Monday, May 28, 2018

The Wounded Shadow- Patrick Carr

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description: The kings and queens of the northern continent lay siege to the Darkwater Forest, desperate to contain its evil. But rumors of gold and aurium have lured deserters and the desperate into its shadow, creating a growing army held in its sway. Desperate after the death and dissolution of their greatest ally, Willet and the Vigil seek the truth of what lies at the heart of the evil they face. They delve the mind of an old enemy and find an answer far worse than they could have imagined.

Danger stalks the cities of the north, striking at the rulers of the kingdoms. As Willet and the rest of the Vigil seek to find answers, the group is scattered with an ever-growing darkness around them. Will they discover a path to keep their land safe, or will an ancient evil reclaim the world it once called its own?

My Thoughts: Very rarely does a good book take me longer than two days to read. I speed through them, soaking up the story without much effort, and anything written so densely as to require more time is usually skimmed or set aside. The Darkwater Saga is the first series I have ever read in which that was not the case and The Wounded Shadow is best of the three.

I may have said this in my other reviews, but clearly this trilogy is not an easy read. It requires a lot of time and thought to follow both the characters' subtext interactions as well as puzzle out the intricacies of the world and plot. And that Carr has managed to do this in a way that is still compelling to a reader who usually prefers her stories to be straight forward and to the point is something I applaud.

But as for this book in comparison to the other two, this one finally had a true spark of hope. Mark, a character introduced in the last book, truly shines in this and quickly set himself apart as my favorite character. He was caring and challenged the Vigil in a way that Willet's attitude was never able to accomplish successfully. Though we had to wait two years for this book, it was well worth the wait.

I have provided an honest review after having received a copy of this book through the publisher.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don't Belong To- Lillian Daniels

My Rating: 2 Stars

Description In this book, Lillian argues that it's time for Christians to stop apologizing and realize that how we talk about Christian community matters. With disarming candor laced with just the right amount of humor, Lillian urges open-minded Christians to explore ways to talk about their faith journeys that are reasonable, rigorous, and real.

After the publication of the much talked about When Spiritual But Not Religious Is Not Enough: Seeing God In Surprising Places, Even the Church, Lillian Daniel heard from many SBNRs as well as practicing Christians. It was the Christians who scolded her for her forthright, unapologetic stand as one who believes that religious community matters. The Christians ranted that Christians, by definition, tend to be judgmental, condemning hypocrites, which is why people hate them. By saying religion matters, she was judging those who disagree, they said, proving the stereotype of Christians. Better to acknowledge all that's wrong with Christianity and its history, then apologize. In this book, Daniel shows why it matters how we talk about Christian community while urging open-minded Christians to learn better ways to talk about their faith.

My Thoughts: I work in a career field made up predominately of atheists and agnostics, among whom there are many who have been hurt by the church or else simply have no use for it. Many times in conversation, I have found myself wanting to apologize or else needing to defend my own beliefs, which lead to hesitance in even bringing them up. When I saw Lillian's book, I thought it would be something that offered encouragement to people in such a place, as well as insight on how to handle those situations. But it turns out, Lillian and I don't belong to the same church either. And while I appreciated her writing style and many of the points she brought up, I very much disagreed with her conclusions.

In the second chapter, during a metaphor for the way Christians should handle questions about our faith, Lillian has this to say, "'Well, this path is no better than any other one,' I reply. And I feel good about... I have neglected to apologize but have demonstrated how open-minded I am." But is that the point? To let people know how open-minded we are? Or to express why we believe as we do? I don't see how the author's response answered the question she started this analogy with— which was why was she intent on the faith path she walked.

However, in the tenth chapter, Lillian states, "I am a pastor and I don't care what you believe. I don't think God does either." So maybe the author doesn't care to answer the question as much as she wants to convince people that religious community, any religious community, is what is important. And to some extent, I agree. Community is important, as is Lillian's assertion that no one should feel excluded over a point of disagreement. But neither should we dismiss belief, because what we believe shapes how we behave.

I will mention that I agreed with many of Lillian's critiques of the conservative church, however, in her critiques she also makes the implied assertion that conservatives cannot be open-minded when she uses that term only to refer to people who agree with her on matters of belief or marriage, disregarding that there are even people in between who agree with some, but not all, of the things she does. And, when describing the arguments conservatives make, particularly regarding those of creationism, she says, "If I were Satan and I wanted to destroy every good thing in Christianity, that's the dichotomy I'd set up. It would ensure that all the smart people stayed away and all the idiots stayed in."

