Wednesday, October 7, 2015

AD 33 Review


You may or may not have noticed, I've been stepping back from doing book reviews lately. One, most of my book talks have been over on my YouTube channel. Two, I've found doing book reviews can be somewhat exhausting. For some reason or another, the books I tend to pick to review before their publication date have tended to fall flat for me. But, because I said I would have to finish a book I don't like.
do a review on the book, I have to finish it and write about it. whether I like it or not. I don't know about you, but I feel like reading should be fun, not a chore. Unless I'm reading for school, I shouldn't feel like I

Therefore, I've become much pickier about the books I agree to read in advance for a review.

Last year, I had read AD 30 by Ted Dekker. It ended up being one of my favorite books I had read in 2014. It was so good and I loved every moment of it. Ted Dekker is technically a Christian writer, but many of his books have gone "mainstream" because he's a Christian, but he's also a writer. He knows how to write compelling and exciting stories. Personally, those are hard to find in Christian novels. He's not afraid to tell a good story while also wrestling with heavy theological themes. If you want to read about AD 30, click here. 

When I was approached to join the blog tour for the sequel, AD 33, I was ridiculously excited. Of course I wanted to read about what happened next! So, without further ado, here is my review for AD 33.

Overview Without Spoilers

AD 33 takes place roughly two years after the first book ends. Maviah has gained a few thousand followers and has been called "Queen of the Outcasts" with the aid of Saba, her adopted son Talya, and her faithful followers. Yet, her growing power threatens the leaders around her and they challenge, her, her faith, and her family. Seeing guidance, Maviah and Saba set out in search of Yeshua (Jesus), right as he's about to enter Jerusalem for the last time.

Spoiler alert- Yeshua dies on the cross. Shocker, I know.

The Premise

The first section of this book rushed by. The last we saw Maviah, her lover Judah was in prison and she set out to become queen. When we enter this book, she suddenly has thousands of followers, her own council of sheiks, and Judah is still in prison. I don't want to give many spoilers, but let's just say a lot happens very quickly in the first hundreded (maybe less) pages and I felt a bit whiplashed. There wasn't time to process anything which had happened and I was sitll figuring out exactly what had happened in the last two years between the two books. I wanted to know how she had gained so much power and how she had met those who gave her council and get back into the world. Instead, I was thrown into the fire along with the characters and wasn't able to get my balance when all of the sudden major events happen and left me reeling. While, this could be exciting and fast-paced, to me it felt jarring. When you make big decisions with major characters, it's nice to have at least a small amount of time to recover before moving onto the next thing. I felt like it was "BIG PLOT TWIST" and then "Okay, get over it, moving on."

Once this was over though, the pacing was much better. Maviah spent much more time in the presence of Yeshua than she did in the previous book, as well as among his followers. She spent time in Bethany with Mary, Martha, and Lazaraus, and she was in the background during the events of Holy Week. (Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, Good Friday, etc.)

The chapters switched from Maviah's perspective to her son's a few times. I liked seeing the different perspectives, but it was jarrings because when we were with Maviah, it read in the first person point of view. When it went to Talya, it was in third person. I wish he had either stuck with first person and had headed each chapter with who was speaking, or had made it all third person.

The Characters

We definitely had more action with Saba in this book! When I was looking over my previous review for AD 30 I had noted I wanted more of Saba because he was an interesting character. Dekker definitely delivered in this installment. I think he could have gone deeper with Saba's character, but he was much more of a central figure in this book and it was awesome to see his character and faith develop.

We also go to know Maviah's adoped son, Tayla more in this book. He was only a boy, but you could see his maturity and he had visions which were really interesting.

Petra barely made an appearance, which I found disapointing. I loved Petra in the first book and when she popped up in this one, I was excited. Then, she was barely there. Maviah had one conversation with her and she showed up slightly at the end. Being such a beloved character (at least to me), the events at the end I feel would have been much more powerful if Petra had played a larger role.

In this book we got to know Mary, Martha, and Lazarus more. I loved that! While we did see some of Yeshua's disciples here and there, it was good to get ot know other Bibilical characters we've read about in Sunday school.

Theological Themes

What I love about Ted Dekker and his writing, is he is not afraid to tackle the big theological themes and questions. Most Christian novels I've read are pretty fluffy. They touch on the big questions, but don't dive into them much. They stay on the shallow end and sometimes dip their toes in deepr. Dekker takes the characaters and readers over to the deep end of the pool and does a cannonball. I'm talking the ideas of the Old and New Adam (which I had always found confusing), linking creation to the death and ressurection of Christ, what it means to die to yourself and to live in Christ, etc. These ideas and themes are talked about in other books, but Dekker truly dives into them and exploring the way a true theologian would in a way that translates for the reader.

