Books

Book Review: Hand of Vengeance

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Photography is not my forte, but at least you can see the cover.

Yes, yes, a second book review in a single week. That’s just the way it worked out. ūüôā

Hand of Vengeance¬†by Douglas Bond was recommended to me by Moriah Simonowich of Delighting in Him and one of my friends offered to let me borrow it. So I started this book by Douglas Bond in the midst of all the other books I’m reading in at the moment.

Living in an 8th century Anglo-Saxon community, Cynwulf is shunned by most of the people in his world. Being left handed and part Viking, the rest of the community is happy to both avoid and judge him. Until one of his weapons is found at the scene of a murder. Cynwulf becomes the chief suspect in a murder trial he wants nothing to do with and must try to clear his name and save his life.

Bond writes a compelling tale (one which kept me up late for “one more chapter” more than once). His characters are complicated enough to be brought to life. I felt as if I understood Cynwulf even though I’ve never been on trial for murder. I wanted to know what was going to happen to them, so I kept coming back.

As I mentioned in my review of¬†Jane Eyre, wholesome books are becoming more and more difficult to find. A large majority of authors are content to write fiction overflowing with sin and vice (not to mention lazy grammar and writing). It’s a tragedy, and I don’t say that lightly. Books hold great influence over the thoughts and lives of those who read them and authors are entrusted with the responsibility of shaping minds.

That being said, Douglas Bond’s¬†tale of murder, love, and geese is a refreshing read. He shamelessly and easily weaves in the gospel – something also not done well in many modern tales.¬†Hand of Vengeance was relaxing to read. I knew I wouldn’t have to be on the lookout for anything sinful or dark that might make me need to put it down. The world needs more books like this one.

Kira

You can find Douglas Bond at douglasbondbooks.blogspot.com

or bondbooks.net

Are there any authors that you know are “safe” – that will deliver a great story without treading sinful waters? How did you find out about them?

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From the Archives: Book Review: Jane Eyre

I began reading Jane Eyre after a ridiculously frustrating injury in April and I loved it, so I had to keep the review.

Originally published: 5/30/17


Classics. Those books that have lasted centuries, only to be left on the bookshelves of well meaning readers, unopened, unexplored. The shelves in my room hold many of these works of art, most of them as yet unread.

However, during the week of the neck injury awhile ago, I needed something to entertain me (other than Netflix – one can only take so much bad television). So I decided to tackle one of the books that I had been putting off for much too long. I figured my inability to move would provide motivation to actually finish the venture this time.

I chose Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and completed about half of it before I was up and moving again. It happens to be quite a thick book though, and it took me a few more weeks of regular life to reach the end.

Miss Bronte’s protagonist, Jane, is a plain little girl at the opening of the story. Her life, young as she is, is already marked with suffering. Jane is an orphan, entrusted to the care of a guardian who does not love her. To get rid of the troublesome child, Jane is sent to a charity school where she receives an education and eventually ventures out into the world on her own. Life does not get any easier though, as she begins finding her way in the world, and Jane is left to face many difficult situations which try her courage, morality, and love.

As is often the case with old books (“classics”), I found¬†Jane Eyre¬†to be much more gripping and intriguing than I expected. The story is compelling and well thought out. Jane is a character who takes some getting used to, but is easy to grow to love. She is surrounded by a supporting cast with interesting backgrounds who leave their mark on the girl. Her tale is told by a woman with an excellent vocabulary and skill in crafting sentences.

I appreciated the moral questions raised by Bronte and how they were answered. As someone who loves to read, I’m finding it tragically and increasingly difficult to find books written in the recent past with clean language, themes, and choices.¬†Jane Eyre¬†was a breath of fresh air in that regard. Jane had to make terrible decisions, but she was strong and chose well. Emotion did not dictate the choices in her life – sound judgement and convictions did.

Though quite long,¬†Jane Eyre¬†was worth the read. I kept coming back to find out what would happen to the heroine and how she would respond throughout the weeks it took me to finish the book. Jane has left an impression on me, and, I have to say, I’m sorry the story’s over.

Kira

Are there any books you’ve been meaning to read for far too long?

From the Archives: Book Review: Crazy Love

I only read¬†Crazy Love a few months ago, but I’m already looking forward to reading it again someday.

Originally published: 5/23/17


There’s nothing quite like a book that makes you take a good hard look at yourself.¬†Crazy Love¬†is one of those books.

