Book Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages

“Some time has passed since the inimitable quartet of Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance have had a mission together. But with the arrival of a new Society member — and a new threat — they must reunite to face dilemmas more dangerous than ever before, including the villainous Mr. Curtain and a telepathic enemy tracking their every move, not to mention a dramatically preteen Constance.

In its triumphant return, the Society encounters all new challenges, but the series’ trademark sly humor, sweet camaraderie, hairsbreadth escapes, and mind-bending puzzles are all as engaging as ever. Fans of the series will be thrilled to see the Society has grown up a little with them, while a new generation of readers will fall in love with these irresistible adventures.” (from Goodreads)

When I finished the original trilogy just six months ago, I had my doubts about reading this one. Why read another book when that ending was sooooo satisfactory? Well, here I am, and I’m very happy to have read it. 😀

(I got to buddy read this book with my friend Mikayla. 10/10 would recommend.)

When it first started out, I’ll admit that it didn’t feel like I was expecting. The first chapter was more action-packed and explanation-packed than these books usually start out with–which I’m sure was a welcome opening for readers new to the series or in need of a refresher. 😉 Fortunately, it settled into the happy rhythm of cleverness, heartwarming friendship, and profound thoughts mixed together into an adventure like I’ve grown to love.

The blessed wordplays are back and better than ever! And so many callbacks to the first book. ❤ Also, Milligan will never cease to be a legend. XD

I love the old gang so much, and I loved seeing them be themselves and even more so. Kate was… WOW. The moment with the stairs, anyone? Sticky is darling, and the more I think about it, I relate to him a little more than I ever have before. And Constance!!! The green-plaid-suit-wearing teenager with scarlet hair (maybe a bit like her sister’s ❤ ). She was sleepy and grumpy again in this one, yes, but her struggles with feeling left out (as the only one officially still a young kid), her beautiful if grumpy love for her friends and family, and some of the gobsmacking things she did = happy sigh. Also, while I recognize that she shouldn’t be rude, I also recognize that certain things are always going to be harder for her, but after that ending I’ve got some hope. 😉 Also, Tai is my baby. ❤ I liked his role in the story, and yes, of course I saw a metaphorical meaning for it. XD

And Reynie. He’s always been my favorite character, and I love his big, beautiful heart. The painful growth he had to go through in this one was a little hard to read about at times, but I loved it in the end. He’s so awesome. ❤

Honestly, all the ponderings about growing up and growing apart and respecting each other were amazing. My friend Mikayla and I agreed that it meant a lot to us since we were a similar age to the characters for the first time. (And those topics have been on my mind a ton lately.)

I loved the adventure in this one, and while I had a *tiny* guess of what was going on, the full scope of it just blew. my. mind. O.o. I love it so much. I did find some of the logistics confusing at times and the ending was a little slow, but I didn’t mind those so much. 😉 Everything else was so perfect. ❤

(And Reynie daring Kate to keep her hairstyle in was The Most Adorable Thing Ever.)

Just a note, there were a couple instances of threats against children and some peril. Also, as it says on the tin, telepathy is a factor.

Best quotes: “Poetic license,” Constance said with a shrug. Tai was fascinated. “There’s a license for poetry?”

More than once he’d come close to knocking on Mr. Benedict’s study door, only to change his mind and creep away. Now it occurred to him that Mr. Benedict had been aware of those almost-knocks. In fact, Mr. Benedict’s decision to “have an extra cup of tea” had likely been meant to make it easier for Reynie to approach him. No need for knocking. Mr. Benedict had removed the door.