The words of Yeshua are taken straight from scripture (he has the references for each chapter in the back of the book) and he weaves them into conversations naturally. At times it feels a bit preachy, but for the most part, it flows well. He then uses scripture to explain scripture and puts the pieces together. Sometimes the Bible can seem like it contradicits itself or is a strange puzzle we can't figure out. Dekker was able to show how it all works together.

I also appreciated how the characters would get confused on what the message of Yeshua truly was. We've all been there when we are at church or an event and everything makes sense in that moment. Then, the moment we walk away and are back in "the real world," we get confused and wonder "Wait... did he mean this, or this?" Maviah had so many moments when she remembered Yeshua's words, but the meaning became muddled.

Overall Thoughts

The pacing of AD 33 was a bit off for me. It felt rushed at times. I wanted to get to know the characters and get lost in the world, and Dekker rushed through those parts. While I understand needing to get through the story so you can get to where the focus needs to be, it also can throw the reader off and make them detatched from the story. Then, when big events happen, the emotional impact isn't quite as strong as it could be.

I loved getting to know Saba, Tayla,  and other characters more. They gave a new perspective on these Biblical events.

The theological themes and points were fantastic. I am always in awe of how Dekker is able to convey them in his writing.

Overall, I definitely enjoyed AD 33. It wasn't quite as good as the first book because of the pacing, but absolutely a great addition to this series.

I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.

Release Day: October 6, 2015

You can purchase AD 33 via these links:

Barnes and Noble:

For more information about AD 33click here. 

To read about Ted Dekker and his journey to writing AD 33 (which is super interesting), click here

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

If You Say Pumpkin Spice Three Times...

Ah, the first day of fall. (Or Autumn, whichever word you prefer to use.)

While the pumpkin spice latte has been here for a couple of weeks now, today is the official start of fall. 

And I'll admit it, I'm your basic white girl when it comes to fall. 

Yes, I love pumpkin spice lattes (and the salted caramel mocha! Seriously, you could argue it's even better then the PSL), scarves, boots, hoodies, warm leggings, and crunchy leaves. This has become a bit of a trope in the blog world, and on the Internet in general. We white girls in the suburbs love fall. 

Poke fun at it all you want, but all things fall are my guilty/not guilty pleasure. And why shouldn't they be? 

This is all of the awesome fall brings to the world:

- The extreme heat is gone. I HATE long summers and extreme heat. Having a bit of summer is fine where the temperatures get really high and you can wear tank tops and hit the pool/lake/beach a couple of times. But after that, I'm done. Heat is uncomfortable, sticky, gross, and you can only take off so many pieces of clothing to make yourself feel relief. In the fall? Just throw on a sweater and you're good. It's awesome being able to step outside and feel a crisp breeze instead of choking on humidity. 

- The clothes. I always love the idea of spring and summer clothing. The light colors and flowy tank tops and such. But in reality? I just look better in fall clothing. Bring on the rich dark colors, blue jeans, and scarves. I can rock those. And don't even get me started on how much I love my boots. 

- Fall means all of the best holidays and seasons are coming! (At least here... sorry Australia and the rest of the southern hemisphere. Spring brings the best holidays and seasons for you!) You got Halloween, NaNoWriMo, Thanksgiving, NaNoWriMo, Christmas is just around the corner, NaNoWriMo...

- Food. Along with the awesome holidays and such, you get great food. (Other than the drinks at Starbucks.) Also, soup! I love me some soup. Yeah, I know, I can eat soup whenever I want. But, I always feel weird going to Panera Bread and ordering a hot soup when it's sunny and 95 degrees out in the middle of July. I just do. Maybe it's just me. IDK IDK. Besides, now all of the Halloween candy is out. Who doesn't love Halloween candy? And since I'm an adult, I can go and buy some bags and Mom can't tell me I have to save it for Halloween. 

- Fall TV shows! Need I say more?

So, yeah. I love me some fall, and I don't even feel bad about it. Tease me, call me basic, and make all of the memes you want. (Because they're true.) I don't mind! I'll just be over here, drinking my Starbucks, searching for Halloween/vampire themed things, wearing a scarf, pretending this is me:

Friday, September 4, 2015

Speak Up! | You Gotta Werk

It's the first Friday of the month, which  means it's time to link up with Amber and Annie for Speak Up! (Click on their names to watch their videos and/or to link up too!) This month's topic: Work

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

As Enchanting as Harry Potter?

Recently on Facebook, I found this article about 15 Book as Enchanting as Harry Potter. Naturally, my curiosity got the better of me and I had to see which books they suggested. It was a good post and I wanted to share my thoughts. I've read some of the books on their list and I am going to share with you my opinions on said books and if they are as enchanting as Harry Potter as they claim.

For the record, nothing is as enchanting as Harry Potter, so let's just get that straight.

