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?


Guest Book Review: A Walk Across America

One more book review from Spencer R. before I try to get my head back in the game. Because it has been posted previously on his blog, I’m just going to post a  teaser here and give you the link to his posts. (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.

Walk Across America, A

On October 15, 1973 [Peter Jenkins] and his dog set out, destined for Louisiana. It took them over a year and a half to travel the whole way on foot. Along the way, Peter realized that not all towns in America where just like Greenwich. Peter met a mountain man who still lived in a log cabin on the top of a Virginia mountain. He nearly died of influenza on the Appalachian Trail, was nicknamed Albino by a loving black family, worked in a North Carolina sawmill, as well as many more adventures.

Visit A Walk Across America to read more.

Book Review: The Heart of Arcrea

Heart of Arcrea, The I’ve seen a lot of positive reviews for The Heart of Arcrea, so it’s been on my to-read list for quite a while. The homeschooled author theme for this month seemed a perfect reason to finally get to it, and I had good intentions, but it didn’t quite happen. So starshining4ever saved me by agreeing to do a guest post and review it for me. Enjoy her review!


This is a great read! No magic but clearly a fantasy because of some fictional names, creatures and plants. I love the strong Christian message! It’s not often you get that in a fantasy.

A boy’s father being taken from him sets off a passionate quest. The strong moral character of Druet faces its tests when he is joined by a series of unlikely companions whom he must mold into a successful traveling band. Jealous lords, spies, a princess bound by fears, and betrayal pose challenges to the achievement of his goal. Can Druet find the heart of Arcrea and become the land’s king? Can he even hold his group together? Or will it be torn apart through internal strife or by outside enemies?

The characters are amazing… Druet is really someone you can sympathize with and Nathaniel is the perfect “mate” (aka friend) for him. Talon and Bracy are hilarious—unlikely companions who learn to get along and become best friends. And can I just say that Renny is really cool?

The medieval setting is well done. The fights are really well written. The mystery is well carried out…I was still guessing through most of the book. There are even sprinkles of humor. It’s a really great, encouraging book all around.

Oh, and:
“We found the heart of Arcrea and all I got was this stupid tunic.”

Best. Line. Ever.

Guest Book Review: The Princess and the Goblin

Princess and the Goblin, TheOur guest book reviewer today is Emily Ruth. Born 6th of a family of eight, Emily Ruth has been all the way through homeschooling; from birth to graduation. In 2012, she graduated from Grand Canyon University and received her teaching credentials. At this time, she is now acting as a guest teacher in her hometown public school system. From the time she learned to read, Emily has been gorging herself with literature. Some of her very favorite books growing up were “A Little Princess”, “The Crimson Fairy Book”, “The Green Fairy Book”, “The Scarlet Pimpernel”, and all the Austen books she could get her hands on. Enjoy her delightful review of The Princess and the Goblin.
If a little girl told me she had visited her great-great grandmother in the attic, I wouldn’t have believed her either. Such is the life of the little Princess Irene who lives in a huge mansion on a mountain with her nurse and other such occupants to attend her. For all the eight years of her life, Irene has lived unaware and blissfully ignorant of the existence of the Goblins, a fae race that lives under the mountains. They had lived on the surface, but were banished underground, and due to this, kept a burning hatred for not only humans, but especially the royal line. One rainy afternoon, as Irene is exploring the corridors of the mansion, she gets lost, and discovers a hidden occupant of the attics who introduces herself as Queen Irene, Irene’s great-great grandmother. Soon afterwards, Princess Irene and her nurse, who were out for a walk, are saved from a group of Goblins by a brave peasant boy, Curdie. Irene, now aware of the danger around her, soon starts to show her true noble colors. She is aided by Curdie, who discovers a plot against the kingdom and against the princess’s freedom by the goblins.

Frontpiece of The Princess and the GoblinThis tale is great fun, and there is much entertainment in reading it. The plot is somewhat convoluted, and not as simple as children’s books usually are, even for that day’s standards. The character development, however, is incredibly charming to read. Irene goes from a frightened little girl to a brave princess, and Curdie, who is already quite brave, must learn that things are not always what they seem, and to trust the trustworthy.

This book was written a very long time ago, before children’s books started to include “fantasy” as a genre. At this time, the only fantasies you could get was either in adult novels or stories, such as the fairy tale books that Andrew Lang compiled (another review for another time), or the Arthurian Legends. When George MacDonald came out with his “the Princess and the Goblin”, he was providing the world with the natural next step in children’s literature; and single-handedly reshaped modern children’s literature. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien read George MacDonald’s books, and the Chronicles of Narnia and the Hobbit were both influenced by his writings. Thus, however indirectly, many of the fantasy books you read today are influenced by “the Princess and the Goblin”.

Is there a book or an author that you look up to the most for having inspired you towards something you love?

Read it Free on Kindle

Book Review: In the Reign of Terror

In the Reign of Terror Today’s book review comes complements of my wonderful brother. After a few of you indicated that you would like to see a review of In the Reign of Terror, I asked him if he would re-read the book and do a review for me. And he graciously agreed. I hope you enjoy it!

