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Halflings by Heather Burch – Book Review

You can find Halflings at your local bookstore or online retailer.

This book starts up with action from the start. Opening in a forest, with the moon high in the sky, Nikki Youngblood, a teenager girl, is being chased by hell hounds – wolves released right from that very special place with a sole intent to destroy her. 

While her midnight ordeal is stopped by three Halflings sent to help her, the fight between heaven and hell doesn’t end there. The book follows her as a group of supernatural teenage boys sent to protect her work hard on finding out why so much evil is after her. 

In the process of being protected by the half-angel, half-human boys, she falls madly in love with two of them, Mace and Raven. Then spends a good majority of the book pondering over which one she could have, but the solemn truth reigns that she can’t have either. Humans and Halflings aren’t meant to fall in love.

Stemmed from a controversial Bible verse (Genesis 6:2) there is no doubt that very many people are going to have trouble agreeing with the theology that Burch presents in this book. The fictional concept that Burch offers follows along the lines of this:

The children of the Sons of God and daughters of men were called Halflings. It appears that the Sons of God were fallen angels that decided to take for themselves human wives. Thus the Halflings, due to their origins, are to a certain extent unredeemable. They can neither live in heaven nor on earth nor in hell. 

Because of their inability to be saved they therefore spend their lives helping and protecting humans. They travel from spirit to physical realm by something called the spirit plain (or…something like that. I’ve forgotten the name, haha) and then ‘magically’ show up where they are needed as per the Throne’s orders.

If you’re wondering which side they fight for, it’s the good side…well, usually. Halflings can ‘fall’ and turn to serving Satan, however, they are born serving God. Which is, evidently, God’s mercy for them even though they come from a line of fallen angels. 

However, rebellion flows through their blood and Halflings can have a hard time staying on track. To add to their troubles, they can’t actually hear directly from ‘The Throne’ but are instead dependent upon information from an angel in exile. 

Now, that’s the really broken down version of Miss Burch’s theology, I’m sure there is more to it, but that would be the bare bones. 

Negative Content:

The violence in this book ranges from gaping leg wounds to rotting flesh. At one point Nikki is brought into a battle by Raven where she proceeded to kill a hellhound by repeatedly beating it with a rock. 

While I don’t feel the gore in this book was graphic or frightening (at least not to me) I can see how it can be disconcerting to anybody with potentially squeamish dispositions. Be warned that you’re going to be reading about killing, blood, and other various things if you pick up this book. 

Physical touch is explained in a spiritual way. To clarify, Nikki feels attraction to Mace when she originally meets him due to his half-angel essence. Being supernatural makes him a relaxing and calming person to be around, this is touched up on multiple times. 

After so long, the various descriptions of Nikki’s reactions to the three brothers grew slightly monotonous and I started skipping over them. I think it could have been done a bit more ambiguously without having to pause every few paragraphs. 

As I’ve already mentioned, the theology can be sketchy here seeing as it was based off of a relatively controversial Bible verse. Because of this it’s probably best to be prepared to have a lot of points in the books question your own personal convictions. I didn’t agree with a good amount of the theology presented, but that’s mainly because a lot of it isn’t commonly preached-on concepts. However, I don’t think anything was presented that, personally, made me feel extreme unease.

Finally, there is a love triangle in this book. 

*NOTE: this next part can sort of be considered a spoiler so skip it if you wish.

Originally, Nikki falls in love with Mace, but towards the middle of the book she begins to fall for Raven as well. Though her senses tell her both boys are dangerous, she continues to seek after them. When the book ends, she is torn between which one she should pick, but feels like she still ‘loves’ both of them.

I think the love triangle was a bit too much like Twilight for me – this coming from someone who hasn’t read the books, mind you – and it could have been done just a bit more tactfully. Nikki seemed to swing from boy to boy towards the end without warning, whereas in the beginning she appeared to be relatively loyal to one of them. 