Just reference this very accurate meme.

I'll never get over you Harry Potter!

The first book they mentioned, I was so excited they put on the list because it is one of my all time favorites. I'm talking, Harry Potter is first, this one comes in a very close second.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This book -THIS BOOK- is so beautiful and lovely and enchanting and magical. This book gets me. Seriously, I read this book and in my head I'm all "YES. This is me."

But I do know it's a very different writing style and it's not everyone's cup of tea. But if you do read it, and you don't like it, just lie to me and say you did. That way I won't cry.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

In just that last few years I've become a fan of Gaiman. I wish I had started reading his books sooner because they are so wonderful and fantastic! However, American Gods is not the book I would have picked for this topic. Don't get me wrong - it's a great book! (In fact, I've heard rumors of it becoming a TV series.) I really enjoyed it. The books I'd pick for this topic though by him would have been Neverwhere (my fave), Stardust (so enchanting and quirky!), or The Graveyard Book (one of his middle grade books, but so wonderful!).

The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis

Now, it's been awhile since I've read the entirety of The Chronicles of Narnia. But The Horse and His Boy? Really? From what I remember, this was my least favorite out of the series. So, let's just put all of The Chronicles of Narnia on this list, okay?

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

A classic! Granted, most people just know the movie, which is just fine because it's amazing and brilliant and hilarious. But the book is awesome too.

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

I'm really glad this author is getting a shoutout! I really enjoyed this trilogy, and in fact, it's one of my sister's all time favorites. It's interesting, and dark, there's magic, and a girls boarding school. The same author is also working on a new series called The Diviners and the second comes out later this fall.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Okay, I haven't actually read this book yet. But I've heard nothing but good things and if you are a gamer this is the book for you.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

This book - THIS BOOK YOU GUYS - is SO SO GOOD! This is one of my all time favorites by this author. I could read it over and over again.

It's the perfect book for the recovering Harry Potter fan. Or the fan who will never let go. Like myself. Or for people who live on the Internet and don't know how to interact with real humans. THIS BOOK UNDERSTANDS US. It's cute, funny, awkward, romantic, and touching. Also, Rainbow Rowell is coming out with a new book Carry On which is the fanfic the main character (Cath) in this book wrote. How awesome is that?

Also - were you a Draco/Harry shipper back in the day? Your time has come!

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

Okay... another one I haven't actually read yet. But it's on my shelf and I plan on reading it soon! Also, I've heard it's awesome. Even people who typically don't enjoy mysteries have liked this book. So, I'm really excited to read it and see how the queen (JK Rowling) does in this other genre.

Some others I'd add to the list:

The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas

I discovered it just in the past year and it's ruined my life in the best way possible and the fourth book is being released September 1. I want time to go faster so I can read it. I also tell people, while the first book is good, the others are even better. So, if the first one isn't your all time favorite, just keep going.

Also, I might have a girl crush on the main character Celeana Sardothian. There - I SAID IT.

The Paper Magician trilogy by Charlie N Holmberg

I also discovered this trilogy in the past year and fell in love! It's magical, there's a school, romance, scandal, adventure, and no love triangles. What more could you want in a trilogy?

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Urban fantasy at it's finest. Friends of mine who knew how much I loved fantasy recommended this series and I'm so glad they did! If you haven't read this series yet, get on it right now.

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

It's retellings of fairytales in a futuristic dystopian society. But instead of Hunger Games or Divergent, think more Firefly. The final book is being released in November and I'm outrageously excited.

What are your thoughts? Have you read any of these books? Have you read the others on the list that I haven't? How do you think they stand up for us Harry Potter addicts who want more? Are there others you'd recommend?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

An Apology to Old Friends

I've been noticing a trend in my Timehop app lately. As I scroll down through the years I notice the ones from my early years of Facebook. Do you remember those days? When we would actually write on one another's walls and have conversations that way? Not using Facebook messenger or tagging them. Actually writing on someones wall outside of the yearly "Happy Birthday!" message. Those early posts are filled with messages and notes and conversations from my college friends. About how we can't wait for the semester to start so we could see each other again or what we've been up to over the summer or making plans for the Weeks of Welcome staff. It's been making me nostalgic for my college friends.

On top of that, one of the college friends I have kept in touch with just moved away. It all came about quickly so I didn't have much time to process before she actually left. She'll be back in a few weeks for a wedding, but the fact remains, she and her husband won't be living here in Chicago anymore.

The same day she moved, some of my other college friends were in town. Originally, they were going to be at church with us, but then plans changed.

This made me realize what a terrible job of keeping in touch with people I've done in the years since graduating college.

I think of the core group of people I spent my time with and how important they were to me. We went to one another's weddings and drove across country to go, and texted and Facebooked, and back in the day AIM was our life saver during the summers. I swore we all would be friends for the rest of our lives and see each other all of the time after graduation.

