Rise of the Mystics by Ted Dekker Review

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Synopsis:

Some say the great mystery of how one can live in two worlds at once died with Thomas Hunter many years ago. Still others that the gateway to that greater reality was and is only the stuff of dreams. They are all wrong.

Rachelle Matthews, who grew up in the small town of Eden, Utah, discovered just how wrong when she dreamed and awoke in another world. There she learned that she was the 49th Mystic, the prophesied one, tasked with finding five ancient seals before powerful enemies destroy her. If Rachelle succeeds in her quest, peace will reign. If she fails, the world will forever be locked in darkness.

In The 49th Mystic, Rachelle found the first three of those five seals through great peril and mind-altering adventure. But two seals remain hidden and the fate of both worlds hangs in their balance.

As Rachelle Matthews sits deep in a dungeon, Vlad Smith is just getting started. Thomas Hunter’s world is about to be turned inside out. The mystics say that there is no defense against the Fifth Seal–but finding it will cost Rachelle everything.

So begins the final volume of high stakes in one girl’s quest to find an ancient path that will save humanity. The clock is ticking; the end rushes forward.

My Thoughts:

This is the thrilling conclusion to the Beyond the Circle Duology and it did not disappoint. The story picks up where the first one leaves off. We continue to follow Rachelle, the 49th Mystic as she goes on adventures to solve mysteries.

I preferred the storylines that occurred in present day over the scenes in the more fantastical world. Like the first story, there were times when I felt the story became bogged down by wordiness and dialogue.

I loved the characters and following them on their adventures. The scenes were described vividly and the action was intense.

If you are looking to dip your toes into the fantasy genre, this would be a great place to start.

My Rating:

3 stars

I received this book from the publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The 49th Mystic by Ted Dekker Review

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Synopsis

Some say the great mystery of how one can live in two worlds at once died with Thomas Hunter many years ago. Still others that the gateway to that greater reality was and is only the stuff of dreams.

They are wrong. In the small town of Eden, Utah, a blind girl named Rachelle Matthews is about to find out just how wrong.

When a procedure meant to restore Rachelle’s sight goes awry, she begins to dream of another world so real that she wonders if Earth might only be a dream experienced when she falls asleep in that reality. Who is a simple blind girl to have such strange and fantastic dreams?

She’s the prophesied one who must find and recover five ancient seals–in both worlds–before powerful enemies destroy her. If Rachelle succeeds in her quest, peace will reign. If she fails, both worlds will forever be locked in darkness.

So begins a two-volume saga of high stakes and a mind-bending quest to find an ancient path that will save humanity. The clock is ticking; the end rushes forward.

Ready? Set?

My Thoughts

I have heard a lot of good things about Ted Dekker’s Circle Series so I was thrilled when I won this book from the Goodreads giveaways. This is a spin off of the Circle series but it easily stands alone (I haven’t read the Circle series, but now I want to!). It is the first book in a duology, with book 2, The Rise of the Mystics also released.

The story falls into several genres…dystopian, fantasy, post-apocalyptic. It has no romance, which I loved. The pacing is brisk and the story is full of action. Although I’m new to fantasy and it’s not my go-to genre, I found that this story was very easy to follow and picture.

The characters were very interesting and thought out. There were many characters but I didn’t struggle to distinguish them from one another.

Beyond the story is a much deeper meaning that I appreciated but at times I felt that the theological explanations and speeches became very wordy and drawn out.

Overall, the story was enjoyable and ended with me excited to read the next installment.

My Rating

3.5 stars

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

To Best The Boys by Mary Weber Review

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Synopsis

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.

My Thoughts

The premise for this book sounded very interesting and I absolutely love the cover so I was very excited to pick it up. Unfortunately, this was a big disappointment to me.

The first half of the book was just leading up to the labyrinth and felt like a lot of setup and it seemed to drag. The writing was choppy at times and a bit hard to follow. The labyrinth scenes were enjoyable but sometimes felt a bit rushed. I would have liked more of the book to be focused on that.

My biggest issue with this book is that it’s published by a Christian publisher but there is absolutely no faith content whatsoever. It felt very much like a mainstream, secular book. From the extreme kisses to the black magic and ghouls, I was wondering where the author was going to bring in the “Christian” element. (She didn’t). I don’t need or like an author to “shove the Christian message down my throat,” but if it’s published by a Christian publisher, I do expect there to be some kind of faith content included, whether it be a character praying, going to church, referencing God, or a reference to Him in some way. I was extremely disappointed to see that this did not happen. There was also something disturbing about one of the characters that didn’t belong in a “Christian” novel,  in my opinion.

I attempted to read another of this author’s books in the past and DNF’d it because of the content so I think I’m done with her books unfortunately.

My Rating

1.5 stars

I received this book from the publisher to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Crescent Stone by Matt Mikalatos Review

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Synopsis

A girl with a deadly lung disease . . .
A boy with a tragic past . . .
A land where the sun never sets but darkness still creeps in . . .

Madeline Oliver has never wanted for anything, but now she would give anything just to breathe. Jason Wu skates through life on jokes, but when a tragedy leaves him guilt-stricken, he promises to tell only the truth, no matter the price. When a mysterious stranger name Hanali appears to Madeline and offers to heal her in exchange for one year of service to his people, Madeline and Jason are swept into a strange land where they don’t know the rules and where their decisions carry consequences that reach farther than they could ever guess.

My Thoughts

Although fantasy is not my “go-to genre”, I enjoyed this story. The world that the author created was very unique, with different types of creatures and a lot of tensions between them. I loved the theme of having humans visit a fantastical world…it makes it easier to picture when seeing things through the humans’ eyes.

