from Goodreads Fulton Oursler's 1949 novel about the life of Jesus Christ was written with powerful simplicity and set against a rich historical background. Using a fictionalized narrative, Oursler takes events from the Gospels of the New Testament and adds imaginative dialogues and personalities to recreate the first century, while maintaining Biblical integrity. As you experience Christ's nativity, the Holy Family's flight into Egypt, Christ's public ministry, passion, death, and resurrection, you will almost feel as if you were there. my rating
my review First off, can we all just take a moment to appreciate the irony of this situation? The Greatest Story Ever Told is the only book I've ever given a 1/5 to. And it gets such a rating because after 105 pages, one-third of the book, I couldn't go any further. I was willing to work with a golden-bearded Joseph and blue-eyed Mary, despite the inaccuracies there. I didn't even mind overly much that the wise men appeared far too soon, and that there were exactly three of them. But while Joseph, Mary, and Jesus are all described as pale, the evil king Herod alone has brown skin. Though offended, I kept reading. Later, when young Jesus is mentally questioning the practice of sacrificing animals, the author quotes Amos 5:21-24, which includes "Yea, though you offer me your burnt offerings and meal offerings, I will not accept them." Jesus asks himself why no one pays attention to this teaching of Amos. However, these verses do not refer to God's appreciation (or lack thereof) of sacrifices, but rather to the unfaithfulness of His people. God despises the empty rituals of those who do not fear Him. I finally (and readily) gave up on the book at my husband's urging (apparently I was far too tense while reading it), ending just after Jesus' first miracle of turning water into wine. Apparently, according to Fulton Oursler, ancient Israel had caterers--and they were male. I highly doubt it.
from the back cover A dragonkeeper of Paladin, Kale is summoned from the Hall to The Bogs by the Wizard Fenworth to serve as his apprentice and tend his newly hatched meech dragon, Regidor. But Kale isn’t going alone. The Hall is sending a student to monitor her performance and report back to the scholars. Worst of all, it’s Bardon–an older boy Kale finds irritating, but who at least can hold his own in a sword fight.
Meanwhile, the Wizard Risto has seized another meech dragon, bringing him dangerously close to gaining the power he seeks. So with only a motley band of companions, Kale sets out on a desperate quest to rescue the second meech, to free those dragons already enslaved, and to thwart Risto’s devious plans. It’s up to Kale to lead the search and to embrace the role that’s rightfully hers. But will her efforts be enough to save the land of Amara from the dark future that awaits at Risto’s hands? my rating
my review If DragonSpell was Donita K. Paul testing the waters of fantasy writing, DragonQuest is her diving right in. The juvenile moments are gone, and the character development deepens. I remember liking book one more, but this is definitely my favorite of the two the second time around. New characters are introduced, new friendships created, and more answers (and questions) written on the blank page of Kale's past. I always find it difficult to review sequels (spoilers, anyone?), so I'll just leave it there--if you've read DragonSpell, then you know it was good and you should continue on with book two (you can't not like Donita K. Paul's fantasy books, in my humble-ish opinion). If you haven't, why are you reading the review for DragonQuest? You need to be over on this page to discover your new favorite series. :)
from the back cover Once a slave, Kale is given the unexpected opportunity to become a servant to Paladin. Yet this young girl has much to learn about the difference between slavery and service. A Desperate Search Begins… A small band of Paladin’s servants rescue Kale from danger but turn her from her destination: The Hall, where she was to be trained. Feeling afraid and unprepared, Kale embarks on a perilous quest to find the meech dragon egg stolen by the foul Wizard Risto. First, she and her comrades must find Wizard Fenworth. But their journey is threatened when a key member of the party is captured, leaving the remaining companions to find Fenworth, attempt an impossible rescue, and recover the egg whose true value they have not begun to suspect…
my review This is the third time I've read this book... in about two years. The first two times I would have given it a 7/5 if such a thing was possible, but on this last reading I picked up on some details that actually brought it down to a plain ol' 5/5. I absolutely love how Donita K. Paul writes her characters. As usual, the antagonist, Kale, is my favorite character--she's not "spunky," naively brave, or flawed-but-still-perfect (and unbearably obnoxious). She is timid with an underlying strength, yearning for purpose and belonging. And she reacts realistically to all of the situations Donita K. Paul throws her into, which is, unfortunately, not always the case with some book characters. Kale's companions are, well, eccentric, but in the absolute best possible way. Especially Wizard Fenworth, who is Eccentric with a capital E. He's also one of my favorites (ok, they're all my favorites). So why did I like it less the third time around? It seemed a bit juvenile in places. Towards the beginning of the book, a few of Kale's thoughts seemed like lazy substitutes for good detail. Overall, though, I still really enjoyed it. I won't remove DragonSpell from my favorites list quite yet! (or, you know, ever...)
