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Book reviews from nerd girls who love Jesus.

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray 

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Marguerite Caine is determined to catch her father’s killer, even if that means she has to cross other dimensions to do so. 

Marguerite grew up as the artist daughter of two prominent physicists. Her brilliant parents, Henry and Sophia, along with their graduate students, Theo and Paul, developed the Firebird technology, which allows consciousness to travel to different dimensions. But it’s when Henry’s car is found in the river, and Paul has disappeared, it’s evident that Paul had something to do with her father’s death. 

Once Marguerite accepts this worst kind of betrayal she joins forces with her parents other graduate student, Theo, in order to track down Paul throughout the different dimensions so they can bring him to justice. But as Marguerite leaps into the bodies of different versions of herself she realizes that this situation is more complicated than she thinks it is. Is Paul the man who murdered her father in cold blood? Or is he a brilliant scientist? Or is he a handsome, Russian guard? Each new dimension offers a different glimpse into who she is, and however Paul’s fate always seems to somehow intertwined with hers.

This book was amazing, I never wanted it to stop. Special shout out to my best friend from birth for suggesting it, it’s incredibly written, poetic, heartbreaking, and just fantastic. Marguerite is passionate, artistic, incredibly stubborn, and such a fun perspective to read from. There were aspects of this book that took me completely by surprise and I love that about it. I highly recommend this book.

If a child of mine asked to read this I would be okay with them reading it between the ages of 17-19. Note this book was written for Young adults, not teenagers. There’s some swearing and a love scene that’s not detailed but it’s like “ope, yup that happened” for those reasons I give this book 7 out of 10 on the cootie meter.

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The Immortal Series by Tamora Pierce 

The Immortal Series by Tamora Pierce 

*TRIGGER WARNING* there are aspects of this review that discuss a very difficult topic

I haven’t reviewed an entire series in a while, but I felt that this series required it. There are moments in this series that are so much fun, there’s fantastical creatures, brave knights, kind and wise kings, petulant badgers with magical powers, a fatherly basilisk, a sarcastic pony, and tons of adventure. There’s lots to love and to keep the reader hooked, there’s also a few things that calls for concern.

There’s lots of violence, which normally doesn’t bother me, except that Pierce purposefully wrote this series with a 7th grade audience in mind. A character is disemboweled (not kidding.)  There’s a scene that really made me uncomfortable where the 16 year old female protagonist is swimming, practically naked, and notices that there’s a mythical creature who only does one thing- and that’s rape human women til they die (yup, you read that right, and yes, she did write this story for 7th graders.) So Daine kills the beast after giving it a chance to leave her alone, and she’s upset, not because she narrowly missing one of the absolute worst ways a human being can go, but because she had killed the beast. Look, that makes me furious. What kind of lesson are we trying to teach young girls here? 

There’s another aspect of this series that makes me really uncomfortable. When I first read this I was “omgosh my niece (who is 12) needs to read this!” then the character of Numair was introduced and I had to slam the breaks on that thought train real quick. 

When introduced the character of Daine is 13 years old; Numair is at least 25 (he’s described as mid-twenties, but two books later it’s been a year and a half and he’s 30) and it’s immediately clear that something is off about their relationship. At the very young age of 13 Daine decides that she is in love with her teacher Numair, who is old enough to be her uncle. That alone isn’t too bad, young girls have crushes, that’s normal, right? What’s wrong is that immediately Numair treats her differently than her other teachers do. He develops an emotional attachment that is very frightening, considering not only his age but his position of authority over her.

 There’s so much of Numair and Daine’s relationship that causes concern. First of all it wreaks of grooming, in case you don’t know, grooming is when an older person is in a position of authority over a child (usually a relative or family friend) uses that authority to groom (teach, guide, manipulate) that child into accepting abuse. There’s little streaks of this kind of behavior throughout the books, and it’s incredibly unnerving. Especially considering that Daine is the age that is the target demographic of this series. One argument I have heard for their relationship is that Daine is mature for her age, do you know who else say that to young people? Abusers. 