Altogether, this was a great read, and with the nods to the prequel, I’m thinking I’ll need to read that one too. 😉

Book Review: Underground

“Katherine Holliday has left behind her life in the Federation. She is ready to start a new one with Matthew and the Intolerants. But it isn’t long before the Underground leaders send her on a mission that takes her back to the Federation. Katherine finds herself in City 1, with the help of new and unexpected allies, in an attempt to locate information that could help the Underground escape the Council’s battle plan called Project Endgame.But the Federation has changed and the Council is more desperate than ever. While back in the Federation, Katherine uncovers a tangled web of deception and manipulation. Haynes isn’t the only one with secrets, and the question of who to trust becomes harder to answer.” (from Goodreads)

Okay, so I just discovered a new book syndrome–the exact antithesis to Dispensable Middle Book in a Trilogy syndrome, and I call it The Sequel Is Better Than the First Book, Wow syndrome. I liked Reintegration well enough and was a big fan of some specific aspects, but this one was really, really good.

Underground picked up just days after the first book, and Katherine is a mixture of rejoicing and reeling. No spoilers, but she has a lot to take in. At first, I was a little frustrated or surprised or something that she wasn’t immediately thinking like a Christian (I know the Christian fiction drill), but seeing her slow journey of learning to live in the reality of what Christ has done ended up being really encouraging because I feel that sometimes…

Matthew is still Matthew (<3), and I love his family. The few characters I met of the Underground were interesting as well. Also, Locke and Rush both had me intrigued. O.o. Like, A+ for complicatedness.

Speaking of complicated, I ate up the political and ideological discussions/conflicts. Isolationism vs. impacting the world, physical warfare vs. spiritual warfare, and the definition of true freedom… It was all good. 😀 And it didn’t slow down the plot one bit, either! The mission was crazy and really cool. Also, CRAZY.

The worldbuilding in this one went into a little more depth which was fun. Some of the tech was pretty cool, though it was freaky how the Federation could change so quickly.

There was a little bit of repetition of internal thoughts, but really not a lot and I didn’t mind it all. 😉

Just a note, there were many mentions of executions, the possibility of medical experimentation on young children, and some more gunshots, though they weren’t described.

Best quotes: Suddenly it hits me. I can’t lie to them. Who I was is part of who I am. Christ saved me from who I was. Who I am now proves that He changed me.

“We would be safer that way, but I think something inside of us would die if we gave up and stopped fighting. We’d no longer be standing up for what’s right.”

Altogether, I really enjoyed and was encouraged by this book. Book three can’t come soon enough. 😉

Book Review: The Girl Who Could See

“All her life Fern has been told she is blind to reality—but what if she is the only one who can truly see?

Fern Johnson is crazy. At least, that’s what the doctors have claimed since her childhood. Now nineteen, and one step away from a psych ward, Fern struggles to survive in bustling Los Angeles. Desperate to appear “normal,” she represses the young man flickering at the edge of her awareness—a blond warrior only she can see. 

Tristan was Fern’s childhood imaginary hero, saving her from monsters under her bed and outside her walls. As she grew up and his secret world continued to bleed into hers, however, it only caused catastrophe. But, when the city is rocked by the unexplainable, Fern is forced to consider the possibility that this young man isn’t a hallucination after all—and that the creature who decimated his world may be coming for hers.” (from Goodreads)

(Originally posted on Lilian’s blog as part of a very fun collab) 😉

First off, is it weird that I want to enlarge this cover and hang it up like a movie poster? Because I do. XD (And the birds, guys!!!)

I actually read this book twice in a row to get all my thoughts about it together. The first time I read it, I was pretty keyed up from something unrelated to the book plus the SUSPENSE that is this story that I felt like I definitely missed some things, so I read it again to get all the richness. 😉

Wow. 

Fern was a very interesting character in that she was so normal. It sounds weird, but I mean that she wasn’t super rebellious or brilliant or skilled at anything in particular. She could have been you or I. I especially liked how she was doing her best to take care of Elinore. ❤ That was super sweet and showed her strong inner character. Also, I need more heroines with untamable hair, because that is the most relatable thing ever. XD 

All of her banter with Tristan was hilarious! I loved the easy way they talked with each other, even when she was trying to get him to go away. 😉 Honestly, I think “Plant Girl” is the most adorable nickname, and I’m gonna start calling him “Post-Apocalyptic Macho-Man”. (I definitely do ship it, guys. And I appreciated how appropriate and sweet everything stayed.)

