Book Review: Testament of Faith

Notice: I was given a free copy of this book by the author to read in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

testament-of-faithDetails:

Title: Testament of Faith (Pacific Cove #2)

Author: JE Grace

Publisher: Self-published

Release Date: September 7th 2016

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Christian

Pages: 93 (eBook)

Synopsis:

Jason and Naomi’s son, Peter, returns home from college and back to the ranch he loves. A series of devastating events will test their strength, faith, and their hope for the future. Can they endure the hardships?

Through their own personal loss and that of their friends, they learn to lean on one another when all hope seems lost. Out of sorrow will come healing and out of healing great joy.

This is a story of struggle, grief, and loss, but also one of victory.

My First Thoughts:

J.E. Grace gave me both Haunted Visions and Testament of Faith at the same time to read and review. While I had many issues with Haunted Visions I thought that I would give the second one a try, especially since I really did like the idea of the first one. Who knows, maybe the author improved with this sequel.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

Oh, wow. Where do I begin?

First, I have to say that while my reviews are honest, if I know that the authors will read them I try to make their reviews as helpful as possible. I find completely negative reviews, or reviews that do nothing but spit in the author’s face, to be a waste of time and energy. Authors gain nothing is you point out every flaw or just tell them that they suck. They have a better chance at improving if you give them opportunities or ways to improve, by giving them constructive criticism rather than blunt criticism.

I’m not going to lie; this book has some major flaws. Most of them are the same that I found with the previous story. There’s too much scene set up and not enough substance, not enough interactions between the characters, not enough character action. Grace spends a lot of the book telling me what the characters do, how they feel, what they think. She doesn’t show me their happiness, anger, or grief by describing their body language, how their faces change, or even the tone of their voices. She doesn’t show me their personalities through their actions and reactions; instead she has to tell me what kind of people they are, but then I forget soon after. I’ve been told that her characters have grown and changed through the progression of the story, but I don’t see it. I see no evidence that her characters have changed, that they’ve become stronger, better, or closer. Instead I have to be told about their development without evidence to support the claims.

This book is marketed as a sequel to Pacific Cove: Haunted Visions, but honestly you don’t have to read the first book to read Testament of Faith. The former contained ghostly encounters and unsolved mysteries. Testament of Faith, even though it’s supposed to be a sequel, really doesn’t mention anything from the first book. It’s a completely different story than the first, which is fine, but also a bit jarring. There’s no mention of ghosts and only a sentence or two about Naomi’s struggles with her mental health (which magically got better, but I won’t dive into that one). Sure, some passing comments might not make sense to the reader, but the reader honestly doesn’t have to spend the time reading the first book to understand this one. And honestly, that may be a benefit to some readers.

I think my biggest complaint about this book is the reality that it’s in. At time I wondered if Testament of Faith was set in an oddly normal episode of The Twilight Zone, because the events that happened in this story are just too unrealistic. Every character you’re introduced to is perfect, beautiful, well built, and stylish. It’s off putting to imagine these perfect individuals going through crisis and come out still being perfect. And the plot was extremely predictable; I was not shocked by a single tragedy or happy outcome. Characters are super happy and toast to good health, a few pages later tragedy occurs, followed by an unrealistic turn of event that would not happen in the real world, followed by another tragedy at the same time as another happy reveal occurs, and then the book ends on a happy note. I felt nothing with each event except extreme disbelief in how things occurred. I didn’t feel happiness when good things happened to the characters; instead I was angry because the timing felt wrong. I also didn’t feel sadness or sympathy for the characters when tragedy occurred; instead I was stuck thinking about how incompetent everyone was, especially the doctors and I won’t even waste your time explaining how much they angered me. And just like the previous book, time is treated like a plaything, manipulated by the author to make the story progress in unnatural ways.

Despite all the criticism I gave the book, there were some positive notes. In the previous book, I felt that each scene change was too choppy and threw me out of the story, but in Testament of Faith I felt like scene were a bit more fluid and less jarring. There was a bit more loving interactions between the couples to really show that they loved each, but I still believe that needs some more work. And the scene descriptions were a bit more spread out in the scene. Overall, the story read more like a novella than a screenplay.

Final Thoughts:

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in reading Christian fiction. This book has some elements of faith that readers may enjoy reading. And even though I find the sequence of events a bit unrealistic, I believe some people may enjoy reading a story of overcoming tragedy, especially in times like now.