I mentioned¬†Crazy Love¬†a few weeks ago in a different¬†post¬†before I had finished reading it. Now that I’m done, I had to review it because I absolutely loved it.

Francis Chan’s¬†Crazy Love¬†is about how incredibly out of this world God’s love for us is. It comes through in His every action – from salvation to the creation of caterpillars. Our sin left us with no claim to His love, but He poured it over us anyway. By the bucket full. When we stop and actually try to fathom for a moment the depth of this love, we are left with no other reaction than to pour out our lives in service to Christ.

We have no reason to fear death, no reason to conform to this world, no reason to worry or stress or be caught up with ourselves. This life is about God, even though we’re the ones living it. Chan makes that incredibly clear in his book.

Crazy Love is not overly eloquent or complicated. While I usually enjoy finer language in a book, Chan made his point simple and I appreciate that in this case. Rather than detracting from the book, the simplicity of the writing allowed me to focus on the message and how it applies to me.

It took me awhile to reach the point spiritually where I can see the benefit of conviction when I first feel it, rather than wanting to run in the other direction, toward complacency. It has led to a deeper appreciation of books like¬†Crazy Love¬†and how God uses them in my life.¬†Francis Chan is not shy about saying that the church as a whole is not following God completely. But he doesn’t just leave it there. In “A Conversation With Francis Chan” at the end of the book, Chan stresses that he’s not attacking the church. Rather, he loves the church and wants to urge her to follow Christ’s calling.

“I’m not coming up with anything new. I’m calling people to go back to the way it was. I’m not bashing the church. I’m loving it.” (Crazy Love, pg 180)

Over all, Crazy Love was a convicting and, more importantly, encouraging read. It has led me to examine my own life and walk with God and to spend more time focusing on Him.

Kira

You can find Francis Chan on his blog: crazylove.org

And his Crazy Love website: crazylovebook.com

Have you read any convicting/encouraging books lately? Any that you can’t wait to read again?

From the Archives: On Death

This post was the result of reading Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations and¬†Francis Chan’s¬†Crazy Love at the same time. It got me thinking about death and, more importantly, life.

Originally published: 5/5/17


So I’ve been reading a lot about death the last couple days. Not intentionally. It’s just happened to come up in a couple books I’m working through this week.

This has resulted in my thinking about death. And the time before death. And how that time should be spent. You know, now that I think about it, this reminds me of one of my semi-recent posts: Borrowed Time.

Anyway, back to today. Let me start by giving you a sampling of what I’ve been reading and then tell you what’s running through my very scattered brain.

The first book is¬†Meditations¬†by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. No, I didn’t just pick it up because the cover looks cool – it’s for school. To be honest though, I don’t totally dread reading it. Aurelius isn’t all that boring.

Meditations¬†is a book of personal thoughts, resolutions, and observations of the world from the worldview of a Stoic philosopher/emperor shortly after the time of Jesus. Aurelius’ goal was to live a virtuous and moral life. Here are his thoughts on death:

Death: something like birth, a natural mystery, elements that split and recombine.

Not an embarrassing thing. Not an offense to reason, or our nature. (Meditations, Book 4)

People who are excited by posthumous fame forget that the people who remember them will soon die too. And those after them in turn. Until their memory, passed from one to another like a candle flame, gutters and goes out.

But suppose that those who remembered you were immortal and your memory undying. What good would it do you? And I don’t just mean when you’re dead, but in your own lifetime. What use is praise, except to make your lifestyle a little more comfortable?¬†(Meditations, Book 4)

Those two excerpts basically cover Aurelius’ views on death as told in his¬†Meditations. According to him, death is not something to be feared and there is absolutely no use in trying to get people to remember you and your fame.

The second book I’ve been reading this week that brought up the subject of death when I least expected it is¬†Crazy Love¬†by Francis Chan. I’m not very far into it yet, but his perspective on death and “posthumous fame” still gave me pause.

In about fifty years (give or take a couple of decades), no one will remember you. Everyone you know will be dead. Certainly no one will care what job you had, what car you drove, what school you attended, or what clothes you wore. This can be terrifying or reassuring, or maybe a mix of both. (Crazy Love, ch 2)

That’s pretty straightforward. The chapter containing these sentences is about how everything and every time is about God – including the miniscule piece of eternity that our lives occupy.

