Book Review: Spark (DNF)

Did Not Finish: Spark
Swipe
#4
by Evan Angler

My rating: DNF, no rating
Genre: YA dystopian, Christian

The decision to set aside a book that I most likely won’t finish is never easy, which is why I’ve only done it twice before. But this one was even harder, because it was book #4 in a series. Unfortunately, the series apparently doesn’t have an end at this time, and book #4 is a major departure from the 3 before it. The author always seemed a bit eccentric, but it went way too weird for me in this book.

One of the biggest issues I saw in other reviews was that the author left behind the characters that we spent so much time with in the first three books in favor of some new people. I don’t think I would have minded that so much on its own. However, the main character of this book had this strange way of referring to herself. She was “Ali Without a Name,” but there was no explanation of that (considering that she clearly did have a name, I’d have liked to know the story behind this). Then sometimes she or someone else would refer to her in other ways like “Hungry Ali” or “Naughty Ali.”

This, amongst other things, caused me to get that “just hang in there until things make sense” feeling. And then I cheated a little. My son has read all 4 of these books, though it’s been several years. But still, I asked him if any of these things that were making no sense would eventually be explained. He said pretty much no. I decided to call it then, about 1/4 of the way in.

Still, I liked the previous 3 books enough that, even though it’s been 7 years since this book was published, I hold out the tiniest bit of hope that the author will continue the series. If that were to happen, I’d come back and finish this book in preparation of the next. Unless that happens, though, I have no desire to find out what’s going on with Ali and the Tinchers.

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Storm

Storm
Swipe
#3
by Evan Angler

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: YA dystopian, Christian

Storm

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the previous books in the series, Swipe and Sneak.

Unwitting leaders of a revolution for those who refused to pledge loyalty to the future global leader, Logan and the rest of the Dust are being pulled in multiple directions. While Logan, Peck, Erin, and Hailey head west to try to save Erin’s life and stop an epidemic, the rest of the Dust have a mission in the capital city of Beacon–continue to protest the leader’s minions while searching for their lost friend. Then Logan’s sister Lily brings him a new mission, as a brewing storm is about to be unleashed.

The continuing saga of Logan and the Dust ramps up in this book. The Dust continue to gain new members and allies, both Markless and Marked. The ending feels like a huge leap off the side of a cliff, but overall, the book was engaging.

In the first book, I really disliked both Tyler and Eddie. I know they’re kids, so of course their immaturity would be expected. But it’s taken to such an extreme, it just bugs me. I like both of them so much more in this book, even though they’re still goofy and immature. It’s like it has a purpose now.

There were a few oddball things that happened in the book, like horses showing up out of nowhere when two of the characters were traveling via the River, or a teenager being walked to the scene of his parents’ death, even to the point of them showing him their dead bodies. I just don’t know why the sheriff would do that.

By the end of this book, I had come to realize that Evan Angler is a pen name, considering that it turns out he’s actually a character in the book. I truly don’t understand why the author chose this plot device, though, as so far, it doesn’t add much to the book. I think that perhaps this could have been more fully utilized by having a narrator that was more connected to the reader throughout the series. I’ll be curious to see if this is expanded on in the next book though.

This story has really come into its own by this book. It’s uncommon, at least in my experience, for Christian end-times fiction to come in from this angle, as there’s very little in the way of Christianity even still now. One character did express his faith a bit more in this book and then left on some kind of pilgrimage, which I’m sure will come into play more in the next book. It did become clear in this book that the rapture had happened in the past though, which I’d been curious about. I’m not too optimistic about the next book, given reviews I’ve read, but I’m going in with an open mind, because I’ve disagreed with reviews plenty of times before. At this point, I’d still recommend this book to those who enjoy end-times fiction and YA books.

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Sneak

Finished Reading: Sneak
Swipe
#2
by Evan Angler

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: YA dystopian, Christian

Sneak

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the first book in the series, Swipe.

Sneak picks up immediately after the previous story’s end, with Logan on the run and the Dust in the wind. In the aftermath, Logan and Peck, leader of the Dust, share a common goal–find Logan’s sister Lily. Five years ago, Lily supposedly died when she went to receive her Mark, but Logan has since received information that she is actually in some sort of prison. Logan and the Dust travel along the River to Beacon, the capital city, where they will try to break Lily out. Meanwhile, Logan’s friend-turned-betrayer Erin is on her own track to Beacon, which is what she thought she wanted, but now isn’t so sure.

The story really picked up in this 2nd installment, with more action and higher stakes. We get to see even more of the community that the Markless have formed across the country. And the members of the Dust weren’t nearly as annoying as in the first book. Plus, we get some fresh blood to the cause that is very promising.

Though the Dust and most of the rest of the Markless community seems to hate Logan at first, due to the extra heat he’s brought down on them all, I like him a bit more in this book. He seems a little wiser and a little less helpless. I still don’t care for Erin’s character, though, who was the other MC in the first book. She has a smaller role in this one and is so inconsistent, I don’t know if she’s just that confused or if she isn’t written very well. The character that I said was my favorite in the first book was in this one a lot less, and frankly…I don’t remember why I liked him so much in the first one. So there’s that.

