Friday, February 28, 2014

Dancing Through the Jungle

Outlaw by Ted Dekker
Genre: Action/Adventure Fiction (slightly historical fiction)

Insert from inside cover: "The story of how I, Julian Carter, and my precious two-year-old son, Stephen, left Atlanta, Georgia and found ourselves on a white sailboat, tossed about like a cork on a raging sea off of Australia's northern tip in 1963, is harrowing.

"But it pales in comparison to what happened deep in the jungle where I was taken as a slave by a savage tribe unknown to the world. Some places dwell in darkness to deep that even God seems to stay away.

"There, my mind was torn in two by the gods of the earth. There, one life ended so another could begin. Some will say I was a fool for making the choices I made. But they would have done the same. They, too, would have embraced death if they knew what I knew, and saw through my eyes.

"My name is Julian and this is my story. But more, it is the story of my son who was born to change the world."

Well, there you go. That about wraps it up, so I'll be signing off now.... Not really :). Like every book I read, I have opinions, so you better listen up!

Outlaw was both an exciting and enlightening read. I really like how Dekker portrays the flesh in this novel and the war between darkness and light. Although still remaining courteous and in the story, Dekker did get a little preachy towards the end. It was nice, though, to read something from him that's not about serial killers or murders.  So if you're not into that kind of thing, but still want an exciting, meaningful read, pick this book up.

Several of the story-lines and characters seemed to have gotten pushed aside at the end, and I wished Dekker would have gone into a little more detail about them and how one of the mc's felt. This could be because the author switched the point of view about a quarter or so into the novel, which was fine, but he could have switched back or just cleared up a few things; it seemed like he didn't think those characters or obstacles were important anymore.

The characters were very real, and I felt like I could hear the children laughing, feel the humidity pressing on my lungs, and see the beauty of the dark-skinned people of the tribe. Dekker did a good job of bringing the reader into the world, which makes sense, since he lived in Indonesia for a while as a child.

Overall, I rate this novel a 3.5 out of 5 and recommend it for 16 year-olds and up for a brief love scene.

What I learned: Our bodies are merely costumes, not the real us. If we are followers of Christ, we belong to something other than this world and should not let our emotions or anything besides Christ define us.

One of my favorite quotes: "The body makes a better canvas than any flat object, because it lives and breathes."

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Martians Meet London

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
Genre: Science-Fiction, Classic

"Thirty-five million miles into space, a species of Martians set eyes on planet Earth. With their own planet doomed for destruction, the Martians prepare to invade. Their weapons are ready and their aim is ruthless. The war of the worlds is about to begin."

Duhduhduh! The story-line of this novel, aliens taking over the world, is very intriguing and exciting. It makes even more sense if you read the introduction by Orson Scott Card, who wrote Ender's Game. The introduction offers important insight by Card at the purpose and value of science fiction and why Wells wrote this book.

Even though I enjoyed the idea of the plot, I think Wells could have made it even more exciting and real to the readers. This could just be my bias from reading so many contemporary works. But sometimes I was a little bored by the novel, and aliens taking over the world should not be boring! It was also difficult to follow at times because the narrator takes you all over and around England, mentioning all of these towns I hadn't the foggiest idea of; a map would have made it clearer.

Also, the reader never knows the narrator's/main character's name (at least not that I was aware of). And how can a reader be close to the characters if they never know his name? It frustrated me, just a little. It's also an intrusive narrator, so be aware of that.

Overall, I was disappointed by this work and give it a 3 out of 5. But if you enjoy science fiction, you should still read it since it is a building block of the genre. I recommend it for 14 year olds and up. Be aware that it is quite different than the movie with Tom Cruise (which is an excellent movie, in my opinion).

What I learned: Humans are not as indestructible or powerful as they might think/wish. Beware of pride!

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Review: Champion

Champion by Marie Lu
Third and last book in the Legend trilogy
Genre: YA Dystopian

Insert from the inside cover:  (WARNING: May give away things if you haven't read previous two books!)
"June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic-and each other-and now their country  is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government's elite circles as Princeps-Elect, while Day has been assigned a high-level military position.

"But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them: just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic's border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country's defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything."

This was a great conclusion to the trilogy. It is just as action-packed as the previous two novels, but also continues to develop the relationships between the characters, specifically Day, June, Eden, and Anden. I enjoyed returning to these characters and their vivid personalities.

I like how the 'lovey-dovey' stuff in this book isn't the main focus, and the people have to deal with larger things, like war and disease. And I loved seeing Day's relationship and his love for his brother and how that played out.

There is plenty of events in this tale to keep you on your toes! It is slightly heavier and more depressing than the first two novels, but that was to be expected after the cliff-hanger in the second novel, Prodigy. It deals with some real-life stuff, but in a way that is not highly disturbing or depressing.

The only major problem I had with this book was the ending, which brings it down for me to a 3.5 out of 5. Endings pretty much make or break a story for me. Don't worry, it's not super sad, although it slightly is. It felt unsatisfying and kind-of cheap to me. I think Marie Lu could have solved the main problem with June and Day's relationship a different way than that, but perhaps not. You'll have to tell me what you think if you read it (and you most definitely should).

Recommended for ages 16 and up for violence, a scattering of cuss words, a 'hot' scene (if you know what I mean. And there are references to homosexuality too, by the way).

What I learned:  Love is sacrifice. No matter what kind it is.

*Check out more info about Marie Lu and her books on her website:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Review: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Genre: Mystery, Classical

"Set against the foggy, mysterious backdrops of London and the English countryside, these are the first twelve stories ever published to feature the infamous Detective Sherlock Holmes and his side kick Doctor Watson. They first appeared as stories in the Strand Magazine and feature some of his most famous and enjoyable cases, including 'A Scandal in Bohemia,' 'The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle' and 'The Red-headed League.' 

If it's snowy or rainy outside and you're bored, this is the perfect book to pick up. The stories are well told and highly interesting. Most of the stories are so short that you can read them in-between a longer novel or just for a quick, fascinating read. Each of the stories is fairly unique, and the way Sherlock handles each one, with so much insight and intelligence, surprised me every time.

I've been watching the BBC Sherlock episodes (check them out if you haven't; they're great), which helped pique my interest to read the original stories. And be warned, these tales are quite different than the modern retelling. Besides the obvious reasons (the original stories are set several centuries ago, for one), Sherlock is less of a jerk in these written stories, but just as observant. There is also less about his and Watson's relationship. In fact, there's not much character development at all, which bothered me the most about these stories. But perhaps there is more in Doyle's novels; I haven't read them yet.

Watson also doesn't have much of a personality in the stories or does much to help Holmes. He acts mainly as an observant narrator. I was frustrated with him several times for not knowing things that even I, the reader, could guess at. I'm not sure why Holmes always asked him to come along on his adventures, unless he merely liked having someone praise his exceptional abilities.

However, Doyle does well at what he probably aimed to do: write mysteries. Thus, I  award this novel a 3.5 and recommend it to 14 year olds and up.

Here's the link to theme song from the Sherlock episodes:  It's pretty epic.