The worldbuilding was really fascinating. Talk about a very, very destroyed world. O.o. Some of that and a certain aspect of the plotline were reminding me a little of one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes. 😉 Between the world-jumping, (intense) flashbacks, and a time skip, it could get confusing sometimes, but I followed (at least on my second read-through). 😉

The FBI agent Barstow was an interesting and competent side character. I like what ended up happening with him. 

Okay, but the spiritual themes! O.o. I understood them sooo much stronger the second time, and I was tearing up a bit at certain parts. 😉 Something that really hit me near the beginning was how easy it was for Elinore to believe in Tristan, and how Fern needed to go back to the trust and belief she had as a child. Definitely a message to us young adults who have begun to experience the world that calls us crazy for our beliefs. And the theme of a valuing love that sets people free. And Tristan’s reply to Fern’s question at the end. So amazing. I’m trying not to spoil anything, but I loved it. 😉

Just a note, some of the post-apocalyptic situation and medical details (including children) could be disturbing to young children. Some of the descriptions of wounds/blood got to be a little too much for me, personally, at times. Also, one redacted swear word and a slang phrase were used.

(All the best quotes are spoilers. Sorry, guys. Just read it.)

Altogether, I’m glad I tried this book, and I very much enjoyed the sci-fi-ness and the allegorical themes. 😉 I definitely want to try this author’s Peter Pan inspired book when it comes out, and I want her to write something Nutcracker-ish next. A girl can dream, right? 😉

Guest Review: Crossroads (Collab with Lilian, Part 2)

As promised, we’re back with our reviews! Today, I’m reviewing The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson over on Lilian’s blog, and she’s reviewing Crossroads by Paul Willis on mine. 😀 Let’s jump in!

“Lethal persecution. Haunting decisions. Death just a whisper away.

Jack grew up concealing his faith, but now the persecution of Christians has turned lethal. After inadvertently putting his family in danger, Jack becomes aware of a covert agency dedicated to protecting Christians. The agency takes his mother and sister to safety and offers him a position as an emergency medic within their ranks.

Caring for the injured allows Jack to help their cause without violating his pacifistic beliefs, but he stands at odds with tough resistance fighter Britain. Grueling firefights, severe losses, and desperate choices test their beliefs as each of them seeks to save lives no matter the cost. But what is that cost?” (from Goodreads)

Lilian’s Review

Well, well. This is a dystopian book unlike anything I’ve read before. I count dystopian as one of my favorite genres, but I don’t read many and when I do, I tend to have really high expectations. And… honestly, I’m not sure what to think of this one!

It didn’t quite meet my expectations (let’s face it – when you’ve heard this much about a book, you have, well, very high expectations) but at the same time it was so interesting and intriguing and very engaging and wow?? Seriously, I’m pretty impressed. 

I feel like there wasn’t much of a plot and I normally don’t like it when that happens but I didn’t notice it much at all when reading? It was mostly a lot of action but no noticeable reason behind the action (which is why I say there wasn’t much of a plot). The action / fight scenes were really well written for the most part – Paul’s writing style really fits those types of scenes. However, this did contribute to the overall choppy and not very well-flowing-ness? of most of the sentences of the story. The sentences were mostly simple sentences that were short and just didn’t have much variety, which made the book a bit of a rough read (not to mention it also made the plot twists a bit too abrupt).

My main issue about this book was the realisticness of everything. I hate to say it.. but I just. ugh. every couple of pages I would stop and think “No one would say that”, or “No one would think that while fighting”. Here’s an example (backstory: Jack received a message from the Lynx, which is an artificial intelligence unit thing): It was from the Lynx. “Sorry, I forgot during the commotion. I amplified and analyzed the voice sample you sent”, and I remember thinking “what…? AI units don’t forget things in our world. This is dystopian genre, which means their AI units would be even more advanced. So why would the Lynx forget something?” Maybe something just isn’t quite adding up for me so that might be why I’m not getting it? Just small things like that which probably wouldn’t bother most people, but they really stuck out to me and kind of annoyed me.

