Novel Review: Tempest by Julie Cross

I’ve been cracking down on reading the last couple of weeks. My Goodreads reading goal was 60 books. Tonight I plan on finishing an anthology once I get my posts out of the way. That’ll put me at 58 books. It’ll be a close one folks.

What do we have for you today? Hmmm… Tempest by Julie Cross. This one happens to be a Netgalley read. Have I mentioned how much I love Netgalley? haha So the blurb from Goodreads:

The year is 2009.  Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy… he’s in college, has a girlfriend… and he can travel back through time. But it’s not like the movies – nothing changes in the present after his jumps, there’s no space-time continuum issues or broken flux capacitors – it’s just harmless fun.

That is… until the day strangers burst in on Jackson and his girlfriend, Holly, and during a struggle with Jackson, Holly is fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, but this is not like his previous time jumps. Now he’s stuck in 2007 and can’t get back to the future.

Desperate to somehow return to 2009 to save Holly but unable to return to his rightful year, Jackson settles into 2007 and learns what he can about his abilities.

But it’s not long before the people who shot Holly in 2009 come looking for Jackson in the past, and these “Enemies of Time” will stop at nothing to recruit this powerful young time-traveler.  Recruit… or kill him.

Piecing together the clues about his father, the Enemies of Time, and himself, Jackson must decide how far he’s willing to go to save Holly… and possibly the entire world.

When I first started Tempest, I have to admit… I didn’t buy the story line. A guy who time travels with his mind but not his body? I’m think the boy’s having seizures and is delusional. I kept expecting the author to give me a “gotcha, this is all a dream” scene. In fact, I have notes up to the 13th chapter like “I still think he’s delusional.” haha But you know what? I couldn’t put the book down.

The read was so unique, I never knew what to expect. And as complicated as I expected time travel to be, Tempest was written in a way that explained everything in simple and realistic terms. Goodbye Paradoxes; Hello Tempest.

This book had more than a few heartfelt moments. At the same times, it was chalked full of humor to lighten the mood. And it certainly didn’t hurt to have such a likable character like Jackson.

Though at times, I thought he was beyond mature for his 19 years. His mentality on issues such as dating and sex made me think of men pushing thirty and over. None of the boys I dated in my early teens and twenties were anything like that. It made Jackson sweet in many ways… and very dreamy. Take notes, boys. Girls will be reading this book and expecting more from you, because Jackson really steps up the game.

My summary? Think Back to the Future, MiB, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and Doctor Who, roll it all into one and you’ve got Tempest. If you don’t believe me, read it for yourself. I loved it and can’t wait for the next installment.

***Tempest by Julie Cross was an EXCELLENT read. 5/5 stars and one of my favorites for 2011. Way to make it under the 2011 deadline. This book will be part of the giveaway on my blog December 27-31 as part of “Best of 2011.” Woot!***

Find Tempest by Julie Cross:  Barnes & Nobles and The Book Depository

Novel Review: Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Every Other DayIt’s been a while since I’ve done a review. Between NaNoWriMo 2012 and releasing a couple of works in December, I’ve been behind… WAY behind on reading and reviews. Well, it’s time to mend my ways. 🙂

So here we have Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. I picked up a copy from NetGalley. I have to say, the Netgalley program is treating me right. 🙂 How about a blurb before the review, just like old times.

Every other day, Kali D’Angelo is a normal sixteen-year-old girl. She goes to public high school. She attends pep rallies. She’s human. 

And then every day in between…She’s something else entirely. 

Though she still looks like herself, every twenty-four hours predatory instincts take over and Kali becomes a feared demon-hunter with the undeniable urge to hunt, trap, and kill zombies, hellhounds, and other supernatural creatures. Kali has no idea why she is the way she is, but she gives in to instinct anyway. Even though the government considers it environmental terrorism. 

When Kali notices a mark on the lower back of a popular girl at school, she knows instantly that the girl is marked for death by one of these creatures. Kali has twenty-four hours to save her and, unfortunately, she’ll have to do it as a human. With the help of a few new friends, Kali takes a risk that her human body might not survive…and learns the secrets of her mysterious condition in the process.

