The Gospel at Work

Title: The Gospel at Work

Author: Sebastian Traeger, Greg Gilbert

Genres: Religion

Length: 160 pages | 2931 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

Do we face our jobs as God intended? This book explores how our work fits into God’s plans and how we can worship Him while performing it.

Review:

Well, I felt it was time for something new, so I picked this one up, which had been sitting on my Netgalley shelf for well over a year.

The book puts things in perspective: do we idolize our work? Or, on the other hand, do we take it for granted and do as little as possible, giving in to idleness?

Can work be used to praise God? How?

I have to tell you, at times it didn’t feel like this book was only 160 pages long. That is most likely due to the fact I am not used to read non-fiction. However, I also did find it a bit repetitive at times – particularly the verse that kept being quoted over and ove again – and I had a difficult time adjusting to the Americanized Christian language.
I also wish I could have seen more of Greg’s experience; as far as I could tell, only Seb gave specific examples.

However, the fact is this book addresses several points in our relationship with work, what it means and how we should handle it, that people can relate to and does so in an unpretentious manner. It relates the statements to the scripture and in the end of each chapter there are a few questions that each individual can use to deepen the knowledge they’ve just acquire and do an introspection of their relationship with work.

I do believe any Christian should read it. It might just be what you need not only to help you deal with work but to actually find a new, wonderful meaning to it. Or if you don’t find the experience fully gratifying like me tou will still take something from it.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from May 25 to Jun 03, 2016
GR Review

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The Lobster

The Lobster

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.

Review:

Now the fact that you will turn into an animal if you fail to fall in love with someone during your stay here is not something that should upset you or get you down. Just think, as an animal you’ll have a second chance to find a companion. But, even then, you must be careful; you need to choose a companion that is a similar type of animal to you. A wolf and a penguin could never live together, nor could a camel and a hippopotamus. That would be absurd.

The Lobster is unlike any movie I have ever watched. With shocking opening and closing scenes, everything in between is disturbing and thought-provoking. The plot, characters, sound and visual presentations all contribute to present one of the most touching and bizarre movies probably ever made. There is a lot to take in, but it all comes together in a weird harmony.

Large audiences will most likely not take to this movie. It is often slow paced, filled with awkward silences and the authors deliver the lines in an almost robotic manner. That all suits the world being presented here, though. A world where people are reduced in such a manner that they are coupled according to their main characteristics – be it beautiful hair, proneness to nose-bleeding or short-sightedness.

Colin Farrell was superb in this role. As a man who was left by his wife, he often comes across as uncaring and even apathetic and his attempts to find a partner are quite awkward, although that is the norm in the place. Everyone is just so desperate, alienated and reduced to a shell of a person.
David struggles to keep himself and his freedom of choice of a partner or lack thereof, while surviving his oppressive surroundings, and watching him evolve is very moving.

However, don’t think this is a one-man movie. Each character is unique and they all add to the story in one way or the other.
I sort of wished I could have seen the female perspective on the hotel, but it would then be a completely different movie, so that’s fine.

The film is drowsed in noir humour. Because the setting is so bleak, I found it heart breaking, even in the supposedly funny moments. However, it is so rich in so many ways, from the concept to the mixture of cultural references to all the small hints at how our own society and each individual deals with being single. There is either a pressure to be coupled and being recognized as such by society, or a commitment to staying single, and it seems that, as in the movie, a middle term is practically impossible.

This is a film that needs to be appreciated throughout and there is plenty to digest and discuss afterwards.
However, do be prepared to be taken off balance and to cope with the slow pace.

Fahrenheit 451

Title: Fahrenheit 451

Author: Ray Bradbury

Genres: Dystopia | Speculative Fiction

Length: 159 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4/5

Premise:

Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books. He is told that’s what firemen always did, starting with Benjamin Franklin.
Due to a number of events, Montag starts to get an itch, particularly after an odd girl asks him whether he is happy. Is he? He has everything he needs. He has constant entertainment. Yet, is he happy? Why are things the way they are? Can they change? Montag will find these answers throughout this short novel.

Review:

Well, let me just start by saying that this book is a classic for good reason. I had never read Ray Bradbury before and I have to admit I was amazed at what he created here – in so few pages!!

