Monthly Archives: March 2014

Review of “Unlocked”

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A friend recently recommended Karen Kingsbury’s Unlocked, and since my local library had it, I decided to give it a try. And while I cannot speak to any of Kingsbury’s other novels, since Unlocked was the first of her books that I have read, I was pleasantly surprised with her storytelling.

The first aspect of Unlocked that I loved was the way that Kingsbury employed different viewpoints to tell her story. Not all authors are able to do this well, but Kingsbury masterfully switched between viewpoints, giving each character their own unique “voice”.

But more than her writing style, the story Unlocked tells is powerful. Inspired by a true story, Unlocked tells the story of Holden Harris, an autistic young man who has not spoken since he was three. Holden’s autism destroyed friendships, and drove a wedge between his parents, but when a girl at school  reaches out to Holden through music, Holden’s life is forever changed.

While there is no foul language in the book, I would caution parents due to the mature elements of bullying and suicide in Unlocked. Though handled in a very delicate way, the suicide is a large part of the story in the last third of the book.

I found Unlocked to be an inspiring and tender story that encourages people to speak for the silent, and care for all people, even if they are different. I would not recommend it, however, to young people under the age of 15, though it is a powerful and sweet story that a mature audience will most likely enjoy. I would give Unlocked a “B”.

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Review of “The Book Thief”

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I have enjoyed books and films about World War II since I was a young girl, and it is one of my favorite time periods in history to study.

When my librarian asked if I had read The Book Thief, I told her I hadn’t, and she couldn’t recommend it enough. In fact, she even pulled up the trailer for the film adaptation for me to watch. After the preview, I was fascinated!

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“The book thief had struck for the first time- the beginning of an illustrious career.”

The Book Thief begins in Germany in the year 1939. The most unusual aspect of the book, by far, is the perspective it is told from: the perspective of Death.

He recounts the story of the life and times of Liesel, a young girl who comes to live with Hans and Rosa Hubermann on Himmel Street. We watch as Liesel grows up over a period of four years, as she learns to read, becomes best friends with her next door neighbor, Rudy Steiner, helps her foster parents hide a Jew; but most of all, we watch as Liesel rebels against Nazi Germany in a unique way: she becomes a book thief.

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“I should have told you earlier.”

A note of caution for parents: while The Book Thief is a tender story of love and courage in the face of persecution and danger, it deals with some very mature themes. There is a hearty helping of foul language in The Book Thief, including several instances of the Lord’s Name being used in vain. There is also beatings, deaths, and a suicide, as well as the recounting of when three boys are required to undress and be examined by a Nazi doctor, but if you are familiar with the writings of Corrie ten Boom, I do not think you will find it any different.

“I am haunted by humans.”

I have to admit, that at 550 pages, The Book Thief was a bit daunting to begin with, and I found the first few chapters (about the first 50 pages) to be a bit slow.

I personally think Scholastic’s recommended audience of 13 and up to be right on. You can also read Common Sense Media’s review of the book here.

While certainly not a perfect book, I found The Book Thief to be moving and powerful. I would give the book a B-.

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I Need Your Help!

Here at The Nerdy Bookworm, I review books. Not just because I love books, but because I want to encourage others to love reading!

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Review of “Perfectly Unique”

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If you have ever read Annie Downs’ blog, you will know how uproariously funny, yet biblically grounded she is.

For Christmas, I received a copy of Perfectly Unique, Annie’s book on learning to praise God for making you unique, and well, you. 

“We’re supposed to love other people the same way we love ourselves. But do you love yourself?”

While Perfectly Unique seems to be written for an audience of teenage girls, I found it extremely helpful as a twenty-something. Annie systematically works her way from Mind, Mouth, to Feet, and shares what Scripture has to say about these body parts and how to use them for the glory of God, all while sharing humorous and convicting stories drawn from her own life.

In an age where we as girls are under immense pressure to look a certain way, talk a certain way, be a certain way, Annie’s voice is a refreshing reminder that God didn’t create us to be like everyone else. He created us to be us: to laugh, to learn, to love, all while fixing our eyes on Jesus, and being His hands and feet in a needy world.

“Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was convinced it was better to make up a story and have everyone happy than tell the truth and make someone mad.”

Parents do need to realize that the potentially offensive subjects of crushes and dating are discussed, though always in a way that points girls back to God or uses the subject to teach a valuable lesson. Annie also references an occasion when she dropped the “f-bomb”, though no explicit language is used.

“God calls us, throughout the Bible, to spread word of His love and his Son to all the nations. All the people. All the cities.”

I found Pefectly Unique to be a challenging, yet encouraging book, and is a book I would quickly recommend to teen girls.

I would give Perfectly Unique a “B”.

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Review of “Meeting God at Every Turn”

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I am ashamed to admit that my only knowledge of Catherine Marshall, her life, and writing had come through watching A Man Called Peter, and one of my favorite TV shows, Christy, starring Kellie Martin and Stewart Finlay-McLennan. Awful, I know.

Years ago I received a beautiful hardcover edition of Christy, which I never got around to reading, and somehow, between our various moves between the past five years, it was lost. After I was given the complete series of Christy on DVD for my birthday, I decide to read more about Catherine Marshall, and I realized, SHE WROTE MORE THAN CHRISTY! 

So I checked out a stack of books from the local library by Catherine Marshall, and the first one I read was Meeting God at Every Turn. By the time I completed the book, I was absolutely in love with Catherine Marshall’s writing, and I am convinced she is Kindred Spirit!

“My early childhood was a crazy mixture of exuberant joy interspersed with moments of fear.”

Thus begins Marshall’s book that describes different seasons in her life, from early childhood to the marriage of her children and birth of grandchildren. She describes the ups and downs, the triumphs and trials, the joy and pain of her journey. And the common theme that she pointed out, was that God was always there, meeting her in her need, growing her in the midst of pain and sorrow.

She opens her book describing her father, his strengths, his weaknesses, his humanity. But also how God used her earthly father to point her to her Heavenly one.

“The catechism had said that He had loved me first. So had my earthly father.”

She then describes how God used her Mother in mighty ways, not only in her own life, but in the lives of everyone they knew. Her Mother, the inspiration behind Christy, was  generous and frugal, but it was her faith that impacted young Catherine the most. She was a living illustration of what it was like to trust God fully and walk in faith.

When Catherine attended Agnes Scott College in Georgia, it was a time of great spiritual growth for her, and she began to realize that her God was “too small”. As she began to seek God more earnestly, she was encouraged by many of her classmates to attend Westminster Presbyterian Church and hear the handsome, Scottish minister, Peter Marshall, preach. Little did she know her life would be forever changed!

“My girlish heart was not the only part of me affected by Peter Marshall. My hunger for excellence was stirred by the quality of his preaching… he pricked my spiritual conscience deeply.”

After finishing college, she married Peter Marshall, but their happy marriage was short lived. For a large portion of their marriage, Catherine was bedridden by Tuberculosis, which was used by God to force her to study Scripture and seek Him, even in the midst of her suffering and self-pity. But in January 1949, Peter Marshall died suddenly of a heart attack, ushering Catherine and their son, Peter John, into a new and difficult season, in which she would learn in new ways what it is to trust and follow God.

“You write on your calendar three letters: FUN.”

In time, Catherine met and married Leonard LeSourd, a widower with three young children, who worked for Guideposts. Thus, she was thrust back in to full-time parenting, in the midst of continuing to write. God continued to stretch her, as well as strengthen her, and she found His Grace in the everyday. As Peter John, Linda, Chester, and Jeff, grew up, married, and began to have families, the tragedies and joys of Catherine’s life only continued.

But through it all, you can see that she was Meeting God at Every Turn. 

“Jesus in our place. Jesus our substitute. Jesus covering for us.”

Overall, I found Meeting God at Every Turn to be a wonderful book, full of moments that will make you laugh or cry, but most of all, filled with encouragement that you are not alone. No matter how dark or tragic your life may seem in the moment, God is right there, with you at each turn and bump. I would give the book an “A”.