Why does this bother me so much? It’s only fiction after all? Well I will tell you- what we intake (through music, tv, movies, art and literature) shapes our worldview. Think of what you read and watched as a child, it formed so much of how you see the world. Growing up I loved Spider-Man, I watched it all the time, I could watch the same rerun 100x and would still watch it again. This helped shape how I saw the world, because I loved this superhero, it stands to reason that I would like others, so I watched others and there I developed a taste that was uniquely my own. I once had a conversation with a young 20 something who gushed about her boyfriend “our love is JUST like Bella and Edwards,” what she took in shaped her worldview. If we teach young children that abuse of power and position is romantic, it opens them up to the possibility to become victims (no, I am not saying reading a book will automatically make a child a victim.) Writers have a responsibility not only to tell an interesting story, but set standards for healthy, fulfilling relationships in fiction. I feel like Pierce grotesquely fell short of that mark.

There’s also an incredibly casual view of sex; Numair consistently engages in casual sexual experiences throughout the series. Daine grows up thinking that that’s normal, and ok. It’s not, and it makes me furious that Pierce thinks that that’s appropriate to teach children. When Daine and Numair do start a relationship Daine wants a relationship but no marriage, and Numair wants to be married, probably because she’s a teenager and because he’s in his 30s and is ready to settle down.

All in all, this is not a book for children. It’s marketed towards middle school age children, but definitely should not be read by children. These books should only be enjoyed by adults who understand boundaries and how important appropriate relationships with those that are much younger is. 

The Realm of the Gods by Tamora Pierce 

Realm of the Gods by Tamora Pierce 

The beginning of this book finds Numair and Daine locked within a losing battle with zombielike creatures known simply as “skinners.” When it’s very clear that they are losing, Daine and Numair find themselves forcefully sucked into another realm. Daine awakens to find herself within the divine realm, staying in the cottage of her mother (after death she was made a goddess) and her father, the god of the hunt. As happy as she is to be with her mother once again, her and Numair are desperate to return to their home to help their friends fight off the oncoming war with the now storm wing and former emperor mage, Ozorne, and the goddess of chaos. 

As they spend time with Daine’s parents and their friends, they learn more about the great gods and their battle with their sister the goddess of chaos. Repeatedly Daine’s father tells them they have no other option but to stay with him and her mother until the next equinox (despite his dislike of Numair.) Finally they find assistance from the unlikeliest of sources- stormwings, who are willing to carry them to the land of dragons. 

What follows is a tale of adventure, gods, and some of the craziest mythical creatures ever. 

Very soon I will write out a review where I will assign an appropriate age for this series. For violence (including a very killing intense and an attempted rape) and magic I give this book 7 out of 10 on the cootie meter.

Taking the Reins by Katrina Abbott

taking the reins

After reading unfortunate dark story after story for the last few months, I’m pleased to say that Taking the Reins was a little pick me up, that I didn’t know I needed.  While I can’t say I’m putting this on the “should read” or even “recommended reading”, I can say that it was a simple, sweet, and incredibly nostalgia inspiring read for me.

Brooklyn Prescott has spent the last two years in London, and just made her way back into the United States to attend and all girls boarding  school.

Rosewood.

Brooklyn’s father is a military strategist, who is currently working overseas. There is very little information given about the parents of Brooklyn, other than they thought it was a fantastic idea to send her back to the states to finish her schooling. Brooklyn sees this as a chance to re-invent herself. She’s determined to be a new, more outgoing, more assertive, and even flirty girl.

On her arrival, Brooklyn is assisted by a cute guy from the boys boarding school, that’s just on the other side of campus. (how convenient) Will helps her with her luggage and that’s that. Except she kind of thinks about him a lot.

There’s a little mix up with some room mate situations and once it’s settled, Brooklyn is immediately welcomed and embraced into this circle of girls. Let me tell you something, for a novel about high school girls, this was the best part. The girls weren’t catty or manipulative to Brooklyn, there was no scene of sabotage, and they immediately came to her defense when needed. Ladies, take note of that. We can learn from the Rosewood teens in that aspect.

Further into the story, Brooklyn meets two other young men, one named Jared, and the other Brady. Both come from the boys school, Westwood. The tricky thing is that Brady happens to be the equestrian coach for the girls (and totally off limits) and the other is a former child star. Both are smitten on Brooklyn. As well as Will. You know, the boy from the first day? Oh, yeah, he happens to be Brooklyn’s roommate’s boyfriend. So, those feelings are complicated.