There were things that I really, really, really loved in Crossroads though. I absolutely loved the whole theme of Christian persecution + pacifism + evangelism and how Jack and CROS dealt with it. It honestly really inspired and encouraged me, and I would recommend reading this book for that alone. Jack’s personal beliefs and convictions changed and matured as the storyline moved along, and I’m really happy with how his beliefs turned out. 🙂 

Overall, I liked this book! Didn’t love it – didn’t hate it – just liked it. I think Crossroads is a book worth reading for the Christian themes in it, but I personally found some of it hard to follow and quite a bit of it very unrealistic. It might just be me though because literally like 99% of my friends who have read it has rated it five stars. xD I’m going to rate it 3 stars, which I’m a bit disappointed by because so many people have raved about it and I honestly expected it to be a 5 star read. OH WELL THOUGH. Guys, I ramble too much, and I’m sorry. xP 

Thank you so, so much to everyone who voted for Crossroads! I absolutely don’t (at all) regret reading it, and I’m glad I did. Thanks to Kate for collaborating with me and don’t forget to check out her review for The Girl Who Could See, which is on my blog! 😀

***

That’s all, folks! Thanks so much for voting on what we should read, and I hope you enjoyed seeing our reviews of the books. 😉 I had a lot of fun collaborating with Lilian, and I’m so glad she came up with this idea! 😀

Book Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society

themysteriousbenedictsociety.jpg“‘Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?’

Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children-two boys and two girls-succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they’ll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you’re gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.” (from Goodreads)

I had vaguely registered my friends’ glowing reviews of this book, but since it had been compared to something I don’t care to read, I always passed it by at the library. Until I found a copy at the thriftstore and decided that maybe now was the time to give it a try. 😉

Wow.

It kinda blew me away with its funness and smartness and cleanness and deepness. ❤ It actually reminded me a lot of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or The Wingfeather Saga in that regard.

I LOVED the quirky tests at the beginning. Not only were they really clever and fun to read about, but that was some pretty ace character development. O.o. I found myself laughing over the hidden puns, scurrying through the intense parts, and even kinda inwardly gasping at some pretty big reveals. 😉 Definitely a lot of surprises! Especially with all those “tiny” details that ended up being really important. I’m still in awe. 😉 It was also really cool how each of the children, Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and even troublesome Constance, were shown as important even in their differences, and I think that’s a good lesson for us all.

Reynie was my favorite, though. His honest, Hobbit-y soul and his outlook on life were just the best. ❤

Mr. Benedict was my other favorite character. Wise and zany, brave and a little broken himself… I especially loved how he guided and taught Reynie and how the children could always trust him. Something about the way he unconditionally loved them and chose them and worried over them… it got my allegorical wheels turning a little bit. 😉

The themes in this book were just another thing that makes it stand out. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the effect of media on our lives, so the message of rejecting subtle messages (often ones of panic) and being lovers of truth really hit home. 😉 Also, friendship and its importance, adoption (*cries happily*), and facing fears/resisting temptation–so much. I’m seriously gonna have to reread this to properly appreciate all of the wonderful depth. ❤ (And can we talk about Reynie’s struggle in “A Chess Lesson”? Because, um, that was painfully real and amazing.)

Just a note, because this book features children as secret agents, there are some scary situations and evil adults. “The Waiting Room” was a disgusting, slightly disturbing place, and one of the children is beaten up pretty badly by guards. SPOILER ALERT! Also, memory wiping and one metaphor that mentioned cutting someone up.

Best quote: Reynie was crumbling, on the brink of despair. Mr. Benedict expected him to be a leader to his friends, to be smart enough to devise a plan, to be brave. But he was no kind of leader at all, he knew that now, certainly not brave, and Mr. Benedict felt very far away indeed. More and more, Mr. Curtain seemed like the real man, and Mr. Benedict like a memory from a dream.