But that hasn't happened.

I see people's Facebook updates and others whom I was friends with and how their lives have changed. People who seem to have similar situations as me where they left ministry or have had some of the same struggles with our Synod. I wish I had gone to them for support. While the end result may have been the same, at least I would have known I wasn't alone.

All of this is part of life and growing up and being an adult. We lose touch with some friends and we make new ones. I love the new friends I've made since graduating. But I notice how I've lost touch with those in Missouri as well, and I haven't been gone all that long.

Even the people who are here in Chicago, I notice I haven't been the greatest of friend to them since I've moved back. Yes, we see one another and all of that, or we go to church together every week, or hang out time to time, but I know I can do a much better job.

It makes me miss the girl from my Concordia days. Don't get me wrong, I love how I've grown and changed. I make more of an effort to be who God made me to be and not what others might think I should be. I love the group of online friends I've made through blogging and YouTube and the experiences I've had. There are a lot of ways I'm glad I'm not the girl I once was.

At the same time, she was much more dedicated to the people in her life. She made more of an effort. She had fun and didn't crawl into a hole as often or get anxious about social situations the way I do sometimes.

So, this is my apology to my friends of the past. Those from high school and college and Missouri with whom I've let go of. I'm sorry. I want to do better, and I don't know how I'll do better. But I want to. Please don't take my lack of keeping in touch as a lack of caring - because I do care.

Have other people noticed this as they've gotten older? How do you balance maturing and having new experiences, but still valuing the people from the past? How do you make time for people and keeping in touch? Do you ever feel like some of the ways you've changed aren't the best?

I'm also sorry I couldn't post pictures of everyone. Womp womp.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Speak Up! Restoration

It's Speak Up Link Up time again! This moth we're talking about restoration.

Don't forget to link up and watch the other videos!

Have a happy weekend!!!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Problem with Christian Pop Culture

Last year, I read the book AD 30 by Ted Dekker for a book review.  I loved it! Then, a couple months ago I was emailed about reviewing the sequel which is coming out later this year, as well as the novella version of AD 30 in anticipation of it. Since I had loved the original so much, naturally, I said yes.

Although, in my head it was more like...

They sent me the ebook version of the novella right away so I could get to reading.

Released August 4, 2015

I'm going to be completely honest ... I'm so disappointed.

What I love about Ted Dekker is he's a Christian writer, but he's not like a Christian writer. You know, full of thin plots and characters with a bit of Jesus thrown in. He writes. I mean, really writes. His stories are full of intrigue and action, his characters have depth, and his discussions on faith are deep and intense, but done in a way which isn't preachy. 

The abridged version of AD 30 took away all of that. I couldn't even get 25% of the way through it. The story was stripped down to it's bare bones and dumbed down.

I'm sure the purpose was to get hype for the next book and to get a shorter version so people weren't so intimidated by how big the book was. But that didn't need to happen. Yes, I understand big books can be intimidating. But do you know what else is a big book?

Game of Thrones. 

Have people stopped reading that?


Harry Potter.

Have people stopped reading those?


Lord of the Rings.

And wait... people are still reading those too!

Outlander anyone...?

Granted, these are all fantasy. But still. People are willing to read big books as long as they're good.

I feel like this happens over and over in Christian pop culture. Our movies, books, music, etc. Something can be truly great, but then it gets watered down "for the masses" and to become "more appealing" when it doesn't need to be. AD 30 is an amazing book, and I truly feel even people who aren't Christian would enjoy it because it's a good story. Because Ted Dekker is an awesome writer. 

I am excited for the sequel, AD 33. It's going to be awesome because the original book was awesome. Don't worry about the abridged, just read the original. 

Basically, if it's not broke, don't fix it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Yesterday Was Tuesday, Right?

Working at a hotel I've learned, really messes up your schedule.

The times when everyone else is off work, I have to work. When I'm off, everyone else is at work. Getting off early for me means I get out on time at 11pm. Weekends no longer exist because hotels are open (and very busy) on the weekends. Especially in the summer. Hello, wedding and family reunion season! Saturdays become Mondays and Mondays are a welcome breather.

Basically, this is a really long way of saying I had totally forgotten today was Wednesday. Between work and getting reading for VEDA (SIGN UP HERE!), what day of the week I was on completely left my brain making me feel like Sam Winchester.

Only... it isn't Tuesday anymore. It's Wednesday. 

I'm just confused. 

Next week guys. NEXT WEEK I will have a for real actual blog post up. 

In the meantime... how are you? Tell me about life! Do you get as confused about what day it is as I do? Maybe I need to get back to my old job at the preschool so I can have calendar time every day so I can learn the days of the week again.