The story is love and romance focused. There are some sexual innuendos here and there, but nothing I would write off as total trash, but nothing I’m thrilled about being in the novel, either. It all feels very much like some experiences I had in high school. But that’s definitely a point of caution for some of you parents and teens out there. There were also many moments of this novel that brought me right back to my high school days, some of the awkward flirting attempts, giggles with friends, and just the sheer intimidating act of figuring out how to interact with the opposite gender. I’m interested to keep reading the series, considering there’s 9, yes, 9 more books to go.

Over all, I give this book a 4 on the cootie meter. It receives this rating for some mild sexual innuendos, mild language, and just for the fact it’s a romantically driven plot. I wouldn’t go as far as to recommend it, but I wouldn’t stop my teenager from reading it.

Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce 

Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce 

Daine, Numair, and their companions are traveling across the sea to negotiate with the notorious Mage emperor of Carthak, Emperor Ozorne. Not only does this man rule an empire filled with wealth and prosperous knowledge (in the form of multiple universities) but he is also an accomplished and powerful Mage (basically a wizard.) He was once the best friend of Daine’s mentor Numair, until madness and jealousy overtook his senses and Ozorne banished Numair, putting a bounty on his head. But now that Carrhak and Tortall are negotiating peace, and Ozorne needs help with his precious birds, he permits Numair and Daine to enter Carthak, along with their entourage of friends and nobility. 

Upon her arrival in Carthak, Daine receives an urgent and vague warning from the Badger god who serves as a messenger and caretaker on her father’s behalf. She must leave Carthak, for the gods are angry with this land, and are about to pour out their wrath on it. But Daine knows that if she leaves, the fickle emperor will use it as an excuse to declare war on Tortall and he will invade with his vast army. 

During her stay Daine encounters many strange spectacles, like a one eyed slave woman who is quite talkative for a humble slave. She finds others who possess wild magic, and discovers that even amongst them she is unique, for they can only speak to one kind of animal, whereas she can speak with and order them all; it is these slaves who possess wild magic who try to convince her that she isn’t human after all, but the daughter of a god. Daine also discovers that whenever she touches a dead or taxidermied animal or animal bones, they spring to life. Every day in this strange land leaves her asking more questions.

As the first couple books in this quartet, the adventure and story are fun reads. Daine meets challenges with sass and stubbornness and that’s always fun to read; it encountering the jealousy in Daine and Numair that’s difficult to understand/swallow. A handsome young prince, and only heir to the throne of Carthak is intrigued and entertained by Daine’s frankness and inability to deal in subterfuge, and this brings Numair crowing around Daine like a rooster establishing his domain; and Numair’s first love (because, you know he’s old enough to have one of those, being that he’s almost twice Daine’s age) comes around and starts a “friends with benefits” arrangement with Numair. If a reader can ignore that and the bafflingly out of place use of this fantasy novel as a soapbox for evolution’s dogma, then it’s actually quite enjoyable. 

I am holding out until I finish the final book in order to establish an age range that’s appropriate for this series. For violence, magic, and a casual view on sex, I give this book 5 out of 10 on the cootie meter.

Wolf Speaker by Tamorah Pierce

Wolf-Speaker by Tamorah Pierce 

Nearly two years have passed since the siege on Pirates Swoop, where Daine and her mage friends defeated the enemy soldiers and navy that threatened to take over their land. Now Daine and Numair travel Tortall with Daine’s adopted baby dragon, affectionately nicknamed “Kitten.” It’s when they grow close to a valley known as Dunlath that Daine gets called by her wolf friends; they seek her help- humans are poisoning the land and water, they are digging up the earth in search of powerful black opals, and they’re tearing down the woods in order to build forts. 

When Numair and Daine investigate they come across a former fellow student of Numair’s- a vain and obsequious mage named Tristan. Numair leaves in the middle of the night in order to warn the king that something is wrong, leaving Daine to live with the wolves for a day or two til he gets back. Only Daine and all of her animal friends are now trapped in a magical force field that now separates Daine and Numair.