Rating(s):

1/5

Even though there was some improvement between the two stories, I have to give this sequel a lower rating than the other novella. The idea for this story was less compelling to me and it was really hard to read this book. This book was boring for me to read. I couldn’t relate, empathize, or sympathize with the characters. There were times in which I wanted to quit, but I finished this book because I was asked to and I felt like this review would be more beneficial to the author if I finished their book. Obviously this book could entertain some readers, but I couldn’t get past the mistakes or the unrealistic feel of the story to enjoy it.

 

Book Review: Fangirl (Audiobook)

Fangirl

Details:

 

Title: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: September 10th 2013

Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Pages: 445

Audio: 12 h 49m 0s

Narrators: Rebecca Lowman and Maxwell Caulfield

 

Synopsis:

 

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

 

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…

 

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

 

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

 

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

 

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

 

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

 

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

 

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

 

My First Thoughts:

 

A lot of people seemed to really enjoy this book and I wanted to see what all of the hype was about. The cover was absolutely beautiful and I loved the pastel coloring, so I thought: Aw hell, why not? I enjoyed listening to my first audiobook and this one was pretty lengthy, so I thought it would be perfect for the several multiple hour drives I was doing within the week.

 

Story Breakdown:

 

The major theme within this book is Coming-of-Age, in which Cather has to decide through trial and error just what it means to be ‘more adult-like’. Cather must realize what’s important for her future and what’s less important, and the middle ground between the two. This is a very classic theme found in many Middle Readers and Young Adult books. However, because Cather is in college and in that between stage of teenager and adult, I would say that this book is more of the New Adult category, simply because psychologically she’s in that stage of development. If you’re interested, I’ll be uploading a post at some point explaining New Adult as a category in more detail.

 

Cather is the perfect character for a Coming-of-Age story simply because she’s on the fence between two stages of her life and development. Cather is also a character who faces something a lot more people are realizing that they face as well: anxiety. Anxiety is such a broad term and can be applied to many aspects of a person’s life, such as social anxiety, testing anxiety, travelling anxiety, etc. Because the term is so broad many authors, it seems to me, don’t really approach the subject or declare a character to have it, even in some cases in which readers can identify clearly the signs of anxiety within that character. That’s fine, however, Rainbow Rowell

Created Cather with many of the ‘common’ forms of anxiety and used them to both hinder Cather and make her achievements more admirable.

 

Wren, however, is the exact opposite of Cather. She doesn’t suffer from anxiety, instead she’s ready to find new adventures and try new things. Wren’s story, though not the main focus, also follows the Coming-of-Age theme as she tries to find the right balance and place for her in college.

 

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

 

This book didn’t live up to the hype for me. Fangirl was extremely interesting and was very enjoyable to read. However, there were parts that frustrated me to no end.

 

What really makes a book enjoyable is the main character and their journey. To me, Cather’s journey was entertaining and a bit stimulating, but Cather was a different story. Cather was one of those main characters that I loved and hated at the same time. I was ecstatic that she had anxiety and that she wrote fanfiction because I’ve never read a book in which a main character had a mental illness, or that wrote fanfiction. Rowell did a fantastic job, I my opinion, portraying someone with a form of anxiety. Granted, every person with anxiety is different, no two people who have anxiety suffer in the same ways. With that said, Rowell did well to make Cather’s anxiety very generic and recognizable so that other readers may relate. However, there were times in which I wanted to strangle Cather because her actions and mindset really frustrated me to no end. For one, I did not agree with her on what it means to be a fan in fandom and two, her ‘information’ was extremely one-sided and wrong in places. But again, all my opinion.

 

Wren was a fine enough character, though I can’t say that she was more likable. I did, however, enjoy seeing her turn around and where her journey took her development. I would have to say that my favorite character in their family was their father. Rowell tackled another mental illness that is left out of literature, most of the time, and is mostly not talked about in media. Bipolar is something that surprisingly a lot of people suffer from, including a lot of actors, actresses, and other celebrities, and it’s usually linked to people with high levels of creativity. Again, Rowell created a character with a disorder not many people talk about, that character is Cather’s father. By giving Cather’s father, a very creative individual in a job that demands creativity, bipolar Rowell shows how a person may live with that illness and who it affect them and their family. With that said, I loved their father. He sort of reminded me of some of the people that I know who are bipolar, and I was glad to see that he was made out to be quirky, but normal. I also loved listening to the interactions between him and his daughters.