One thing I have to say about Every Other Day, the story line was unique to me. If anything, that alone kept me in the story.

The novel is set in an alternate reality where paranormal elements (zombies, hellhounds, dragons, etc) were discovered by Darwin way back when. Not only are the paranormal creatures a part of the world, but they’re also protected as endangered species. Too bad for them, Kali is a natural born hunter during her “non-human” cycle.

The bulk of the story follows Kali, the main character, during a 48-72 hour time span. All the while, Kali’s internal clock provides a countdown until her next cycle.

For the most part, this was an okay read. Like I said, the story was unique. Early on, I was a bit confused about the Darwin theory, but eventually it was explained. Other parts were a bit predictable, but my biggest gripe was Kali’s near invincibility.

On her “non-human” days she was like Spider-man in the areas of strength and reflexes and Wolverine when it came to rejuvenation, but she felt no pain and was A LOT harder to incapacitate.

Meanwhile, all she had to do was lay low on her human days and voila! she was back in action. As such, it lacked any real stakes.

Normally I like to talk about side characters, and there were quite a few with varying importance in the story. However, the relationships Kali seemed to form with them seemed rather shallow, making it difficult to care for anyone in particular.

I give the story an A+ for uniqueness, but the execution could have been better. If a sequel does happen, it’s a story I may or may not seek depending on mood. Overall, 3/3.5 out of 5 stars.

As a side note: I never did figure out how she managed school on her non-human days.

Available atBarnes & Nobles and The Book Depository

Non-Fiction Review: What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?: A Guide to What Matters Most by Martin Thielen

With NaNoWriMo going on, I’m afraid I’ve postponed this review for several weeks. Shame on me. I do hope you’ll forgive me. So I picked this goodie up from NetGalley. The title totally intrigued me. I had to know… okay I wanted to know what Martin Thielen had to say about it. So the blurb from Goodreads:

Pastor and author Martin Thielen has compiled a list of ten things Christians need to believe—and ten things they don’t—to “qualify” as Christians. This lively and engaging book will be a help to seekers as well as a comfort to believers who may find themselves questioning some of the assumptions they grew up with.

Many people in the twenty-first century hunger for an expression of Christian faith that is different from the judgmental and narrow-minded caricatures they see on television or in the news. With an accessible style that’s grounded in solid biblical scholarship, Thielen shows how Christians don’t need to believe that sinners will be “left behind” to burn in hell or that it’s heresy to believe in evolution. And while we must always take the Bible seriously, we don’t always have to take it literally. At the same time, Christians do need to believe in Jesus—his life, his teachings, his death and resurrection, and his vision for the world. Thielen articulates centrist, mainline Christianity in a way that’s fresh and easy to understand and offers authentic Christian insights that speak to our deepest needs.

Let’s start this review off by providing a quote from the book:

I’ve had an epiphany. I realize that I don’t reject Christianity. Instead, I reject the way that intolerant Christians package Christianity.

I love that! Years ago, I refused the title of Christian for that very same reason. It’s odd though. On the inside and out, I was very much Christian orientated… a lot more so then than I am now. Yet instead, I would call myself a follower of the bible or a follower of Christ. I didn’t want to be known as a “Christian.” In my mind, taking on the title would mislead people into thinking I was one of the hypocritical mainstream Christians. And one thing for sure, I didn’t want to be associated with them. 🙂

Martin Thielen had a very engaging style, which made this work an enjoyable read. I will admit, there were times he was long-winded though, writing the same theme in various ways. It gave me the impression he needed words to fill the page rather than getting his point across in an effective method. Still, he kept me entertained.

Mr. Thielen broke the book into two parts: What folks don’t have to believe and What folks do have to believe. So I’m going to address each part separately.

Part One: What you don’t have to believe

One thing I didn’t like about part one, is the author tried to slant ideas to fit what he wanted to believe rather than what is actually in the bible. For example, explaining away all the unhappiness in the world, as if God had no hand in any of it. At some point, Mr. Thielen asked, “how can we serve a God like that?” referring to incidents people label as “acts of God,” like tornadoes, car wrecks, earthquakes, etc. I’m not saying God is up in the clouds wreaking havok. However, if we look at the history in the bible, God has been known to do just that. The Old Testament (OT) is full of “acts of God.” The New Testament (NT) has a few of its own also.