Altogether, I loved this clean and fantasticly clever ride, and I’ll definitely be revisiting it again to absorb even further all its amazingness. 😀

Also, I have so much love for the last line, those marvelous illustrations, and that red stripe down the side of the cover. ❤

Short Story: Lanterns

I wrote this story for my creative writing class last fall. It was a little outside of my usual writing style, but I enjoyed writing it. So, I present to you, this dystopian allegory “Lanterns”.

lantern-3385330_1920

Day or night, the City was always alive. Never silent, never still. A long stream of hunched people snaked away from the factory gates. Smog filled the air above the factory section, obscuring a bright moon.

Diamond had never seen the towers so closely before. The sleek towers rose above the smog layer, home to the people who could see far enough to rule. They built the factories and paid the workers. And they built the roads across the river.

Afraid to be caught staring, he ducked his head.

The column shuffled to the side to let another pass. Workers for the factory. The next shift. Their thin coats were buttoned to their chins, and they studied the cobblestones beneath their feet.

Diamond stamped his boots impatiently and rubbed his cold hands together. He winced as he traced the bandage on one palm. His work had given him a cut ready to turn into a scar.

The column lurched forward again. Buildings hunched along the streets, their narrow windows glowing orange from the furnaces within. The ashy, sharp smell of industry faded as they broke out of the maze of streets.

Outside the gaslit factory section, the cold air tore at the workers. Water from the swollen riverbanks seeped into their shoes. They straightened slightly at the soft light that met their eyes. The lights here came from lanterns, set in niches along the wall.

“Almost ‘ome, aren’t we?” a raspy voice ventured.

“Yeauh,” another answered.

Diamond looked back at the towers. Their lights were far away now, and he shook off the oppressive feeling he had known all day. It was new to him. Just like the factory job and the itchy sweater he was wearing.

He glanced at the others, still plodding in a line. They weren’t waiting for work or food or pay. No wardens had organized them; it was all they knew to do. They passed the first niche in the stone walls that held the river back from the bridge. Lantern light glowed on the tired, sooty faces.

Diamond stepped out of line and broke into a run. The cool air felt good on his cheeks, and he lifted his face to the moon. He passed another lantern before he slowed to catch his breath.

“Not tired, that one,” an old man in two coats remarked.

A young man glared at the sky from under his hat. “Give him a few more days at the factory, and he’ll walk like the rest of us.”

Diamond shuddered inwardly at their words. Between the wardens and the towers, he already felt tired when he worked. It was a temptation to let the work slide like others did. They all got paid the same no matter. He shoved his hands into his pockets.

The wind was picking up, and the column began to hurry a little. A few anxious faces tore themselves from the path to look at the sky. Diamond ran again. Mother was waiting for him with listening ears and hot soup. Perhaps she had something to soothe his cut.

He stopped running once he was alone, but his thoughts caught up with him. They demanded he sort them out. “I don’t like the wardens, but no one does. They watch too closely like they think we want to make a mistake.”

Diamond kicked a loose stone. “My work’s all right,” he told himself. He pressed on his bandage to relieve some of the pain. “It wasn’t a bad first day.”

A gust of wind slammed into him from behind, and he stumbled forward. He sat down slowly, leaning his back against the wall and holding on to his shaking knees. He blinked. The lanterns had flickered out.

The river rushed on the other side of the wall, and the stones were cold through his sweater. Diamond shut his eyes. It was no darker than if he had been sleeping. There was nothing to fear. He just had to think. A muffled sob broke the stillness, and he realized it was his.

His eyes sprang open. Maybe the moon would guide him home. Only a sliver peeking out from behind the cloud, just enough to prove he hadn’t gone blind. He took a cautious step forward. Then another. Two more before he hurried into a walk.

A loose pebble turned under his heel, and he fell to his knees. The tears were back again. Silent but desperate. They ran down his cheeks and slid off his chin. “Help me, please. I can’t get home.”