Reading these books at the same time has left me thinking a lot about death, as I mentioned before. But it hasn’t been depressing. In fact, the result of all my meditation on death has been that I’ve been thinking about life a lot. Particularly my life. It may be an easy question, but who is my life supposed to glorify?

Now, Aurelius was not a Christian. In fact, even though his book is full of virtues and morals, he heavily persecuted the Christians. It was a crime not to worship Caesar and guess who the Christians didn’t worship? His answer is that your life isn’t really meant to glorify anyone. You go about your business, try to do the right things, and eventually die.

Francis Chan on the other hand is a pastor. He is so passionate about his faith. So his answer is that our lives are supposed to glorify God – even though they are incredibly short in light of eternity. He uses the illustration of all of us being extras in a movie about God to make his point.

We have only our two-fifths-of-a-second-long scene to live. I don’t know about you, but I want my two-fifths of a second to be about my making much of God. First Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” That is what each of our two-fifths of a second is about.¬†(Crazy Love, ch 2)

Question: Who is my life supposed to glorify?

Answer: God.

Harder Question: Who does my life glorify?

Harder Answer: Usually me.

It’s not natural to instantly give God the glory or to act in every little thing in a way that honors Him. But that’s what we’ve got to strive to do. God is too great and wonderful for us to make this about us! Even Aurelius realized that fame and glory don’t actually do us any good. So if they’re not going to help us out anyway, we may as well make our lives about God, right?

But that’s not how it’s supposed to work either. We don’t just glorify God because our glory won’t last. Our lives should be lived as a response to everything He’s done for us. For me, that includes salvation, putting me in the beautiful mountains of Virginia, piecing together my family so that I understand His picture of adoption, letting me be homeschooled, and tons and tons of other stuff. What does it mean for you?

When I think about all the stuff God has given me in my life that I don’t deserve, it makes me¬†want¬†to live for Him. Yes, I still mess up. All. The. Time. But His grace means I can try again. I don’t have to stay down.

I’m going to leave you with a quote from Francis Chan, because he said it well.

The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing, God wants to be glorified, because this whole thing is His. It is His movie, His world, His gift. (Crazy Love, ch 2)

Kira

What do you think about death? Is it something that you avoid thinking about or examine in light of eternity?

From the Archives: Book Review: This Changes Everything

We are coming up to more recent posts from my previous blog, so there aren’t many weeks left of¬†From the Archives posts. That also means that those of you who followed me before I switched to WordPress have likely already read these. I do still intend to bring my favorites with me though, so please bear with me and feel free to read them again, should you so desire.

Originally published: 3/31/17


I recently had the privilege of reading the book This Changes Everything: How the gospel transforms the teen years by Jaquelle Crowe for free in order to review it. And let me tell you, I loved it!

I had expected to enjoy the book since it was written for teens about living for Christ. I trusted the author, having read her articles before, and figured her first book would be good as well. So I was surprised at what an impact it made on me.

Jaquelle’s book just came out today (I got it early – yay! ūüėČ ) and I would highly recommend you go read it.

This Changes Everything¬†is about how we, as teenagers, should be living our lives for Christ right now. We don’t have to (and should not) wait until we’re older. We are just as much God’s people now as we will be in two or three or five years. We are not exempt from following God’s Word because of our age and Jaquelle wants to make sure we know it.

The book is written very simply, not because teens need it that way, but because it can be stated that way. No one needs big words to understand that we are to lay aside everything tearing us away from Christ and live only and fully for Him.

That being said, I would not only recommend this book to teens, but to everyone else walking with Christ as well. Teens aren’t the only ones who need reminders of these things. Even though Jaquelle is talking mainly to teenagers, everything she says applies equally to all believers. We are all called to a relationship with God and to go against the norms of culture.

If you’re interested, you can find¬†This Changes Everything¬†on¬†Amazon¬†and¬†Crossway¬†and I’m sure some other places too.

I cannot tell you how wonderfully Jaquelle shows that the gospel does, in fact, change everything in our lives.

Kira

Have you read any books that change the way you look at your life? Did you do anything in response?

Book Review (and Giveaway!): Edwin Brook: Dire Recompense

3D Edwin Brook

Edwin Brook by Daeus Lamb has left me in shock.

I just finished reading the adventure story (which I received for free in exchange for an honest review) this morning and it’s still spinning through my head. Usually, I try to give a book a few days to sit after finishing it before writing a review, but due to my personal and blog schedules, that’s not an option this time. Thus, I am left to try to review this book in the immediate wake of its effect.