Positive Content:

This book is written from a Christian perspective and it’s modern fiction, so it presents God as a fact as well as makes multiple references to the Bible. Nikki isn’t a Christian (she refers to herself as ‘realist’), but still seems to accept Christianity as a religion generally easily. Then again…having half-angel, half-human boys, and an angel in exile standing in front of you would probably make you believe God exists too.

Nikki shows perseverance, being willing to fight against hell. She also shows bravery and sacrificial acts by wanting to protect the Halflings, her friends, and her parents. 

The Halflings show chivalry as well by protecting Nikki. Mace shows loyalty and makes promises which he keeps, regardless of the situation.  

Nikki keeps everything that is happening a secret, and refrains from telling even her parents. However, the lack of sharing between daughter and parents is portrayed as a stumbling block and frowned upon. In the end, it actually results in a major consequence. 

Nikki’s science teacher displays a good example of a kind adult. He offers to help her when he notices she seems to be struggling with something and repeatedly shows polite and kind behavior.

To note, as I mentioned, this book is written by a Christian author. Therefore, there are sprinkled morals throughout the story (I would list them all, but I think I’ll leave them for you to discover if you read the book) that reflect a Christian worldview. 

Conclusion:

Heather Burch pulls together a lot of aspects of Twlight in an attempt to write the same forbidden love, teenage fandom inducing book that has been buzzing about in movies, but with a Christian’s perspective. 

While I don’t think Halflings is going to rise up to my favorite books list anytime soon, I can see Burch’s reasoning for writing the book in the way she did. That said, if you’re dying to read Twilight, but are hesitant because of the vampires and werewolves and are really only interested in forbidden love and various love triangles… You’d probably like this book.

-Bethany Faith

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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – Book Review

You can find The Hunger Games at your local bookstore or online retailer.

Note: When I originally read this trilogy, it was not with the intention to write a book review in the future.  This review is mainly to give you my overall opinion on the series, not an in-depth account of the content inside. If you would like, feel free to comment and ask any questions involving my opinions you have about the book and I will be happy to answer them as best I can, but I can’t promise to have everything important written in this one post. 

If you think these books seem unsettling to you, I strongly advise you do research on them and read multiple reviews before deciding to pursue them as a form of entertainment. As with any book you consume, be sure to read with caution and do your research.

A few friends had suggested to me The Hunger Games as a good read, when I had asked for interesting books. I was wary at first, since all my questions about the storyline were meant with disconcerting comments about twenty four tributes killing each other and love triangles. However, when I came across the trilogy at my local bookstore, I had an hour or so to read away so I sat down with the first book and contented myself reading. 

Before I was half way through the first chapter, it was clear why this book had become a best seller. As someone who finds reading to sometimes be a struggle when descriptions get too complex and POVs are jumbled, I enjoyed the coherency of Collins’s writing. 

The characters had depth and the narrative had a voice. I was quickly consumed in the fictional world of Panem, watching it all with my own eyes. The entire book rushed before me in a shockingly fast speed. The plot never stopped to let me take a breath. 

From the depth of the characters to the cruelty of the Capitol, there were so many factors that tied together wonderfully in this first book. 

Taking place in the post-apocalyptic ruins of North America, The Hunger Games introduces the readers to a place where there are 12 districts. The 13th was annihilated by the Capitol when it defied the cruel Capitol’s leadership years ago. 

Since the rebellion of district 13 an annual Hunger Games was announced. Each district gives up a boy and a girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to be sent to the Capitol. They will then train, be objectified, and interviewed, in hopes to gain sponsors for the actual event.

The event? A to-the-death battle in an arena stimulating a natural environment, whether it be mountains, forest, island, ocean, or what have you. The twenty four tributes will be thrust into the arena and forced to kill each other until only one is standing. 

This is exactly the fate that Katniss Everdeen – the main character – was handed, when she volunteered as tribute for District 12. The story of what happens to this tribute when she is forced into this fight between life and death; fame and poverty, is then written down in the first person, present tense book that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Negative Content:

People die in so many ways that I’ve lost track; insect bites, snapped necks, explosions, being caught in a net then having a spear thrown through them, arrows, knives, and being mauled by mutant wolves…just to name the deaths I can recall. 

