Review: Dreamtreaders by Wayne Thomas Batson

51sIjVTVU-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Dreamtreaders by Wayne Thomas Batson
Genre: YA
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Date: May 13, 2014

Archer Keaton isn’t your typical fourteen year old. He’s got all the usual issues of school and girls and some difficult family dynamics, but it’s much more than that. He’s one of an elite group of people who can walk people’s dreams. Every night, he explores dreams, fixes fissures that could let the dreams seep into the real world, and sometimes, he battles evil forces. All of that is about to get amped up to a much larger degree than he’s ever imagined.

Two of his fellow Dreamtreaders have gone missing so now Archer is on his own. More than that, he’s hearing rumors of lurkers walking the dreams and he can feel the darkness growing. His own family is experiencing horrifying nightmares and being drawn into the battle. Archer has his work cut out for him. And then there’s this new kid in town that seems to be more than just a little different. Is he someone that Archer needs to watch as well?

The first outing in the Dreamtreaders trilogy, with this one, Wayne Batson pulls no punches. Archer’s life is harrowing, dangerous, and infinitely fascinating from the very first moment. Now I admit, that for me personally, this series hit some buttons. We have some very personal sleep issues in my home that made reading this book somewhat difficult for me. But that’s one hundred percent me and nothing at all to do with the writing, plot, or storyline. Things move at a quick pace and though there are a few bumps here and there, the ride is a total thrill. The unexpected twists and turns keep everything fresh and exciting as we join Archer on his journey.

This book captured my imagination and engaged me in a fantasy world that isn’t too hard to believe could be real. Great for teens and adults, this book is a fun vacation from reality and I’m looking forward to diving into the next one!

 

Rating: PG-13 There are some difficult emotional situations that could put younger readers off a bit.

 

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Review: Breakthrough on National Geographic Channel

Breakthrough_Share-PreviewSite_960x505_v02c_mmWhat happens when you give six prominent filmmakers the chance to explore subjects that are mysterious, puzzling and close to their heart? You get a television series like Breakthrough.

Each week, join a filmmaker on a very personal journey to discover answers to questions that plague not only themselves, but humanity. More like science fiction than documentary, this series covers extreme situations that show us where our future may lead. Is it possible to seamlessly create robotics that work with the human body? Could a pandemic wipe out the whole of civilization? Is there a water crisis looming in front of us?

My family and I received these dvds to watch and review and we were highly impressed. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but even my 11 year old was engaged with several of the episodes. Some are difficult to watch like the recent Pandemic episode with Peter Berg. Spending a great amount of time on disease or illness that has the potential to wipe out entire populations isn’t exactly encouraging at times. I chose not to have my younger kids watch that one only because I know they have anxiety issues. I didn’t want to add to them.

However, the episode was intriguing and interesting as it uncovered the reality of what Ebola does and also what it could mean for a population as it spreads. It was beyond fascinating to learn how people who have overcome Ebola have recovered and are now back to normal.

Upcoming episodes are equally as fascinating. It’s a unique glimpse into the mind of some of the most prominent influencers in Hollywood. Ron Howard, Paul Giamatti and Angela Bassett are just some of the names we will be hearing from in upcoming weeks.

If you homeschool, this series is a great educational resource and the website, packs a powerful amount of information together that is useful for opening discussions amongst middle schoolers and high schoolers. Each episode is a definite conversation starter and, at least for me, it kicked off some very detailed debate and discussion between my kids and I.

Airing every Sunday over the next several weeks, Breakthrough is a beautifully vivid and wonderfully built production. The filmmaking is gorgeous to watch and the commentary by each celebrity presenter is engaging and intriguing. As you watch, they feel like they’re sharing a part of themselves with you.

I have very much enjoyed this series and I recommend it to anyone who has a curious nature, enjoys debate, or loves science fiction. It’s a good one – not to be missed!

Breakthrough airs on National Geographic Channel on Sunday evenings at 9/8 central.
*I received a copy to review in exchange only for my unbiased opinion.

