New Adult Fiction


City on FireCity on Fire: A Novel of Pompeii
Tracy L. Higley
Thomas Nelson

Ariella, a slave girl in service to a lustful, vicious master, finds her chance for escape during a secret celebration to honor Bacchus. Before she can flee the city, however, she is drawn to a young slave boy in a troupe of gladiators. His resemblance to her missing younger brother moves her heart, and she takes his place among the troupe members, setting him free. As a gladiator, she conceals her gender and hopes to make a name for herself, winning enough favor among the people to be rewarded with freedom.

Young Roman nobleman Cato escapes Rome following a bitter political defeat. He hopes to begin a new life in Pompeii as a wine merchant, but he finds his new home steeped in corruption. His determination to remain apart from politics is shattered when the vile city leader sets his eyes on Cato’s married sister and intends to take her as his mistress. Cato vows to protect her, and when he discovers the identity of a fierce young girl masquerading as a boy gladiator, he longs to keep her safe as well. An injured man and an urgent errand bring Cato and Ariella to the home and meeting place of a group of Christians. At first both are reluctant to become involved with the strange faith, but neither can deny the genuine warmth and peace the group’s members possess and how deeply they hunger for such peace. Before either of them can understand the spiritual hunger or find a way to pursue it, a powerful volcano reigns terror on Pompeii and its citizens, and Cato and Ariella must overcome great obstacles to find one another and their families and escape the city.

Higley has clearly done a monumental amount of research on Pompeii and her people, and many interesting cultural or historical tidbits are woven throughout the story, intermingled with fascinating characters and a beautiful landscape. For the most part, the plot is powerful and well-constructed, with only one weak spot: when Ariella has freedom within her grasp and she instead takes the place of a gladiator slave, it was hard to grasp why she would do this thing. The boy was not her brother, and surely if her deepest motivation was to find him, wouldn’t she have had a better chance to do so with her freedom? Despite this, City on Fire is a rich retelling of the story of a volcano and its wrath upon an ancient city, and a great pick for historical fiction fans. See Tracy Higley’s web site for more information on the research she used in her novel about Pompeii.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
References to aberrant sexual practices perpetrated by members of a cult who worship Bacchus. Descriptions are brief but creepy.

Spiritual Content
Ariella was captured and enslaved in Jerusalem, and after experiencing cruelty and abuse at the hands of her perverse master, she abandoned any hope or faith in God. The wealthy Roman Cato has always gone through the motions of worship to the Roman gods. When the two cross paths with a secret Christian group, their hearts are drawn to the strange, kind ways of the people and the whispers of a Presence to which they can’t deny being drawn.

Violence
As a slave, Ariella knew a cruel master. As a gladiator, she knows only violence as a means of survival. Details are brief, and she is usually spared from having to end the life of her opponent by the mercy of the games’ host. Some descriptions during the volcanic eruption are a little bit intense as well.

Drug Content
During cult celebrations, participants drink wine laced with an opiate.

 

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It's ComplicatedIt’s Complicated

Laura L. Smith

When Claire meets a girl looking for a third and fourth college roommate, she takes a chance and accepts. Sharing a room with Hannah and her friends will be awesome. Hannah is bubbly and bright. Palmer, Hannah’s bestie is looking for friends to fill the gap that will be left when she moves away from her long-time boyfriend. Despite her excitement about being on the college soccer team, Kat is thrilled at the possibility of friends off the field. But just as roomie preparations are finally in place, the unthinkable happens, and one of the girls is raped. How can she face her new friends now? Maybe she’s too soiled to fit in with them anymore.

As the four girls juggle classes, homework, living space and boy interest, they learn they have more in common than they initially thought. And they’ll need all their strengths if they are to band together and help each other through the heartaches and hardships of freshman year at college.