 

I realize that I actually liked the male characters more than the family ones this time around. It’s a little unusually, because naturally female writes portray women better in their novels, while male authors portray men better. There’s honestly nothing wrong with that, authors write what they know, and the most convincing characters are usually the same sex as the author. This time though, I found the female characters to be more frustrating than the males, and I liked them way better. With that said, I really enjoyed reading/listening about Levi. He was an interesting character that was definitely the flip-side to Cather. I also liked that he wasn’t a complete ‘good guy’, he was really nice but made his own mistakes too, it made him more human. And the romance wasn’t bad, it was actually pretty light and kinda cutesy. I enjoyed seeing Cather branch out some and figure out what she likes in a relationship, it’s definitely something not all people take the time to do. The romance was also unusual, totally normal by my definition, but it didn’t follow the normal equation for Young Adult/New Adult romance, which was refreshing.

 

From what I’ve read, not a lot of people enjoyed the extra Simon Snow inserts at the end of each chapter. I actually really enjoyed those little bits at the end. I don’t really have a particular reason, maybe because I had a male British-American reading them to me and I absolutely adore accents. Either way, I really delighted in listening to those extra parts at the end of each chapter, and they actually convinced me to get the companion novel Carry On.

 

Final Thoughts:

 

If you’re interested in contemporary romance, witty dialogue, and diverse characters this book may be for you. If you get bored by character driven stories, i.e. stories with no real main action/quest, then you’ll get tired of this book pretty quick. There’s no real ‘adventure’ it’s more of a psychological journey, or character development/character maturity driven story, rather than this is the goal and these are the steps the character has to take to get there. I don’t normally read these kinds of books, but it was a nice break from what I normally read.

 

Also, if you’re very sensitive about what it means to be a ‘fangirl’/’fanboy’ you may love or hate this book. Personally, I don’t agree with Cather’s, or Rowell’s for the matter, idea of what it means to be a ‘fan(in in the blank)’ of anything. In my opinion, their ideas are a bit one-sided and honestly a bit ignorant. I believe myself to be a fangirl of many things and I have been raised, quite literally, by people of multiple fandoms so Rowell and Cather’s ideas of what it means to be a fan actually angered me from time to time. However, I’ve seen other people who completely agree with their ideas, so it really depends on the person.

 

Also, if you’re sensitive about mental illness, specifically anxiety and bipolar, read with caution. This book was not written to showcase and explain the two, but instead tried to show two (mildly) functioning individuals and how they fell and came back due to their illness. I believe this book tried to show how people with mental illnesses can still function within a society, unlike a lot of characters in various media forms, even when they ‘fall’ and that they can live pretty normal lives.

 

Rating(s):

 

Story: 3.5/5

 

The story was enjoyable and kept me entertained for a while, but it didn’t strike me as ‘Oh wow!’ like everyone else. It fell short of my expectations, which was a little bit of a bummer, but it was definitely worth reading. Cather didn’t completely win me over, but her dad and Levi definitely made up for it. The romance was cute and refreshing, nothing like what I have been reading lately, which is a little depressing on my part. The Coming of Age journey that Cather took was interesting to follow. However, this will not be one of the first books that I’ll be recommending to my friends anytime soon, but I’m definitely eager to read the companion novel.

 

Narration: 4/5

 

At first I was a bit confused as to why there were two narrators, but due to my inexperience with Audiobooks I thought nothing of it. I actually enjoyed listening to the two narrators, it was refreshing, especially during the monotonous drives, and it allowed me to distinguish from the story and the various Simon Snow inserts. I thought Rebecca Lowman did a fantastic job bringing her characters to life, and I really enjoyed how she portrayed the male characters. Maxwell Caulfield also did a fantastic job setting up the atmosphere in the various Simon Snow inserts; I loved how I felt like his voice was transporting me into the made-up Mage Universe.

 

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Book Review: The F- it List

The F it List

Details:

Title: The F- it List

Author: Julie Halpern

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Release Date: November 12th 2013

Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance, Realistic Fiction

Pages: 247

Synopsis:

Becca has cancer. She doesn’t know what the outcome of her treatment will be.

Alex is Becca’s best friend, and wants to help. And if the only wat she can is by completing Becca’s bucket list, then so be it.

Sleep on a beach and watch the sunrise? Check.

Tell off Lottie McDaniels? Check, definitely.

Fall in love…Wait! What?!

Here is an unforgettable book about living fully, living authentically, and just…living.