Organized massacre, I fear, Victor. What seemed incredible, impossible, is going to take place; there is to be a massacre of the prisoners.

Harry Sandwith is an average boy, the son of an English doctor. When he is offered a position as the companion of a French count’s son, he accepts despite the undertones of revolution rumbling in France. His new job is to provide the young man with an understanding of the English ways of government and liberty. At first the count’s family has little respect for him, but after he saves the count’s three daughters and their nurse, and becomes like a brother to the young count, Ernest. When the revolution erupts, Harry finds himself losing those he has come to care for and running for his life.

As an avid G.A. Henty fan, I rarely come across a Henty that I dislike. In the Reign of Terror was no exception. It combines an excellent historical resource with a tale of adventure and courage.

Author: G.A. Henty
Audience: Young Adult
Genre: Classic Adventure
Pages: 238

Read for Free:
Project Gutenberg
Amazon E-Book

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Book Review: A Tale of Two Cities

Joy C.As you can see by the photo to the right, we have another guest poster today. Joy has written a lovely review of Charles Dicken’s classic, A Tale of Two Cities. I’ll start by giving you Joy’s bio and then we’ll dive into her review. 😉

Joy is a young daughter of the King, a needy sinner saved by His Amazing Grace. The greatest goal of her life is to love and glorify her Heavenly Father, as He guides her on the path of life. Joy is home-educated by her dear parents, and has three amazing sisters who’re her closest friends. She resides in a sunny little corner of Queensland, Australia, which is as lovely as it sounds. Imagination is her favorite cup-of-tea, a world which she traverses daily. Joy wars with words through her pen (and naturally the laptop!) and scribbles stories, plays the violin, sings with her heart, photographs and draws God’s Creation as she sees it, and is an avid lover of books. She also keeps a blog, Fullness of Joy, where she scribbles about faith, writing, music, her family, raindrops on roses and of things in between.


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

Thus wrote Charles Dickens in the opening lines of his classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities. In a way that opening paragraph was my introduction to this beautiful story set during the tumultuous era of the French Revolution. I remember from my childhood how my parents used to quote these lines to my sisters and me when we found ourselves discussing topics of faith and politics and the world as it is in the twenty-first century on the dinner table and just how much it intrigued me. For, in a sense, we live even now in the best of times and in the worst of times, and these iconic words written for a different age echo with us all in our own lives. Some years ago, I watched a 1980s movie adaption for A Tale of Two Cities starring Chris Saradon and Alice Kirge (which I shall refer to later on in the review) that really made me fall in love with the tale, and with the characters and with the beautiful, beautiful themes reflected throughout the story’s pages and made me decide that I really wanted to read the actual, unabridged book – and so when Leah asked me if I could review the book here on her lovely blog, I couldn’t help say yes.

a tale of two cities

Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; — the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!

After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.*

I first read A Tale of Two Cities when I was about 13, and thus my first novel by Charles Dickens felt like a daunting one – not being very much used to reading those old classics (which I have since then come to love!); also there was Dickens’ frequent wordy description of the state of people in France (both the nobility and the peasants) and of the state of society in general (hence setting the stage for the French Revolution) to reckon with. Besides the opening lines the beginning chapter was quite difficult to get into, but once I came to the scene at the French wine shop, my interest was caught up fully till the end of the book. Actually, A Tale of Two Cities is not so much more daunting or wordy than any other classic I have come across and I would most definitely not find it as arduous to read now as I did then. The descriptive prose though at times slightly dense and complicated is beautiful and poetic, and definitely something worth appreciating :-).

But even when I read it for the first time the difficulty of the book could not detract from my enjoyment of the story. Set with a myriad of fascinating and three-dimensional characters like the beautiful Lucie who evokes the love of those around her through her sweet spirit and loving care for her dear father Dr. Manette, others as their close friends the faithful and very English banker Mr. Jarvis Lorry, his assistant Jerry Cruncher, and Lucie’s fiercely loyal governess the prim and proper Miss Pross – through them every page that deals with the differing characters is a delight. Along with these friends are two gentlemen with remarkable physical similarities (a coincidence that plays out more than once over the course of the story) who each long for the hand and heart of Lucie Manette: the admiringly honest and courageous aristocrat Charles Darnay who owns a past that might cast a dark shadow on his future and on the future of those he loves most and the dissipated English lawyer Sydney Carton, the man who’s unrequited love bestirs him and makes him a selfless hero—by far my most favourite character. Madam Defarge is magnificent as the vengeful villain of the tale, bitter and cold as ice and ruthless in her revenge, followed by her husband Monsieur Defarge. And of course the rich and cruel the Marquis St. Evremonde who is perhaps the disguised cause behind most of the grief and horrors of the story. These, among others, are the heroes and villains, who make up the complex threads of the book and pull on your heartstrings painfully and beautifully.

