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Book reviews from nerd girls who love Jesus.

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

Serafina is the Chief Rat Catcher (CRC) of the Biltmore Estate, only the owners of the estate, Mr and Mrs Vanderbilt, have no idea. Serafina was raised by their maintenance man, in their basement, most often hidden in the darkness. But that’s fine with her, Sera is at home in the darkness, in the tight spaces that rats often hide. Her Pa is a kind man, who has kept her existence a secret. Her entire life he has told her to stay out of sight, no one must know that she exists, but why? For years Serafina thought it was simply due to the fact that he could lose his job, but could there be more to her father’s worries? Was there something very wrong with her?

Serafina knows that children have been going missing in the Biltmore Estate for a few weeks, but that never worried her, she was good at hiding in the darkness, where she felt the most comfortable. But one night, during her usual hunt to rid the Estate of rats, Serafina finds a young girl in a yellow dress running for her life. Behind her is a tall man in a black, hooded cloak made of satin; Serafina witnesses the man absorb the screaming girl within the folds of the black cloak. After Serafina runs away to safety she is left with two choices- listen to her Pa, stay safe and hidden and ignore the disappearances of other children; or she could catch the most dangerous creature that has entered Biltmore. 

What follows is a tale of bravery, cleverness, loyalty, friendship, and family. Our young heroine is joined by the quiet and sensible young master Braedan Vanderbilt, as they work to protect, and hopefully save the children of the area.

Whereas this book has a wonderful tale of bravery, of kindness, and friendship no matter the circumstances, I want to caution parents before letting their young ones reading this. *SPOILERS AHEAD* There is talk the entire book of demons and ghouls, and the reality is that the black cloak is the creation of a sorcerer. It feeds on the souls of humans, and children are specifically targeted for their youth as the wearer is dying. This book is dark, and intense. This is more than just “Disney magic” in that it’s magic that is very malevolent. I do not recommend it to families that are sensitive to dark magic in their entertainment, even the sorcerer isn’t seen as evil for having made an evil, soul-sucking cloak. My fellow Christian parents, I definitely encourage you to pray with your kiddos about this one. I will say that there is no specific witchcraft, there are no spells, and their is no “witch” involved. But it does also have a man stealing the souls of children.

 I would definitely not recommend it to sensitive children. But if you and your family feel comfortable reading this I would recommend around the age of 12-14; for dark magic, a man absorbing children, and children in dangerous situations I am giving this 6 out of 10 on the cootie meter. 

Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan 

Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan 

Percy and his friends are joined by three new demigods, a brother and sister from the past (don’t ask) and a daughter of Zeus. Two major issues are set before them, the one most concerning Percy is that one of his closest friends (and let’s face it, rivals) Annabeth disappeared over the side of a cliff, and no one has any idea where she is. Also a major goddess, Artemis is missing. What could possibly be powerful enough to cause a goddess like Artemis to disappear? There’s also rumors of a mysterious monster running about. 

So the unlikely quartet of Percy, Thalia (daughter of Zeus), and Nick and Bianca (Hades’ time-displaced children) set out on a mission that Percy was specifically told not to go on. But surely Percy is older, wiser, braver, and therefore fit for the task…. isn’t he?

I enjoy these books for so many reasons. The main characters are funny, flawed, loyal, and heroic. Riordan tells this adventure tale with a clever wit, and realistic portrayals of teens. Percy is goofy and awkward, but tries his best anyway. There are so many strong characters in this book, especially the female characters. They portray strength without feeling the need to prove it or steal it from a guy. This is a humorous adventure story that I can easily recommend. Again, there is a sort of “magic” in this series, but it’s often treated like a superpower. Most often the young demigods act and feel like teenage superheroes, and often feel the burden of that responsibility.

If my son asked me if he could read this I would be ok with him reading it as young as 9. I would definitely make sure that he would be able to tell the difference between fact and fiction first. For adventure, mild violence, and super watered down magic I give this book a 1.5 on the cootie meter.

Sea of monsters by Rick Riordan

Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan 

The second book in the Percy Jackson series finds Percy accepting who he is, a demigod- son of a human and Poseidon, settling in at school, and being followed by a giant (6’3″) homeless kid, Tyson. Why did Percy get to be lucky enough to be followed by this kid?! And to top it off it’s quiet, too quiet. 