Book Review: Illuminae

23395680Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Genre: YA, Science Fiction
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Date: October 20, 2015

Kady Grant is ready to dump her boyfriend, Ezra. She’s convinced that’s going to be one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do. Except that shortly after she dumps him, the covert mining operation where she lives (off world) gets attacked by a competing mining company. In one day the drama in her life goes from teenage romance to life and death struggles. Literally. Now she and Ezra must survive in this post attack climate. They need to re-navigate everything they’ve ever learned or understood.  In reading this summary, you might think that the book is a typical angst ridden apocalyptic drama but you’d be wrong.

Told from secret files, emails, and interrupted transmissions, this story weaves in and out through SIX HUNDRED pages of documents. Yes, 600. It’s bigger than a brick. Literally. Which felt like a daunting task to sit down and read, but I’m glad I did.

There is no traditional narrative in this story. Everything (and I truly mean everything) is as if you’re reading a covert special operations set of documents about the ‘incident.’ From security footage being described to chats and even secret files, this story unfolds in a way that’s anything but usual or ordinary.

That said, the story itself was engaging, fascinating, and really fun to follow. I admit that I was worried when I first sat down to read. The first few pages put me off a little bit. Not from an email perspective. I’ve read books where the stories are told that way before. (Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments comes to mind.) But the sheer magnitude of what it held and the fact that it wasn’t only emails or only chats. It was all through different means and it felt scattered though it was well organized. Once I started reading, I was completely wrapped around the story. I loved it. The innovative imaging on the pages, the different methods of getting the point across…these astounded me. I can’t even give enough kudos to both authors and the editorial/layout teams on this one. The book deserves merit, awards and to be lauded for its breakthrough storytelling dynamic.

The only thing I would caution is that there’s some language. Well, there is and isn’t. You KNOW what they’re saying, but all of the language is blanked out. Literally. There are black ‘censor’ strips over the language in the report. But you still know what they’re saying. I think they played a tight line on that one because a YA book filled with that sort of language wouldn’t fly. But this one sort of technically skates around it. There’s also a couple of conversations that gave me pause when thinking about whether my younger teen should read it. Just one or two things that I felt took away from the book and weren’t necessary. They aren’t overwhelming, huge, or graphic – just annoyances that they were included. My youngest tween can read the book but I’ll be honest, I may sharpie marker through those couple of scenes. After all, it would fit in perfectly with the rest of the book!

All in all, I really enjoyed this read and I am eager to get on the list for the next book. May I have some more please???

If you have a science fiction fan in your home, this is a great book to pick up. You don’t want to miss the start of this innovative and fabulous new series!

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

Book Spotlight: Grey by Christi J. Whitney

A little while ago, Christi Whitney asked me if I would please review her book, Grey. Christi is a great friend and I love everything she does (we’re Whovian friends and you know that means a special sort of friendship, right?) so I agreed.

Though I really enjoyed the story, I was honest with Christi about not being a fan of supernatural books/romance. Vampires, werewolves, zombies…just not my thing. So I didn’t feel like I could do a review of the book since I’ve made a pretty public stand against those sorts of books. (Confusing eh? Because I did like this book – the writing is excellent and the storyline is VERY a-typical for this sort of book.)

So rather than do a review, I told Christi that I would be happy to do a book spotlight here and let others choose for themselves.  So here it is!

Grey by Christ J. Whitney

Grey by Christ J. Whitney

 

Blurb:

Sebastian Grey always thought he was a fairly normal teenager – good friends, decent grades, and a pretty sweet job in his foster brother’s tattoo shop.

But when Romany gypsies arrive in town, Sebastian discovers his world is not what it seems. There is an age-old feud between his family and the gypsies – and this isn’t the only secret his brother has been keeping from him. His life is not his own. The girl he’s been dreaming about has just turned up at school, and he feels compelled to protect her at all costs.

Even if that means life might never be normal again.