from the back cover Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage. When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, "Cannot a Beast be tamed?" Robin McKinley's beloved telling illuminates the unusual love story of a most unlikely couple: Beauty and the Beast. my rating
my review Before I begin, allow me to point out that this book was originally published in 1978, and the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast came out in 1991. Are we clear on this detail? Yes? Good. Whether you realize it or not, this brings a whole new perspective to the book; namely, it clarifies that Robin McKinley could not have copied Disney. Despite the great similarities between the two tellings. Anywho... I found this to be a fun, light read and a wonderful retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales. Honestly, who couldn't like a book where the antagonists's best friend is a draft horse? (If you didn't already know, I have a slight obsession with horses. Especially of the larger variety.) It does seem to be geared more towards young adults, but it has a cover I wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen in public with, and I really enjoyed reading it. I do remember thinking it needed a good final edit, but I can't remember any specific examples, nor could I find any by scanning a few random pages. There's a reason why I don't usually wait a week before writing a book review.
from the back cover Seattle, 1934: Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese American boy, has lived at Sacred Heart Orphanage ever since his mother was carried away from their small apartment five years ago. But now William, in a rare visit to the movies, has glimpsed an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost. Struck by her features, William is convinced that she is his mother. Determined to find her, William escapes from Sacred Heart with his friend Charlotte. The pair navigate the streets of Seattle, where they must not only survive but confront the mysteries of William's past and his connection to Willow Frost...a woman whose story is far more complicated than any fantasy portrayed onscreen. my rating
my review This book will tear your heart into tiny little pieces and then toss them in the air, one at a time, like rose petals, so that each time you think, "but I still have the rest of the pieces here, so it can't be all bad..." until there's nothing left but the tiniest shred of hope, and somehow that's still enough. While I wasn't a huge fan of the structuring of the novel (not to mention the shredding of my heart), I gained from Songs of Willow Frost a fictional story of a very real place with very real people who may very well have lived parallel lives to those in the book. And that, I think, is very important (apparently I like the word "very" today). To borrow words from myself in my review of Because We Are: There was no pity, no place for it, only a strong sense of what it is to be human and to live on this earth.
When "Big Tim" Creighton spies the mincing fop headed toward Forsaken Ranch, he is appalled. Thankful his boss isn't around to witness the arrival of his kin, Tim decides he'll turn "Fancy Pants" Hathwell into a man worthy of respect.
Lady Sydney Hathwell never intended to don men's attire, but when her uncle mistakenly assumed she was a male, the answer to her problems seemed clear. Her disguise as "Syd" was meant to be temporary...but the arranged marriage she's fleeing, her uncle's attitude toward the fairer sex--and her own pride--compel her to continue the guise far longer than she had planned.
If Mulan were re-written as a Christian historical western romance, it would look something like Fancy Pants. For me, this really is a hit-or-miss genre--if it's one of your favorites, I think you'll really enjoy this book. I'll be frank, though: I didn't like it. To its credit, Fancy Pants is a light, entertaining read, and I often didn't want to put it down. But the book-review-blog side of my brain constantly fought to tear the poor novel apart, even as the cheesy romantic portion (however tiny it may be) devoured it hungrily. So you'll have to excuse me while I humor my analytical self, since this is, after all, a book review blog (with the occasional poem. or photo. or... ok, let's be honest, I'm not really sure what to call this little corner of the Internet). The one detail I cannot get over: Sydney cuts her hair to just-below-shoulder length, then six inches are chopped off her remaining ponytail, and finally, her hair is curled and tied back in a ribbon. All within about three weeks. I've decided that either a) she is part giraffe, or b) her superhuman power is fast-growing hair. Ok, ok, I'll sum up the rest of my long-winded tirade in one tidy little paragraph. This book has an unrealistic and overly cheesy conversion scene (when I stopped thinking too hard I saw a tiny spark of beauty in it...), it's far too predictable, and the farm hands acted like puppies. Or sheep. But definitely not free-thinking human individuals. (ta-da! One paragraph. I'm done now.)
