Book Review: Beloved

BelovedFebruary is here, which means our month of devotional giveaways is over. To those who won books, I’d love to hear what you think of them as you start reading. To those who didn’t win, take a look over the reviews and consider investing a devotional to use in 2016. (My top recommendation remains Daily Light from the Bible.) Before I move on to today’s giveaway, there’s one more winner to announce.

The winner of When God Writes Your Life Story is…

Morgan Huneke

Congratulations, Morgan! I can’t wait to hear what you think. 🙂

And now for today’s book review of Beloved by Rachel Starr Thomson.

“I was always told the Great God’s laws were oppressive, but what you read … this is not oppressive. This is good. I say so as a man who must go home and make reparations for wrongs done. But I will do it.”

Beloved is the final novel in a trilogy allegory of the Old Testament. The stars have long depicted the doom of the chosen people–Isha the Beloved races towards the jaws of the dragon. Beneath the night skies, the residents of the Holy City wantonly defile even the holiest places. Queen Izevel stirs up defiance against the Great God, ardently worshiping the dragon-headed Kimosh while her husband, king of The People, looses himself in wine.

Yet the stars still shine on a faithful remnant. The eye of the Great God rests upon the least likely of souls. Flora Laurentii hears His voice whisper Beloved to her soul and, for the first time in her life, does not feel ashamed. Quivering Recheb finds courage when she should be most afraid. And Alack, the shepherd boy turned prophet, finds a glimmer of hope in a prophecy of doom.

The people must repent. The dragon is read to swallow Isha and destroy the beloved, but the Great God is still willing to save. If you want to change a man, change his god. If you want to change the course of a nation, change the god they worship.

Of all Rachel Starr Thomson‘s books and series, I believe The Prophet Trilogy appeals to the broadest audience. The setting is similar enough to Old Testament times and the laws of nature close enough to our own that readers who are not hard-core speculative fans will be able to enjoy these books.

In every review of Thomson’s books, I try to put words to why they capture me. I don’t think I’ve ever been successful! Thomson has a way of speaking truth through her novels that not many authors can parallel.

So go ahead. Pick up Abaddon’s Eve and keep right on reading.

Book Review: Comes the Dragon

Comes the DragonJudgement is coming to the people of God, yet they choose to ignore the warnings.

Comes the Dragon is sequel to Abaddon’s Eve, which I reviewed last August. The players remain the same. Flora, Rechab, Alack, and other key players struggle to determine the paths they should walk in an increasingly confusing and dangerous world. By assuming Flora’s name, Rechab has new-found security and freedom, but she finds the burden of decision making almost too heavy to bear. Flora, cast out from the community where she has spent years worshiping God, fears her pagan birth will separate her from the Lord she loves. Alack continues as Kol Abaddon’s companion and apprentice, but his compassionate nature often puts him at odds with his mentor.

For me, Kol Abaddon, the voice of destruction to The People, was the most interesting character in this book. He didn’t receive much “screen time,” but my interest in his character was validated in the epilogue. This nameless prophet is tortured by a pain private between him and God. While Kol Abaddon is God’s mouthpiece, he doesn’t seem to have a particular warm relationship with the Great God he speaks for. And there’s a reason for that. (Read the book to find out what it is. 😉 )

Book Review: Orphan’s Song

Orphan's SongThis book has been sitting on my shelf since I got it for Christmas, waiting to strike my fancy in a moment I was searching for a new read. Fancy struck on a Thursday two weeks ago, but my day was so busy I carried it around all day and only read the first chapter. However, on that Friday my work got canceled because of snow (snow, on March 20th!) , so I ended up plowing through almost the entire book in one day.

The first few chapters had me worried. The story had it’s unique points, but seemed to fall into the tired pattern of many fantasy stories. You know the ones I’m talking about. Poor orphan with mysterious beginnings. Crotchety, abusive guardian. And a randomly talking animal.

Thankfully, uniqueness spun out of the mundane beginnings. The biggest strength of this story was the mystery. Gillian masterfully steered clear of explaining too much too soon. The mystery of The Song and the Songkeeper unravel slowly and require continued reading to discover what’s going on. The roots of pain that hold Amos to his past and cause him to fight destiny are slow reveal themselves. The reader must keep nose to book to learn what the prize the dark soldiers and the children of the Underground are fighting over is and why it’s important. And the talking cat? Well, he’s a mystery too. 😉

Read the synopsis of Orphan’s Song.