Percy gets word that his friends at Camp Halfblood, the only safe place for demigod children due to the fact they’re perpetually hunted by monsters, is now compromised. The tree that serves as protection for the camp is now sick and the monsters are chomping at the bit to get inside. Percy (with Tyson in tow) join Annabeth Chase and Percy’s best friend Grover, in order to find the Golden Fleece that serves as the only hope to keep their home safe from the monsters that want to destroy them and everyone they care about. 

Riordan delivers an action packed adventure story that shows the importance of loyalty and friendship. That it’s ok to make mistakes, and those who we least expect can be incredibly important to us. If you’ve seen the movie and are expecting the book to be similar, just know that it’s really not. There’s monsters, a near-sighted cyclops, friendship, brothers finding each other, and just a ton of humor. This is what adventure stories are supposed to be like. I can definitely recommend this book. 

If my son asked me if he could read this I would be ok with him reading it around the time that he’s 9. This does tell Greek mythologies, and any “magic” is often treated as a super power, like Spider Man. That being said I can see some people being uncomfortable with their young minds reading Greek mythologies, be sure that your child can differentiate between fact and fiction before they read this. For some use of magic I give this book 1 out of 10 on the cootie meter. 

5th Wave by Rick Yancey 

5th Wave by Rick Yancey

When the invaders come it’s already too late. They come in waves

1st- an EMP that shuts off all electronic devices on the planet; no more cars, phones, radios or tv

2nd- a literal wave that destroys all coastal cites and states around the world; millions die as the rest heard to the middle of the country 

3rd- an illness, spread by birds, that kills 97% of the remaining population on the earth; a devastating plague that leaves a very small amount of survivors 

4th- the remaining humans discover that they look like us, or can look like us; and they use this to hunt the very few survivors; anyone can be an Other, an Invader, a Silencer. 

What could the 5th wave possibly even be?

This story is told from four perspectives. There’s Cassie Sullivan, before the others arrived her biggest worries were whether or not her crush, Ben Parish, knew she even existed, and the annoying freckles on her face; now she has to keep her promise to her brother, and her closest friends are her guns and that small, instinctual voice in her head that keeps her alive. Ben Parish, aka Zombie, before contracting and surviving (miraculously and barely) the plague that killed most of humanity, Ben was a pretty easygoing guy whose biggest concern were the big football games on Friday nights; now he’s the leader of a military unit made up entirely of children and teens. Evan Walker is Cassie’s protector (hunter? captor?) who tends to her after she gets hurt. Sammy Sullivan is Cassie’s baby brother who gets swept up with the military at Camp Haven.
These four perspectives tell the story of man’s fight to survival after they have been ridiculously outmaneuvered, and almost completely destroyed. This story is expertly and realistically told by Yancey. It reads like an atheistic version of Stephen King’s The Stand. 

Like Stephen King’s The Stand, this book is just full of obscenities and violence. This is not a book I recommend. Don’t get me wrong, the story was masterfully told, but it’s chalk full of foul language and violence, I have to give it a 9.75 out of 10 on the cootie meter. Not a young adult novel, even though it is marketed as one 

Changes Ahead

So, we’ve issued our apology, and now we are on to the practical stuff.

Ch-Ch-Changes. (You sang that, right?)

After thought, time, and prayer, some of our reviews will be edited, and cootie meter numbers altered a bit. There are several stories we’ve read and realized that, you know what, that should be a higher number than what I scored it.

Sometimes you come off of a book read and are on that “post story high” (my technical term for it) and you look over details, or perhaps have forgotten them in the rush to finish the story. Well, we plan on fixing some of the moments. This is where that beautiful thing that Jesus demonstrated called ‘Grace’ comes in.

You are gracious followers, and we appreciate the dialogue we have had with some of you. We know that you will be kind as we fix some things around here. We as Christians are all growing and maturing (at least we should be) and this is a product of that growth. Yay for Holy Spirit always doing a good work in us!

Also, we nerd girls here have finally become separate admins, which means you will be able to easily tell which of us has written each review. We thought that it might be nice to clarify the “we” a little more.

Thanks for staying tuned!

-Nerd Nicole

Sorry, guys, forgive us!

Obviously you have all noticed it’s been dead here for a while. A LOT has happened since last august when the last post was published. 

Nerd girl Dani, had a perfect little baby boy.

