Spirit Followers by Lydia Redwine (Instruments of Sacrifice #1)

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Quality of writing: 4 out of 5 stars.

How much I enjoyed reading this book: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“When a Royal dies, the realms elect the one to take their place. By reasons Camaria does not know, her realm elects her as the next Royal. Now that she is the new-found sixteenth Royal of the nation of Mirabelle, Cam embarks on a journey with her sisters and a young huntsman to the four realms of the nation to complete training in the four kinds of magic. Once she has completed this training, she will then be permitted to consume her annual amount of magic and possess manifested powers. Her ventures are unexpectedly steeped in precarious events when Cam discovers a secret plan of revolt, a past she never knew, and an ancient people group thought dead who call themselves the Spirit Followers.”

This review has been long in coming, and I am grateful for Lydia’s patience with how long it took me to get to her book! College and life got the better of me, but I was finally able to read the review copy that Miss Redwine sent me, and I am excited to be reviewing it! In lieu of that, I just want to say ‘thank you’ to Lydia Redwine for sending me her book in trade for an honest review. In no way has this influence my opinion or review regarding “Spirit Followers.”

Lydia Redwine’s book, “Spirit Followers,” was a very good debut to what seems to be a promising career as a writer. Lydia is a talented writer, this book being a fairly complex novel for not only the first book in a series but also a debut novel. While reading “Spirit Followers,” I thought that the approach Lydia took toward the fantasy genre was fairly unique compared to some of the other books that I have read within the genre, and her world building was well done. The society and different “cultures” that Lydia introduced in “Spirit Followers” reminded me a lot of Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” series in how each teenager had to decide which magical inlet they wished to become a part of and to live in for the remainder of their lives, especially because of how each “district” was divided by certain abilities and cultural traits. Basically it was the factions renamed with a dash of magical giftings; that aspect was not particularly original feeling, but I don’t think that it was a problem or detrimental to the plot, despite the similarities between this book’s society and other dystopian novels’. Besides the differing magical enclaves, some of the other rebellion themes were reminiscent of other YA fantasy and dystopian books that have been written throughout the years, but I thought that Lydia Redwine did a good job adding different dynamics to her story that made a similar theme completely her own.

Lydia definitely started her debut off with a bang , but for me personally, I wished she had taken a bit more time to introduce her characters and the society before throwing me as a reader right into the thick of the plot. I didn’t feel like I got to know Camaria (AKA Cam) as well as I wanted to before her whole life started to implode and the drama started saturating the story. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy action-packed, fast-paced plots, but I would have liked to have had the time to get attached to Cam and the other characters before their world suddenly went up in flames in the traditional YA way. The pacing was a little problematic for me in the beginning of “Spirit Followers,” but Lydia did a really good job of keeping her plot moving by introducing new characters and having Cam and her group travel around the different “factions” throughout this book.

As with Cam, I did not feel like I got attached to any character in particular. Oliver, Cam’s friend, made an appearance just in the beginning of “Spirit Follows” only to disappear for 90% of the book, and I was a little bummed by that because I thought that he could have been a more dynamic character if he had been present in this book for longer. Riah’s story was vague, but I totally got what Lydia was going for with this character, although I wish it had been more “fleshed-out,” so to speak. I don’t go for the bad boy type where they are actually the enemy, despite their inner struggle between good and evil; that’s just not my personal taste, so Riah was the kind of character that was fairly interesting, but I was not particularly invested in him. Fiera was probably the character that I liked the most, and she reminded me a lot of Nesta from “A Court of Thorns and Roses.” Normally I don’t like the prickly, super intense female characters, but she ended up being the most dynamic character in “Spirit Followers,” and she got business done, which I totally respected.

Besides the characters, I was quite surprised by Lydia Redwine’s world building. She did a fantastic job of not just telling her readers about all of the different regions of her world, but also showing them. Cam and her group of reluctant rebels traveled to most of the little enclaves where she (and her readers) learned about the different cultures and the magic that was present in the region. Lydia did a very good job of making her world feel expansive, and I think that there is a lot of potential in the next couple of books in this series to explore in-depth the history of Cam’s world.