As Daine investigates her small group of friends grows, and becomes even stranger- a runaway princess who is actually friends with Storm Wings (scary looking creatures, half bird half human that feast on the dead); a friendly, wise and fatherly basilisk who protects Daine, advises the princess, and lovingly dotes on the baby dragon Kitten; a wolf hunter who gets outsmarted and trapped by Daine’s wolf friends; a courageous squirrel; a vain marmot; and a farming ogre. Together they discover the true plot behind all of the magic, mining, and poisoning going on in the normally peaceful Dunlath Valley.

This book was much more fast-paced than the first and was a really fun read. My favorite character clearly is the loving basilisk (I mean who thinks of that?!) Ta’ca. I can easily see why Pierce has such a large following- I mean, who thinks of carnivorous Pegasii?! As a fantasy nerd this is definitely a fun read. 

I am still withholding freely recommending this book, however, simply because of the complicated relationship between now 14(and a half) year old Daine and her clearly an adult teacher Numair. Currently it’s platonic, but there’s an undertone that are some red flags for me.

I will give an appropriate age when I finish reading this series. For violence, death threats, and mild swearing I give this book 4 out of 10 on the cootie meter.

Wild Magic by Tamorah Pierce

Wild Magic by Tamorah Pierce

Thirteen year old Daine has always had a knack with animals, an ability that saved her life when raiders came and killed her mother and grandfather; because she was helping a sheep give birth to breech twin lambs she wasn’t home when they killed everyone she loved. So Daine takes up a job working with one of the Queens riders (women who serve as knights in this fictional land) she works with the wild mountain ponies that won’t heed anyone else’s instructions but hers. 

She discovers that her traveling companion Onua has magic like Daine’s mother had, with her magic they were always protected on the road. But as they travel, and as Daine dreams of a bossy and cantankerous badger who gives her sharp orders on behave of a father she has never met, Daine realizes that she might have magic too, just a different kind. It’s when she rescues an injured hawk and discovers that he’s actually a shapeshifter and powerful mage named Numair, that she truly starts to get some answers, and lessons. 

Studying under the clever and handsome mage Numair, Daine learns that what she has is called “Wild Magic” which not only means she can communicate with animals, but she can heal them and force her will upon them. Under Numair’s teaching Daine flourishes, and finds a home amongst an odd group of people, she meets the kings champion, the mighty Lioness Lady Alanna, who is a powerful sorceress but also a fierce knight for the king and queen. 

They encounter evil creatures that have been called away from their prisons within the divine realm, creatures who lead them to a nefarious plot against the kingdom. With her Wild Magic Daine heals creatures, communicates with gryphons, calls a kraken, and breathes life into a stillborn dragon. 

This book took a while to gain any traction, for the first third I was quite bored, but I pushed through simply because I know that this series is treasured by many. In the end I am glad I did, the language is kind of  clunky in places (especially Daine’s weird accent and what she calls her animal “friends”) but it’s for the most part a fun ride. There is magic in it, and it’s for the most part Disney level magic, there are a few things that raised my eyebrow (salt, which is often used in real witchcraft, is used in this book a couple times) not enough for me to completely write it off, but enough to give me pause.

Another issue I had is that 13 year old Daine is in love with her teacher, who is described as mid-twenties. Now I could write that off as a school girl crush, except certain behaviors from Numair seem to show that he has possible feelings for her. Especially since this series is geared towards middle school girls, that gives me pause. I will definitely finish this series though, it is quite the enjoyable read.

*EDIT* I am changing my usual format just for this particular series, there’s a situation that might not be suitable for young readers. When I finish this series I will write a review for the entire Immortals series and give appropriate ages there. Thank you for your patience. For magic and some violence I give this book 3 out of 20 on the cootie meter

Born At Midnight by C. C. Hunter

bornatmidnight

So, let me tell you that when I read the summary for this series debut, I was stoked. I mean, the idea of a summer camp experience for super natural teens was one that I hadn’t heard of. The thought of it was so funny, without being completely ridiculous.

Unfortunately, I was seriously let down. The book was about as exciting as watching paint try. Actually, I’m an artist, watching paint dry is definitely more exciting than reading this novel.