Book Review: Abaddon’s Eve

Abaddon's EvenConfession. I have not been reading much lately. In fact, I haven’t finished a book in over two weeks. For someone who needs to post a book review once a week, that’s not a very good thing. 😛 The good news is, I’m sticking to my deadlines for Counted Worthy. Maybe when it releases one of you can guest post a review of it. 😉

Abaddon’s Eve is the last book I finished (Goodreads says I completed it on August 6th). Here’s what I thought of it.

Rechab and Alack, young people on the cusp of adulthood, have no idea how drastically their lives are about to change. Alack wrestles with his genuine but impossible love for Rechab, while Rechab does her best to shield her heart from her imminent and permanent separation from her childhood friend. Their parting occurs far differently than either expected. Kol Abaddon, the crazy prophet from the wilderness, comes to Bethabara preaching destruction on The People of the Great God. When Alack catches a glimpse of the vision, he follows the prophet into the desert to begin his training as a prophet of the Great God. At the same time, Rechab finds an unlikely friend in Flora, a wealthy woman considered to be unlucky. When a foaming servant declares that Rechab is marked for service to a false god, she flees Bethabara with Flora’s retinue. Neither Rechab nor Alack truly know the Great God they now serve, but their journeys will bring them closer to Him.

I really enjoyed this story and look forward to the next book. Anyone who has enjoyed Prophet by R.J. Larson will most certainly like Abaddon’s Eve as well. Though not one of two focal characters, my favorite character in this story is Flora (the rich woman who befriends Rechab). She is introduced as a powerful, smart, savvy woman, but her vulnerability unfurls with the story. She is a seeker, a lover of God who fears she cannot be fully accepted by Him because she is not of The People. She’s a flawed character with great strengths and a beautiful heart. I can’t wait to see where this journey brings all of the characters.

Giveaway!

I read Abaddon’s Eve on my Kindle, so I can lend it to anyone else who has a kindle or kindle app. If you would like to borrow it for 14 days, just leave a comment, and I’ll pick one of you to lend it to.

Also, Prophet is still free for Kindle. If you haven’t read it yet, go for it while it’s still free.

Guest Book Review: Pilgrim’s Progress

A few weeks ago when I mentioned my mom’s upcoming surgery and suggested that some guest book reviews would be nice, Spencer R. kindly submitted several for use here on Leah’s Bookshelf. Because this review has been posted previously on his blog, I’m just going to post a  teaser here and give you the link to his posts. (The reason for this is that Google assumes identical content on two websites indicates plagiarism, and both sites are less likely to get a good rank in a Goggle search.) Enjoy Spencer’s review and be sure to leave a comment for him here or on his site.

Pilgrin's Progress

I recently read John Bunyan’s classic allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress as part of my ‘Great Books’ curriculum for school. Bunyan wrote it while he was imprisoned for not conforming to the state church’s practices in the early 1670’s. It was one of the first times I had read a book that was from that time period so the old English was somewhat of a stretch for me, but I was still able to appreciate his message in the book. One of my favorite parts of the book was the way Bunyan represents death.

Read more on What John Bunyan Teaches us about Death in The Pilgrim’s Progress

How many of you have read Pilgrim’s Progress? What was your favorite part of the story? Have you read any of Bunyan’s other works?

Book Review: Prophet

Prophet

“It’s snowing ashes,” Ela repeated. “I’m going up to the wall to look for the fire.”

What happens when the responsibilities and struggles of a prophet of the Lord are transplanted into fantasy? This book is built around that very premise. Seventeen year old Ela knows that a silver-haired prophet has failed. The Infinite even told her she would die young if she agreed to be His prophet. Yet once she heard His voice, she knew she could never live without it, and so she agreed. Her “yes” launches her into a life of knowing the future. She spends her days pleading with hardened people to change their ways and trust the Infinite before it’s too late. For all her foresight, Ela doesn’t know if they will heed her warnings in time.

I couldn’t tell from the synopsis of this book if I would like it or not. Two of my friends gave it good reviews on Goodreads, so when I saw it at a homeschool conference for a good price I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did! I regret not buying book two while I had the chance. There is a (very) light love element, but it’s not at all offensive. I found Ela to be a relatable main character. Kien was roguishly loveable. And Tsana, Ela’s little sister, was adorable. Best of all, it made me appreciate Old Testament prophets and the Spirit of God on a deeper level.