Diamond reached out to touch the cold stone wall. “Help me.”

The wind whipped at him, stirring his hair with its freezing blast. He shivered and shoved his hands into his pockets. Pulling himself to his feet, he felt a small something shift in his pocket. A match! His fingers closed around it. What was it doing in his pocket?

“The lanterns!”

He reached his bandaged hand out to the wall and slid his fingers along it, taking hesitant steps. The eerie quiet amplified the pounding of his heart. It skipped a beat when his hand touched nothing but empty air. A niche. With trembling fingers, he drew the match out of his pocket and struck it on his boot. The end burst into flame with a sizzle.

He looked at the rusty, steel lantern, puzzled. It was already open. He shrugged and lit the wick. A gust of cold wind rushed down the road, and he shoved himself against the niche to shield the lantern. It died down in moments, and he ventured to look at the lantern. The flame still shone bright.

Diamond shut the lantern and took it by the handle. The soft light illumined the road around him. “Thank you,” he whispered. “I can go home.”

The way before him was bright, but he ventured a glance behind him. So much swallowing blackness. Diamond’s heart sank when he remembered the column of people. He looked toward the light and back to the blackness. So many were lost just like he had been.

He turned his feet away from home and broke into a run. The precious lantern swung by his side. He heard a gasp and a shout as he rounded a bend in the road.

“Where did you get a light?”

“May we borrow it?”

“We’re saved!”

“Tell us!”

The voices scrambled over each other. Faces questioned and pleaded in the flicker of his lantern.

Diamond caught his breath. “We must walk together.” He helped lift an old woman to her feet. “The light is meant to be shared.”

He shone his light on hunched workers staring listlessly at the silver thread of moon. More stepped into the light. The old man with two coats let a tired mother lean on his arm. A few others carried children, and they all followed Diamond down the cold stone road.

“Who is it?” A harsh voice spoke when the light seeped up the shadows. A young man leaned against the wall, snarling. His hat was pulled down tight over his ears. “Wardens? Come to take us to the endless halls. Bad workers we’ve been, eh?”

“No, it is only Diamond and the others,” he spoke out. “I have brought a light.”

The man’s laugh mocked. “A light, eh? How long will that burn?” The man gestured to the empty lantern in the niche near him. “Something or someone put out all the others.”

“I found a match in my pocket. A gift, I don’t know how. The others weren’t closed against the wind before, but I made sure mine is,” Diamond explained.

One of the workers spoke from behind him. “Tary, does it matter? He has a light. Come with us.”

Tary shook his head. “Follow the kid, fools. I’m staying here. I enjoy the darkness anyway.”

“Let us light your lantern then,” Diamond pleaded. He reached forward, but Tary pushed his arm away violently.

“I said that I enjoy the darkness,” he hissed.

Diamond could feel the workers behind him tense. He sighed and turned away. There was nothing he could do. Still, he couldn’t believe someone would refuse this gift. Not after the terror of waiting in the dark.

The group grew larger than the circle of light, and they lit another lantern from its blaze.

Diamond turned. “Do we have everyone?”

“Everyone but Tary.” The words were low and dismal.

“Where’s Byona?” the old woman asked.

He found himself surprised that they knew each other’s names. “We’ll find Byona and then we’ll turn toward home,” he decided.

They found the girl near the entrance to the road. The tower lights glittered like eyes, and she shivered in their gaze. The old woman hobbled over to her.

“Byona, Diamond has brought us light.” She let go of her cane and laid a withered hand on the girl’s shoulder.

Byona brushed strands of hair out of her eyes. They were large in the glow of the lantern. She fixed them on Diamond but spoke to the woman. “He has?”

Diamond nodded. “It is for everyone who will follow it. A gift.”

The girl smiled and stood up. She put her arm around the old woman’s shoulders, and they melted into the group.

“Now we go home,” Diamond whispered. His words hung on the air as the clouds parted to show the moon.