My First Thoughts:

So I bought this book on a whim because I really loved the title. I don’t ever read books that focus on cancer, and no I’m not a heartless person, I’ve just lost too many loved ones to cancer to want to read about it too. But I decided to give this one a shot and make it the book that I read before/during St. Valentine’s Day! Sweet, I know…

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

The first thing I have to say is I cried once while reading this book. It was within the first few chapters when the character’s cancer was still new. It wasn’t an overly emotional scene, but I imagined myself as the main character and what it would be like for my best friend to have cancer. Yea, I cried like a blubbering baby and it was 2 am…

Other than that one crying episode, my eyes were dry for the rest of the book. In fact, I spent a lot of it mentally screaming at the main character, Alex. Unfortunately, the weakest link in this story was Alex because she reacted in the most bizarre ways, at least in my opinion. There were many times in which I wanted to scream at her, asking her what was she thinking and why would she do that. I didn’t understand her character at all. I enjoyed that she loved horror films and made a lot of references to those movies and other fandoms. However, that’s where my love for her kind of stopped; beyond that layer was a bunch of half-assed character traits. She’s supposed to be a bitch, but feels really awful and loses her nerve when confronting someone who has antagonized her best friend for years. She’s constantly shaming herself for having a better life than her best friend, just because she has cancer, but tries to act all tough and strong to everyone. She blames herself for everything going on for no reason, yet can’t control the words coming out of her mouth. Alex was supposed to be a stellar student, though her behavior never really matched and she was never reprimanded for skipping class so often. And the one thing that I really hated was how she sought a physical distraction to everything horrible happening to her but didn’t really know the guy first; she only used him out of convenience and then fell in love.

Speaking of love, the main couple in this book didn’t really wow me. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer my romances to start with awkward flirting and end with the clothes ripping, though honestly it can stop way before that point too. I understand that relationships do often start in the reverse, but I just didn’t like how Alex and Leo treated each other for the first half of the book. The cancer love story that I would have preferred to read was between Becca and her love interest, but sadly we only got passing shots of the two of them and their relationship.

Becca was definitely the one that I preferred between the two best friends. I felt like her character was more rounded and that the mistakes and character flaws that she had were better explained. The story always got better when she was around, but sadly, she didn’t show up nearly as often as I would’ve thought. If Halpern wants to write this story again, but through Becca’s perspective and with her love interest, then I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

Final Thoughts:

If you enjoy contemporary romance with an element of cancer, or any of them separately, then this book may be for you. If you enjoy a book that embraces extreme use of foul language and won’t shy away from excessive (but not terribly explicit) ‘adult content’, then you may enjoy this book too. If you like characters that love horror films and are film fanatics, then Alex and Leo may make your day.

However, I don’t recommend this book to children under sixteen. As stated before, there’s excessive usage of foul language and more ‘explicit’ scenes in this book than I have ever read in a young adult book. Also, if you find those things distasteful, then there is no way you can enjoy this book.

Rating(s):

3/5

The story was all right, it kept me entertained for hours on the plane, and was simple enough. The plot was very straight forward and didn’t have a lot of weight to it, though at times is was carried on only by dialogue. The characters were pretty interesting and different, though I had a hard time connecting with the main character and by the end I never did. The love element was not what I had expected, and I thought that the main love was not as enjoyable as the side love. Overall, the book was average but not one that I’m overly excited to show to my friends.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Book Review: What we Keep is not Always What Will Stay

what we keep is not always what will stayWARNING!!!! This book deals with PTSD and contains scenes from the Vietnam War!

Details:

Title: What we Keep is not Always What Will Stay

Author: Amanda Cockrell

Publisher: Flux

Release Date: June 8th 2011

Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary

Pages: 256

Synopsis:

Hear me, Saint Somebody

 

Angie never used to think much about God–until things started getting strange. Like the statue of St. Felix, her secret confidant, suddenly coming off his pedestal and talking to her. And Jesse Francis, sent home from Afghanistan at age nineteen with his leg blown off. Now he’s expected to finish high school and fit right back in. Is God even paying attention to this?

Against the advice of St. Felix (who knows a thing or two about war), Angie falls for Jesse–who’s a lot deeper than most high school guys. But Jesse is battling some major demons. As his behavior starts to become unpredictable, and even dangerous, Angie finds herself losing control of the situation. And she’s starting to wonder . . . can one person ever make things right for someone else?

My First Thoughts:

I came across this book while attending a writing camp at Hollens University one summer. I honestly can’t remember why I decided to pick it up, or what intrigued me the most because I’ve had it for a while now. However, when I picked it up recently I thought that the title and the book cover were so eye catching that it got bumped to the top of the reading pile.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

Honestly, it had been a while since I read realistic fiction and I almost forgot what it was like. I know crazy, right? However, it didn’t take me long to get into the swing of this book, and in fact it didn’t take me long to finish it either, just took a while to write the review.

