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review 2014-11-09 06:07
This Side of Salvation
This Side of Salvation - Jeri Smith-Ready

This Side of Salvation had a lot going for it. Sports, school, religion and romance — all things that are important to a sixteen-year-old. David had a bright future ahead of him in baseball. He trained just as hard for it off-season as he did during his seasons. College scouts were on the look-out for him and his high school coach had taught David all he could.


Homeschooling put David and his sister Mara ahead of their peers, so they attended courses at their community college. Romance-wise, David had Bailey's attention, so on the whole, David's life was going great. Except, he had lost his brother John, which cast a huge blanket of grief on his family. David lashed out at God, questioning why John had to die. His parents on the other hand, became more zealous.


Their zeal landed them in the midst of a group of people who claimed that the Rush was imminent. They refused to refer to it as the rapture because so many ministers had predicted the date and failed. This time was going to be different, they believed. Except, David believed the words of the Bible and that was that the end of the world couldn't be predicted. Mara didn't even believe at all.


At the core of This Side of Salvation lay the search for and the grappling with faith and beliefs. Faith tore David's family apart, yet faith was what kept them going as individuals. I liked the exploration of differing beliefs within their family. It was interesting to read how David and Mara dealt with their parents and how religion could have such a strong effect on their lives.


Despite my interest in the religious aspects of This Side of Salvation, it took me quite some time to read the book. The alternating settings between "now" and the past that led up to the Rush were cumbersome to read. I prefer linear time frames. It was even worse when the "now" was riddled with David's reveries. Personally, I don't think the alternating settings anything to the story. It only hampered my reading.


Things got worse for me towards the end. You would think that a book that was such a slow reading would have an equally long-drawn resolution. That was not the case at all. This Side of Salvation ended extremely abruptly. For all the 368 pages, less than 30 pages offered up any form of explanation for the events that had been laid out in extensive detail beforehand. It left such a damper for me at the end, my very last sentiment was annoyance. Pity, for This Side of Salvation dealt with very well with the representation of a cult versus the church.

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review 2014-05-19 17:52
Leap of Faith
Leap of Faith - Kimberly Bradley

Books about religious exploration somehow fascinate me, so much so that I went ahead to request Leap of Faith from the public library's repository. Older books that are out of print or for which there are only a copy left are usually pulled from the shelves and kept at the repository. Library users who wish to borrow these books need to pay a small fee to reserve them, so that they can pick them up from their nearest library. I must say, I'm glad I specifically requested this book.

Leap of Faith was entertaining, to say the least. Those who grew up in a church will take so many things for granted. Those who didn't though, will be extremely lost in a church. Abigail, who grew up in a family that didn't care much for religion, had no idea what the church stands for or who God is. Forced to attend a Catholic school in sixth grade, Abigail is also forced to take part in religious class and to attend school Mass every week. Needless to say, the first time she attends Mass, she has no idea what the expected conduct is, and asks countless questions, much to the chagrin of her teacher.

The characters have depth and continually grow throughout the book. Abigail clearly gains greater maturity, as does Chris, who becomes a very good friend to her. Aside from religion, drama also becomes an integral part in Abigail's life. While she has no real interest in it at the beginning, she eventually becomes very passionate about it, which shines right through the pages. Abigail is someone who even at the age of 13 has a strong outlook on life and is very self-assured. Once in a while that translates into stubbornness but who isn't stubborn as child, especially towards their parents?

Ultimately, Leap of Faith is a book that explores faith, beliefs and pursuing one's passion. It's the kind of book I wish I had discovered when it when it was first published and I was still 16. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it tremendously even today and would recommend it especially to younger readers.

This review is also available at dudettereads.com.

Source: dudettereads.com/2014/05/review-leap-of-faith-kimberly-brubaker-bradley
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review 2014-05-17 17:01
Being Sloane Jacobs
Being Sloane Jacobs - Lauren Morrill

I don't think any book that is so steeped in sports can get any more charming than Being Sloane Jacobs! After I closed that book, I was just sitting there with a silly grin on my face. No kidding. I wanted to hug the book to sleep. It was that adorable. And yet I totally got into the sports parts. They were realistic, they were intense, and all the dynamics between team mates and competitors were so on point, I recognised a lot of the situations both Sloane Emily and Sloane Devon found themselves in.


While it sure is difficult to pick up a sport over a summer, I did think it was possible in the case of Sloane E. and Sloane D. Both had strong athletic backgrounds and both were immensely comfortable on ice. I've managed to break into a couple of sports myself in such short time spans too, so I didn't take issue with their camp swaps. In fact, I enjoyed reading about their training, struggles and progress.