Overall, I thought that Lydia Redwine’s debut was well-written and creative with a fast moving plot, but I do wish that certain aspects had been more developed (like some of the characters) before you-know-what hit the fan. I did not feel as attached to the characters as I had hoped I would be, but they were still very good. I have other things that I want to talk about regarding the plot and the loops that Lydia took her characters for, but I do not want to spoil anything for those of you wanting to read this book! I feel like “Spirit Followers” would be a great book for fans of both the fantasy and dystopian genres, especially fans of the “Divergent” series, and although this book had a high body count, I think that younger readers (middle school) would like this book, too.

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Chasing Shadows by Ashley Townsend Is HERE

The wait is officially over and I now have a copy of “Chasing Shadows” by Ashley Townsend!!!

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This is extremely exciting and I am looking forward to reading “Chasing Shadows” again, and then writing a book review for it. Alright, here’s the cover!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If you want to buy a copy of this book for yourself, go to:

http://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Shadows-Ashley-Townsend/dp/1939156572/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413944606&sr=8-1&keywords=chasing+shadows+townsend

and

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/chasing-shadows-ashley-townsend/1120440724?ean=9781939156570

Be on the lookout for a review of “Chasing Shadows” by Ashley Townsend on my blog!

Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker

Chasing Jupiter Rachel Coker

“Chasing Jupiter” by Rachel Coker

4 out of 5 stars for writing quality.

 4 out of 5 stars for character quality.

3 out of 5 stars for how much I liked it.

Scarlett Blaine’s life in the late 1960’s isn’t as easy as you might think. Underneath the Blaine’s’ wholesome all American family image lay troubles that no one would have ever guessed. Scarlett loves her family, but it doesn’t mean living this life is easy; with her sister gallivanting off whenever she wants in search of another “experience”, and Cliff, her younger brother, being a little unusual himself (but aren’t we all?), life is really messy and complicated. Those are just a few of life’s complications and they don’t even include her parents financial woes and their constant arguing. Don’t get Scarlett wrong, she loves her family, but she has to deal with a lot more junk than your average seventeen year-old. And with her free-loving hippie-ish sister gone most of the time and both of her parents working long hours, Scarlett is left to take care of Cliff, their grandpa and herself. A break would be nice, but time stops for no one and so Scarlett has to keep going, no matter how hard that may be for her.

But life isn’t all work and no play and when Cliff makes a birthday wish, Scarlett is determined to make it come true. Cliff, however, is making that a little harder than expected when his request is revealed: he wants to make a rocket so he can travel to Jupiter. In the day and age of Neil Armstrong being the first man on the moon, Cliff is hopeful it will all work out, but there is going to be a lot of hard work involved if he is to make it to Jupiter.

After finding out that they need a LOT more money than they have to build their spacecraft, Scarlett decides to make peach pies all summer long and sell them to earn enough money. But that means being nice to Frank, a boy who never noticed nor cared to be nice to Scarlett before, and asking him if he would make a trade for something of her’s in exchange for the peaches she needs. Lucky for Scarlett, she doesn’t have to make too much of a trade because all Frank wants in return is to be around Scarlett’s sister. But just as things are looking up for Scarlett, an accident happens and Cliff is the one hurt. Can God help her make it through all of this, if He’s even out there, and why would He let something like this happen? And why did it have to be Cliff? Can Scarlett learn to trust God and let go of what she can’t control, or will she clutch her world so tight that it crumples into pieces?

Before I start my actual review, I just want to thank Charleen and Zondervan Publishing for sending me a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review.

