Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Soldier's Cross

Author:  Abigail J. Hartman
My recommended age: 11+
Their recommended age: NA
Publisher:  Ambassador Intl
Number of pages: 296

Publisher’s description:
A.D. 1415 Fiona's world is a carefully built castle in the air, made up of the fancies, wishes, and memories of her childhood. It begins to crumble as she watches her brother march away to join in the English invasion of France. It falls to pieces when he is brought home dead. Robbed of the one dearest to her and alone in the world, Fiona turns to her brother's silver cross in search of the peace he said it would bring. But when she finds it missing, she swears she will have it and sets out on a journey across the Channel and war-ravaged France to regain it and find the peace it carries.
My thoughts:
Outside of everything I have below, I am just elated that 1) Abigail Hartman is a home schooled writer.  and 2)  She was only 14 when she completed 'The Soldier's Cross'.  If she can do it, so can I!  Oh, and for NaNoers out there, this is a product of that mad race to 50,000 Words.

·         Characters:  THEY ARE SO REAL!!  Each character is his/her own person, no overlapping no copy catting, each was as unique as could be in real life.
·         Plot:  Wonderful.  It wasn't suspense, but it was a -i-can't-put-this-book-down sort of read.  Miss Hartman just sucked me in, bait, line and sinker. Plus, I know as a writer, putting a strong journey to Christ and peace can be a little hard, ok.  More than a little.  But Miss Hartman seemed to have pulled it off without a problem. 
·         Writing:  Very clear, concise, easy to read, yet poetic.  I like how she can make you feel like your there.  I felt Fiona's pain as if it was my own, I was terrified of Christoper, and became friends with Leah.  I also couldn't help but thinking Pierre one great guy.  In his own way.
·         Cover:  Isn't it cool?  The Castle, the cross, the way the chain goes through the 'C'.
·         Ending:  Lovely.  You know, I always kinda liked David.  And I had a hunch.  ;-)
·         World building:  REALLY good. Every little breeze I felt, every Apple tree, every stone in the castles.  I know JUST how I think Leah and Pierre's home looks.  You weren't just reading the words, you are in the words.

Proof that new writers aren't bad writers. 
Lovely plot and Characters.
World Building is awesome.
Easy, yet poetically beautiful read.
Strong Christian Theme and morals.  If you aren't a Christian, you wont like this book.
Fiona calls someone a Jackanapes.  But that is all.
Romance and sexual content:
Fiona is stalked by a creepy guy.  Don't worry, nothing bad happens to her.  But if it wasn't for *** it might've been not so, happy.
Fiona's brother dies in battle, and someone else is killed. Wont say who.

Drugs and drink:
In that time, it was normal to drink wine, so it is only in that context.
Random Preview:
"Oh will you not come on?" She demanded through clenched teeth, wishing she had a halter with which to lead the uncooperative creature.  She pulled and her feet slipped; Cesaire pulled back, the iron on his hoofs scratching marks in the ice. The horse's eyes were nearly rolled back inhis head, his ears were flat back on his skull, and his thick lips were pulled back to show his yellow jagged teeth and dark gums.
"You might want to make him move a little faster," The girl quipped from her seat on the frosty ground.  "He may wear a whole in the ice doing that".
Pride, still a dominant characteristic of  her British nature, kept her from asking the children for their help.  She set her her face and stained until the muscles bulged in her neck and her jaw was thrust out at an odd angle, Practically dragging Cesaire by his mane and gaining but little ground.  The sweat was breaking out on her forehead when she at last reached the middle of the creek and by the time she at last got the horse on the firm ground again, her bodice had dark, wet patches on it.  On the opposite bank, the boy and girl clapped and laughed at her achievement, their dark eyes dancing with mischief, and then scampered off.  Fiona sat down heavily on a bit of earth that had less snow than the rest of the ground and watched the children until they were out of sight, her hands balled into fists.  It was not until she rose that she realized the reason for their merriment, for she saw around the bend of the stream what she could not have seen on the other side: A little wooden bridge spanning the river.  It was not wide, but it was large enough for her to lead Cesaire across.  "The Devil take you!" She cried after the children, her voice echoing in the stillness.

I undoubtedly give this a:

Random note:
Miss Hartman's blog can be found @:  Scribbles and Ink Stains
And you can purchase this lovely book via Amazon: The Soldier's Cross

Dug Down Deep

Author:  Joshua Harris
My recommended age: 12+
Their recommended age: NA
Publisher:  Multnomah Press
Number of pages: 288

Publisher’s description:
Dug Down Deep is systematic theology like you’ve never seen it before. Readable. Relevant. Powerful. As best-selling author Joshua Harris shares his own journey from apathetic church-kid to student with a burning passion to truly know God, you’ll be challenged to dig deep into the truths of God’s word.

