Book Review: Freedom’s Child by Jax Miller

Back Cover Synopsis:

Freedom Oliver has plenty of secrets, the least of which is that Freedom Oliver is not her real name.  What her few Oregon friends and neighbors don’t know is that she was arrested for killing her husband, a cop, twenty years ago.  They don’t know that she put her two kids up for adoption.  They don’t know that ever since then, she’s regretted her deal for witness protection and missed her children desperately.

When she learns that her daughter has gone missing, possibly kidnapped, Freedom slips free of her handlers, gets on a motorcycle, and heads for Kentucky, where her daughter was raised.  As she ventures out on her own, no longer protected by the government, her troubled past comes roaring back at her: her husbands, vengeful family, her terrifying stint in prison, and her children’s adoptive family, who are keeping dangerous secrets.

With this novel, I expected a suspenseful action adventure.  What I got was a confusing conglomeration of scenes that felt more like a first draft than an actual novel.  I felt like I never got to know the main character, because her personality was never really nailed down.  Her thoughts and actions never seemed to match up.  The timeline was incredibly wonky.  There were too many flashbacks with too little context to them, and I read over half the novel before getting anywhere close to the action that is described in the back cover copy.

I still love the idea of the story, but the execution needs a lot of work.  The background info and set up needs to be tightened up a lot, and the author should have spent a little more time with her main character before she sent her out to meet readers.  The supporting characters could also be given a little more time in the spotlight.  A lot of them seemed interesting, but weren’t developed enough to seem real.

A good novel contains continuing action, rather than simply scenes with action.  That, I think, was the main problem with this novel and the main reason I did not enjoy it.  Final Verdict: If I were Jax Miller’s editor, this book would’ve gone through several more rounds of revision before being published.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for this review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

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Book Review: Fortress of Mist by Sigmund Brouwer

Sigmund Brouwer Fortress of Mist

4.5

Back Cover Synopsis:

In the dark corners of an ancient land, evil lurks in the shadows.  Powerful druids haunt the spaces of their lost territory.  Double-minded noblemen fight for domain and influence.  Invaders from the north threaten the kingdom of Magnus.  This land of promise and redemption is mired in deceit and corruption.

The Orphan King, once victorious in conquest, appears to be losing his grip on his seat of power.  Thomas rules Magnus, but does not know whom he can trust.  His enemies anticipate his every move, thwarting him at each turn.  Something is not right.

Under attack, both in the supernatural and natural worlds, Thomas must reach back into the secret layers of his past to find the strength and wisdom to fight his battles.  When the mist clears, who will stand with him?

Sigmund Brouwer is a brilliant author.  When I was in middle school, I attended one of his writing seminars, and since then I have read a few of his novels, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed.  When I saw his name on the list of books available for review, I grabbed it.

I didn’t realize when I did that Fortress of Mist is actually the second in the Merlin’s Immortals trilogy.  I tried to find the first book, The Orphan King, but to no avail.  I was afraid not having read the first book would affect my enjoyment of the second.  But Brouwer, being the excellent writer that he is, kept me in the know without spoiling the first book.  There were pieces of information I was missing, but he gave me just enough to understand what was going on even while I grew more curious about the first installment of the story.

The story itself was gripping.  This was definitely a page-turner.  The plot was pleasingly complex, well-thought out, and organized, so I didn’t get confused with random sub-plotlines.  The characters in it were also well-developed.  Thomas, the main character and ruler of Magnus, was believably deep.  He was smart, and acted like he had everything together, but he also had many doubts about his past and his character.  He was brave, but I saw his fear underneath it.  He had a good balance of strength and vulnerability.

Most of the other main characters had the same balance to a lesser extent, but I wasn’t given as much background on them as I was on Thomas, so some of them were hard to understand.  Thomas’s lady love was especially difficult – her motives and true feelings were almost impossible to discern because her actions seemed so random.  Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough, but I think a reading of the first book would do tons to clear that up.

DISCLAIMER:  The next paragraph talks about Brouwer’s use of magic in the book.  This discussion cannot be had without a little bit of a spoiler.  If you don’t want to know Thomas’s secret weapon, skip the next paragraph.  (However, this was one of the best parts of the book.)

One thing that points to Brouwer’s ability was his use of magic.  I like fantasy as much as the next girl (and I love Harry Potter), but sometimes magic in books can be hokey, especially if they are set in earlier times like this book is.  However, Brouwer uses magic in a unique way.  Thomas has one main weapon of his own – knowledge.  Somehow in the first installment he gains access to a set of books.  These books are about science and military tactics and history, from what I read.  Thomas hides them away and uses the information in them to thwart his enemies.  Once, near the end of the book, Magnus, his kingdom, is being attacked and Thomas needs a diversion of some sort.  He uses chemistry to create clouds of smoke and special effects that frighten the attackers.  The average person from the Middle Ages would not know of these chemical tactics, so to the soldiers it seemed like magic or sorcery.  This is how Brouwer threw in the fantastical magic while still making it believable.

Brouwer’s storytelling is great.  I am definitely going to go back and read the first book, and I’ll be waiting for the last one.  He leaves just enough loose ends to leave me wanting more.  I heartily recommend this.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multomah Publishing Group in exchange for this review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Find Sigmund Brouwer on the Web!

Book Review: Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic

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Inside Flap Synopsis:

Born without arms or legs, Nick Vujicic overcame his disabilities to live an independent, rich, fulfilling, and “ridiculously good” life while serving as a role model for anyone seeking true happiness. Now an internationally successful motivational speaker, Nick eagerly spreads his central message: the most important goal is to find your life’s purpose and to never give up, despite whatever difficulties or seemingly impossible odds stand in your way.

Nick tells the story of his physical disabilities and the emotional battle he endured while learning to deal with them as a child, teen, and young adult. “For the longest, loneliest time, I wondered if there was anyone on earth like me, and whether there was any purpose to my life other than pain and humiliation.” Nick shares how his faith in God has been his major source of strength, and he explains that once he found a sense of purpose—inspiring others to better their lives and the world around them–he found the confidence to build a rewarding and productive life without limits.

I cannot remember where I first heard of Nick Vujicic – I suspect I saw him in a video clip at church.  Not surprisingly, he grabbed my interest, so when I saw that this book was available for review, I snapped it up.

I expected it to be more of an autobiography than it actually was.  Vujicic is a speaker by trade, and he writes like he speaks – in fact, the book was like an elongated version of his talks.  He tells jokes and stories about his life, and then he relates those stories to how his audience (or reader) should live.

Because he is a professional speaker, Vujicic’s writing is not as polished as it could be — I noticed several places where he said essentially the same thing in two different paragraphs, and sometimes his plot lines could have been ordered better.  Throughout the book, he discusses the “moral” of one of his stories before telling the story itself, and then reiterates the moral again after the story is finished.  The reiteration, for me, was always more profound because I could sympathize better after the story was told.  Honestly, I found myself skimming over that initial moral more often than not.

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed the book.  Vujicic’s tone is light and conversational, even when he deals with deeper topics like depression.  He was funny, and the stories he recounted were always engaging.  He seems earnest and real.  Because of that, I was inspired by his words.  Reading his chapter about giving made me want to be more generous, and his thoughts on forgiveness and discipline challenged me.  Overall, his passion for people and his talent for inspiring completely overrode any editing oversights.  For this reason I gave the book 4.5 out of 5 stars, and I would definitely recommend it.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.  All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Find Nick on the Web!