“Chasing Jupiter” by Rachel Coker was a very well written Christian Young Adult book, and I enjoyed reading it. One of the things I liked so much about this book was the era; it was interesting to read about a time I hadn’t  grow up in but my parents had. The culture and mindset were very different back then than it is now, but it wasn’t completely foreign to me because I had heard a lot of stories from my parents about their childhoods’. It made that time period come alive a bit more for me, and I really enjoyed that aspect about the book.

Another good thing about “Chasing Jupiter” was the main character, Scarlett. I thought it was sad that she basically had to raise herself and her little brother because her parents were gone so much, and then to have the added burden of taking care of a sick relative just makes the job all the more difficult. Back in the 60’s and 70’s the knowledge of health foods and different techniques to help others get better was very minimal and not widely spread. That was sort of the age where they had begun to discover such things instead of already having pocketed that knowledge for use; it was very sad to see her grandpa being so sick and her little brother’s injury go relatively untreated. I mean, you can only do so much for a person with memory loss or dementia/Alzheimer’s, but there are things that can help these days. All of that made Scarlett and her troubles seem very real.

There are quite a few characters that are good in this book but I really liked Cliff, Scarlett’s brother. He was such a sweetheart and he was so adorable. Frank was also another good character, and his and Scarlett’s relation ship was cute. I think my only problem with this book was what happened to Cliff. I won’t tell you how it ends, just that it made me sad. Call me a sucker for a perfectly cheesy happy ending if you want, because that’s what I wanted here. I absolutely know God is good and faithful no matter what, but it still made me sad and I wish there had been a tiny bit happier ending to this story. But other than that, it was a well written and enjoyable book. Very well done!

Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon

doon by carey corp and lori langdon“Doon” by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon

Publishing Company: Blink (Zondervan)

Release Date: August 20th, 2013

4 out of 5 stars.

 Life sucks. A lot. And Veronica Welling knows this all too well. After finding her boyfriend cheating on her with a fellow cheerleader, in her school’s hallway no less, she feels completely betrayed by a person she had called a really good friend; he wont be holding that title anymore!!. Yup, life sucks. But for Veronica, it has always been that way. Her dad had left her and her mother on Veronica’s birthday long ago to fend for themselves, and ever since then, life hasn’t been much fun. With her dad gone, Veronica became a constant reminder to her mother of their abandonment. No father, and now no mother to take care of her, Veronica learned to be independent early on in life. To top it all off, her mom found some nasty dead-beat to date; the creeper even has the audacity to leer at Veronica with her mother in the room. And her mom blames Veronica for his nasty stares! Yeah, Veronica is ready to get out of podunk Indiana as soon as she possibly can. If only…

After a generous invitation from her long time best friend, Mackenna, Veronica has hopped onto a plane bound for Scotland. She is looking forward to being thousands of miles away from her drama back home, but troubles are wearisome creatures that never seem to stop gnawing at you, no matter how hard to try to get away from them. A few hours after arriving in Alloway, Scotland, Veronica gets a call from back home, and it’s her mother calling to say that Veronica will have a stepfather soon. Yaaaay!!!!! The only thing keeping her from jumping off of the deep end at this point is Mackenna. Well, Mackenna and the handsome blond boy who keeps showing up. First he appeared right after Veronica ended it with her cheating boyfriend, and then the second time was after her mom had called with the news. Each time he appeared out of nowhere, and then disappeared like a ghost. But for some odd reason, Veronica can’t shake the feeling that he isn’t a ghost. And she is determined to find out just how real he is.

Mackenna worries about her friend. Veronica and her have always been close; read each others’ minds kind of close. This time is no different, and Kenna knows it. Something is wrong with her good friend and it’s not that she just broke up with her boyfriend (someone Kenna had advised against dating, by the way), or that her mother had sprung “stepdaddy” news on her. No, it’s something very different, but Mackenna can’t put her finger on it. Kenna isn’t sure she can be the strong, stable one; that’s what Veronica had always been good at, and she had always been the theatrics that had spiced up their long-time friendship. Now that Veronica is off in never-never land, their roles are reversed, and Kenna doesn’t like it. And what is with Veronica’s odd fascination with any and everything “Doon?” It’s just a fanciful Scottish legend that someone made up! But her friend, on the other hand, seems to think it’s very real, and Veronica is determined to find something Mackenna isn’t sure, no, is positive doesn’t exist.