The characters were great in the story. I loved Jason (as I’m sure most readers will)…he added fun and humor to the story and was definitely a typical teenage boy. Madeline was also a good character…my dad suffered from the same lung disorder that she has and I could understand her desperation to be able to breathe “normally” again.

I enjoyed the scenes surrounding the history of the world and learning about the magic system the most. There were a lot of battle scenes towards the end that I found to be a bit tedious and caused me to lose some interest.

Overall, this was an excellent YA fantasy story. I highly recommend this one to all teens. The content is very clean and appropriate.

My Rating

3 stars

I received this book from the publisher to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes Review

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Synopsis:

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

My Thoughts:

Fantasy is a genre that I visit the least but I was very intrigued by the synopsis of this book. The use of masks and color powers is very interesting and I also found the stone plague to be unique.

Nadine is a very talented writer. She is very good at showing the reader the world without having to describe it plainly. The use of masks and color powers was a bit complex but everything was shown almost as if the reader is watching a movie….there was never a moment where I was confused about what was happening.

The way the story is based on historical facts made it even more fascinating. Many of the characters in the story are based on real people from the past.

I liked the character of Thomas…he’s struggling with what to believe and trying to prove that he’s no longer a young boy. The relationship between him and his father was also very realistic and sad at times.

Emma was a nice addition to the story. Nadine addressed the issue of racism very well. She didn’t shy away from the ugly truths of history but also showed people thinking for themselves about difficult issues.

The descriptions in the story were excellent…I felt as though I was walking through the streets of London in the 1600s.  There were some graphic descriptions of executions, although difficult to read about, they are historically accurate and necessary to the story.

The story was very interesting but I did feel that it was a bit too long for my taste…I think it could have been condensed a bit and packed more of a punch.

Overall, this was a great fantasy standalone story. I highly recommend it!

My Rating: 3.5 stars

I received this book from the publisher to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

 

Aaru by David Meredith Review

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Synopsis:

Rose is dying. Her body is wasted and skeletal. She is too sick and weak to move. Every day is an agony and her only hope is that death will find her swiftly before the pain grows too great to bear.

She is sixteen years old.

Rose has made peace with her fate, but her younger sister, Koren, certainly has not. Though all hope appears lost Koren convinces Rose to make one final attempt at saving her life after a mysterious man in a white lab coat approaches their family about an unorthodox and experimental procedure. A copy of Rose’s radiant mind is uploaded to a massive super computer called Aaru – a virtual paradise where the great and the righteous might live forever in an arcadian world free from pain, illness, and death. Elysian Industries is set to begin offering the service to those who can afford it and hires Koren to be their spokes-model.

Within a matter of weeks, the sisters’ faces are nationally ubiquitous, but they soon discover that neither celebrity nor immortality is as utopian as they think. Not everyone is pleased with the idea of life everlasting for sale.
What unfolds is a whirlwind of controversy, sabotage, obsession, and danger. Rose and Koren must struggle to find meaning in their chaotic new lives and at the same time hold true to each other as Aaru challenges all they ever knew about life, love, and death and everything they thought they really believed.

My Thoughts:

The synopsis of this book piqued my interest and it definitely did not disappoint. Immortality is something that I think everyone thinks about from time to time and this book explores this possibility in a unique way of downloading your persona onto a massive super computer called “Aaru”.

The story was very well done…the writing flowed very smoothly and I was engaged from the first page to the last. It had some unexpected moments and ended in a way that would satisfy but also leaves me wanting more (book 2, Aaru, Halls of Hel is advertised to be released in 2018).

The characters were interesting. I did find it difficult to be on board with Koren being  only 13 or 14 years old, based on the lack of parental supervision and some of the things that happened to her (although I realize that this does happen).

Rose was a sweet character and I loved seeing the virtual world through her eyes. I did find some of the concepts of Aaru to be a bit confusing at times but overall the world building was solid.

This is not a Christian fiction book, so there was some cursing and some references to Heaven and God that I didn’t agree with.

Overall, this was a nice change from the contemporary stories I’ve been immersed in lately. It had a mixture of many genres…fantasy, thriller, horror, mystery, and romance.

My Rating:

4 stars

I received this book from the author to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Hunter and the Valley of Death by Brennan S. McPherson Review

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Synopsis:

Experience the psalms like never before–through thought-provoking fiction. 
A man wakes up in the Valley of Death and realizes he’s given up everything, including his memories, to attempt to kill Death so that he can bring his wife back to life. But when he fails, who will be there to rescue him?
The Hunter and the Valley of Death is a profound meditation on life, death, loss, and love. Formatted as a fantasy parable on the topic of surrender, this story shows that there is only One who could kill Death–and because of him, and him alone, we say, “Oh, Death, where is your sting?” 

My Thoughts:

This small book packed a lot of punch! The story is a fantasy parable relating to Psalm 23 and many other stories of the Bible.

Told in a fantasy style, the story moves at a swift pace and the reader travels with The Hunter through many places and encounters many creatures along the way.

The symbolism is easy to decipher for those familiar with the Bible. The story is packed with symbols, many that are subtle, so this book would be great for re-reading as new things would be discovered with each read.

It took a bit for me to get invested in the story but once I was hooked, I couldn’t put it down. The descriptions were very vivid and the story was hard hitting. I went through a vast range of emotions when reading the story, from sadness and remorse, to joy and thankfulness.

This would be an excellent story to use in Bible studies and small groups. There are author’s notes at the end that explain the symbolism and how the story relates to the Bible, specifically to Psalm 23. The author’s love for Christ and the scripture truly shines through and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to read this book.

This is the first book in a series (the Psalm series) by various authors and I am eagerly awaiting the release of the next story.

My Rating: 4 stars

I received this book from the author to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.