The people were no longer a column when they reached their quarters. They were a huddled mass of humanity, sharing the gift they had found. Joy and gratitude formed into words. Neighbors called a hearty goodnight by name.

Diamond was alone again when he trudged down the street to his row. He climbed the steps to his flat. Leaving the lantern on the steps, he looked out into the night.

“Thank you for the gift.”

 

Copyright 2018 Kate Willis

Book Review: Crossroads

41kvdgpgacl-_sx322_bo1204203200_“Lethal persecution. Haunting decisions. Death just a whisper away.

Jack grew up concealing his faith, but now the persecution of Christians has turned lethal. After inadvertently putting his family in danger, Jack becomes aware of a covert agency dedicated to protecting Christians. The agency takes his mother and sister to safety and offers him a position as an emergency medic within their ranks.

Caring for the injured allows Jack to help their cause without violating his pacifistic beliefs, but he stands at odds with tough resistance fighter Britain. Grueling firefights, severe losses, and desperate choices test their beliefs as each of them seeks to save lives no matter the cost. But what is that cost?” (from Goodreads)

This book was like one of those good war movies that make you feel and think through several facets of the same issue. In fact, this book was so action packed and thought provoking I felt exhausted by the end of it, but it was absolutely worth it. The spiritual theme never got “preachy” as the two main characters moved closer to the truth in a very real way. It floored me later when I realized how much their final decisions had been foreshadowed! (SPOILER ALERT! Thank you, Pastor Whatever-Your-Name-Is.)

Jack was my favorite character. He had an attitude of trying again even when he failed, seeking wise counsel, and always trying to do the right thing. I loved nearly all of the side character, but Ashlynn, Amy, and Chris stood out to the most. I found Ashlynn to be the right ratio of spunk to femininity. (I have the perfect comparison to another fictional character in mind, but spoilers, sweetie.) And AMY!! She was nearly-nonsensically hilarious, but not without her big moment of extreme usefulness. I especially enjoyed her subtle Doctor Who reference. 😀 I very much enjoyed Chris’s humorous, nonchalant character. He was such a weird “guardian angel” getting Jack into trouble and back out of it. Definitely a character I want to see more humor from and redemption of if there are more books.

Even though this story is set in the future, the technology wasn’t confusing but instead the special weaponry and computer stuff just added to the cool factor. 😀 (SPOILER ALERT! Do you want to ride in a former self-driving service car with a gunpowder shipment?) And the HUMOR! All the characters were exceedingly funny, especially that one time Jack had a thought. 😛 I ended the book in tears at the heartbreaking beauty. Sequel needed. Now.

Recommended for readers 16+ because of hard themes, intense action, and brief medical details.

Best quotes: “You drive!” Britain yelled and rolled in between the front seats. The truck careened toward the left lane. Jack seized the steering wheel and yanked it back. “I don’t know how to drive!” “The first step,” Britain said as he pulled a machine gun from under the back seats, “is to get in the driver’s seat.”

“What good would I do here?” He looked at her.
“You have values not everybody does. I guess I see a lot of potential if you’re willing to grow and change in the right way.”

Altogether, how can I ever read again? 😉

SPOILER ALERT! Laurion gives me the creeps.

Book Review: The City of Ember

307791“Many hundreds of years ago, the city of Ember was created by the Builders to contain everything needed for human survival. It worked…but now the storerooms are almost out of food, crops are blighted, corruption is spreading through the city and worst of all—the lights are failing. Soon Ember could be engulfed by darkness…

But when two children, Lina and Doon, discover fragments of an ancient parchment, they begin to wonder if there could be a way out of Ember. Can they decipher the words from long ago and find a new future for everyone? Will the people of Ember listen to them?”  (from Goodreads)