Much to Mackenna’s dismay, Veronica’s determination to find Doon is unswerving, and it eventually leads to them actually discovering Doon. Kenna and Veronica find themselves to be in a medieval-looking land, where, nearly upon their arrival, they are taken as prisoners to the beautiful castle. The dungeon which they are thrown into, however, is not so pretty. Yeah, Doon is “awesome” in Mackenna’s opinion. But soon the girls will find out that Doon is far more magical, and dangerous, than they could have ever imagined. As the peace and safety of Doon is threatened, Kenna and Veronica soon discover that their futures are inexorably intertwined with this kingdom and the fate of its people. But can these two girls really save Doon and themselves, or are they destined to be the ruin of Doon?

Before I start my review, I just wanted to say thank you to Zondervan publishing and Gwen who generously sent me an ARC copy of “Doon” so I could review it before its release date. Thank you so much!!

“Doon” by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon was a lot of fun to read. I was really surprised by it because I have never read a book quite like this from Zondervan, but it was a very pleasant kind of surprise. Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon did a fantastic job of creating a magical and fun world that was so enjoyable to discover alongside some very entertaining characters. It was so fun to read, and the writing style as well as the creativity of the story were fantastic. “Doon” was a well thought out book, and the characters were really fun to follow.

Mackenna was my favorite. She was funny and sarcastic, but also a really good friend. I found it interesting how Carey and Lorie showed Kenna’s struggle with being stuck in Doon, a place she hadn’t believed existed; it would be really weird and hard to wrap your head around a place like that, but also kind of amazing, too. Throughout the story, Kenna was a strong person (without being overpowering), and stayed true to her character, but she also grew a lot. She was such a funny and good friend to Veronica despite being dragged into another “world” against her will. It was also interesting to watch her spiritual struggle. The only thing I regret is that I didn’t get to read from her perspective as much as Veronica’s. I wish it had been fifty-fifty because I just loved Kenna.

Veronica was a good character too, but it took me about half way through “Doon” to start to “like, like” her. I guess I felt more connected to Kenna because she had a more realistic view on the whole “magical world” thing, whereas Veronica was ready to jump ship into the unknown without any thought as to what might happen because she just wanted to see some boy she doesn’t even know. She had a pretty bad life, but still, that is kind of messed up! That aside, I thought that Carey and Loriedid a great job of showing her growth, which was of the gradual kind. She stayed true to her character but had definitely grown by the end of the book.

Last but not least, the guy characters. I’m going to be honest, I didn’t really like James, Veronica’s love interest. I have seen this kind of character a few times in books, and I wasn’t a fan of his kind of character in those books either. There is no fault on the authors’ side, I just don’t go for the quiet brooding, misunderstood, cocky types. For me he was just a flat-liner who occasionally elicited enough emotion from me to be irritated with him. And his and Veronica’s relationship set off my gag reflex once in a while, so I just wasn’t a huge fan of them together.

Duncan, James’ brother, on the other hand, was adorable! He and Kenna were really cute together (*sighs*), and despite the fact that Veronica and her are in Doon for only a fortnight, I felt like their relationship was very believable. I felt like, while reading “Doon” that they had spent a lot more time together than they actually did. Duncan was funny, charming, and so enjoyable to read about, especially from Mackenna’s perspective. Duncan actually reminded me a little of Stiles (from Teen Wolf) because of how endearing he was, and Kaleb (from Hourglass and Timepiece by Myra McEntire) for multiple reasons I am still contemplating. Duncan was a surprisingly well-rounded character for how little page time he got. I cannot wait to read more about him in the next book!