The other members of the dust are given a bit more of a background, so while they don’t really come to the forefront that much, at least there’s some depth there. There’s a pseudo-love triangle in this book that seemed pretty unnecessary to me so far. But overall, the characters were more engaging in this book.

I loved the River, which had similarities to hobo signs (which I learned about from a Nancy Drew game). It was an interesting idea to include in the story, though at least one thing happened that was pretty predictable to a point. The outcome was not so predictable to me.

As I mentioned in the first book’s review, the series is actually Christian end-times fiction, which became more clear in this book. Logan finds and begins to carry around and read a Bible, which is a banned book, considering that religions other than the One World Religion are also forbidden. It’s a subtle build-up, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the next book. Sadly, since reading the first one, I have become aware of the fact that this is an unfinished series, the most recent book being published in 2013. With that understanding, this might still be worth reading for those who enjoy end-times fiction.

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

September in Review

I read a few less books this month than last month, but still not bad. A combination of homeschooling and starting a new part-time job are probably to blame, but I’m still happy with the amount I read. More importantly, all of the books I finished in September have already been reviewed, so that’s something!

Here are the books I read in September:
Strands of Truth by Colleen Coble (2 / 5)
The Yellow Lantern by Angie Dicken (3.5 / 5)
Swipe by Evan Angler (3 / 5)
Fatal Strike by DiAnn Mills (4 / 5)
Stealthy Steps by Vikki Kestell (3.5 / 5)
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (3.5 / 5)
Synapse by Steven James (3.5 / 5)
Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris (4 / 5)
Holes by Louis Sachar (4.5 / 5)

This list includes 5 ARCs and 1 re-read. My favorite book from August was Holes (the re-read). My favorite previously unread book was Fatal Strike. My ever-changing list of to-be-reads, as well as a flag for the book I’m currently reading and an ongoing list of those I’ve read and posted about can be found here.

I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads, if anyone is interested in that. (Note: The list of books I have read overall is not remotely complete there. When I created my Goodreads page 4 years ago, I added some of my favorite books over the years, but to add everything I’ve ever read would be very time-consuming, not to mention impossible to remember it all.)

Despite my almost too-long list of TBRs, I’m always looking for more to add. Feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites or just recent reads you enjoyed.

Book Review: Swipe

Swipe
Book #1
by Evan Angler

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: YA dystopian

Everyone who knows end-times Christian fiction understands the setting of this book. The world is setting up for a global government, already has a global religion, and an implanted Mark is required for buying, selling, basically for living. With this backdrop, we are introduced to Logan Langly, who has been terrified of receiving his Mark (which happens when a child turns 13) ever since his sister died when receiving hers. Around this time, a new girl, Erin, moves to town. Her father works for the government, specifically the branch that deals with trouble related to the Mark. When Erin learns that her father is basically a spy, she gets caught up in the case he came to town to work on. And that case happens to involve Logan as well.

This book was not bad, though also could have been better. From the very beginning (the prologue, even), there was a mystery set up that drove me through the story. It was a short, easy read, so that helped too.  The plots set up for both of the main characters were interesting as well, but it all kind of fell apart at the end. It took far too long to really get the answers I was looking for, and in the meantime, I was reading characters that just fell flat for me.

The two main characters are annoying and bland. There is little to no character development. My favorite was a boy who is part of a rebel group. He’s not the leader, but he’s the leader’s right-hand man. But the rest of that rebel group is so crazy that the whole rebel group aspect is just bizarre. (Two of them play a card game like War, but whoever has the highest card gets to punch the other player in the face. And it’s written like it’s completely normal. It was really weird.)

The world building is hit-or-miss. The background of how the country (and really the world) gets to where it is was well thought-out, pretty logical. The explanation of some of the current world is also interesting (though I don’t know how realistic it would be). But some of it almost comes across lazy. Many things have a prefix of “nano-“, which apparently just means it’s enhanced in some way?

It is revealed part way through the book that the rebel group has a mole at the school that the main characters go to. It comes off like it’s supposed to be a secret to the reader, but it was pretty obvious. Around the time the mole is identified, we’re also finally given some answers to why the rebel group does what it does, but the answers are unimpressive. Noble, but not nearly as interesting as I’d hoped for. And in my opinion, not presented with nearly enough evidence for at least one character to fall in line with them as easily as he does.

The ending felt a bit rushed to me, and I didn’t fully buy the way the characters acted at the end. I was also left with the question about whether or not there were meant to be romantic feelings between the main characters, and even more than that, if we were supposed to care if there were. The characters are 12 & 13, so…not really a romance I’m looking to read.

Final thoughts: the book is a set up to a 4-book series, and given the ending of this one, I’m hoping book #2 will take off quite a bit, comparatively. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, the series is said to be Christian end-times fiction, but you really wouldn’t guess it to read the first book. The only thing that hints at it is the Mark, and to a lesser degree, the possible antichrist set-up, but it’s so lightly touched on, if I couldn’t see from Goodreads that it was Christian, I would never classify it as that. Again, presumably that will come into play in the rest of the series (my son says it does–we bought these for him when they were newer, and he’s read them all). For now, it’s difficult to come up with someone to recommend this book/series to.

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!