AN UNCERTAIN CHOICE

“Remember, we show courage in many ways.”

Official Summary:

     Due to her parents’ promise at her birth, Lady Rosemarie has been prepared to become a nun on the day she turns eighteen. Then, a month before her birthday, a friend of her father’s enters the kingdom and proclaims her parents’ will left a second choice. If Rosemarie can marry before the eve of her eighteenth year, she will be exempt from the ancient vow.

    Before long, Rosemarie is presented with the three most handsome and brave knights in the land. But when the competition for her heart seemingly results in a knight playing foul, she begins to wonder if the cloister is the best place after all. If only one of the knights the one who appears the most guilty had not already captured her heart.

My Thoughts:

     I will admit that I was really looking forward to this book. I thought the cover was so intriguing, and the synopsis was just as attention-grabbing- knights competing for the hand of a beautiful damsel in distress, with one of them trying to destroy the others’ chances? Totally awesome!

     Well, let’s just stop right there. All the knights are friends. Like, BFFs to the point of girliness, and one has even promised not to fight for the Lady Rosemarie’s love. He gets it anyway, but really, that’s pretty predictable. I expected battles and heated fighting between the three of them, maybe a duel or two to defend her honor. Nope. They just took turns taking her on picnics. The first half of the book was kind of dull, really, and I was hard-pressed not to skim the pages looking for some action. The historical accuracy was stellar, though, and I could tell that Hedlund did a lot of research before writing.

     I also was not a great fan of the main character. Rosemarie seemed too naive and confused to be any kind of ruler, even when she was supposed to be groomed for that her entire life. Of course, I understand that her personality had to be that way to an extent to play a role, but she was so passive at times that I felt robbed of what a true emotion would bring to the book- the entire situation should have been very emotional, but we read as though she’s deciding who should be chosen as her personal bodyguard instead of her husband. The love story was a little flat for me, and I wish I would have been given more insight into Rosemarie’s emotion besides ‘Am I ready to be married?’

     I did enjoy the mystery that emerged toward the end of the book. It added some spice, and gave my brain something to chew on while I read of picnics and meaningless gifts. Although I knew the knight accused did not commit the crimes (as mentioned, they made a pact, one not so easily broken), it was fun trying to figure out who the would-be killer would turn out to be and what his or her motivation was.

     Overall, I did like this book, but I was glad it was short (254 pages) because I found that it dragged in several places.  But that’s just my opinion- I would love to hear yours!

What to Watch:

     Jody Hedlund is a well-known Christian fiction author, and this was her first foray into YA novels. What this means is that really, there was very little to watch. The only thing I would caution for younger readers is the violence. As it takes place in a medieval setting, one of the struggles Rosemarie faces is that of torture- that is, whether or not to torture criminals. The book opens on a scene of the sheriff disobeying orders and attempting to both boil a man alive and pull one to pieces. It’s not graphic and it is stopped, but in process. Rosmarie’s nursemaid is also tortured, and they are kidnapped. And of course, there is the final battle between the knights and ‘the bad guys’, which gets a little bit intense. Other than those occurrences, though, there is nothing else to worry about.

     Personally, I liked this book, and I think it is a solid yes for readers with a sensitive conscience. No language, no graphic wording, no drugs- it’s all smooth sailing for those looking for a clean read.

Questions? Comments? Have a book you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and tell me what you think!

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BETWEEN THE SPARK AND THE BURN

“People like you don’t go mad, Vi. They’re quiet on the outside and loud on the inside and sane as the day is long”  

My Rating: PG-13, for some language, sexual content, and horror elements

Official Summary: Freddie once told me that the Devil created all the fear in the world.
But then, the Devil once told me that it’s easier to forgive someone for scaring you than for making you cry.
The problem with River West Redding was that he’d done both to me.

The crooked-smiling liar River West Redding, who drove into Violet’s life one summer day and shook her world to pieces, is gone. Violet and Neely, River’s other brother, are left to worry—until they catch a two a.m. radio program about strange events in a distant mountain town. They take off in search of River but are always a step behind, finding instead frenzied towns, witch hunts, and a wind-whipped island with the thrum of something strange and dangerous just under the surface. It isn’t long before Violet begins to wonder if Neely, the one Redding brother she thought trustworthy, has been hiding a secret of his own . . .

My Thoughts: (SPOILER ALERT) Basically this whole post is a spoiler, because this book is a sequel.

I hated this one. Book one was a fantastic roller coaster of romance, thrills, and mystery, and in book one, ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’, you fall in love, along with Violet, with River Redding, the enigmatic hotshot. And in book two, River goes to find his evil brother and Violet falls in love with his brother, Neely. Even though you already love River. The idea is that she parallels her grandmother, who was also in love with two boys in her day, but it ends up just being frustrating and you lose respect for Violet and even Neely with his ‘kisses full of sunshine.’ Which makes me sad, because everything has to be a love triangle. And then they find River, and he’s crazy. That’s right, an absolute loon, sparked to the brim with his brother’s mind control to make him think he’s the sea king of a little island. But, enough of my hatred. Here’s what to watch in this book:

There is some cursing, not too much, but Violet gets pretty angry sometimes. And the sexual content- well, there’s a love triangle, and River, with his mind control and in his sleep, gets Violet to do things she thinks she’s dreaming about. So, to prevent her from having sex with River first (because even she admits that she wants to) she does it with Neely. Nothing graphic, just subtle hints that “later, much later” there’s some bare skin and some ‘feels’ moments that no one feels because you’re just angry that suddenly she’s in love with Neely.