The evolution of the main character was tremendous. Even if the prose lost me at times because it became almost too poetic or even rambling, it was right for the character and sometimes so fast it was dizzying.
The characters were completely believable, if you stop to think about what they were submitted to, and so absolutely terrifying.
The setting is also well developed, how the world could get to that state.

But I wanted more, to be frank, as some things were just too simplistic or glossed over.
There were a few things here and there I was not comfortable with, like Guy leaving with all the books spread out – how could he not think his wife could have totally reported him, someone he came to realize was a stranger – or her friends could have come in time to see it – or his outburst towards said wife’s friends. I get that he was angry but he of all people should know how dangerous such an attitude could be. Also, when he escapes, isn’t he wearing his Fireman uniform? Doesn’t that make him an open target? Why isn’t that mentioned?.
The prose in the last 10 or 20 pages lost me quite often as well, the monologues were simply too long and I felt much of the same could be said with few words. It felt that, at that point, a lot of it was unnecessary and anti-climatic. The lack of women was also daunting, even if considering the time the book was written.

So for me the strength of the book is clearly in the beginning, particularly the interaction between Montag and Clarisse and his subsequent awakening to the world around him. The development of what he does with the knowledge he gained didn’t please me so much but it is an excellent book, one that will make you do some soul-searching and consider all sorts of things, and therefore I recommend it.

Read from April 29th to May 1st, 2016

GR Review

Alien Child

Title: Alien Child

Author: Pamela Sargent

Genres: Science Fiction

Length: 246 pages | locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 1.75/5

Premise:

Nita has grown up as the only member of her human species in the Institute, aided by her guardian from a different species and even a different world. As she grows up, Nita has all sorts of questions, but is denied access to the answers because her guardian says it is not yet time for them.
As Nita grows and learns of her past, she slowly realizes her future may very well imply the future of the entire mankind.

Review:

The beginning of this book is praise from a bunch of folks. I actually bothered to read it all, not only because I was curious about what they thought of this novel but also because it had praise from other books by her. She was defined as writing unique sci-fi, no one has ever done anything like her, she is a master at characterization and so on and so forth. Talk about setting high expectations. I hope I have learned my lesson.

So here I am, beginning the book per se, and immediately I have an issue. The first line is Nita’s earliest memory was of the day she had nearly drowned in the pool. She was toddling down the wide, lighted hall of her home, but her short legs could not keep pace with her guardian’s long strides. So what do I think? This kid is small, a toddler. And yet, when her guardian engages her later on, she has the speech of a much older child. And this is the issue I have with most books who have children as a main character – few succeed in making them sound as children.

Her guardian has trouble with English and, even though we later learn she has an AI at her service, it just did not justify why Nita seemed so developed from the beginning.

Several things felt like they were thrown out there for the reader to take for granted. Like Nita saying she always knew her guardians came from a spaceship. How did she always know? Did Llita tell her that story? Did the AI?

Not everything was bad. Some descriptions were very beautiful and the idea of Llipel and Llare’s people was intriguing and mysterious.

I did try to go along with the story but I kept thinking “wait, why didn’t she do this? Why didn’t she go there?” or just felt that some things were entirely too convenient. I just didn’t buy it and kept trudging on. I figured hey, it’s only 246 pages, how long can it take? Well, if felt like ages.

Even the ending was anti-climatic. The dialogues were stretched on for miles and miles and the entire idea was so repetitive. I almost yelled OK, I get it, mankind is bad, they are afraid to become like that, I get it already, can we move on??

I just could not take the novel seriously. I believe that had I read it at a younger age I would not have had nearly as many issues as I had. As it is, I cannot recommend it and definitely feel the praise was overdone.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Mar 11 to Mar 22, 2015
GR Review

The V Girl

Title: The V Girl

Author: Mya Robarts

Genres: Dystopia | Post-apocalyptic | Romance

Length: 363 pages | 6051 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

In a dystopian future, North America is at war. The worst things are legal, including rape. Knowing her future, 18 year old Lila desperately wants to lose her virginity by having consensual sex. In a surprising turn of events, Lila is faced with protecting her family, while her dilemma gnaws at her. When mysterious Aleksey shows up, her inner conflicts only increase.

