Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Review: Abaddon's Eve

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Description: The prophet's name is Kol Abaddon--the Voice of Destruction. To Alack, a young shepherd boy, Kol Abbadon's visions of coming destruction fascinate and disturb. But when Alack begins to see visions of his own, the course of his life changes as he treks into the wilderness to become a prophet in training. Left behind, Rechab, a trader's daughter whom Alack loves, must choose to change her own life when a pagan god claims her for its own. Salvation can only be found on the run, in the friendship of an infamous merchantwoman with a checkered past, and under the eye of another God. The stars tell the story of a terrifying doom, a war between gods, and the fates of Alack, Rechab, and all they love. But the end of the story--and whether they can change their own future--is a mystery they must journey to discover.

I am not often in the mood to read fantasy, but I was on the day I picked up this book. I wanted to read a fantasy book, and I was happy to find I had a book by Thomson on my Kindle. It has been too long since I read her excellent The Seventh World series. I knew that I would be in for a treat.

Thomson has a rare quality to her books that just makes them sparkle and come alive. It isn’t something that can be taught or copied, some authors have it and others don’t. Her characters leap from the page. In this one you felt like you know each of them. You could taste the desert sand and feel the wind. It was so realistic feeling that I felt as if I was there.

Each character was so dear and real – Alack answering the call to be a prophet was awesome, Rechab tugged at my heart strings, and Kol Abbadon felt so much like a biblical prophet. My favorite character though was Flora. I cannot wait to see what happens with Flora, and I really hope she has a happy ending.

The story kept me reading; in fact, I read most of it in one sitting. It was fast paced, and I could not believe it when I came to the end. It left me very, very tempted to break my vow of not buying any books this year. I stayed strong but the next two books will be at the top of my list to buy in 2017.

As always, Thomason weaves biblical truths into her stories as well as real struggles that everyone can relate to. As with her other series, I found myself encouraged and pointed toward God.

I highly recommend this book for those who love non-magical fantasy, relatable characters, and lyrical writing.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: Coffee Cake Days

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Description: Meg has finally graduated and has the time she’s dreamed of for months: time to “sit at the feet of Jesus” and soak up His Word as she seeks what future plans He has for her. 
She soon runs into a problem: her family. Unwanted interruptions and household duties tear her away from the time she longs to spend in the Bible. Journey with her as she strives to learn the balance of spending time in God’s Word and applying it to her daily life.

This is the best type of story: one that you can see yourself reflected in and which causes you to ask some hard but important questions. In the space of these few short pages, Tero pulled me into Meg’s world and made me feel what she felt.

Meg felt so real, and her struggles quickly draw you in. I found myself getting upset with her and then realizing that I am often guilty of the same mistakes that she is. It was one of those stories. The rest of her family, although we don’t spend much time with them, is still well written.

Many of the emotions and issues facing Meg are things I think a lot of home school graduates face who are staying home, to varying degrees. The story and the setting I think many will find easy to relate to.

I highly recommend this to teenagers in large families, home school grads living at home, and anyone who likes a good short story.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Book Review: Fitting In

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Description: Newly married, Elizabeth Leffler moves with her husband to his farm in the foothills of the western mountains. Eager to be a part of the town and community, she is disappointed by the cool welcome she receives. In her eagerness to fit in and find a place for herself, Elizabeth does the unthinkable.

I loved this sweet short story about the power of one person standing up for what is right! Elizabeth's enthusiasm and passion were spreading to me even as I read, and it was a great reminder to be a friend. I especially enjoyed their charitable preparations, and Isaac's attitude as man of the family. ;)

Best quote: Rising and picking up her basket, Elizabeth asked one more question. “Would Jacob go if you went?” “Sure,” Isaac replied with a shrug. “I’d make him.”

Altogether, I found this to be an enjoyable, light read! (Oh, and I love how Elizabeth stayed a little bit city girl.) ;) 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Review: Brother-in-Arms

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Description: Franz Kappel and Japhet Buchanan never expected their friendship to be tested by the Third Reich. Friends from early childhood, the boys form an inseparable, brotherly bond. Growing up in a little German village, they escape most of the struggles of war until the day Japhet is banished from school for being a Jew, and later has a rib broken when other village boys beat him up. Franz learns he is putting himself in danger for spending so much time with Japhet but continues to stand up for his Jewish friend even at the risk to himself. Then one day their lives are shattered when they see first-hand that the price of being a Jew is dangerously high. 
With the war now on their doorsteps, Franz and Japhet come up with a desperate plan to save their families and get them out of Germany alive. Leaving behind the lives they've always known, they move into Berlin with nothing to protect them but forged papers and each other. Convinced their friendship can keep them going, the boys try and make a new life for themselves while trying to keep their true identities and Japhet's heritage a secret. Taking his best friend's safety upon himself, Franz joins the Nazis in an attempt to get valuable information. At the same time, Japhet joins the Jewish Resistance, neither friend telling the other of their new occupations.
With everyone in their world telling them a Nazi and a Jew can't be friends, it is only a matter of time before they believe all the lies themselves, until neither is certain if they are fighting against a race of people or fighting for their homeland. Somehow they have to survive the horrors of World War II, even when all of Germany seems to be against them.

When Baillot asked if I would be an advanced reader for her book, I said yes, because I like most Christian historical fiction. I was not prepared to be totally blown away by the story. It is by far the best book I have read that captures the emotions within Germany during World War II.