Kylie Galen is a typical teenage girl. Except, she kind of sees ghosts. Okay, not ghosts, but one ghost in particular, Soldier Dude. Solider Dude, as Kylie calls him throughout the novel, started stalking Kylie not long before the novel begins. Her mother, who thinks the vision of the solider ghost is a reaction to some emotional stress and trauma because of the divorce, and sends Kylie to a shrink. To top it all off, Kylie was also recently dumped by her boyfriend of over a year.

Kylie attends and end of summer party with some friends, and in true teen story tradition, the cops bust the party. Kylie’s mother decided to ship her off to summer camp, concerned that she might go down the wrong path. Though, in Kylie’s defense, she did not drink or do drugs, though they were available at the party.

Cue the summer camp. Kylie figures out almost immediately that the camp is for freaks. Freaky freaks. She learns that the camp is a camp for the supernatural. The government is making an effort to create peace between the species. We have werewolves, vampires, witches, and fae (fairy folk). And then there’s Kylie. She has an anomaly in her brain that prevents them from figuring out exactly what she is, only cueing that she is in fact, supernatural.

The story develops very, very little beyond that, with the exception of some serious boy drama. See, my BIGGEST problem I had with this young adult novel, wasn’t the anticlimactic plot line, it wasn’t the limited character development of the protagonist, it wasn’t even the dry writing. It was the hormone driven superficial portrayal of teenage girls.

Seriously, guys. In the matter of only a few days, Kylie kisses 3 different boys. 3. She is all over the place emotionally each time, and it’s like it doesn’t even matter to her that she kissed a werewolf, a human, and a fae in such a short span of time. Not to mention, most of the other female characters are boy obsessed as well. It was so stinking frustrating to read (well, I technically listened to the audiobook) and just hear Kylie’s hormone powered internal dialogue pine over this boy when she sees him, then it’s this boy, then THIS one. My bets are on the werewolf in the end, though, because he’s the most mysterious bad boy with the dark hair and stunning eyes. *Yawn* Like we haven’t read that one hundred times already.

Okay, okay, I will quit bashing the novel and get to the review. So, while the story itself doesn’t have any major theology cooties (other than the ghost thing, but it’s not really explained at all, and the vampires are not immortal) the problem here is the casual sex talk, the ridiculous hormone driven characters. I was a teenager not too long ago, I remember what it was like. I know the fuzzy warm feelings that come with being 16 and seeing cute boys, but unlike most of us in the real life, for Kylie there was little self control, and no emotional consequence or personal evaluation about what she was doing. Kissing 3 boys in one summer is going to have an emotional consequence for everyone involved. Especially at 16. I just don’t like the portrayal of this as a leading character. Also, there was major swearing. Lots of yucky words, and lots of sexual innuendos and there was also a descriptive scene where Kylie was in a soaking wet white t shirt. So, yeah. Lots of reason to love Kylie. Only not.

Because of the sexually driven content, while  not graphic, and no main characters actively had more than a kiss, I give this a 9 out of 10 on the cootie scale. But I don’t think it’s worth reading, even if you could omit all of the unfortunate stuff. It wasn’t exciting, I had to force myself through this 11 hour audiobook (wish I could get that time back) and then I ended up having to work out the southern accent out of my head. (The audio book was narrated with a heavy accent, lol).

I might try and make it through book 2, simply because I’m rooting for some character development. But I admittedly don’t know if I can stomach it.

So, yeah. I need to go wash my brain and re-read Divergent, or Hunger Games, because i need to be reminded of a female heroine that can have a great plot, be totally kick-butt, and still manage to have romantic feelings that don’t seem to be all over the place.

See Me by Wendy Higgins 

See Me by Wendy Higgins

Robyn Mason’s family is different from others, her parents work for fairies in order to keep their existence secret and to report on the goings on in the human world. In exchange the Mason family’s bloodline has been blessed by magic, this, however, also comes with a price- those of magical blood must only marry and have children with others that are blessed with magical blood. When Robyn was only three weeks old she was bound to boy from another clan, a clan of leprechauns that has been slowly dying out and unable to produce healthy children.

So while most young girls dream of pop stars or famous actors or boy bands, Robyn had only ever dreamed of her intended, only knowing his name, McKale, and that he lives in Ireland. Her parents were able to convey her need to finish high school, so she won’t meet him and bind (marry) him until after she graduates from high school.