 

OFFICIAL BOOK TRAILER LINK:   

https://vimeo.com/125617735

 

ChristiJWhitney_Head Shot

 

AUTHOR BIO:

Christi J. Whitney is a former high school theatre director with a love for the dramatic. She lives just outside Atlanta with her husband and two sons. When not spending time with them or taking a ridiculous number of trips to Disney World, she can be found directing plays, making costumes for sci-fi/fantasy conventions, geeking out over Doctor Who, and watching superhero movies. Connect with her on Twitter @ChristiWhitney

 

Website: www.christijwhitney.com

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/christiwhitney

Facebook Links:

https://www.facebook.com/christi.whitney

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Christi-J-Whitney/220577227350

Goodreads Book Link:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22449800-grey

Goodreads Author Link:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8299600.Christi_J_Whitney

Amazon Link:

http://www.amazon.com/Grey-Romany-Outcasts-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00MT9E66E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1443540290&sr=8-1&keywords=grey+romany

 

SHADOW (Book Two in “The Romany Outcasts Series”) – March 2016.

Review: Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz

20454626Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz
Genre: Children’s
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Date: September 15, 2015

Jocelyn Hook isn’t an adventurer. She’s a pirate and anyone within her general radius knows it. Her father, the famed Captain Hook, left behind a map to his treasure and she’s not about to let anyone else get it. Not her father’s enemies or the enemies she’s managed to gather throughout her short lifespan.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always give you exactly what you’d like, so Jocelyn’s trek manages to get off her preferred course pretty quickly. In fact, at one point, she even manages to meet her long dead mother when she’s a teenager. It’s Neverland after all. This sort of thing isn’t rare or uncommon when you’re surrounded by Peter Pan, Lost Boys, and fairies.

Heidi Schulz has managed to breathe a new bit of adventure into a realm that is well known and well loved. Rather than feeling like a misstep, this book feels like extra pieces of the puzzle that fall perfectly into place. Neverland has another chapter that’s fun, lively, and completely different and new at the same time.

I loved this adventure with Jocelyn Hook. The characters were rich and entertaining without being boring for children or adults. I felt like I was part of the adventure instead of just watching from afar.

For a children’s book, I recommend this for anyone who loves Neverland, Peter Pan or Tinkerbell but also anyone who loves adventure or pirates. This book works for both boys and girls ranging from 8 and up. It’s clean – there’s nothing here to worry about for parents and the plot is fun, engaging, and leaves you wanting more at the end!

 

Review copy provided by Netgalley.

Review: The Sword and the Song by C.E. Laureano

The Sword and the Song by C.E. Laureano518q5RSOHwL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: NavPress
Date: August 20, 2015

The end is coming. It’s going to be big, dramatic and there is no way that the Brotherhood or the villages are going to come out of it unscathed. Connor knows this. Eoghan knows this, and so does Aine. But what are they supposed to do about it? That’s the question.
Pregnant, worried for her husband and aware of all the pain around her, Aine is doing her best to hold everything together. She knows that Eoghan has feelings for her and she can’t help but wonder if it’s her power that is making it happen or if there’s more. Connor is frustrated with Eoghan not stepping up into his role of leadership, and famine threatens their very existence. If they wait, the supplies will soon run out. But launching into war with supplies hovering near the end isn’t the best method either.

Determined to discover the truth of the runes, Connor has a series of missions that will take him far away from Aine and their soon to be born child, but he knows that something in the runes holds the key.

I’m writing a lot of reviews for ‘final’ books in series lately, and each time it makes me sad. C.E. Laureano has crafted a world rich with danger, intrigue, and powers that surpass the ordinary. In this world, it is all about life and death adventure paired with romance far beyond the ordinary. These characters face danger head on and with courage that can sometimes be shocking. However, their faith in God’s plan for them is always a strong anchor, bringing them peace in the midst of crazy storms.

I love this world and these charactes. I admit that I yelled at Laureano when I finished the books. Well, only sort of during a marathon messaging session on Facebook, but she still knew how surprised I was by the ending. I did love how everything wrapped up and pulled together in a pretty cool bow, but that doesn’t mean that the journey to get there was easy.

