Friday, November 28, 2014

Bonhoeffer Abridged

Bonhoeffer Abridged
Eric Metaxas
Thomas Nelson

From the New York Times bestselling author of Amazing Grace, an abridged version of the groundbreaking biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the greatest heroes of the twentieth century, the man who stood up to Hitler.
A definitive, deeply moving narrative, Bonhoeffer is a story of moral courage in the face of the monstrous evil that was Nazism. After discovering the fire of true faith in a Harlem church, Bonhoeffer returned to Germany and became one of the first to speak out against Hitler. As a double-agent, he joined the plot to assassinate the Führer, and was hanged in Flossenberg concentration camp at age 39. Since his death, Bonhoeffer has grown to be one of the most fascinating, complex figures of the 20th century.
Bonhoeffer presents a profoundly orthodox Christian theologian whose faith led him to boldly confront the greatest evil of the 20th century, and uncovers never-before-revealed facts, including the story of his passionate romance.

Normally I avoid abridged books like the plague, but when I saw this biography I knew I needed to read it. I've been trying to read more biographies in general, anyway, and Bonhoeffer was on my list. It is a very thick book, though, and this one- under three hundred pages- looked like it would be an easy way to find out if I should stick out the unabridged version. Plus, this one was free. ;)

It's very difficult for me to discern whether or not I agree with Bonhoeffer's theology- there were several times I thought, well, I don't think that's right... but it's hard for me to really grasp a lot of theological concepts, so I'm not sure if he was saying what I thought he was or if I was just misunderstanding.

That aside, this book really was fascinating. I learned so much about Germany during World War II and the years leading up to it. I didn't know a whole lot about the resistance in Germany (although I had heard about the plot to kill Hitler before) and it really is a wake-up call on to what evil people in this world are capable of...but also an encouraging look at the good that people are capable of, as well.

Rating: 8

I received this book for free from the in exchange for my honest review.

The Barefoot Queen


The Barefoot Queen
Ildefonso Falcones

A historical epic full of bravery and romance that follows two women as they make a life for themselves in 18th-century Spain.

It's January of 1748. Caridad is a recently freed Cuban slave wondering the streets of Seville. Her master is dead and she has nowhere to go. When her path crosses with Milagros Carmona's-a young, rebellious gypsy-the two women are instantly inseparable. Milagros introduces Caridad to the gypsy community, an exotic fringe society that will soon change her life forever. Over time they each fall in love with men who are fiercely loyal and ready to fight to the death for their rights as a free people. When all gypsies are declared outlaws by royal mandate, life in their community becomes perilous. They soon find themselves in Madrid-a city of passion and dancing, but also a treacherous one full of smugglers and thieves. Caridad and Milagros must help in the gypsy's struggle against society and its laws in order to stay together; it's a dangerous battle that cannot, and will not, be easily won. From the tumultuous bustle of Seville to the theatres of Madrid, The Barefoot Queen is a historical fresco filled with charaters that live, love, suffer, and fight for what they believe.

So, there's kind of a story on how I got this book. I don't normally read secular adult fiction, but didn't really have any Christian fiction I was interested in at the moment, so I was browsing all their other books when this title caught my eye. I clicked on it to learn more, and when I did, the same page showed "other books you may like" and all of them were Christian historical fiction. So, thinking this book was going to be along those lines, I chose it.

Never had I made a bigger mistake. I didn't even get past the second chapter. It was just unbelievably vulgar and I immediately shut the book and put it away. I will not be picking it up again. It's a terrible disappointment, because this book is beautiful. It's a gorgeous, hugely thick (over 700 pages!) hardcover and it's worth nearly $30 bucks. But aside from lovely packaging, I can't recommend this book at all. Maybe it gets significantly better later on -and maybe part of it was due to the English translation- but I'll never find out because I just couldn't make myself read anymore.