Review:

I chose this book because the few reviews I read were very encouraging.
Sadly, I felt less satisfied by the experience as it turned out to be more an erotic romance than a dystopia and I was not much of a fan of that.

I believe I have said before that I read books so I can get immersed in a new world. So it was interesting to me how the government justified actions such as rape, for instance, as well as the visitants occupation, not to mention the characters. The chapters were interspersed with quotes from leaders and other important people of the new system and those I found interesting because they sort of brought logic to the madness.

But I did not really get the rest of the world. How Starville did not have running water or electricity but they could make pills and gels to numb feeling in sensitive parts during rape. Why it seemed, at times, that not being a virgin could save Lila from being recruited while at others it struck me as a matter of entirely her preference, as she wanted her first time to be consensual. Then there’s talk about genetically engineered monsters but I never got to hear about any other than her dog.
It particularly annoyed me that I never new what Aleksey was on, as it was clearly said he was taking something. I was also unhappy that some things were mentioned and then later there was no resolution to it, like the story of a Prince living in the mountains (was it linked to Aleksey at all?), why people called him Prince even if it was the meaning of his name, or Clavel’s story I think that was her name? Hard to know cause I could not search on my Kindle, there was an error.

Having an 11-year-old act so much more older to bring out the main character’s innocence even more was not, in my opinion, the best way to do it. It sounds like Lila never had a sexual thought before the age of 18 when action occurs and I just not see how that could be possible.
On the other hand, Azzrael is more knowledgeable of the world in general than our main character. She is more organised, quicker thinking and just more mature at times. She gets things done.

So we have this 11 year old kid giving advice on her 18 year old big sister on how to flirt. Apparently saying hi and smiling is enough and it is a thrilling experience for Lila, despite Azzy’s smug face.
This episode right here sums up their relationship pretty well for me. 11 yo kid has all the answers, 18 yo struggles with emotions.

There’s a lot of repetition. Sometimes entire paragraphs are repeated, so the ARC could use some revising. The sensual scenes were repetitive as well. Lila’s infatuation with Aleksey and vice versa tries to sound natural but fails at it. The fact that she refers to their relationship as insta-love isn’t even cute. While it was interesting to see Aleksey’s layers exposed, the fact is that guy was always in control and as much as others may enjoy the macho attitude whenever he said something along the lines of ‘only I can give you true pleasure’ I cringed at the arrogance and never really got past that. I also wonder what would happen if he lost control. And I could not really see a future for the two. The entire story was a game of cat and mouse and now that Aleksey got his prey I am not sure exactly what ‘feelings’ could arise between the two other than lust and a sense of possessiveness.

I guess the book was too YA for me to enjoy. There’s the usual nasty upper class girl who all men crave giving the protagonist a hard time, who does her best to ‘come of age’ and overcome her fears and, of course, the dreaded love triangle. On the other hand, there were positive things as well, such as Duque’s character development. Rey’s however could have used some more. He was referred to as the Priest but I don’t remember him having any religious stance at all.

It’s not that the story does not have depth or the world was not developed. It’s just that it kept going back to sex and romance and, well, I wanted more.
Still, it addresses and explores important matters within sex and its boundaries, mainly of consent. The questions at the end were a nice touch and made me have an entirely new, more mature perspective of the book.

I am rounding the rating up because I know I am not the target audience and I am sure they will love it.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Feb 06 to Feb 11, 2016
GR Review

Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future (Lock In #1)

Title: Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future (Lock In #1)

Author: John Scalzi

Genres: Dystopia | Fantasy | Mystery | Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction | Thriller

Length: 336 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4/5

Premise:

In a world affected by a mysterious disease that placed a large amount of people in a state of mental lock in, agents Vann and Shane try to find the truth behind seemingly random acts of crime and terrorism.

Review:

It took me a while to get into this book. You see, it opens with a chapter that sets the basis of what happened to the world when a mysterious virus spread and infected, well, everyone as far as I can tell (I never really got or at least retained any of the math), naming which measures were put into place, but getting into no details whatsoever.