Nerd girl Nicole, has sold her house and bought a new one.
As you can see, our hands have been full. While we haven’t stopped reading, we have stopped publishing, but don’t fret! We will be slowly bringing the blog back to life. We thank you all for your continued support. 

Perfected by Kate Jarvik Birch

Perfected by Kate Jarvik Birch

Reviewed by NerdDani

In the US a law has been passed that allows the very wealthy to purchase genetically perfected young girls as their personal pets. This novel follows a young girl who spent the first sixteen years of her life to become the perfect pet. She was assigned a number instead of a name, and knows that the greatest accomplishment of her life could be simply to make a wealthy family happy. 
When a congressman and his wife purchase her, they name her Ella and hand her over to their daughter to be her loyal pet. Ella’s life is one of simplicity and luxury, the family keeps her dressed in the finest of gowns, and love to show her off to their friends. She’s a showpiece really, meant to give their family and home a higher level of status. But as Ella lives with her new family she hears tales of a previous pet who “became ill” and needed to be returned to the kennel she had been raised in. Ella may be naïve, but she knows that being returned to her kennel means that she will be put down. Ella works hard to please her new family, but as she develops feelings for their son Penn, she wonders- could she be becoming ill as well? Will she be returned and put down?
Ok so…. hmmm how to describe this novel. The idea is terrifying, and with proper execution could have been phenomenal. The first portion of the novel is really intense, a lot of the fear is just below the surface, like a good, old fashioned horror movie. But when it came to the reveal it was a huge flop. Personally I was left with a strong feeling of “that’s it?!!” I mean kudos to Birch for the suspenseful writing in the first half of the book, but the end really fizzled out and seemed rushed. To top it off the romance was kinda cute, but not really. The character of Penn was lacking in depth, and sadly read like a cliché. If you want to read some brain candy (you don’t have to think about the plot, which face it- we all enjoy that from time to time ) then this is the book for you.
If a child of mine wanted to read this book I would be ok with 15 years old. There is some *SPOILERS* discussion of retired “pets” being forced into another line of work, a “pet” becomes pregnant, and Ella is forced to snuggle up to the congressman’s friends, for those reasons I, Dani, give this book 4 out of 10 in the cootie meter. 

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Reviewed by NerdDani

Tess lives a very uncomplicated life. She goes to school, then comes home to work on her grandfather’s ranch, and takes care of him. She’s done everything she can to hide from her teachers, those in the community, and her absentee older sister that her grandfather has started to slowly lose his lucidity. But when her older sister finally takes the time away from her hectic job in Washington DC to visit, Tess knows that the jig is up, she can’t live on a ranch with her declining grandfather by herself. Instead, she must now go live with her sister Ivy in Washington DC while their grandfather gets the help that he needs.

Tess is angry and stubborn throughout the entire transition from Montana to DC, but it gets worse when she realizes that her sister has enrolled her in a prestigious high school, attending the same classes as the Vice President’s daughter. But as she learns more about her surroundings she discovers that she has no idea what her sister Ivy does for a living. No one has ever told her, but every other student at this school seems to know, and seems very reluctant to cross Tess, for fear of her sister.

Tess discovers that her sister Ivy is what is referred to in political circles as a “fixer” if there’s a problem, she can make it go away. The stranger part is that Tess discovers she has a similar talent for making problems disappear, with this discovery she delves deep into a political mystery that has left multiple dead bodies in it’s wake. As danger surrounds her, Tess relies on her wits, her sister, and a small number of friends who gather around her to take on a dangerous mystery.
Ok I enjoyed this from the get to. The very first thing you learn about Tess is that she is pretty much fearless, and hates bullies. She’s such a fun, sassy character to read. She never intentionally finds trouble, it usually finds her, and what else is a girl supposed to do than take it on? The refreshing thing is that this is a young adult novel that has absolutely no romance in it. None. That pretty much never happens. Instead it focused on her broken relationship with her sister, one of only two family members she has left. This book was full of wit, danger, and mystery that kept me on my toes the entire time. I highly recommend this book.
If a child of mine asked me if they could read this I would be ok with them reading it at 14 years old. There is danger involving teenagers, and murders that occur (but aren’t really too descriptive), because of that I, Dani, am giving this book 3 out of 10 on the cootie meter.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Reviewed by NerdDani 
A tale as old as time, but with a fairy tale twist.