Rating: 1

I received this book for free from in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Where Treetops Glisten

Where Treetops Glisten by Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman, Sarah Sundin

Where Treetops Glisten
Cara Putman, Sarah Sundin & Tricia Goyer

The crunch of newly fallen snow, the weight of wartime

Three siblings forging new paths and finding love in three stories, filled with the wonder of Christmas
Turn back the clock to a different time, listen to Bing Crosby sing of sleigh bells in the snow, as the realities of America’s involvement in the Second World War change the lives of the Turner family in Lafayette, Indiana. 

In White Christmas by Cara PutmanAbigail Turner is holding down the Home Front as a college student and a part-time employee at a one-of-a-kind candy shop. Loss of a beau to the war has Abigail skittish about romantic entanglements—until a hard-working young man with a serious problem needs her help. 

Abigail’s brother Pete is a fighter pilot hero returned from the European Theatre in Sarah Sundin’s I’ll Be Home for Christmas, trying to recapture the hope and peace his time at war has eroded. But when he encounters a precocious little girl in need of Pete’s friendship, can he convince her widowed mother that he’s no longer the bully she once knew?

In Tricia Goyer’s Have Yourself a Merry Little ChristmasMeredith Turner, “Merry” to those who know her best, is using her skills as a combat nurse on the frontline in the Netherlands. Halfway around the world from home, Merry never expects to face her deepest betrayal head on, but that’s precisely what God has in mind to redeem her broken heart.

The Turner family believes in God’s providence during such a tumultuous time. Can they absorb the miracle of Christ’s birth and God’s plan for a future?

As I'm sure many of you are aware, I'm not a huge fan of novella collections. However, I'm am fan of Sarah Sundin's and I really enjoyed Tricia Goyer's The Swiss Courier, so I decided to give this one a shot.

Cara Putman's story, White Christmas, had several elements that I liked...mostly the fact that the heroine worked in a candy shop! The story was sweet (no pun intended), and given the fact that I had not read anything by Cara Putman before, I now am interested in picking up some of her other novels.

My favorite story in the book was I'll Be Home For Christmas by Sarah Sundin. Though there was more romance (the kissy kind!) than I liked, it contained a cast of really memorable characters. It felt the most "real" to me of all the novellas, and I liked the plot a lot, too.

The last, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, was another sweet offering. (I feel like that's the word that perfectly describes all three of these stories- "sweet") I liked the location and setting of this one, and surprisingly, I wasn't bothered by the fact that there are hardly any scenes with the heroine and her love interest together.

Overall, this is a pleasant, Christmas-y collection. None of the stories seemed to suffer for their short length (although I must admit, while these made cute novellas, I'm not sure if I'd want to read a novel-length version of any of them) and I'm sure many will want to read these heart-warming stories in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa.

Overall Rating: 7 1/2

Individual Ratings:

White Christmas by Cara Putman: 7
I'll Be Home For Christmas by Sarah Sundin: 8
Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Tricia Goyer: 7

I received this book from in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Fierce Convictions


Fierce Convictions
Karen Swallow Prior
Thomas Nelson

The enthralling biography of the woman writer who helped end the slave trade, changed Britain's upper classes, and taught a nation how to read.

The history-changing reforms of Hannah More affected every level of 18th-Century British society through her keen intellect, literary achievements, collaborative spirit, strong Christian principles, and colorful personality. A woman without connections or status, More took the world of British letters by storm when she arrived in London from Bristol, becoming a best-selling author and acclaimed playwright and quickly befriending the author Samuel Johnson, the politician Horace Walpole, and the actor David Garrick. Yet she was also a leader in the Evangelical movement, using her cultural position and her pen to support the growth of education for the poor, the reform of morals and manners, and the abolition of Britain's slave trade.

"Fierce Convictions" weaves together world and personal history into a stirring story of life that intersected with Wesley and Whitefield's Great Awakening, the rise and influence of Evangelicalism, and convulsive effects of the French Revolution. A woman of exceptional intellectual gifts and literary talent, Hannah More was above all a person whose faith compelled her both to engage her culture and to transform it

While Hannah More is, indeed, a figure I've heard about before, I still didn't know much about her, and what I did know mostly consisted of a few passing sentences in secular books that gave the impression she was a strict, self-righteous fuddy-duddy.