Overall, “Doon” was an awesome read and I am very much looking forward to the next in this series. I really hope, though, that Mackenna is the main voice in it! That would be amazing!!! Well done Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon.

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another!

The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson

the fairest beauty melanie dickerson

“The Fairest Beauty” by Melanie Dickerson

3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Young, fair Sophie has always lived with walls surrounding her; walls guarding the castle, and walls built around her by the Duchess. All her life Sophie has been a captive to the Duchess, as a scullery maid who has always been held in distain by the Duchess. Sophie has tried to be kind, responsible, and obedient, but it is never enough; love is something she will never be given by the beautiful Duchess. And she is tired of trying to be perfect, to be good enough for just an acknowledging glance from the Duchess. What Sophie wants now is to be free, to go somewhere safe and to live her life in peace. But how? When could she ever be freed from the only “home” she has ever known? Can she get out, and stay out, of this prison?

Gabehart is the son of Duke Wilhelm and the lovely Duchess, Rose. He’s never lived up to his parents expectations, Valten beating him to the punch every single time. And it’s no wonder, ever since the accident, Gabe has felt worthless, been worthless to those around him. So instead of trying to beat his older brother at a game he could never win, Gabehart has tried his hand at the game of revelry; he is quite good at those kinds of activities. But when news that Valten’s betrothed is not dead but very alive, Gabe gets an idea. Valten has been laid up with a broken leg for some time, and Gabehart knows Valten won’t go for the young lady for a while yet. But that doesn’t mean he can’t go and bring her to the castle. Maybe this was the opportunity he has always needed to redeem himself. He’ll go and be back before anyone notices and maybe then he will have beaten his brother at something other than archery. With his hopes high, Gabe sets out to retrieve the young Duchess, but he get far more than he bargained for in the girl as well as the journey.

“The Fairest Beauty” by Melanie Dickerson was a very enjoyable read. I had read the first book in this series, “The Healer’s Apprentice” a while ago and really enjoyed it. So when I heard that she was coming out with a third book (I haven’t had a chance to read Melanie’s second book) I was very excited, and then I saw the cover, and well, I have a weakness for pretty covers (yes, I am vain). I’ve wanted to read it forever it seems like but never got around to purchasing it. But thanks to my awesome older sister who was super sweet and bought it for me, I now have been able read it. Better late than never, I think? “The Fairest Beauty” is so darling, and is a great read for those who love fairy tale retellings.

I thought that the writing was good and the story itself was really enjoyable. The characters were well written and I thought that they had pretty good depth for it being such a short story. But my favorite part was the dwarves; there are a few that are really sweet and endearing, and they become friends and protectors of “Snow White.” Over all I think it was a very good book, but my only problem with it was that the book didn’t delve that deeply into each character; I felt a little distant from Gabe and Sophie. I liked them and thought they were good people, but I didn’t feel super attached to them; they were developed well, but I didn’t really “grow” with them, if that makes sense. I liked them, but I wanted a little more from some of the characters and their moments together. Other than that, I thought that “The Fairest Beauty” was a cute and enjoyable read.

I hope this review was helpful.

Psalm 19

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“Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest…”

Matthew 11:28

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 19. It is beautiful and descriptive as well as a good guideline. One of the greatest downfalls of mankind is where we place credit. All of the world, everything that dwells in and on it (Ps.24), was made by God and is His.  But we don’t see it that way; we think that this is our life, our’s to do whatever we want with it, which is true to a degree (freewill and the likes). If you don’t agree with me, think about it this way: say I purchased the supplies to make a book. I bought ink, a typewriter, paper, and stuff to bind it to create a book. Who’s is the book? Mine! I bought the stuff with my money, I wrote the darn thing and bound it, it’s mine! So, why is it that God is the only one who can create something but can’t call it His??? We were up for randsome and Christ paid the price even though  He had created us, which means we are doubly His. But the amazing thing is He doesn’t see it as we owe Him something. “For you are saved by grace (faith, too!) and not works…”(Ephesians 2:8-9) God gave us freewill, the will to make our own choices and decisions without Him stopping us. If it were me, I wouldn’t give my creation freewill because that would possibly mean that all the work I did would be for naught. But see, that’s why us humans are not God, we look out for ourselves first (most of the time I know I do), but He instead looks out for us first.