That said, even with the violence content that shoots through the roof, Collins writes it well, in a way that is done tactfully. She describes all the deaths as a-matter-of-fact and does not go into gory and unnecessary details in order to make the readers squirm. 

Of all the deaths, I can think of only one that is notably more graphic than the others. The final tribute dies in a brutal way, by being attacked by ‘mutts’ (mutant wolves created by the gamemakers) and spends the night slowly being eaten alive. He endures the slow death, until Katniss feels mercy upon him and ends his life quickly, with her last arrow. 

Other than the deaths, the tributes also receive countless injuries. Burns, bites, cuts, and other such nasty things. The worst injury being one to Peeta’s leg, which results in blood poisoning and a near-death scenario. 

The mentor for the tributes from district 12, Haymitch, is consistently drunk both on and off camera and lacks both manners and the necessary etiquette to be a good role model. Only one of the adult character in this book shows potential for Mentorship, Cinna, but he is in there only temporarily. 

Katniss’s mum lacks parental care in the beginning of the book, having forced Katniss to fend for the family since her father died. Peeta’s family is implied as being abusive, and he shows no connection to them. 

The capitol is corrupt and rules through fear in a dictatorship-like fashion. They obsessive over appearance, and objectify the tributes for their own entertainment and monetary gain. 

Positive Content: 

While this book has enough negative content to make it difficult to sum it all up in one review, Collins does an outstanding job of using most if not all of the negative content to teach lessons. She portrays the things done in the Hunger Games and actions of the Capitol to be wrong, and shows how the actions of others can have longstanding effects. 

Sacrifice is exercised on multiple occasions, starting with Katniss volunteering as tribute when her sister is reaped. Peeta also shows care and love by protecting and fighting for Katniss.

There is perseverance shown by both the main characters; defiance of evil, and Peeta expresses that he wants to be independent from the dictatorship of the Capitol, explaining that he doesn’t want to be a piece of their property when he dies in the games. 

Katniss’s love for her younger sister, Primose, is certainly admirable, as well as her kindness towards a younger tribute that she helps in the arena. 

While the main characters do kill to survive, they show remorse and even pity for the dead tributes. Death isn’t taken lightly by them, and it isn’t portrayed as such. Each life is individual, and even the characters forced to kill show vague awareness of this by their reactions to murdering fellow tributes.

Conclusion: 

Personally, I’m a huge fan of this trilogy, especially the first book. Every bit is truly extraordinary and worth the read. However, I can understand its not the book for everybody. From the violence content, to the lack of direct moral messages, many people might find it to be a controversial book.  

Because of the mixed messages and the violence content, I probably wouldn’t recommend this for younger readers. It’s hard book to swallow, with a lot of content and very much controversy hidden inside. Making both political and moral statements, it can be difficult to comprehend and take in.  

Regardless, I’d still recommend this book quickly to anybody who thinks this would be the kind of read they would like. It really is an excellent book, and Collins pulls it all together wonderfully. 

-Bethany Faith

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Book Reviews, Rants, Writing Tips

 

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Book Review – The Unseen by Luke Alistar

You can find “The Unseen” by Luke Alistar on Lulu and Amazon.

Set in early America (Pennsylvania in 1849, if you want exacts) this book gripped my attention from the start. It opens up in an asylum for mentally ill people, where a seventeen year-old girl named Lucy Satin has grown up. Labeled an outcast for claiming to see phantoms, or ghosts. 

Within the first few chapters, I am told of the cruelty that the patients suffer at the asylum and am given a glimpse into the haunted mind of Lucy. The character quickly won my heart and I was routing for her survival and triumph until the last page. 

Alistar does an outstanding job of playing the heart strings of the reader, instantly inciting both pity and love for little, helpless Lucy. 