Laureano’s writing brilliance begs the reader to not just follow along, but to engage the book. Questions that plague the characters in their deepest hours can haunt the reader too. These books feel like they are so much more than just a story. God’s love is built into these books in ways similar to Narnia and Middle Earth. It would be easy to give a friend these books as a gift and then later, show them the spiritual depth that runs throughout. Rather than preaching openly, the adventures in Seare give subtle truths woven in and out of rich storytelling and drama.

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading these books, give them a try. You won’t be sorry.
Review copy provided by publisher.

Review: A.D. 33 by Ted Dekker

448ad8d9180a518cc993e089dafa6933A.D. 33 by Ted Dekker
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Center Street
Date: October 6, 2015

Maviah is in trouble. Like big trouble. We left her secure in the knowledge of Christ and his love, but as anyone knows, that can change for humans in a heartbeat. So that said, Maviah’s world is about to have a dangerous shift.

She is a long distance away from where we started in A.D. 30. Now known as the Queen of the Desert, she has tens of thousands following her now. From wizened old Bedu warriors to young untried men, Maviah stands over them all.
The woman who also lost a child brutally now has tribes of orphans and children that she loves and who adore her. The outcast truly is a queen. But she’s missing her king. Judah, captured and being held by Kahil, is in need of rescue and Maviah has a plan. She will need all of her wit, bravery and most of all, her faith, to pull this one off.

Diving back into Biblical times, Dekker has once again shown us far more than just a typical historical read. Packed with details that bring this way of life into clear focus, he also explores the questions that drive us forward. Our fears. Our hopes. Our dreams. How do all of these things play together to create the human being that each of us has become? And the biggest question: How does one actively employ their faith in the middle of the storm?

Maviah’s tale is one that we can all recognize. Fumbling, falling, breaking apart – we all experience these things in our walk. Sometimes we go through them all in the course of a day or even a few minutes. And sometimes we’re stronger and we rise above the challenges.

It’s hard to explain this book. As I mentioned in my earlier review of A.D. 30, it’s been discussed that this series from Ted is really a genre of its own. Part historical fiction (richly detailed and beautiful fiction!) and part of it feels like a devotional or a self help book for your faith.

I feel, very strongly, that these books hold more of Ted’s heart and personality than anything that’s come before them. As I was reading, I heard his voice asking these questions. He has a thirst for knowledge that is unquenchable. The more he knows the more he wants to know. This comes through in vivid, stark detail in this book. It’s a rich glimpse into the mind of someone struggling with these questions every day. And it’s beautiful.

These books cannot be considered just entertainment. A.D. 30 and A.D. 33 should be required reading for all believers. If you’re new to the faith or if you’ve grown up with it, you’ll still find something in here to challenge and engage you.

As Maviah’s story unfolds page by page, so does our own. Occasionally there were thoughts that were so deep, so rich and overwhelming that I had to pause, close the book, take a deep breath and pray.

This journey is nothing short of stunning. The ending will leave you feeling like you’ve just left the best rollercoaster ride. Loops, dips, flips upside down….but all leading you to a solid place with peace that makes more sense than anything you’ve known previously.

Thank you, Ted.

*Review copy provided by the publisher. Thank you!

Review: A.D. 30 by Ted Dekker

A.D. 30 by Ted Dekker
Genre: Historical
Publisher: Center Street
Date: August 4, 2015

Maviah is a woman scorned. Barely acknowledged by a father who wishes that she didn’t exist, her world is turned upside down when an enemy overtakes her father’s camp. Moments after watching her child be thrown to his death by the invading enemy, she embarks on a dangerous and, many would believe ludicrous, journey to try and salvage what’s left of her father’s estate. Even his life lies in her hands.

Once an outcast child, now Maviah must comport herself as Queen of the Desert. It’s a new role for her and one she’s definitely not sure about. Raging from anger and grief at the death of her child, she is accompanied by two of her father’s greatest warriors. Pledge to serve her to the death, Judah, one of the warriors, is anxious to meet Yeshua – the prophet being discussed all across the land.