As I stated above, I do agree with many of Lillian's observations. The church often does a poor job of listening to the people they wish to reach and many conservative Christians are harsh and judgemental. But that does not mean that her philosophy on religion solves those issues nor that the very real criticisms of her work, from people of all walks of life, can be waved away as she does in this book.

I have provided an honest review after receiving a copy of the book from the publisher.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Story Peddler- Lindsay A. Franklin

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: Selling stories is a deadly business

Tanwen doesn’t just tell stories—she weaves them into crystallized sculptures that sell for more than a few bits. But the only way to escape the control of her cruel mentor and claw her way from poverty is to set her sights on something grander: becoming Royal Storyteller to the king.

During her final story peddling tour, a tale of treason spills from her hands, threatening the king himself. Tanwen goes from peddler to prey as the king’s guard hunts her down . . . and they’re not known for their mercy. As Tanwen flees for her life, she unearths long-buried secrets and discovers she’s not the only outlaw in the empire. There’s a rebel group of weavers . . . and they’re after her too.

My Thoughts: I kind of hate being one of the first to review this story and not give it a four or higher rating. With so many readers and reviewers stating that they adored this book, I entered in expecting to be swept away in a magical narrative that made me forget my own time and place. However, while I was entertained, I was not captivated the way many others were.

The story follows Tanwen, a girl who is able to weave and solidify story, which is a beautiful concept full of vivid imagery. Every story strand is different, some coarse and others fine, vibrant or nearly invisible. And hers is the only art which follows this form, as there are also singers and colormasters (painters) who can weave colors into their art and make ideas come to life— sometimes in actuality.

However, this magic system (as well as a diverse cast) were all that I could really see which set this story apart. Once again, there is a girl who grows up as a peasant orphan, seeking more than she has, who only learns once the story picks up that she is actually the child of someone important. Through deliberate withholding of information by nearly everyone around her, it is not until close to the end of this tale that Tanwen learns anything about who she is. And a kind-of-sort-of love triangle only confuses her more throughout.

I still enjoyed the story. There were some creative and unique lines, an amazing magic system, and a little bit of a mystery which Tanwen is able to solve. Yet I am not a fan of stories where the conflict and tension is driven, or at least instigated, by the unnecessary withholding of necessary information. There were a few other things which bothered me, such as the ridiculous renaming of very real animals, but suffice it to say that this story was good... but not great.

I have provided an honest review after having received an ecopy through JustRead tours.

Monday, May 7, 2018

A Refuge Assured- Jocelyn Green

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Lacemaker Vivienne Rivard never imagined her craft could threaten her life. Yet in revolutionary France, it is a death sentence when the nobility, and those associated with them, are forced to the guillotine. Vivienne flees to Philadelphia but finds the same dangers lurking in the French Quarter, as revolutionary sympathizers threaten the life of a young boy left in her care, who some suspect to be the Dauphin. Can the French settlement, Azilum, offer permanent refuge?

Militiaman Liam Delaney proudly served in the American Revolution, but now that the new government has imposed an oppressive tax that impacts his family, he barely recognizes the democracy he fought for. He wants only to cultivate the land of his hard-won farm near Azilum, but soon finds himself drawn into the escalating tension of the Whiskey Rebellion. When he meets a beautiful young Frenchwoman recently arrived from Paris, they will be drawn together in surprising ways to fight for the peace and safety for which they long.

My Thoughts: The French Revolution has always been a tough historical event for me to stomach. Not only were the killings horrific, but who was destined for the chopping block could change with the wind, making it doubly terrifying to read about. And until this book, I had not realized that simply making articles of clothing that the aristocracy would wear was grounds for execution. It is a miracle that anyone survived in France.

Though I felt sympathy for Vivienne, losing her way of life in France and then having to flee to America for her actual life, I was not all that enamored with her as a character until much later in the story. While justifiably angry, her attitude toward those around her was often hostile and unlikable. It was only once she gained the care of the young boy that I actually started to like her, and I think that it was their relationship which I appreciated the most.

The way Vivienne and Henri related to each other was extremely believable, with neither sure how to interact or else move forward. Having worked with kids myself, I know that what you say and do can be a careful juggling act between what you mean and how they interpret it. And the same goes the other way around, especially when it is a child you barely know. I also to some extent understand the responsibility of caring for a child who resents you and the task of seeking out others who can help you and whom that child will trust.

With Liam, though his and Vivienne's romance does not really start until the end of the novel, I was still interested in Liam's character throughout. His was a captivating story line, with the Whiskey Rebellion being an event I knew little about. Though these scenes did not include Vivienne or anything having to do with France, they were attention grabbing none the less.

I have provided an honest review after having received a copy of the book from the publisher.