Have you read the book? If so, what are your thoughts?

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Review of “Prodigy”

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While I enjoyed Legend, despite its various flaws, I did not enjoy Prodigy. This makes the second book that I have ever set aside without finishing (the first was Ally Condie’s Crossed), and both were for some of the same reasons.

There is no doubt that Marie Lu has an amazing imagination, but I have found her writing style to be severely lacking, with Prodigy decreasing in quality, rather than improving upon Legend. 

Lu certainly writes in language that eleven to fourteen year olds would understand,  but the primary reason I quit the book was the amount of offensive language in the book. I only read a couple of chapters, but I felt like I was being bombarded by characters who casually used the Lord’s Name. I understand that many authors use foul language in their books, including some of my favorites, like The Book Thief. But while The Book Thief has a darker, more serious feel (it’s told from the perspective of death!), Prodigy has a younger, more childish, borderline bubblegum-adventure feel.

I also think that while Markus Zusak understood his audience, readers fourteen and up, I do not think Marie Lu understood her audience of ten to fifteen, or either she intended her series for an older, but immature audience, which is possible due to her previous career in the video game industry.

The second reason why I did not finish Prodigy, is that while she continues to alternate chapters between her two protagonists, Day and June, she still does not seem to have captured their unique “voices”. Even though the chapter title would suggest I was reading different characters’ perspectives, I felt like I was reading the same “voice”, which made even the slightest change in perspectives annoying.

Overall, the little bit of Prodigy that I read was boring, dry, and disappointing. I would not recommend it, and would have to give the book a “F”.

Have you read Prodigy? If so, what are your thoughts?

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Review of “Legend”

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A while back I came across a thread on Facebook discussing books similar to Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy and  Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, and I was intrigued! I immediately put the two series on hold at my local library, and one of them was the first two books of Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy.

While I was excited to have more books similar to The Hunger Games recommended, I wasn’t quite sure how hopeful to be. Coming off the high following my reading of The Hunger Games trilogy, I seriously doubted that many of the flood of futuristic dystopian thrillers being released could rival it, but I was intrigued by the fact that Lu was inspired to write Legend after watching Les Mis. 

“My mother thinks I’m dead.”

In Legend, we follow the adventures of two fifteen-year-olds in Los Angeles, California, part of the futuristic, dystopian Republic of America: Day, one of the Republic’s most wanted criminals, and June, a passionate prodigy of the Republic.

“The Republic’s favorite little prodigy is in trouble again.”

When their paths cross in race for survival, a shocking and unlikely friendship is forged. Day is the prime suspect in a murder: the murder of June’s brother, Metias. Day claims he is innocent, but June isn’t sure.

Can June figure out the mystery of her brother’s murder? Can Day save his family? Will their friendship unlock doors to solve greater mysteries and right greater wrongs?

“You’re free. Get out of California while you can.”

For once, I actually agree with Scholastic’s recommended audience: age thirteen and up.

The biggest issue I had with Legend was the amount of foul language in it. While I felt like the typical sprinkling was justifiable, the use of the Lord’s name in vain, which was quite abundant, was not. Please note: the author uses a newer, more stylish, and possibly less offensive, form. The way and amount it was used was uncalled for, especially since it was the protagonist, rather than the antagonist, of the story who was using it! (See Exodus 20:7 and Leviticus 19:12)

One other element that parents should be aware of, is that Day and June kiss several times, once shortly after they meet, and then again a few times at the end of the book.

While certainly not to the level of The Hunger Games, there is some violence in Legend, primarily in the form of street fights and attacks between rebels and Republic soldiers.

While Legend is certainly a rollicking adventure, full of daring escapades, admirable qualities such as friendship, faithfulness, and self-sacrificing love, as well as being thought-provoking, I found it to have a less compelling plot than other books in the genre. I would have to give the book a “C”.

Have you read Legend? If so, what are your thoughts?

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