With humor, conviction and compelling insight
Dug Down Deep covers the basics of faith—God, scripture, Jesus, the cross, salvation, sanctification, the Holy Spirit and the church. Don’t settle for superficial faith, dig deep.

"I can probably count on one hand, the number of books of which I've read every word from cover to cover in one sitting. Dug Down Deep is one of them.” – Adam Young (Owl City)

"If you're looking for ‘that one book’ that will push you farther down the road to faith than you've ever journeyed before, Dug Down Deep is it. I highly recommend it!" —Joni Eareckson Tada"
My thoughts:
·         Characters:  No real Characters to talk about.
·         Plot:  The really hasn't got a true plot.
·         Writing:  MAGNIFICENT!  Mr. Harris is a gifted writer who couldn't write a boring book if he really wanted to, I think. 
·         Cover:  Rock...see?  It is rock!
·         Ending:  By this time, I had gained so much knowledge!  It (meaning the book) was amazing!
·         World building: Not really anything here.

 To some ages, Harris' blunt, but truthful and needed, way of putting things could be a little to old for them.  12 and up should be fine, though.
Life changing.
Engaging stories to keep you going.
Real life accounts.
Laughable seconds, then solemn moments.
And a funny cartoon about you and your fleshly desires!
Romance and sexual content:
Joshua Harris is unique in the way that he puts such things as they are.  No covering up, no skirting the issue, sex is a real life thing, and can be a sin.  I thus, do not recommend it for readers who haven't yet 'learned' as the double edged gift and possible sin.  It isn't descriptive, but Harris doesn't shirk either.
 Drugs and drink:
It talks about the Amish Rumspringa. 
Random Preview:
But as I watched, I wondered, What are they really going back to? Are they choosing God or just a safe and simple way of life?-
I know what it means to wrestle with questions of faith. I know what it's like for faith to be so mixed up with family tradition that it's hard to distinguish between a genuine knowledge of God and comfort in a familiar way of life.
I grew up in an evangelical Christian family. One that was on the more conservative end of the spectrum. I'm the oldest of seven children. Our parents homeschooled us, raised us without television, and believed that oldfashioned courtship was better than modern dating. Friends in our neighborhood probably thought our family was Amish, but that's only because they didn't know some of the really conservative Christian homeschool families. The truth was that our family was more culturally liberal than many homeschoolers. We watched movies, could listen to rock music (as long as it was Christian or the Beatles), and were allowed to have Star Wars and Transformers toys.

But even so, during high school I bucked my parents' restrictions. That's not to say my spiritual waywardness was very shocking. I doubt Amish kids would be impressed by my teenage dabbling in worldly pleasure. I never did drugs. Never got drunk. The worst things I ever did were to steal porn magazines, sneak out of the house at night with a kid from church, and date various girls behind my parents' backs. Although my rebellion was tame in comparison, it was never virtue that held me back from sin. It was lack of opportunity. I shudder to think what I would have done with a parent-sanctioned
season of rumspringa.

The bottom line is that my parents' faith wasn't really my faith. I knew how to work the system, I knew the Christian lingo, but my heart wasn't in it. My heart was set on enjoying the moment.

Recently a friend of mine met someone who knew me in early high school. "What did she remember about me?" I asked.

"She said you were girl crazy, full of yourself, and immature," my friend told me.
 Yeah, she knew me, I thought. It wasn't nice to hear, but I couldn't argue. I didn't know or fear God. I didn't have any driving desire to know him.

For me, the Christian faith was more about a set of moral standards than belief and trust in Jesus Christ.
I am a Harris fan.  I love the truth he gives and translates.  I give this book an avid

*DISCLAIMER* I recieved this book for free to review from Waterbrook Multnolmah Books. All opinions are my own. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Charlatan's Boy

Author:  Jonathan Rogers
My recommended age: 11+
Their recommended age:  NA
Publisher:  Waterbrook Press
Number of pages: 320

Publisher’s description:
“I only know one man who might be able to tell me where I come from, and that man is a liar and a fraud.” 
 As far back as he can remember, the orphan Grady has tramped from village to village in the company of a huckster named Floyd. With his adolescent accomplice, Floyd perpetrates a variety of hoaxes and flimflams on the good citizens of the Corenwald frontier, such as the Ugliest Boy in the World act.

It’s a hard way to make a living, made harder by the memory of fatter times when audiences thronged to see young Grady perform as “The Wild Man of the Feechiefen Swamp.” But what can they do? Nobody believes in feechies anymore.