from the back cover My name is Kvothe. I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during the day. I have talked to gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me. So begins a tale unequaled in fantasy literature--the story of a hero told in his own voice. It is a tale of sorrow, a tale of survival, a tale of one man's search for meaning in this universe, and how that search, and the indomitable will that drove it, gave birth to a legend. my rating
my review This book is so many things, packed full of action, emotion, and just pure raw humanity, with a heavy dose of wit throughout. And although Kvothe seems at times (ok, most of the time) obnoxiously haughty, his excessive pride and blind self-assurance leaves him flat on his back on multiple occasions. Granted, he is only 15 for most of this 722-page behemoth (and this is book one!). I avoided this novel despite its many raving reviews for quite some time for fear that it would be too dark--the story of a hero of questionable, perhaps villainous, character. But it's far too scintillating and witty for that, and Kvothe is most certainly not villainous. Of course it does have its full share of sorrowful, fearful, vengeful--dark--moments, they just don't hopelessly overwhelm the plot. Despite Kvothe's wry, independent spirit, he does have a few close friends who bring even more color to the story. Simmon and Wilem are always there to lean on--and to give terrible advice only teenaged boys could imagine useful--mysterious Denna provides a thread of hopeful romance, and the wisp that is Auri holds an all-important joyfully innocent perspective.
Wild Geese Horseback on Sunday morning, harvest over, we taste persimmon and wild grape, sharp sweet of summer’s end. In time’s maze over fall fields, we name names that went west from here, names that rest on graves. We open a persimmon seed to find the tree that stands in promise, pale, in the seed’s marrow. Geese appear high over us, pass, and the sky closes. Abandon, as in love or sleep, holds them to their way, clear, in the ancient faith: what we need is here. And we pray, not for new earth or heaven, but to be quiet in heart, and in eye clear. What we need is here. -Wendell Berry
from the back cover Sarai was a child of ten years, wise for her age but not yet a woman, when she first met Abram. He appeared before her in her father's house, filthy from the desert, tired and thirsty. But as the dirt of travel was washed from his body, the sight of him filled her heart. And when Abram promises Sarai to return in ten years to take her for his wife, her fate was sealed.
Abram kept his promise, and Sarai kept hers they were wed, and so joined the royal house of Ur with the high priesthood of the Hebrews. So began a lifetime of great joy together, and greater peril: and with the blessing of their God, a great nation would be built around the core of their love. my rating
my review On the surface, this is a well-written work of fiction. Some creative liberties may have been taken where details were lost to history, but that is to be expected in this genre. It fleshes out otherwise two-dimensional characters. Another attribute: Sarah sucked me in immediately, and I fairly devoured this chunky little book. And yet it left a bad taste in my mouth. Red flag number one appeared on the first page with mention of Sarai's red-gold hair--I'm willing to overlook the European cover art, but really? We're actually going to make Sarai caucasian? Whatever. I'll picture her how I want to. Moving on. After Sarai marries Abram, we spend a long time in Egypt, which mostly consists of witty conversation (I love the dialogue in this book) and descriptions of the lack of dress in this region. Honestly, Orson Scott Card mentioned women's chests frequently enough throughout the book to make me squirm a little. Following this train of thought, apparently all women except for Sarai/Sarah are entirely and hopelessly vain. Lot's wife, for example, is painted as so impossibly self-centered that I felt no pity when she turned back to Sodom. It was kind of a relief, really, to not have to read about her obnoxious character anymore. And Hagar, too, seemed to deserve being cast out into the desert. If this book is any indication, Orson Scott Card paints in two colors: black and white.
from the back cover Following the beacon of Auralia’s colors and the footsteps of a mysterious dream-creature, King Cal-raven has discovered a destination for his weary crowd of refugees. It’s a city only imagined in legendary tales. And it gives him hope to establish New Abascar. But when Cal-raven is waylaid by fortune hunters, his people become vulnerable to a danger more powerful than the prowling beastmen––House Bel Amica. In this oceanside kingdom of wealth, enchantment, and beauty, deceitful Seers are all too eager to ensnare House Abascar’s wandering throng... If there is any hope for the people of Abascar, it lies in the courage of Cyndere, daughter of Bel Amica's queen; the strength of Jordom the beastman; and the fiery gifts of the ale boy, who is devising a rescue for prisoners of the savage Cent Regus beastmen. my rating
my review I almost rated this book a little lower, as it jumped from character to character, making it difficult to really get into. But the ending revealed, once again, the brilliance of Jeffrey Overstreet and the true intricacy of the web he had stealthily been weaving throughout the story, and which clearly threads into yet another volume. I enjoyed Raven's Ladder with the curiosity of Aurailia's Colors, but without the emotional investment of Cyndere's Midnight (books 1 and 2). King Cal-raven is a deep, introverted character whom the book fails to penetrate as well as I would like, though I suppose not all mysteries should be fully revealed, or else they lose their allure. While he faithfully follows the elusive Keeper, directions from his equally elusive mentor, and the word of a... well, unlikely messenger from the previous book, he wonders at times if his people are right in questioning the wisdom of their leader, if in fact the majestic Keeper he dreams of is, indeed, a childish fantasy. And then there's Bauris, a former guard who appears to have left his mind at the bottom of the well, and eccentric little Obrey, who might be more than she appears. These two are actually my favorite characters in this book, though I'm afraid that's all I can say without giving too much away.