When Robyn and McKale meet, their attraction is immediate, despite them both being very shy, they work to get to know one another and fall deeply in love. There’s only one issue- a fairy princess (yup, you read that right, a fairy princess) has taken a fancy to McKale. She’s decided that he belongs to her, and he now must live in the land of fairy as her personal pet. Robyn and McKale are meant to serve the powerful fairy, but they must now defy and outwit the scheming fairy princess.

This was a fun read, Robyn’s growth from shy wallflower to fierce protector is fun to watch, and it’s refreshing to read a story with a shy male protagonist who doesn’t have a tortured past, he’s just shy and that’s ok. I loved that their relationship had a quiet passion to it, they didn’t pressure one another to be a certain way, and they learned to extend a lot of grace towards one another. It’s refreshing to read a romantic story with a mature relationship.

This book is not intended for younger teens, if a child of mine wanted to read this book I would be ok with about 17 (and only after having had “THE Talk”.) A main character does talk casually about sex, then quickly later has to deal with a possible pregnancy/miscarriage, for that and one blushworthy kissing scene (I honestly would have given this book a MUCH lower rating if it weren’t for this one specific sentence in this one scene, it was unnecessarily descriptive) I give this book 6.5 on the cootie meter. 

Why do we do this?

Some of you, especially some of you Christians may ask yourself “why do these girls review some of these books? Why do they read that stuff? How can they bring books with magic and vampires and zombies into their homes?”

Let’s start here:

Dani and I have always been major bookworms. When we first became friends, we spent some of our first conversations talking over our favorite books. In fact, our friendship was founded on the love of the Divergent Trilogy. We fangirled for hours over the healthy relationships represented in the series (finally, a Young Adult novel without a sadistic love triangle!). We spend time discussing the beauty of the way Suzanne Collins crafted Panam when she wrote The Hunger Games.

But.

We also talked about the unfortunate findings in some YA novels that’s shocked and appalled us. We were upset that some graphic sexual content actually made it to print. (Teen novels y’all, not talking about your mommy age books) We talked about the unfortunate relationships we’ve come across that we’re supposed to be romantic but we’re really actually abusive. And then there’s stuff that’s so poorly written it’s sad.

But what it comes down to is pretty simple: we want to offer readers and parents deep, thoughtful CHRIST centered insight on popular novels that kids are reading. Just because a book has magic, doesn’t mean it’s totally ruled out for some families (after all, many families approve of disney, and lots of what we find is Disney like magic) and just because some books are advertised as Christian, doesn’t mean they are actually healthy wholesome reads. We’ve ran into a few “steamy” scenes in some of those believe it or not.

That is why we do what we do. We read books we are interested in, and then we also pick ones off the NYT best sellers lists for YA and Teen fiction. We share what we’ve found so YOU have a heads up. Or maybe you want to talk with your kid about something they’ve read but you don’t know what questions to ask or what content is in the book. Maybe you’re a teen and wondering if this book in particular is going to be a conviction issue for you. We got you.

So for those of you who might think “How can you bring all this into your homes?” Because let’s face it, sometimes we find some cootie jackpots in these books. Here’s how I respond to that:

We pray. We prayerfully consider what we read, what we bring home, we heed our personal convictions and take Holy Spirit seriously. When He says “don’t” we don’t. He says “stop”, we stop. Just last month I encountered a book that had some cooties, but I felt like I was supposed to keep going. I kept going until there was a disturbing encounter with a demon. I knew it was time to shut that book down and Holy Spirit confirmed with me. Then I played some worship music and wrote my review. I reviewed what content I had read, which was enough to warn others to not let that in their home. Dani and I have our own convictions in content we won’t read at all, because we know that it can deeply effect us. And that’s awesome, because there’s a gazillion other books to choose from when that happens. Our spiritual wellness is a priority and our homes are a priority as well.

We prayerfully read these books and know when to walk away or burn it or whatever is necessary. And not all the things we read are like that. We’ve read many fantastic and fun stories that we were excited to tell others about and recommend as well! It’s prayer led.

I just really felt like it was time to address that and get that out there.

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