Oh.My.Word…could this book be any more boring?  A lot of it has to do with Cassie, Lucas and just everyday life.  And while normally, I would love to read about everyday life…I kind of live everyday life…so when I read, I want a little bit of escapism…not more drudgery.  And if my kids are reading this…I don’t mean you. 😉

So, my other issue with this book is the relationship or lack there of between the male protagonist, Ransom Engstrom and Cassie.  We are just supposed to believe that after all the NOT talking she and Ransom are going to declare their love for one another?  Um…yeah, right.  Seriously, I don’t think they have any meaningful conversation until the very end.  I mean, maybe things happened like that in the old days.  Maybe…but I don’t think so.

What I enjoyed about this book was the descriptions of life in South Dakota for the time period.  It’s a hard land…heck, I live in Minnesota and the winters are brutal, so I can totally commiserate.  Especially when they had snowfall in May.  Yup.  Been there, done that.

All in all, the writing is exceptional.  The story itself though…leaves much to be desired.