The first thing I have to say is that this book is not what you expect it to be. By the end of the book, my mind had been blown away by what happened and it took me away to piece it back together. What I mean is that this book is an emotional rollercoaster that you can’t get off of until the last swirl, spiral, loop-dee-loop, and heart-stopping drop is over with.

The ‘romance’ wasn’t one of the big players in this game. Instead, romance kind of took a back seat to the Coming of Age theme in this book. Sure, the romance helped Angie in some of her growth and added to the climax. However, the main focus of this story was the growth of Angie, a young girl not yet 16, in a modern time of war, death and divorce. The book focused more on how she reacted to certain big events and how they changed her throughout the story.

I also found this book to have a more realistic outlook on how a teenager goes through school and what they would focus on in the narration. Too many times I have found authors writing a very Hollywood version of high school that’s so unrealistic that it becomes distracting. However, I enjoyed the scenes in the high school and found them to be pretty realistic.

I’m always a stickler for a good cast, both main and supporting, so I tend to get picky with a book’s characters. With that said, I absolutely loved all the characters in this book. Cockrell did an amazing job picking out people from all walks of life and piecing them together perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle. Every character had a specific role and both the main and supporting characters showed change over time. She also does a good job of making them human and not dolls or actors in a movie. I loved Angie as the narrator, sure it was a little disorienting at first, but it soon grew on me. It didn’t take long for it to feel like she was actually telling me this story from her childhood over drinks. She narrated in snap shots, describing scenes in chronological order but didn’t always flow smoothly together. Sometimes she went into detail about something random that didn’t quite make sense at the time, but by the end of the novel it all made sense in the grand scheme of things.

Cockrell also did an amazing job with picking out and stringing together bits of tradition and lore from the cultures that most impacted Angie. The author shows what life could be like for a child whose parents are of different religions and ethnicities. It was fun to read about the different traditions and lore because they spiced up the story rather nicely. It was nice to read a story with a person of color as the main character for a change and actually know it too.

It was also nice to see a romance between a nice girl and a guy with a mental illness. Warning, one of the main characters suffers from PTSD from fighting in a war. Sure, there have been books with the male protagonist suffering from something or another, but it’s never really addressed or adds anything to the actual plot. Cockrell, however, uses the mental illness as one of the driving forces in the story and how the illness not only affects the victim but the people who loves the victim as well. She also uses it as a good example, that no matter how hard you try, you can’t help everyone even if your heart is big enough. Taking on the burdens of another person doesn’t always help them in the end, but it will darken the circles under your own eyes.

Final Thoughts:

This book honestly surprised me. It had a bit of a rough start but it had a killer ending. The title is one of the most accurate and dead on titles I have read for at least the month, maybe even the entire year. The characters were so real and diverse; I honestly can’t say that enough! Felix was a hoot, even though he weirded me out when he was first introduced. It was quite the journey to read as Angie grew up and changed from good times and bad times. And it was also nice to see some of the people around her change as well, some even for the worse. Cockrell did an amazing job showing how war can not only affect the soldiers and the victims, but the people at home, removed from the war.

I loved the traditions and lore that she mentioned, really using them to flesh out who Angie was as a person and also the people of the town. I also love the Coming of Age theme within the novel, because let’s face it a teenager changes the most between 15-17 and it was interesting to read how Angie changed from the situations that were presented to her. It was also nice to see romance take the back seat to a story for once and for the male protagonist to be ‘fragile’ in some way, not in a bad way but the character isn’t oozing masculinity and drinking broody juice.

Rating(s):

4/5

This book was a bit of fresh air after some of the books that I read before it. I loved seeing how Angie changed and grew, and I also enjoyed watching the other characters change as well. Sure the main focus was on Angie, however, the writer did a very good job at showing how people in the background or just outside the spotlight also changed. The writing was unique and fun to read with diverse characters from all walks of life. I loved how she incorporated different traditions and lore from all of the cultures that influenced Angie’s life, it was a true picture of the ‘American Melting Pot’. And the ending was not what I was expecting and totally surprised me, which is hard to do most of the time!

I would recommend this to people of all ages, because I believe that it is one of those books that can teach people something different as they grow older. Younger people can relate to Angie, parents can relate to Angie’s parents, and veterans or people who know veterans can relate to Felix and Jesse.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!