At once engaging and challenging, Ted Dekker’s latest release will do far more than just entertain the reader. This book, in my opinion, is far more Ted Dekker than many of his previous releases. Having had the privilege of spending some one on one time with him, I immediately recognized his eager curiosity, questioning, and exploration. His voice breaks through over and over and over again in a way that is designed to engage the reader directly in his conversations.

Maviah’s questions will resonate with the reader as something familiar that we’ve all asked. How can a man who wants to bring peace challenge the way of the world? How can Yeshua love in such an unlimited way? Is this love for everyone or only for the special ones? If I could meet Christ, I would imagine it would be much like that of Maviah.

Ted Dekker has always excelled in writing deep, rich, love that is far more than just some story on a page. It resonates with the emotion until you can feel it coming off of the pages. Maviah’s questioning of Yeshua’s teachings is no different. She stumbles through the complexity of his statements all the while trying to sort through her own feelings on the matter. One prominent review of this book has claimed that Dekker created a new genre and I would have to agree. This is more than historical fiction. It enters a spiritual depth that begs the reader to question where they are in their own faith.

This is a dangerous book indeed. It’s not just a story on the page. It will reach into the depths of your soul and squeeze until you are required to face the same questions Maviah faces. A.D. 30 will rock you truly, to your core and resonate in waves through the rest of what you do after you’ve put it down. It has the ability to change you and shape you. I’d encourage you to read it with caution and embrace it with all that you are.

 

Review copy provided by Publisher

Review: The Sunken Realm by Serena Chase

the-sunken-realm-by-serena-chasejpgThe Sunken Realm by Serena Chase
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Candent Gate
Date: September 28, 2015

I have a confession to make. I’ve been sitting on this review for a while. I could excuse it away with a busy schedule or laziness, but the reality is much different. See, this is the last book in a series. One of my favorite series. And the truth is, that I just don’t want this story to end. As brilliant and beautiful as this book is, it’s still the end and I’m not ready for it. I’m the person who refused to watch the last episode of Hart of Dixie for months and months because as long as I didn’t watch, there was still something there for me. This was similar. It’s a weird warped sense of logic, but it’s my weird warped sense of logic. So now that I have that out of the way, let’s discuss the book shall we?

When last we left Erielle, she was newly married to the pirate Cazien, but she didn’t really realize that yet. Our brave knight was in grave danger and only Cazien’s quick thinking, paired with the Seahorse Legacy, could save her.

So now, when she awakes and realizes the crazy turn her life has taken, what will happen? And can it be possible that the story can get even BETTER than the previous outings? Why yes, yes it can.

Erielle and Cazien take on an evil larger than anything that they’ve ever imagined in this final outing for our favorite E’verians. Carrying over from The Seahorse Legacy, the children of E’veria are still in danger and with everything pointing in a new direction, it looks like Erielle is going to need to step into her full legacy – and it isn’t being a knight. She’ll need to become a pirate in order to set things straight.

Serena Chase continues to astound with the quality of the story that she brings to the table. Her work in the fantasy realm should stand as a bar for other writers. This level of story, plot, character and even universe – this is what you want to achieve as a writer. The depth and richness of the twists and turns, the descriptions, and the situations the characters find themselves in are all unexpected but in a way that keeps you frantically flipping pages to find out what happens next.
I cannot highly recommend this book enough for anyone who loves fantasy, romance, or adventure. In fact, my 13 year old daughter has never read adventure or fantasy before. She’s pretty much stuck on historical fiction – specifically romance – as her favorite genre. However, I handed her my Ryn book (via my Kindle) a few weeks ago and since then she’s been absolutely buried in this universe. So much so that I heard my son yelling at her last night that reading has taken over her life and she’s become BORING. Her response? She launched immediately into a narrative on the Cobeld, E’veria, the pirates, and the Seahorse Legacy for him. Stunned my 11 year old into absolute silence with the passion of the story. You won’t want to miss this series. It’s a jewel among fantasy and it deserves pride of place on your bookshelves.