This year I rediscovered The City of Ember. Watching the movie with my siblings reminded me how much I loved the books, and I decided to start this series by Jeanne DuPrau again. This time since I already knew the story I was free to slow down and enjoy every aspect of it. I could feel the impending doom of Ember with the rust and the mold and the damp and the blackouts. I could feel what it was like to hold your breath and count until the lights came back on with the absolute terror of not knowing where you were and what was going to happen next. I didn’t just enjoy Lina and Doon’s attempts to solve the riddle of the torn instructions, instead I was rooting for them to find the way out. Even though this was a fantasy book, the people and place names were never so odd that it detracted from the story but instead it gave the background development of people far removed from regular life but still holding onto aspects of it. Lina and Doon were written as real, live people with loves and hates, worries and hopes, and faults even too. A small metaphor that I had completely missed came out this time and left me smiling. Doon watching a worm build its cocoon and break free, Lina planting a seed and watching it sprout–metaphors of hope. (And a good explanation of the next book’s cover.) The author’s frank writing style still left room for poetry and I found myself experiencing the disorientation of SPOILER ALERT! using a boat and candles for the first time and the wonder of SPOILER ALERT! seeing a brand new day be born! I honestly cried at that one. 😉

Many readers have noticed the odd references in this book about religion. Side characters are heard wondering if there is a great Being watching over them and saying maybe or maybe not. Doon also wonders where life comes from and knows it’s a power greater than the Builders. The Believers are a group of people that aren’t in the book very much but do have the most “beliefs” of anyone. They claim to have seen the Builders coming again to “show them the way” in a dream. Now of course, SPOILER ALERT! in the story Lina and Doon save the day and the Builders are nowhere to be seen which is a great case for humanism, isn’t it? Except…the Builders SPOILER ALERT! did save them. Who wrote the instructions? Left the boats? The candles? And later in the series a few more surprises? I think it’s positing an interaction between their own efforts and what has been provided for them. It’s really not a huge theme of the book, but I would recommend some parental guidance for younger readers who are not strong in what they believe.

Best quote(s): “The trouble with anger is, it gets hold of you. And then you aren’t the master of yourself anymore. Anger is. And when anger is the boss, you get unintended consequences.”

“Wouldn’t it be strange, she thought, to have a blue sky? But she liked the way it looked. It would be beautiful – a blue sky.”

I very much enjoyed this book and can’t wait to start re-reading the second one! Definitely a great series. 😉

Book Review: Counted Worthy

22752883“Heather Stone lives in fear of repeating the past, yet she continues doing the one thing that could trigger another disaster. When the police trace an illegal Bible to her house, Heather’s world begins to crumble.

Her father’s life hangs in the balance. No one with the power to help knows or cares. If she tries to save him, she could lead her friends to their deaths. If she does nothing, her father’s fate is certain. Can she evade a hostile police force and win public sympathy before it’s too late?” (from Goodreads)

Why did I not know this book by Leah Good existed??!!! It has all the elements of my favorite dystopians–banned books, bicycle chases, sneaking past security, and some broken down infrastructure–with no love triangle or adult content to make me throw it out the window. Seriously good. The writing style was so fun, my Kindle highlighter and I went on a spree together after the first chapter pulled me in to the point of no return. Quite the surprise twist there! Heather was so real. She struggled so much but turned to God for her strength, and her friends (especially Bryce) were there to remind her of the Scriptures she needed. I liked Bryce quite a bit, and Ansley was a fun side character. The part that had me most flipping “pages” was when they discovered the SPOILER ALERT!  raid on Miss Lucinda’s house. Awful. Grrr, Alden. I did find the book slow and heavy on the dialogue at some points; but the Christian message, amazing action, and great characters made up for everything. *big fangirl grin* Not recommended for younger readers because of intense action, flashbacks to SPOILER ALERT! a violent death, and SPOILER ALERT! medically induced execution. Also, one character swears under his breath although the word is not mentioned, and there are a few woman leaders in the resistance.

Best quote: “I looked up and found an expectant expression on his face. He wanted me to sound spiritual, but I only felt scared.”

And this one just because: “He put his hand over my mouth. I considered licking him until I heard the rhythmic thump of running feet.”

Altogether, I LOVED this fantastic, God-honoring read! Anyone want to build a printing press with me?