Again? Yes, again! Two book sales in two weeks--my bookshelf looks much happier now. This time it was the library, and they had a massive sale. I was excitedly and very thoroughly perusing the tables of fantasy and paperback fiction set up on the patio just outside the door when (an hour and a half after I arrived) the volunteers began covering everything up with tarps, so I skimmed spines much faster and barely got through everything. And when I went inside to pay, there were tables and tables of books flooding the hallway, and even two rooms off to the side! Naturally, I had to go back the next day to see what I had missed. Better Homes and Gardens New Cook BookThis binder of general cooking knowledge has been in my mother's collection for as long as I can remember, so I finally picked up my own copy. Beauty by Robin McKinley I don't think I've ever read a fairy tale retelling before, and I like the story of Beauty and the Beast for many reasons. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss I've heard nothing but good things about this fantasy novel, so I figured I'd finally see for myself. True Gritby Charles Portis Have you seen this movie? The newer one? It's pretty awesome (please don't watch the original. It's, well, terrible). I'll let you know what I think of the book. The Hills is Lonely by Lillian Beckwith It looked intriguing, so I bought it. Goodreads reviewers tell me it's the fictional tale of a British woman's experience on one of the islands in the Hebrides off the coast of Scotland. Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin Again, I liked the movie, and as the credits began to roll, there appeared that lovely phrase, "Based on the novel by..." And when I happened upon the novel at this book sale, I discovered just how ginormous it is. The movie must cover only 2% of it. Seriously. The Warrior by Francine Rivers I enjoy biblical fiction, and though I don't think I've read anything by her yet, I know Rivers is supposed to be one of the best in this genre. This particular novella is about Caleb from the book of... er... the Old Testament. Clearly, I need to brush up on this particular story. The White Mare by Jules Watson 1. There's a horse on the cover. 2. Celtic historical fantasy (that might count as three points). 3. It's the first book in a trilogy.
A glimpse into my Saturday morning--just because. And yes, much to my husband's amusement, I said the above quote while we were all eating (or attempting to eat) breakfast. As a side note, I believe it might be time to vacuum a certain corner of my kitchen.
P.S. For the life of me, I could not convince that opening quotation mark that it is not, in fact, a closing quotation mark.
A homeless Greek man is dying in a Queens hospital and Paula is asked to come translate. The old man tells her of his beloved dog, Fotis, who bit a police officer when they were separated. Paula has never considered adopting a dog, but she promises the man that she will rescue Fotis and find him a good home. But when Fotis enters her life she finds a companion she can’t live without. Suddenly Paula has a dog, a brand-new Ford Escape, an eight-week leave of absence, and a plan.
So Fotis and Paula begin the longest drive of their lives. In northern Minnesota, something compels her to answer a help-wanted ad for a wildlife rehabilitation center. Soon Paula is holding an eagle in her hands, and the experience leaves her changed forever.
This is a fun, light, late-summer read. I really enjoyed journeying alongside Paula as she discovered the joy of living with a dog and the awe in holding an eagle. And the story line was engaging, if not a tad cliche on its most basic level. It could use a good edit, namely for believability. For example, that "something" that compels Paula to call the wildlife rehabilitation center is never explained to any extent. Maybe she doesn't know why she called, but I'm sure she at least felt something. I'll never know, because the author didn't tell. Also, it has one of the worst endings I've ever read, almost like a "slice of life" novel, except the rest of the book doesn't read that way. I was reading happily along, eager for what might come next, and it suddenly ended. Poof. No more text, and nothing was resolved. And no, there isn't a sequel. Finally, there was a bit of unnecessary language scattered throughout in the same manner that a movie director sprinkles the f-bomb throughout his script in order to achieve an R rating. I realize I've made Traveling Light sound like a terrible book, but I'd categorize it alongside cheesy chick-flicks: it may not be well done, but you enjoy it anyway.
from the back cover From the dreaming spires of Oxford, Lewis Gillies drives north to seek a mythical creature in a misty glen in Scotland. Expecting little more than a weekend diversion, Lewis finds himself in a mystical place where two worlds meet, in the time-between-times - and in the heart of a battle between good and evil.