Review copy provided by the author – thank you Serena!

 

Knitted Knockers….say what???

As many of you know, a year ago, I was in the fight of my life. I had cancer of the tongue and I had numerous surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy…it was a pretty rough journey for a while there. One of my dearest friends in the world, Genny, lived on the other side of the U.S. when I got diagnosed and it tore her up that she couldn’t be near me to help my family and I during that time. Well, God had other plans for Genny and I. During my treatment one night, she texted me that she was doing dinner for my family and asked what we wanted. I told her to just go online and order us pizza. She insisted that her babies wouldn’t eat pizza when Aunt Genny was doing dinner and she ordered me to have them come outside and give her a hug. I was shocked and gasped (still unable to talk yet!) and I got up and shlumped my way to the front door where sweet Genny, very pregnant, was standing with her arms open wide to love on me. I can’t tell you what this meant to me! My family followed along, certain I was sick or something since I’d just bolted from the room. (As well as someone in the midst of chemo can bolt!) Then Genny told me a job had opened up and she and Paul would be moving back ‘home’ to San Antonio – so she could help me. This was a balm to my soul like you couldn’t imagine! (I’m in tears writing it now.)

Genny moved to town. Prepped for the birth of her eighth baby (yes, you all read that right! Six boys and two girls!) and just before she was ready to give birth, SHE was diagnosed with breast cancer. My sweet friend who moved back to San Antonio with an urge to help me suddenly needed help. God brought her home to family for all of us to love on her during this difficult time. I’m so thankful for that.

Genny underwent chemo and a double mastectomy with myriad surgeries afterward to try and prep her for plastic surgery to rebuild her chest. Unfortunately, at every turn, she got ill and her body rejected stretchers, spacers, extra tissue – all of it. She was extremely sick. So my beautiful friend has struggled with not having breasts. We’ve talked at length about this and I know how hard it is for her. Clothes don’t fit right. Your body feels out of proportion. Some clothes she can’t even wear because they are designed with darts and folds to highlight breasts. After going through cancer, losing her hair, and being so sick, now she sees a different person when she looks in the mirror. After everything, this is definitely adding insult to injury!

Today I got a text message that said “I GOT MY KNITTED KNOCKERS TODAY!” I was laughing out loud. What on earth are knitted knockers? Well, first off, this is what Genny saw when she opened the box.
5859
Inside the box, she found two of these:

5822

And along with it, this beautiful letter:

5828 5831

Here’s what it says,

Dear Genny, 

   Enclosed are your new breast forms. They were made especially for you with love and arm wishes.  You may adjust the size by adding or removing stuffing. Please note that there is a stretch of yarn that goes between the nipples and the back of the form that you must work around. This strand of yarn helps keep the shape of the form.

This form is made with 100% cotton yarn.
Wash in cold or lukewarm water.
Air dry or in the dryer on a cool air setting only.
You may wish to remove the stuffing prior to washing.
To remove, replace or adjust size, you can access stuffing through the flap that is tucked into the side opening. 

We welcome your comments at feedback@awesomebreasforms.org. 

I hope you enjoy your new curves! 

Carol…

I know that none of this letter is really extravagant or emotional, but I burst into tears when I read it. These people don’t take any money – they do this for women every day and I know that for my sweet Genny, it means the world to her to be able to feel ‘normal’ again when it comes to clothes.

I am so thankful for these people who have blessed my precious friend with this treasured gift, that I needed to share it here. The website is www.knittedknockers.org and I am so overwhelmed with appreciation for what they  have given to Genny that I wanted to share this here and ask my friends to share it too. If you can, please take a moment and THANK THESE LADIES for blessing women in such a simple, sweet, and profound way.

To the ladies at Knitted Knockers, thank you for helping my sweet friend Genny and all of the other women out there struggling post cancer! Your mission is so incredible and beautiful and it’s touching lives in ways you’ll never know. I pray that your organization is blessed beyond measure. THANK YOU!.

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