When it comes to dating and relationships issues, author Laura L. Smith doesn’t mess around. Hitting heavy topics like date rape and peer pressure, she remains frank but not intensely graphic. The rape victim asks real questions and endures a grieving process. As the characters face peer pressure, they respond with realistic emotional confliction and growth. The spiritual journey by comparison begins deep for each girl, but doesn’t seem to undergo the same beautiful blossoming as the emotional journey of the girls. Spiritual themes may have been strengthened if the girls began their journeys at more varied levels of spirituality. Over all, this first novel in the Status Updates Series is a warm, fun read about having great girl friends.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
One of the girls is raped. The scene is brief and only a few graphic details are given. The boyfriend of another girl pressures her to have sex with him. Sexual tension between the two runs high and in a couple scenes, he touches the edges of her underpants before she stops him.

Spiritual Content
Each of the girls is a Christian, but since only two girls have known each other prior to becoming roommates, they don’t at first recognize their shared faith. Once they realize they are four Christians together, they believe God has placed them in each other’s lives to help them work through the issues they each face, particularly issues in their relationships with boys.

Violence
See sexual content.

Drug Content
A boy from the soccer team smokes something outside a coffee shop which leaves him pretty stoned. He justifies this behavior by telling Kat it’s completely legal and nowhere near as bad as some things other players do. Kat isn’t swayed by this argument. There are other brief references to college parties which include alcohol, but no central characters participate.
Playlist Fiction Sampler

Get the first five chapters free!

Right now (today is the last day) on Amazon.com, Playlist Fiction is offering a summer sampler for free. It includes sample chapters of this book as well as two others I’ve reviewed: Glass Girl by Laura Anderson Kurk and The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet by Stephanie Morrill. Click here to see the sampler. Enjoy!

TriskTrisk

Kenny X

Pen and Prayer Publishing

Curtis Powell has one goal, one dream for his life: to be a champion Trisk player. His dream is about to come true.

It’s the year 2151, and baseball is no longer America’s favorite game. Trisk, a game that is equal parts sport and war, is America, and the Massi Corporation is Trisk. As hopefuls like Curtis and his friends graduate from training college, though, a startling event occurs, in which one Trisk team defies the granite arm of Massi and becomes independent. When Curtis signs with the gutsy though underfunded team, he isn’t sure if he’s made the right choice, but as the season progresses and his star begins to shine, Curtis believes he is finally reaching his dream.

Caught up in the high life, Curtis begins taking risks, talking big, taking advantage of the way America swoons over his very name. His ego spirals out of control, and not even his best friend can shake sense into Curtis’s solid gold over-the-top ways. As the inevitable reckoning comes, Curtis struggles to pull back from the abyss of selfishness, but it may be too late to regain what he’s lost. On top of that, as the championship heats up and Curtis and his independent team battle for a place in the final games, Massi turns up the heat, promising destruction if the team doesn’t back down. Curtis talks big, but Massi hits hard. All that remains to be discovered is whose will and whose might are stronger.

Sports fans be warned: Trisk is packed with high-energy, over-the-top action. Non-sports fans: the sharp wit of the author and the high stakes of the game make this debut novel a hard one to put down. While a few passages delve into the techniques and strategy of the game for which the book is titled, much of the story centers around the underdog team and its star member, his struggle to remain honorable and valiant in the face of an amoral country drowning in a sports obsession. The story is told with a sort of wry, intelligent voice, though sometimes it drifts into metaphors which obscure what’s actually happening and become confusing. For the most part, the writing is as entertaining as the story itself.

Language Content
A couple of crude references, but no swearing.

Sexual Content
Curtis has a long-time girlfriend named Priscilla, who he does not sleep with, though it remains unclear whether the couple live together or not. A journalist attempts to seduce a Trisk player, while video-taping the exchange. The scene is a little confusing, but it seems like the couple stop after removing clothing and the player reconsiders his actions.

Spiritual Content
Curtis and his best friend live by higher moral standards than many other Trisk players and are often ridiculed for this stance. Brief references are made to God and Jesus in a spiritual way, but there isn’t a lot of preaching or long explanations.

Violence
One player is severely injured by an explosion. Brief battle violence describes players performing in the game of Trisk.

Drug Content
Trisk players are instructed to use a type of drug to control their emotions. Curtis struggles with whether or not to use this, and it’s hinted that some players have become addicted and trapped by serious side effects. References to alcohol over-indulgence, and some brief scenes showing drinking.