Matthew and his mother and sister have nowhere to go, so they turn to a wealthy home for shelter from a storm. The night seems simple enough, despite their desperation: find a benevolent person to take them in and have a place to stay for the night. Then life continues. But that is not to be the case for this small family.

What happens at the house of Lord Glenworth changes Matthew’s life forever. He will never be the same boy that he was before the visit. Despite his youth, Matthew feels a deep need to set out and seek justice for his past – his own justice. This resolve carries him through many decisions and events that an ordinary man might not be able to handle. But it is what must be done.

Edwin Brook was amazing. From the very beginning, I was entranced with the story, constantly feeling a need to know what happens next. Author Daeus Lamb kept his characters moving and kept me in suspense. As soon as I had the answer to one question, another popped up and I had to keep reading. The tale was creatively woven and excellently executed.

The characters came alive from the start, each with their own riddled pasts and real faults. Matthew is not a saint, but he is relatable – forcing you to search yourself for your own flaws that might compare. It’s scary to read a book and feel as if you’re looking in a mirror, but valuable beyond measure.

As to the writing style, it was unfamiliar at first. I can’t recall ever having read a book written in quite the same way.¬†Edwin Brook had thought provoking descriptions and original wording. It took a few chapters to get my bearing, but once I did, I appreciated the uniqueness of the telling.

Overall, I found Edwin Brook to be a different sort of story. While it took a little bit to get used to how it was told, the story was gripping and one that I am sure will stay with me for some time. I would recommend it to anyone seeking a rich form of entertainment. It is not a book to be read just for the sake of reading, but one to be tasted, wrestled with, and appreciated.

Now for the exciting part: Daeus Lamb has graciously offered to give away five digital copies of Edwin Brook: Dire Recompense to readers of this blog. I encourage you to take advantage of this (and maybe consider leaving him a review if you win).

To enter, just go to this link and follow the instructions. Good luck!

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/c6aba7621/?

From the Archives: Counted Worthy: A New Christian Novel With A Story Worth Reading

My first book review from this blog is a review I wrote two and a half years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed¬†Counted Worthy, so I wanted to bring over my review. Come to think of it, I just might need to read this debut novel again…

Originally published: 12/19/14


  Leah E. Good is homeschooler, now homeschooling college. She wrote the book Counted Worthy and self-published after being fully funded by Kickstarter in just a few days. I have just recently finished reading Counted Worthy, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a book of moderate length with a Christian theme that is not too overbearing and pretentious.

The main character, Heather Stone, is trying to do what’s right, but is faced with difficult decisions that have dire consequences again and again. She doesn’t want to repeat the past, yet she does want to follow God’s will for her life. This all weaves its way into an intriguing and fast-paced story that will suck you in right from the start.

I believe that Leah Good has written a wonderful book that should (and will) be read over and over again and I highly encourage doing so.

Every generation must discover its own storyweavers. Leah Good is one of ours and we are fortunate.¬†Counted Worthy¬†is a thrilling work of inspirational fiction that perfectly complements the message of¬†Do Hard Things. Grab a copy for yourself,¬†grab a copy for a friend, and help spread the word about this phenomenal debut.¬†Counted Worthy¬†belongs in the hands of every Christian teen and story lover in the country. It‚Äôs that good. ‚ÄďBrett Harris,¬†bestselling author of Do Hard Things

The Author – Leah E. Good


I definitely believe Counted Worthy is worth reading and telling others about. I also believe that Leah has shown to the world that she is a hardworking and talented author and could be added to the list of Who I Look Up To. Since reading her blog and book, I have often thought, How cool is that? I would love to do just what she did! Also, random fact, her novel inspired me to start writing another story and this one I hope to follow through with (yeah, right, I know). I truly enjoyed this story and I hope anyone who gets the chance to read it enjoys it just as much.

Radical. Intense. Compelling. Leah Good‚Äôs dystopian novel, Counted Worthy, powerfully embodies the message that today‚Äôs young people need to hear: the Reason we have to die to self, pursue the impossible, and when all else fails, to stand. This is the message that has the potential to turn a generation of complacency into a generation of inspiration. ‚ÄďMelody van Achterberg,¬†reader

 

You can find Leah on her blog,¬†Leah’s Bookshelf. I highly encourage you to do so.

Kira

Do you have any favorite Christian books? What do you think helps make a book not preachy and obnoxious, but still gets the message across?