After reading this book, I realize how completely unfair that is. Hannah More was an amazing woman, perhaps made all the more relatable by her flaws. It's almost beyond my powers of imagination to think of how this woman impacted history. I especially admired the fact that she had such incredible influence, and yet she somehow balanced her fervor with the traits of a godly woman. It's incredibly tragic that modern culture has all but forgotten this woman who was not only instrumental in outlawing the slave trade in England, but also was largely responsible for educating England's poor. I was fascinated by her relations with the famous and intellectual  of her day, and how she used her writing to largely transform the ideas of society around her.

I always find it difficult to review biographies, because it is really hard for me to separate the actual book from its subject; in other words it's my gut reaction to rate a book higher when I admire the person the biography is about, and lower the rating when I dislike him/her. However, while Fierce Convictions has certainly given me an appreciation for Hannah More, the book itself did have a few flaws. For instance, while the first chapter was about her early life and the last about her death, it was rather hard to decipher the chronology of events in between (in fact, I don't ever remember there being given a set date of Miss More's birth) and parts of it were a bit dry and boring, although never so much so that I was tempted to stop reading.

Still, if I had one word to describe this book, it would be inspiring. I can't remember the last time I read a book that so encouraged and inspired me to use my faith for good out in the world. In fact, I'm pretty sure that Hannah More has joined the ranks of George Washington, Lady Jane Grey, Francis Marion, and William Wilberforce as some of my personal heroes. I truly thank Karen Swallow Prior for writing a biography that re-introduces us to a woman to whom we owe so much.

Rating: 8

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Blood Cell


The Blood Cell
James Goss
Broadway Books

"Release the Doctor — or the killing will start."

An asteroid in the furthest reaches of space - the most secure prison for the most dangerous of criminals. The Governor is responsible for the worst fraudsters and the cruellest murderers. So he's certainly not impressed by the arrival of the man they're calling the most dangerous criminal in the quadrant. Or, as he prefers to be known, the Doctor.

What does impress the Governor is the way the new prisoner immediately sets about trying to escape. And keeps trying. Finally, he sends for the Doctor and asks him why? But the answer surprises even the Governor. And then there's the threat — unless the Governor listens to the Doctor, a lot of people will die.

Who is the Doctor and what's he really doing here? Why does he want to help the Governor? And who is the young woman who comes every day to visit him, only to be turned away by the guards?

When the killing finally starts, the Governor begins to get his answers...

After the last Doctor Who book I got for review not long ago (The Crawling Terror) I pretty much knew what to expect with this one, and while the two books are definitely comparable, I actually liked this one quite a bit better.

One thing that makes this book different is that it's told in first person from the perspective of "the governor," and so the Doctor is seen through someone else's eyes. Again, people who want a story where the Doctor is totally the main focus will probably dislike this; I decided not to be bothered by it.

I think the main problem that I had with this novel was that unlike The Crawling Terror, where I found the characterizations to be the best part of the book, here the Doctor and Clara seemed -well, not generic, but not quite spot-on, either. Part of this is probably because the book came out before there was much footage of Twelve, so I find it forgivable.  Aside from this, I think The Blood Cell was superior to The Crawling Terror.

First of all, I actually ended up liking the writing style rather than just tolerating it, and I did find the plot more interesting as well. The Blood Cell reminded me a bit of the Matt Smith episode "The God Complex"- and considering that's one of my least favorite Doctor Who episodes ever, some might it surprising that I enjoyed this novel. However, this one took a lot of the same elements from that episode but the feel of it was different, not to mention this book had some humor in it that made me laugh out loud. I will say that- without giving away spoilers- that the conclusion to this one is a bit gruesome, although particulars are purposefully vague. (Thank goodness).

Overall, I personally enjoyed The Blood Cell. It wasn't an amazing piece of literature, mind you, but despite a few dragging spots, it keep me interested the whole time.

objectionable content: aside from the somewhat gruesome conclusion to the mystery- think of "Deep Breath" a bit- there was one use of the word a** and three uses of the word d*** in quick succession. 

Rating: 8

I received this book from in exchange for my honest review.
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