To say my God wouldn’t… or I couldn’t serve a God like that, is rather naive, in my opinion. Now I’m not out to make God a bad guy, and I agree folks are quick to pass blame to God when things don’t go right. However, I think it’s important to face the reality of what’s in the bible when trying to teach the bible.

Other times, Mr. Thielen takes modern ideas which are popular in society and applies them as biblical fact when they’re very much contradictory to the bible. For example, he says, “God doesn’t want people to be in the bondage of slavery. Nor does God want women to be submissive, second-class citizens. God intends for marriage to be a partnership, not a hierarchy.” Now I’m all for equality. I want it for myself. 🙂 Yet hierarchies and submissiveness is very much a part of the bible. Submissiveness is not a bad thing; it keeps order. And being submissive doesn’t necessarily make one a second-class citizen nor does it deny partnership. Likewise, being at the top of the hierarchy doesn’t mean one must treat those in submission poorly. I would even go as far to say, if one had a master or husband who truly walked the Christian lifestyle, being the slave or wife wouldn’t be such a burden.

That’s not to say I’m a proponent of slavery or want to take a step into the past and strip women of the rights they’ve gained. I am just saying, the bible says what it says even if we don’t want to believe it. If we throw out submissiveness to husbands and masters (employers for us present day people), where do we stop? Do we stop being submissive to Christ? Stop being submissive to God? Submissiveness has it’s place. We shouldn’t throw out a concept because some individuals abuse the power.

Here’s the thing. Women do have important, valuable roles in society. The problem isn’t submission; it’s the undervaluing of the gifts women possess.

I could go on with my objections about part one, but I’d rather not. Let’s just say, there was a lot in there which didn’t jive right. Still there were some inspiring pieces.

My favorite chapter by far was 5: God cares about saving souls but not about saving trees. Remember, these are things we DON’T have to believe to be a Christian. The idea behind chapter 5 was folks get so caught up in the battle, they forget there’s an entire war out there. For example, the issues of homosexuality and abortion. Honestly, it seems like Satan is pulling a slight of hand with a lot of folks who call themselves Christian. “Lookie over here!” Get Christians to focus all (most of) their energy on abortion and homosexuality, and they’ll miss the big picture: bringing folks to Christ through love.

As Mr. Thielen puts it “Exclusively private faith degenerates into a narrow religion, excessively preoccupied with individual and sexual morality while almost oblivious to the biblical demands for public justice.” God cares about saving souls. He also cares about other things, like trees, the hungry, world peace. 🙂 There’s no need to make God one dimensional.

Part one ends with what I think is the biggest turn off for non-Christians. Judgmental attitudes. Mr. Thielen tells a story about a friend struggling with his personal life who is later hounded by a judgmental Christian about returning to church.

One day she asked my friend, “Don’t you want to go to heaven?”

In weary exasperation he responded, “not if it’s full of people like you.”

Haha. How many of you out there have had the same thoughts? Mr. Thielen’s bottom line is “True Christians leave judgment to God.”

Overall, Mr. Thielan had some great points in Part One. Other times he turned the bible into a smorgasbord where one can pick and choose what works best for his/her lifestyle. Mostly, I think it’s important to understand that True Christianity is about what’s in the bible, not necessarily the way people who call themselves Christian present Christianity to the world.

Part Two: What you do need to believe

I’m not going to go deep in Part 2 because most of it I’ll say was irrelevant. Mr. Thielen seemed to go off on tangents, which did not focus on the the questions “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” Yes, he answered the question, but it could have been done in 1 chapter versus the 10 chapters he used to do it. Perhaps he was trying to make the two parts even: Ten don’t needs and ten do needs. Like I said, 1 chapter (chapter 1 specifically) answered the question. After that, we hit some nice to know information. Other information I’ll say was specific to the teachings of his church (mainstream Christians even), because they don’t support my understanding of the bible.