One of the reasons I love Psalm 19 is because of how it portrays God. Yes, He is fierce and powerful, but He is fierce against those who hurt His people, to those who persecute them. He is also loving and kind, faithful, wise and just too. Read Psalm 19 and then think about your life and all that has happened (as much or little as you like), and see if God has ever without cause struck you down and left you; God never abandons a Job (he’s a person in the Bible if you didn’t know. He also has his own book).

Psalm 19

New King James Version

The Perfect Revelation of the Lord

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
2 Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line  has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.

In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun,
Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
And rejoices like a strong man to run its race.
Its rising is from one end of heaven,
And its circuit to the other end;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults.
13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible because not only does it show you a little of who God is, but it also is a code to live by; Psalm 19 shows its readers a way to live life, a good life. You can’t just read this Psalm once because there is so much to it, and you need more than one read to make it stick inside of you. I like in verse three and four where it says,There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line  has gone out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.” God speaks to us all differently, but this says that every day God speaks to us, some through the wind, some through the stars, sun, mood, and sky but in a way it is all the same. God cares for us in ways I don’t understand, His love runs so deep I cannot fathom it, but I know it’s there not just for me but for you, too. There is a verse in Jeremiah that says “They forgot their resting place.” We are made to rest in Gods love, in God Himself who is love. We can’t make it on our own, we weren’t built to, and He is the only one who can provide that rest that is more than survival, it’s peace from this world. We may live in the world, experience trials, but our rest is in the One who defeated death and sits on the Throne (John 16:31, Colossians 2:14-15). Asking for His help, His rest is one of His favorite requests. Time with Him is time well spent.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

redeeming love by francine rivers

“Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers.

5 out of 5 stars.

Redeeming Love is the retelling of the book of Hosea in the Bible. It’s a gritty tale of one man loving a woman who can’t seem to find her way out of prostitution. Francine Rivers really made this story come alive: Michael Hosea is a living, breathing person whom you can’t help but love, and Angel is the beautiful girl who has been mistreated since childhood. While reading this book I found myself inwardly yelling at Angel to stop hurting Michael, then I realized what Francine did: she made a character (Angel) that is so like me. The whole book in an allegory of our relationship with God and how we so often hurt Him and turn our backs on Him for no reason at all. We believe Him to be indifferent to our plight, yet He feels it even more than we do! I was amazed at how artfully Francine Rivers accomplished this; I still am in awe even after reading it several times.

Redeeming Love  is achingly beautiful; and yes, it hurts at times! I was in pain (yet satisfied) with how things unfolded. Why does Angel have to hurt him every single moment of their time together? I felt so bad for Angel, but at times I wanted to whack her over the head with a frying pan for being so cruel to Michael. I understand why she did it, but still! Ahhhhh, and Michael! Oy, what didn’t that man do right! He was the epitome of the perfect man; no man like him exists in the world, but if you find one, let me know!!! He was so kind and wonderful, yet so unattainable!! I know he is supposed to be the Christ-like figure in the book, but come on, Francine, you are making me want what I can’t have! You’re killing me!

So much happens in this book that it cheapens the story to try and explain it in a one page post, so I won’t try. This is a great book, and even if Michael wasn’t in it (but, thank the Lord he is!) I would still love this story. It is so profound and impacting I recommend it to almost everyone. I will say, though, that it is extremely gritty; the life of a prostitute isn’t pretty. I wouldn’t recommend young readers to pick this up. I picked it up in my mid-teens and at times it was a bit much for me, but it was still good. With that said, Redeeming Love is in my top ten favorite books. It is a great way to understand the book of Hosea more, and even your relationship with Christ. I loved it!