P.S. I was a little concerned that a female prophet would come off as feminist, but she doesn’t at all. The author does a great job of focusing on “The Infinite” rather than fussing over a girl prophet.

Book Review: The Door Within

*Reposted Review: First posted August 10, 2012*

“What can I do?” Aidan pleaded. “I can’t fight. I even had a middle schooler beat me up once.”

Aidan is upset about his family moves. Lonely and restless, he ventures into his Grandfather’s basement in search of adventure. He doesn’t expect scrolls to magically appear, but they do. When Aidan chooses to believe what the scrolls say, he becomes part of an adventure bigger than he ever imagined. He enters the land of Alleble, and joins the Glimpses of the realm in a fight against the evil Lord Paragor. Can a teenager from the Mirror Realm save many from death?

Great book! I highly recommend The Door Within and the other two books in the trilogy. I read all three of them in a week! The Door Within gets off to a little bit of a slow start, but stick with it. It gains momentum through the whole book (you won’t be able to put it down), and the beginning is important in the grand scheme of things. Allegorical components add rather than distract from the story, and there’s no magic to worry about.

Author: Wayne Thomas Batson
Audience: All Ages
Genre: Christian Fantasy
Pages: 311
Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Read More of My Book Reviews

Author Interview: Chuck Black

On Monday I posted a review and giveaway of Sir Bentley and Holbrook Court. Tomorrow is the last day to enter the drawing to win a signed copy of Sir Bentley, so make sure you leave a comment on the giveaway post!

Enjoy today’s interview with author Chuck Black.

How long has it been since you started writing the Kingdom books?
I began writing the Kingdom Series books in 1999. I started with Kingdom’s Edge, the third book in the series. My inspiration for writing that first book was to find a way to help my children get excited about their faith, and to help them understand the spiritual warfare that the Bible talks about so often. The story of Jesus was the best place to start. All of the other books, including the Knights of Arrethtrae, flow out of Kingdom’s Edge.

Do you have a favorite book out of the Kingdom Series or Knights of Arrethrae Series?
That is a difficult question to answer. I like different books for different reasons. Kingdom’s Edge because it was my first and purest work. It felt as though God specifically gave it to me to write. Beyond that I don’t think I could pick one of the Kingdom Series books over the other. For the Knights of Arrethtrae series, it would probably be a toss-up between Sir Dalton and Sir Quinlan with the other four coming in a close second :).

Tell us about your journey from self-publishing to traditional publishing.
I self-published four of the Kingdom Series books because I did not want to take the long and usually unfruitful path to traditional publishing. We stumbled into a market in the homeschool community with the books that gave us an indication that there was a real need for a series of wholesome, exciting, Christian novels. After five years of watching the interest and the sales double each year, I came to a place where I was exhausted and could not keep up with the growing demand for the books. That is when I asked God to really bless the books, if it were within His will to do so. A few months later, Multnomah Publishing signed on for the books and we expanded the series from four to six books. Once those proved to be successful, I signed another contract with Multnomah for the Knights of Arrethtrae series. It has been an unusual journey all testifying to God’s hand working it all out.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
I would encourage aspiring authors to read a lot and to learn the techniques of their favorite authors. For example, how does the author develop the characters, is the story plot driven or character driven, how does he handle dialog, and how much detail is necessary to make a scene feel real. I would also recommend getting the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. It is an excellent resource for beginning writers. Finally, I recommend practicing your writing and having people give you honest and objective feedback. Before I decided to print 500 copies of Kingdom’s Edge, I printed five copies under a pen name. I then asked people for feedback. Be prepared for both the positive and the negative feedback and then adjust. Constructive criticism is the best tool for learning, if the receiver is willing to accept it.

Do you have any new books in the works?
Actually, I just signed a contract for a trilogy with Waterbrook Multnomah. I can’t give too much a way but it will be a modern-day spiritual warfare series. I’m excited about it, and I pray that God will use it to inspire people to serve Him with all heart, soul, mind, and strength!

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
The central theme of all of my books is this…God is looking for hearts that are completely devoted to Him so that he might strongly support them (2 Chronicles 16:9). Find your passion for God through the talents and abilities He has given you and then say “yes” to the call and the adventure He has waiting for you. It will be the thrill of a lifetime…I guarantee it!

My website is www.KingdomSeries.com and if anyone would like to write to me, I can be reached at kingdom[at]perfect-praise.com. Thank you for the chance to share my heart with your readers.

Thank you for this wonderful interview, Mr. Black!