But the big issue is that you don’t know where Neely, River, and their brother Brodie get their powers (the glow, the spark, the burn). You get the feeling that it’s just a genetic mutation that gave the family these different powers, but even so often you wonder if it’s something more sinister. Violet even speculates that these boys are descendants of the devil. Which is not a good thing. I prefer to choose that the powers are a result of a genetic thing, like the X-Men, but some more conservative readers may choose otherwise.  It’s up to you.

The first book (unreviewed) was awesome, but if you read it, stick to it, because this one was a sore disappointment. But then, that could just be my love of River pouring into my disappointment that the mind-blowing writing was wasted on a love triangle when a couple had already been established.

Questions? Comments? Have a book you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and tell me what you think!

 

PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG

“The man she had loved as a father was a fraud.
He kissed the back of her hands and advocated war; he had played with her on the carpet with toy soldiers, and all along he had been planning the extinction of an entire people.”

Rating: PG-13 for intense scenes and language (in the form of racial slurs against Jews- it does take place in Hitler’s Germany), as well as brief romantic themes

Official Summary: In1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.
        Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command.
        Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.
        As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

My thoughts: I am in love with this book. I don’t normally like Nazi/WWII/Hitler themed novels, but all I can say about this one is…wow. Blankman reaches into the soul and brings out the most passionate part of you, pulling forward every emotion she intends to with ease- compassion, fear, confusion- you never know what’s going to happen next. From Gretchen’s cold older brother Reinhard to the passion of Daniel Cohen,  the Jew she befriends, to Gretchen herself, every character evokes an intense emotional reaction that leaves your head spinning.

The research that went into this book is incredible, and it shows in the impeccable details you read as Gretchen and Daniel try to find out the truth about her ‘Uncle Dolf’ and what happened to her father.

There is, of course, some things that may not be considered appropriate for younger readers. As Hitler’s ‘golden children’ Gretchen and Reinhard are fully convinced of the status of Jews as ‘subhuman’ and Reinhard and his friends get in many fights, as well as calling the Jews by names that are, well, unsavory. People do get killed, and there are brief description of that, as well as some animals (Reinhard is not a nice boy).

There are some romantic themes. Daniel and Gretchen (SPOILER SPECIFIC ALERT) end up in love, and they do kiss a few times. Hitler also makes a move on Gretchen, but she escapes, and there is talk of him being in love with Geli, his half-niece, as well as another young woman.  (END spoiler alert).

Overall, I would not recommend this for younger readers simply because of the nature of the book (1930’s Germany was not a child-friendly place), but for more mature readers (13+) I give it a standing ovation for the skillful way the author merges fact with fiction.

Questions? Comments? Books you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and I’ll be sure to check it out!

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THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER

‘Thinking something does not make it true.
Wanting something does not make it real.’

Rating: PG-13 for romantic themes and some horror, as well as unexplained elements.

Official Summary:

Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.

It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.

There is.

She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.

She’s wrong.

Not exactly clear, am I right? It’s very vague, but you might take a chance on it if you saw it at the library. I took that chance, and here’s what really happens:

A teenage girl, Mara, comes to the realization that she has a terrible special ability. Mara and her family have just moved to Florida in hopes the relocation will help Mara heal from the accidental death of her best friend, Rachel. Continuing deaths, however, make Mara realize that she is at the center of all the strange fatalities and may have even caused the death of her own friend. Noah Shaw, an eccentric and intelligent boy, that Mara meets in Florida, holds his own secret that might help Mara control her own ability if she makes the right choice.

Slightly less vague, but I don’t want to give you too many spoilers.

My thoughts: This is a caution book. The source of Mara’s powers remain unexplained, and the results of it are rather gruesomely described (causes of death are near-horrific, and though well-written, are not suitable for younger readers). The PG-13 is an all-around rating, but primarily for the violence, the graphic pictures Hodkin’s words can paint in your mind. There is also a small amount of swearing (Noah Shaw is a bad, bad boy).

Also to be noted is the romantic themes in this novel- they’re pretty close to the surface and a major point in the character and plot development. That means that there are some…tense moments, but nothing past kissing, which is nice for those of us who don’t appreciate the lax morals thrown at us in most YA novels. However, Noah Shaw has a bad reputation, and it’s commented on several times from girls he’s ‘wronged,’ shall we say. One of these girls is the ‘Queen Bee’ who, (because there always has to be one of these nowadays) totes around a hulking male sidekick who just happens to be her ‘G.B.F’ (Gay Best Friend). Thanks, modern society where a person’s sexuality is a B.F.D (big fat deal). Anyway, that’s not too prominently discussed more than a passing comment by another kid at the school Mara attends, but it’s still there.

The big caution: At one point at the very beginning, during a flashback, there is a discussion of Mara and her friends using a Ouija board, a BIG no-no. There is no further discussion of that later in the story, though. The only other issue that is a caution point is when Mara and Noah attend a seminar where the speaker promises to ‘help find answers.’ She demands answers from him, and he cons $5,000 out of Noah and gives Mara a drink that is supposed to help her, a mysterious liquid. When Mara goes back to confront the man the next day, the shop is gone.

This was a really gripping book, but there are some things you have to take into consideration when deciding whether it would be an appropriate book to read. I don’t want to make decisions for anyone else, only help them to be well-informed.

Questions? Comments? Other books you want to have reviewed? Leave a comment below!