Like many other classics, the storyline of A Tale of Two Cities is set during era of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. What I loved about Dickens’ portrayal of the times is his unbiased chronicling of both sides of the revolution, showing the ‘best and the worst’ in both the Aristocrats and the Revolutionists: describing the oppression and plight of the peasants, the extreme cruelty and wickedness of the aristocracy and the nobility and finally the horror and terror of the revolution itself, the godlessness of it all, and how these horrific times made beasts of some men and of others the selfless heroes we come to love and admire.

A Tale of Two Cities is a really beautiful story of mystery, love, betrayal, courage, and of sacrifice and redemption. I was near tears in the last two or so chapters that were heart-wrenching and horrifying and yet so touching and beautiful. There are many inspiring and uplifting themes within the pages of the book, Christian themes exemplified i.e. when Charles Darnay courageously kept his promise to a servant despite the danger and cost to himself, or the loving faithfulness Lucie had in her devotion for her father, and of course the most significant of themes is Sydney Carton’s selfless love and sacrifice. I guess if I could say all about him, I’d spoil the book for you, but it is really, really touching and painfully beautiful so all I will say is ‘go and read the book’!

Cons: Being a French Revolution novel, violence is a great part of the story, with people being hanged, stabbed, shot, and beheaded by the Guillotine, but none of it is unnecessarily gory or detailed. There is some romance in the book, but it is mild and classic in style and I did not have any real problems with it, coy as I am about romance generally in novels ^_^.

Movie: As I mentioned earlier, one of my first introductions to the book was a movie adaption of A Tale of Two Cities, a 1980s version for TV, starring Chris Sarandon, Peter Cushing, Alice Krige and Billie Whitelaw. It is a little bit of an old movie, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless and it is well done. The adaption stayed very true to the heart and story of the book, with only slight differences here and there, and it helped bring to life the tale for me as I read the book later on. So, if you can get your hands on the film that would be wonderful. Here is a YouTube link to the film as well if you care to watch it: A Tale of Two Cities.

*Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Book Review: In Search of Honor

In Search of HonorToday’s post comes to us from guest poster Mary Willson (member of the One Year Adventure Novel forum, for you OYANers out there). I wasn’t sure I was going to have time to read enough French Revolution novels for the month and Mary graciously helped me out of that pickle by writing this review. Hope you enjoy!

This is the story of young Jacques Chenier, the son of a skilled sculptor in France, a country on the very brink of revolution. When his father is murdered, Jacques’ life is torn apart. His desire for revenge plunges him into deep trouble, and he is caught up in the anarchy and terror of the French Revolution. What follows is a gripping tale of hate and its consequences, as Jacques learns the true meaning of honor.

While I did not find the characters in this novel particularly likeable, I fully understood and sympathized with what they did. I certainly wanted to know what happened to them, and practically read the whole book in one sitting. I especially enjoyed the historical details about the place and time, and Jacques’ job as a sculptor was quite interesting. This novel has a very definite Christian influence, which I also enjoyed.

Author: Donna Lynn Hess
Audience: ages 12 and up
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 168 pages
Publisher: JourneyForth

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Book Review: Little Women

Little WomenJoining us today is Marli Renee from Books|Cuppas and Cause for Joy. Hope you enjoy her review!
I am Meg. Earnest. Sincere. Serious. Loving the little things in this world, yet craving to leave them… “Tomorrow I shall put away my ‘fuss and feathers’ and be desperately good again.”

I am Jo. Passionate. Awkward. Always dreaming. “I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.”

I am Beth. Loving the simple, the pure. Hoping. Desiring only peace and joy. “’We’ve got Father and Mother, and each other,’ said Beth contentedly from her corner.”

I am Amy. Sweet and silly. Determined. Thrilled over lace, and frills. Reveling in the fact that “we’ll all grow up someday, we might as well know what we want.”, but striving with every excited ounce to always be a better person.

Devouring these pages to learn more about myself. Or maybe I have become myself through these pages? Only a handful of books have done as much to shape who I am – these courageous young sisters as beacons of maturity and true femininity, yet oh so relatable beacons. Hopes, dreams and daily dramas within the slow process of sanctification.

The March sisters were so grown-up when I first met them. And now I am among them. “If we are all alive ten years hence, let’s meet, and see how many of us have got our wishes, or how much nearer we are then than now.” It has been ten years. I re-read the book with different eyes. I realize how young the dear characters were, and how far I have to go. But how close I have come – plodding where their gentle steps led.

In a world of quick literature and cheap thrills, it is a joy to read something so careful. So pure. So real, as real women who loved the Lord and lived faithfully day after day. Little Women.

Don’t just let this book be a check on your list of things to read. Don’t just join in the throng of, ‘Oh, such a cute story!’. Let it mean something to you. Let the reality of life, the pain, the joy, the relationships, the partings, the death, the birth, the love and fire mean something. Feel. Grow with these
friends. Live with them. “for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

Author: Louisa May Alcott
Audience: All Ages
Genre: Classic
Pages: Around 500