Though not an item in part 1 or 2, Mr. Thielen concluded the book with a bit of evangelicalism in chapter 21. I found it to be an excellent addition. While Part 1 & 2 dealt with the nitty gritty assertions (even though I didn’t support all of the findings), the last chapter addressed the most important issue in a person’s life (according to Christians): Salvation.

My bottom line for What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? — It’s an engaging read, has a lot of instructive information, but is also full of fallacies.

As I tell my husband, commentaries and such are great, but people really need to get into the Word so they can decipher what is true and not true when information is presented to them.

Would I recommend What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? Yes and no. If you’re unfamiliar with biblical teachings, I wouldn’t recommend reading this work solo or for using as a basis for Christianity. However, it would be a nice book to study with someone who is knowledgeable about the bible. I also think it’d make an excellent book for a study group. Why? Because either of the latter two scenarios would provide the opportunity for discussion. When readers hit the areas which are questionable, they can talk it over, compare notes, and look up scriptures to determine if the bible supports Mr. Thielan’s ideas or not.

What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?: A Guide to What Matters Most by Martin Thielen is available at: Barnes & Nobles andThe Book Depository

Novel Review: Treasuring Emma by Kathleen Fuller

Long live NetGalley and their abundant selection of books! Yeah… I’m hooked. Treasuring Emma is the second book I’ve received from Netgalley which featured Kathleen Fuller. The first, was a novella in a short story anthology called An Amish Love (see review here). Let’s see how Treasuring Emma panned out. But first, the review from Ms. Fuller’s website:

Emma always put the needs of others ahead of her own. When will it be her turn to be treasured?

Adam was her first love and best friend. But then he went away. Determined to experience the freedom of living in the Englisch world, he left Emma heart-broken. How could he have chosen the world over her? Now Adam is back in Middlefield and Emma can’t seem to keep him away from her family’s farm. But this time she’s determiend to guard her heart. It might be love that keeps him there . . . or perhaps just guilt. When a newcomer arrives in town and shows an interest in Emma, she dismisses Adam’s insistence that she be cautious. All this attention is new to her and she doesn’t know quite how to accept it. Emma knows her Heavenly Father treasures her. But will her new beau?

I know the book was supposed to be about Emma, but my first major thoughts about the book were, what in the world is going on with Emma’s sister, Clara? She lived in an Amish community where I thought materialism was frowned upon. Yet here was a woman who seemed obsessed with finances. I loved how human she was. 🙂

I completely sympathized with Clara and her husband, Peter. I’ve been were Clara was, fretting over the lack of money, wondering what I could do to relieve the financial stress, feeling trapped in a situation with no respite. It was nice to see members of the Amish community portrayed as less than pure. This does not mean at all I want to see them fail. It’s just comforting to know they face similar demons as the Englisch, yet still find the Godly strength to overcome the trials.

Then there was Clara’s wandering eyes. Truly she seemed like a fair weather friend: with her husband during good times, but seeking elsewhere for companionship during rough times. She wasn’t at all endearing, yet I felt sorry for her and her inability to find joy.

Lucky for Clara, Mark (Peter’s cousin) was more than willing to fill her need for companionship… maybe. Mark was an anomaly in the story. I didn’t get him. Was he a sociopath? I remember thinking at one time, the only thing which could keep this from being a 5 star read is if Mark didn’t pan out. He did well and had sufficient motivation for his villainous ways.

So I’ve talked about everyone but Emma… almost. Granny was awesome too. 🙂

So Emma. The poor girl was tugged in every direction. She knew what she wanted (most of the time) and had no problem expressing herself. Yet she was constantly bombarded with the desires of others, and put under pressure to make a choice between what she thought was best for her peace of mind and what would please others. She faced a tough struggle. She knew others imposed on her unfairly, but her Amish upbringing valued putting others before self.

I just loved the realistic, worldly problems in the Amish setting.

The introduction of a final character toward the end, Laura, was a bit shaky in the presentation, but overall, I quite enjoyed myself. I’m definitely curious about this Laura gal. Hopefully she’ll be the star in the sequel. 4.5-5 out of 5 stars.

Treasuring Emma by Kathleen Fuller is available at: Barnes & Nobles and The Book Depository