Like watching the aftershocks of an earthquake, the author shows us the affects that various traumatic experiences have on the girl, and how they have altered her maturity and mental state. From beginning to end, Lucy remains a disconcerting mystery. The character is easily loved and pitied, but her past is still questionable and so is her judgement. This weaves together to make a nicely-paced story that I found to be an enjoyable read. 

Negative Content:

The book contained two scenes where rape was mentioned, though not in such blunt words. The description did not go into unnecessary and squirm-worthy details, though the obvious message could definitely prove as reason to keep this book away from younger readers. 

I, personally, felt that the first scene where sexual assault was mentioned was not disconcerting or nightmare-inducing. Alistar wrote it tactfully and was able to make his point without causing discomfort. However, the second scene crept a little bit too close to the edge of my comfort zone for me, and I would have preferred had he maybe skipped over it a bit more. 

On a similar note, as you can imagine, there are a few scenes where Lucy is undressed due to bathing, cold, simply shredded clothes, etc. Her physical features when nude are not mentioned to us though, which keeps such scenes acceptable and appropriate.

Also, in one scene, an older character attempts to explain the motive behind the mens’ actions towards Lucy. Once again, he doesn’t go into details, but does mention sex and the world’s unsatisfiable hunger for it, like money.

Various characters let a few curse words slip, usually referring to another person or themselves in anger or frustration. Because of this the words ‘ass’ and ‘damn’ are used  multiple times and the term ‘bastard’ is used once. Lucy is also referred to as a ‘whore’ on several occasions, and commonly called a ‘witch’ along with comments about burning her.

Having been raised in a military town though, I didn’t feel the use of such words distracted much from the story. The context they were used in wasn’t horrible and didn’t pose a stumbling block for me. If you’re really uncomfortable with profanity in any sense, I probably wouldn’t recommend this book to you though. 

Positive Content: 

While this book doesn’t exactly paint images of rainbows and fluffy kittens, it is sprinkled with pictures of positive morals and uplifting messages.

From start to finish the book shows examples of sacrifice, loyalty, friendship, and perseverance. Lucy herself shows great bravery and courage by pressing forward, regardless of when things grew too dark for her to bear, with the intention to keep a promise she made to a friend before his passing.

Though many people treat her cruelly, the girl also meets two other people who are willing to stay with her. One of them, a phantom, shows loyalty by staying by her side, even though he feels helpless and another character plays the role of a temporary mentor, making quite a few points about her situation in the short time he spends with her. 

In the asylum, where people have proven to be cruel, we are told a few kind folks in that dark place that have shown care towards Lucy and given her hope. They display examples of helping someone even when you, yourself, need help. 

Conclusion: 
 
All in all, I thought this book was exceptional. It made me cry. It made me smile. It made me ponder. It left me torn between true and false. It was…awesome (to be honest, really, it was.) 

I love books that make me think and expect me to catch up on implications to understand the story. This seemed like one such book. The writing style was uniquely simple yet good and captivating. There were a few typographical errors, but nothing great enough to really distract from the story. 

The book left an interesting question to wonder over. 

If you saw Lucy, would you pass her by, or would you offer a caring hand to the girl who has no one?

It’s certainly something to ponder when I’ve spent a day in Lucy’s shoes, reading through the pages of her trials and misfortune. 

Though the theme (or themes) of the book could be interpreted in so many ways, I felt it cried out for people who had gone through what Lucy had; who had been in her situation. Who understood her pain. It gave a heart to the heartless, who wouldn’t want to comfort a person in that situation. 

Luke Alistar definitely pulls together this dark theme and shows us a world beyond our comfort zone, taking us into a mind we wouldn’t want to tread in. He delicately weaves together a storyline that could have easily slipped into a turn for the worst and makes it pass with flying colors.

In the end, I’d recommend this book to anybody searching for an intriguing read. I would warn younger readers away from it, or anybody with a sensitive stomach for things such as rape, profanity, or torture. It isn’t really for the faint of heart, and it’s a dark story to take in, but the moral lessons and food-for-thought are worth it.

-Bethany Faith

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books, Historical Fiction

 

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