Feyre is one of three daughters of a formerly rich merchant. Her early years were spent in luxury and opulence, but as one tragedy after another befell her family it was clear, even at a young age, that she would have to step up and be a provider. She learned to hunt, otherwise they would never have eaten. One particularly lean winter, eight years after her family loses everything, Feyre comes across an animal she has never seen before, a giant wolf. Her instincts scream that it’s a dangerous fairy, the lethal creatures that live north of the wall that borders the forest. But she doesn’t see danger- she sees a wolf pelt whose sale could keep her family fed. 

It’s only later that she discovers that she has broken the tenuous treaty between mankind and fairies, and when a giant beast crashes into her home and demands that her life is forfeit, she knows she must pay the price. However, the Beast demands not her death, but her life. She must spend the rest of her days in the fairy court that he rules. She must live among the most dangerous creatures she’s ever heard of, the creatures that Feyre hates more than anything. 
What follows is a tale of mystery, danger, humor, and romance. As Feyre learns more about fairy court, and the High Lord Tamlin who is her captor, she discovers that everything she had learned about life in this fairy land was a lie. The only truth was that it is very, very dangerous.
A comment and a disclaimer. I enjoyed this book, but with a stipulation. The writing was fun and fast-paced, I had a really hard time putting it down. I loved the complexity of characters, and how they seemed to leap off of the page. I enjoyed Feyre, she’s a spunky, protective survivor. And Tamlin was a gentle and ferocious character who balanced Feyre out beautifully. My stipulation, however, is that this is marketed as a young adult novel, and it definitely is not for young adults. There was a small number of unnecessary scenes that made it impossible for me to fully enjoy this book. The author had an extremely casual view of sex, which makes me wonder “why?!” I cannot in good conscience recommend this book, despite the fact that it is a fun, dark fairy tale. 
If a child of mine asked me if they could read this book I would never be ok with them reading it. For an extremely casual view of sex, swearing, and drug use (Feyre essentially gets herself in a bargain with a terrible fairy where she drinks fairy wine-essentially a roofie- every night, and she doesn’t remember anything the next morning) I, Dani, give this book 10 out of 10 on the cootie meter. Books like these is why I wanted to start reviewing books in the first place- they are targeted towards young people when they really, really shouldn’t be.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin


A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. MartinAs reviewed by Cheyne T. Willingham
Some 100 years before the Book/TV series Game of Thrones, we follow a Sir Duncan the Tale(a knight too stupid to not be chivalrous) and his Squire Egg(a secret prince too proud to not figure out every angle) through three distinct stories as they tour the Seven Kingdoms. Whether it’s facing off ruthless princes in a tourney, defending a penniless lord in a border dispute, or fumbling into lavish wedding/conspiracy, our two heroes will use their brawn and intelligence to best uphold their vows.
Why not read it?
The 3 stories are largely disconnected to each other and resolve very little in the ways of an overall story… So basically like Game of Thrones if you’ve ever had read or watched that. Even at the end of the book it was clear that the only reason why the pages stop was because there was no more room for them. This is obviously a story that is in series and won’t be completed till Martin get’s around to it… So again like Game of Thrones. And finally, after the first story, there are mention of a lot of other adventures that this duo goes through, and it becomes frustrating that we couldn’t also go on those adventures yet if ever… Yeah, a lot like Game of Thrones. It would be simple to say because it is “a lot like Game of Thrones”.
Why Read it?
Because it is a lot like Game of Thrones. Elegant writing and descriptions, complicated and lovable characters, and sense of being part of another world. In many ways it is one of those things that is more important than a history text(yes this is a phrase coming from a history nerd) for giving the average person a sense of what it is like to live under a Feudal system of governance as well as a better idea of what it takes to be a hero.
Cootie Meter
This is actually set in between times of magic in this universe, so any kind of witchcraft or demonic intervention in this story is cut out. There is some illusions to fleeting sexual fantasies in this book(including illustration of a naked young woman firing a bow), but these are very much played down compared to the full descriptive scenes that Martin writes in his other series. There is also minimal use of curse words to the point that I was convinced that this was a children’s book for the first 150 pages. Even violence is played down in these stories as something most often misused by evil men and only rarely used by good men in pursuit of righteous cause. Despite the vulgarity in it, I’ll be giving this a rather low score of 2.62 on the Cootie Meter with the understand that the hypothetical child has made it through puberty already at say age 14.

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