Now I usually don’t mind that, I actually welcome it, but as the story progressed I still felt I had no idea what people were talking about for a long time. I even reread sections multiple times to try and figure out the sci-fi notions but then I just gave up and tried to follow-up on the crime being investigated. From then on, I enjoyed the story quite a bit more. Most notions finally made sense, although there was still a lot of sci-fi talk I didn’t quite catch, particularly towards the end, but there was a good balance of action, mystery and suspense in a science fiction scenario.

I still wish some things had been further developed. I wanted the world better explained, how things progressed to current day. It is just so odd that scientists could make that sort of progress in such a small amount of time. But most of all I wanted to know things that were brought up and never picked up again like how twins could inhabit the same threep or Vann’s side of the story of how her partner died. I never even got how exactly Hadens contributed to the society – at least the ones who spent all their time in the Agora -, since we are told they had their own economy.
After watching multiple series of the genre, I also had to wonder why the two agents never had to deal with their superiors and felt they found the bad guy a bit much too soon but the plot was still very cleverly built.

All in all, despite all these things, the fact is the book surprised me and it was mostly a pleasant surprise. I don’t think I had ever read anything quite like it and that alone has its merit. And it was even more surprising how the author managed to get such controversial subjects discussed in the midst of such a plot.

I am also glad the book did not end in major cliffhangers, as I had no idea it would be part of a series when I bought it.
I cannot say I came out of it loving any of the characters – I did find it tiresome that Chris Shane kept wondering if every single person he met knew who he was – but at the end of the day I had a good time and recommend the book.

Read from Jan 22 to Jan 28, 2016

GR Review

Halfskin (The Vignettes)

Title: Halfskin (The Vignettes)

Author: Tony Bertauski

Genres: Dystopia | Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction

Format: Mobi

Length: 258 pages | 1449 locations

Source: Author Newsletter / Promotion on Amazon

Rating: 4/5

 

Premise:
A summary of what happened when biomites were introduced to the world.

Review:

When I got this book as a gift from the author’s newsletter, it was presented as a prequel.

Now a prequel can be defined as noun 1. a literary, dramatic, or filmic work that prefigures a later work, as by portraying the same characters at a younger age.

So imagine my surprise when I start reading it and everything, for some reason, sounds familiar. I recognized all those stories I enjoyed reading so much from Halfskin #1. There they were interspersed with the main narrative and that construction was part of why I enjoyed that first book so much.

As I read on, I identified more and more episodes of all the trilogy’s books, some of them I consider quite spoilery (particularly the cube).

Having read the trilogy before, this just felt like a bunch of lines already written put together with a bit something extra and that was immensely disappointing for the majority of the short story.
As a prequel, I had expected a bit more background on how the world became what it was. There was clearly an attempt to do that but, in my opinion, quite glossed over to get to the juicy bits.

So why the high rating instead of a 1 or 2 or even 3 stars?
Well, for one, the last chapter saved it for me. I do not recall reading about charges at all and it was a great concept that somehow seemed to summarize the entire biomite ambition era.

Secondly, I really, really love Tony Bertauski’s writing.

Repetitive as it was, I did enjoy diving into the biomite universe all over again.

And finally, I accept that not everyone would feel the way I do. I know that I, personally, would be incredibly disappointed if I had read this ‘prequel’ and then moved on to book 1. The sense of deja vu would kill me and I would feel tempted to skip those chapters and then feel guilty about it if I did.
But others may find it had just enough interesting content to get them to move on to trilogy and not be bothered by that feeling at all. Who knows?

So I still recommend it, just in my personal opinion not as a prequel, as I feel the trilogy should be savoured in all its glory. I view it more as a great, thought-provoking sum up of it and would read it a long time after going through the trilogy to refresh my memory.

Note: This is good quality dystopia/sci-fi/speculative science, folks. I highly recommend looking up the author’s site because if you sign up to his newsletter you will receive FREE BOOKS and see for yourself.
This book is also free on Amazon; click here!

And on a final note, there’s no way this book is 258 pages in print, I read it in one sitting and I cannot even begin to tell you how rare that is even if the book is awesome.
I could also tell by the speedy way the percentage on my Kindle advanced and the number of locations.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the author for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read on Jan 04, 2016
GR Review