When Floyd stages an elaborate plot to revive Corenwalders’ belief in the mythical swamp-dwellers known as the feechiefolk, he overshoots the mark. Floyd’s Great Feechie Scare becomes widespread panic. Eager audiences become angry mobs, and in the ensuing chaos, the Charlatan’s Boy discovers the truth that has evaded him all his life—and will change his path forever.

My thoughts:
·         Characters:   Lovable, entertaining, and easy to understand.  Rogers must've been really in tune with his 'players' to get them so real.  I could almost see Floyd, Grady, and even the minor characters with such clarity, that it was wonderful.

·         Plot: Awesome job.  The end isn't AT ALL  what you would think, which is good work at plot twisting.  I had to keep reminding myself, that Feechies aren't real.

 ·         World building:  Amazing.  Rogers did a fantastic job 'making' Corenwald island.

·         Writing: Rogers style is easy to read, yet full and vibrant.  It doesn't get you muddled up at all.  I think (just by the writing) a 8 year old could read it.  As to whether they would understand the depth, plot, and happening, I'm not so sure.  Rogers can also add those bits of humor without being stupid or foolish.  Honestly, I think I spent over half the book laughing.  Furthermore, Rogers wrote how the characters would speak.  Since it is in First person, a lot wasn't grammatically correct, as Grady doesn't have college degree English, it made it seem all the more real.

·         Cover: Isn't it great?  Looks like a circus poster.  I kept going back to look at it over and over again.

·         Ending:  You'd never guess what happens.  And I'm not going to give it away.

Grady and Floyd's profession isn't a super one, they are Charlatans, ya know.  
 Realistic dialog.
Amazing Cover.
Surprising ending.
Well written.
Easy to read.
Well developed Characters.
Clean content.


Romance and sexual content:


Drugs and drink:
Random Preview:
“Laaadies and geeentermen!” he hollered, sort of stretching it out like he was growling it. “Laaadies and geeeentermen! My name is Perfesser Floyd Wendellson, collector of the rare and the beautiful, and the world’s foremost authority on feechie life and habits!”

My box had a knothole in the side panel, and when I hunkered down, I could see the villagers gathering around the wagon. Things get quiet in the villages, so the commotion of a stranger pulling up in a wagon and hollering about feechiefolks fetched a crowd right off. And once the villagers was in earshot, they wasn’t going anywhere. You never seen anybody could hold a crowd like Floyd. He cut a fine figure in his shiny coat and squared-off hat—so tall and straight. His black mustaches wagged when he talked, and even folks who didn’t believe a word he said couldn’t wait to see what he was going to say next.

I knowed Floyd’s patter by heart. He rearranged the pieces pretty freely, stretching it out if folks was slow to gather, or leaving parts out if folks seemed restless, but the main points of the speechifying was the same every time, and they was pretty simple:

First, Floyd was the bravest adventurer ever to pole a flatboat and the only civilized man ever to come out of the Feechiefen Swamp alive.

Second, for one night and one night only, Floyd was giving a lecture in the village hall—a lively report of his travels with a full account of the habits and customs of the feechiefolks, the wild and mysterious native inhabitants of the Feechiefen.

Third, Floyd’s lecture would include the displayment of a he-feechie he had brought back from the swamp, the only genuine feechie to be found in the civilized world.

Fourth, everybody in the village was invited to come listen to Floyd’s lecture for the small price of one copper coin per person.

Sometimes Floyd started in on all the other so-called feechie authorities—how they’d just find a ugly boy, diaper him in muskrat pelts, slobber him with mud, and call him a feechie. How them other feechie experts was all just charlatans and frauds and only Floyd had the real thing. It took some gumption to tell such a barefaced lie as that. There aint a lot to admire about Floyd, but the man does have gumption. Sitting in that box and listening to Floyd run on about what a fine specimen of feechiehood I was, can you blame me for believing it myself?

“Wild Man of the Feechiefen Swamp” is a heap better than “ugly boy whose mama didn’t want him.” When it comes to Floyd’s tales, you got to pick and choose what to believe anyway; I figured I might as well believe the tales I liked the best.

And I never believed them feechie tales more than in the five minutes just before the box flung open. By the time Floyd got to my cue, I was about to bust I felt so feechiefied. “He’s really quite harmless”—that was my cue. When
Floyd worked them words into his patter, I commenced to yowling like a panther and growling like a bear and howling like a wolf, thumping around in my box and putting up such a ruckus as you never heard in your life. I kept it up until Floyd whapped on my box a few times with his cane.

It didn’t take much of that business to get the crowd whipped up pretty good. I know Floyd and me was supposed to be the show, but the crowd made a pretty good show their own selves, and I liked nothing better than watching it through my knothole.
You guessed it:

*DISCLAIMER* I recieved this book for free to review from Waterbrook Multnolmah Books. All opinions are my own.