The ancient Celts admitted no separation between this world and the Otherworld: the two were delicately interwoven, each dependent on the other. The Paradise War crosses the thin places between this world and that, as Lewis Gillies comes face-to-face with an ancient mystery - and a cosmic catastrophe in the making. my rating
my review My friend Candice from over at O, Ye Scribes highly recommended that I read The Song of Albion series a while back, and my husband has been pestering--erm, encouraging--me to pick up anything written by Stephen R. Lawhead ever since he discovered Hood in the local library. So when I found a copy of The Paradise War at an adorable little church-shaped book shop at a renaissance faire a few weeks ago, I snatched it up. This book is remarkably well written and almost begs to be read aloud, though for all its virtues I didn't feel entirely drawn into the story. I did enjoy the palatable, informal Celtic mythology lesson woven within, and especially liked the eccentric character Dr. Nettleton. Simon, however, is quite insufferable and a tad flat, and caused the first part of the book to seem to drag on a bit; I didn't feel like I had truly started the book until about halfway through. Although in general the story was not altogether predictable (yay!), a startling twist blinked by in a moment of shock and caught me completely off-guard somewhere in the second half of the book. Just a few lines carried such mind-scrambling significance that I had to pause a moment in my reading to appreciate the cleverness and try vainly to figure out exactly what it meant. Lawhead has a brilliant mind; I will definitely be reading more of his novels.
So there was this book sale, and, uh, I got a little carried away.
But what was I supposed to do? They were all sitting out in boxes on tables and the pavement in the parking lot, and the lady offering empty grocery bags said I could buy as many as I could stuff in one of those bags for $4.
So how many books fit in a plastic grocery bag? 18. Now you know.
I can't quite take credit for the entire pile, as four of them do belong to Paul. But still. My near-empty bookshelf looks a lot happier now!
Click below to read the list of titles and authors.
by Daniel Nanavati I received a free copy of Ruzniel from Daniel Nanavati early this year (January, perhaps?), and despite reading two books, I somehow still thought it was going to be published as one. Hence one review for two books (silly me). Also, please note that since this was an early beta read, the final products, which were officially published last week, may vary slightly from what I review below.
from Goodreads Crilodach’s selfishness is legendary. Its desire to rule all life has been the cause of every war and every fight for freedom ever known. Now, in the last three days of the universe, the struggles of the great magicians against It, join forces with a spellmaker, the brilliance of the bears, a cloned human child, the mutated Arvernat, the three dragon brothers and a poet to ensure life in the new universe after the Big Bang will have the chance to be free. But will the laws of magic enable them to outmanoeuvre Crilodach, the first and unconquerable sentient being? my rating
my review Ruzniel is brilliantly woven together, and although in the end I decided that it's not "my cup of tea," I have to recognize that it reflects great talent. It is very dark, of course, but also incredibly poetic and even hopeful. When I started the book I felt as if I was listening to a bard. The book is hugely long and so packed with information and characters that it threatens to be overwhelming, and yet somehow it's not too bad. If something doesn't quite make sense, further along it will fall neatly into place, and you might feel the need to stop reading for a moment to revel in it's brilliance. While all of the characters are developed to some extent, only a few really have some depth to them. These, of course, were my favorites: Rimfelder the poet and Tobia the Ruzniel, two characters who each shone a light in the violence. I was not a fan of the violence. The characters did often address and question it, though I was not always happy with their conclusions. I was very uncomfortable with many of the "good" characters' willingness to sacrifice others for the sake of the fight (noble as their cause may be).* The ending was perfect. I don't really have much else to say about it other than after reading the last sentence, I felt satisfied. *Daniel Nanavati responded to my concern on this topic, and I'd like to share what he had to say: "The violence is a difficult one I do agree. Although conflict is the traditional story I am not one to be overly traditional, I felt that underlying this story was an attempt to draw together myths from many nations as well as give an overarching argument as to why nature has chosen to be so red, I have always wondered why life feeds on life it seems such an unethical principle. Yet if nature is unethical there must be a reason. In dealing with murder I didn't want to be unclear because I want readers to feel the horror of it, too often fantasy makes a comic of what is utterly revolting."