Right away, this book sets itself apart from most because both of the main characters are boys (one Jew, one non-Jew), and the story is about their friendship. Love interests are almost non-existent throughout the whole book. The friendship between the two boys is so deep, the characters so real, that it carries the story to the very ending.

The setting and plot of this book made it a heart-pounding gut-wrenching book. I am pretty sure there were a couple of places where I cried, it was such an emotional journey. I had to stop reading it at least an hour before I wanted to go to sleep so that I had plenty of time for my emotions to right themselves. Yes, it was that powerful.

The Christian message seemed to be absent from the book in the beginning, and in the middle I felt desperate for it (as the characters were). When it finally appeared, it was that much more powerful. It packed a punch not only for me, but for the characters. It was yet another aspect of the book that I was amazed at.

The writing was strong, as strong as any book I have ever read. I can tell that Baillot spent many hours researching because it showed in the story. Everything from major events to tiny details of everyday living in Berlin seemed to make the time come alive.

I cannot say enough good about this book and highly recommend it for history lovers, those who love powerful stories, and World War II buffs.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Book Review: A Different Kind of Courage

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Description: “Why did my life have to be full of secrets?”

After three years in England, William Landor returns to Boston in 1774, little knowing the events that are about to unfold.

England has issued an ultimatum: pay for the tea that was destroyed in the Boston Tea Party, or the Port of Boston will be closed. William knows that this will have a devastating effect on his hometown, which is so dependent on the sea. However, he finds himself in the middle of the political struggle he wanted to avoid.

William’s father is a merchant and loyal to the king and is furious at what the rebels of Boston have cost him. He would like nothing more than to rid the city of their poisonous influence. Meanwhile, William’s best friend, Dr. Joseph Warren, is one of the leaders of rebels, or Whigs as they call themselves.

As if his life was not complicated enough, he meets a fiery indentured servant who tugs at his heart as well as his loyalty. When he is confronted by the consequences of his many secrets, he has to make a choice weather or not to tell the truth. Does he have the kind of courage it will take? 

It's been a while since I've read anything full length from this author, so I was excited to dive into this book. She did a good job! Dr. Warren was my favorite part of the whole book. ;) He was such an amazing, giving man who touched many lives deeply, especially William's! William's struggle in choosing a side was deepened by the author's skill at showing the motives of both Whigs and Tories. I loved his "super-hero" work for this reason, but the situation with Mark was heartbreaking. There were a few great surprises even though I know my history, and the Gospel emphasis was very good. Just a note, there are some fragmented family relationships, slight instances of very archaic cursing, and implied immorality.

Best quote: "Nothing you can do can separate you from His love. There are things He wants you to do, ways He wants you to live, and you should strive to do His will. But unlike your earthly father, you do do not have to earn your God's approval or His love; you already have it."

Altogether, I found this to be an interesting foray into the world and ideologies surrounding the American revolution. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Review: Debt of Mercy

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Description: Raboc’s eyes narrowed to slits and he thrust his arm forward until his fingers closed around Ancel’s throat. The young man knew better than to resist the powerful lord, but his jaw clenched.
“To the dungeon with you. Guards!”
“Lord, have mercy,” Ancel pleaded. “Give me time and I shall pay the other half.”

One evening I decided to read a few of the short stories on my Kindle, and this was one of them. It was very short, and I found myself a little disappointed in it. While it was an interesting retelling of a parable of Jesus, it wasn’t long enough, nor did it have enough unique elements to really make it a stellar short story.

With that said, I did enjoy the story. Sometimes it is helpful to read a fictional story to see an old story through new eyes. For that reason alone, I think this story was worth the fifteen minutes or less it took to read it.

I recommend this short story for those who like stories with clear messages, retellings of parables, and stories set in the Middle Ages.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Review: Flight School

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Description: On the verge of adult life, Chris Rivera is eager to get started on his career as a director of Christian movies. But he’ll have to do it without his best friend Ben, who has traded childhood toys for law books... and a very pretty study partner. 
Meanwhile, Jessie is getting a lot of attention from conservative neighbor John and trendy friend Galen – each of whom, for drastically different reasons, seems a little too good to be true. 
In the face of hard questions and big temptations, how do you know which choice is right? And where do you get the courage to make it?

So many books about homeschoolers either can come across as either well-intentioned books that lean toward legalism, or sound like homeschoolers gone wild now that they are ‘free’. Flight School was, in my opinion, the best book I have read about taking the next step after homeschool in a realistic yet God-honoring way. It avoids sounding legalistic (and even addresses legalism), shows some of the honest challenges, and has characters that do their best to live godly lives.

This book deeply touched me, because I could see myself reflected in some of the characters and their decisions. One example of that is the challenge they face to do what is right as they head out into the world. Each of the Rivera kids face something different, but each of them come to a point where they have to make a choice to do what they want or follow what God has called them to. There were a couple of points I was holding my breath, wondering if they would make the right choice.

The story flowed so well that I didn’t want to put it down. I can see how McIntire has grown as a writer. While this book was not an action book, the emotions of the characters kept me flipping pages. It is one of those books with enough diversity in characters that everyone who reads it will probably see themselves reflected in one or more of the people and situations.

I highly recommend this book to homeschool graduates, those how love faith-building stories, and those who enjoy contemporary books.