Personality-wise, these two Sloanes were vastly different. Sloane E., a figure skater, cared a lot about her appearance. Sloane D., an ice hockey player, barely cared. It was interesting to see how they had to take on not only the sport of the other but also the style. There was a lot at stake for both of them because they each had the future of the other in her hands, so that conflict kept my eyes glued to the pages.


The Parent Trap type stories can become rather trite but somehow I think for Being Sloane Jacobs it did kind of work. I mean, I wasn't entirely convinced by the sequence of events that led to their switch but in the grand scheme, it hardly mattered. The characters were likeable, the friendships were fun, and the romance didn't annoy me. On the contrary, it was uncomplicated but still unfolded naturally for both Sloanes.


Seriously, anyone who loves sports and enjoys light-hearted contemporary fiction should definitely check out Being Sloane Jacobs!


This review is also available at dudettereads.com.

Source: dudettereads.com/2014/05/being-sloane-jacobs-lauren-morrill
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review 2014-04-30 19:56
The Almost Truth
The Almost Truth - Eileen Cook

I think The Almost Truth is a great book for times when nothing but a light-hearted book will do. We all know those days when we want to read but our minds just won't focus on anything that requires us to think all too much for ourselves. Not to knock The Almost Truth for being light-hearted; it's just that the roadmap of a plot was extremely clear for a book that reads like a mystery. I easily predicted almost every turn in events, such that what should have been plot twists hardly surprised me.

Sadie was a likeable character with a believable voice. Despite her lies and con activities, I could relate to her as a reader. She had ambition and never let her goals out of her sight. Her relationship with her best friend, Brendan, was complex and I appreciated the nuances that were brought out between them. Their relationship deviated from the strict camps of pure platonic friendship and full on romance. Eileen Cook's decision to explore the in-between fit well with Sadie as a character who didn't have qualms cheating people out of a few bucks but never more on principle. Sadie knew she wasn't right to cheat people but she also knew what she thought was wrong.

The Almost Truth was a quick read once I got down to it proper. The narrative flowed and the plot didn't slow down at any point. Besides Sadie though, I didn't really feel like I got to know the other characters much. They waltzed in and out of various scenes but beyond their actions and a few words, there wasn't much to them. Then when I came to the last couple of chapters, I felt like these weren't nearly as developed as the preceding chapters. They came across like plot points simply strung up to conclude the book. Instead of seizing the end to create more depth, I felt they were appended in order to come to a resolution. That kind of sucked a bit of my appreciation out of the creativity that The Almost Truth was based on. After all, it's not everyday that I get to peer into the head of a con artist.

This review is also available at dudettereads.com.

Source: dudettereads.com/2014/04/review-the-almost-truth-by-eileen-cook
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review 2014-04-28 16:21
Heartbeat - Elizabeth Scott

Heartbeat was a relatively good book for me, although I didn't think it was exceptional. No matter how much I tried, I couldn't connect emotionally. For a book such as this, not connecting emotionally feels like a downfall because the whole concept of it is actually very heartbreaking. Instead, I felt rather detached. Maybe because the protagonist, Emma, was such a detestable character. The subject matter and plot however were original, which is why my interest in the book itself didn't waver all too much.


Emma was so self-absorbed and so filled with self-pity, I felt a strong urge to shake her for at least half of the book. But I did understand her to some degree. Through an inexplicable feat, she managed to make sense as the world's most spoilt brat on earth. I could see why she was so upset but she was so self-involveded, I found it difficult to care much about her.


Still, the issue about life and death definitely got me thinking. While I disagreed completely with Emma's assessment of the whole situation, seeing her brain-dead mother couldn't have been easy in any sense of the word. It's natural that she was overcome with such an exceeding grief. Yet taking her mother off life support wouldn't have been any easier a decision. That's the core of Heartbeat that made me read on—the moral dilemma of sustaining a life.


Moral ambiguity is always difficult to grapple with, especially when it causes such great emotional distress for everyone involved. Weighing the costs of particular choices can't be measure in absolute terms, so the explorations of life and death, love and hate, were extremely difficult in this novel. It's stories like these that make me appreciate fiction more because it allows us to think about our own lives and reflect on who we are and what we believe in.


This review is also available on dudettereads.com.

Source: dudettereads.com/2014/04/review-heartbeat-elizabeth-scott
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