Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review of The Traitor's Heir by Anne Thayer

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

Although I've always enjoyed books in the fantasy genre, it has been more difficult to find good fantasy reads as I've gotten older. I think the problem is that I want a story line that is believable but is still a really good fantastical tale. I've found a fantasy novel that fits that description in The Traitor's Heir by Anne Thayer.

The Traitor's Heir is the first in a series- The Knight of Elderan. All of the books are written, and it's my understanding that the second book in the series- The King's Hand- is also currently available. I know I'll be looking for it and waiting for the final book in the trilogy.

The book's description: In an epic and mystical tale that resonates with modern times, the young Eamon Goodman goes on a journey of discovery. A journey which sees him taking an increasingly pivotal role in the battle between the rival forces of the king and the master, and takes him from being a young soldier in his home of Edesfield to being a fast-rising hero in the dense and rotten city of Dunthruik. Under the watchful eye of Lord Cathair, in the loving arms of Lady Alessia Turnholt, and torn between enemy forces, Eamon’s experiences lead him to question the nature and true meaning of some of the most important things in life – love and friendship, loyalty and honour, and who he really is. But will the answers he finds lead him to be true to himself and true to his name? Will they lead him to become a good man?

The characters in the story are believable and likable. I found myself drawn into Eamon's story from the start. There is a good balance between action and the inward thoughts of Eamon, so I felt as if I could get to know him as the story unfolded.

I've read nothing that indicates that The Traitor's Heir is truly allegorical. But there is quite a good bit of symbolism throughout and the classic story of good versus evil. Eamon is faced with the choice of which to follow. He encounters age old prophecies and the struggle for power, and he must make his own choice about which power to follow.

This was truly a good fantasy read. I can't wait to pick up the other two and continue Eamon's story!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Review of In the Field Of Grace by Tessa Afshar

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

I'm often reluctant to read from the genre of Biblical fiction. Although I think that books written in the genre have the capacity to make Scripture clear and easier to understand, I also think that authors sometimes take liberty with the Scripture, writing a story that is nice from a literary standpoint but isn't Biblically accurate.

In the Field of Grace is Biblical fiction. It's the story of Ruth- one of my favorite Bible characters. So I picked it up with hope but with some trepidation. And I needn't have feared. I was very pleased.

Tessa Afshar relates the tale of Ruth, her mother-in-law Naomi and her husband to be Boaz in such a way that I felt truly connected with the characters and their day to day lives. She does an excellent job in keeping the whole story completely Biblical. There are a few added details or situations that the Bible doesn't refer to but that she spins into the tale to make it more of a full story to which readers can relate. But nothing in the story is ever contrary to either the written words in the Bible or the theme of Ruth's story. At the end of the book there is an author's note that explains in more detail why she chose to include certain elements in her story.

I believe that good Biblical fiction can make us think deeper about the people of the Bible, about their lives, and about the lessons that God wanted to communicate to us by including their stories in His Word. In the Field of Grace does exactly that. Although I'm very familiar with the story, there were things I read that made me really think. And as Ruth and Boaz and Naomi face the trials and testings of their lives and come through them having learned new things about faith in God, I was encouraged and inspired.

I walked away from this read having enjoyed a really good story with compelling characters. And I walked away edified and encouraged in my walk with God and with a new understanding about a favorite Biblical character. I think that is great Biblical fiction.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.




This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
In The Field of Grace
River North; New Edition edition (July 1, 2014)
by
Tessa Afshar


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


TESSA AFSHAR was voted "New Author of the Year" by the Family Fiction sponsored Reader's Choice Award 2011 for her novel Pearl in the Sand. She was born in Iran, and lived there for the first fourteen years of her life. She moved to England where she survived boarding school for girls and fell in love with Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, before moving to the United States permanently. Her conversion to Christianity in her twenties changed the course of her life forever. Tessa holds an MDiv from Yale University where she served as co-chair of the Evangelical Fellowship at the Divinity School. She has spent the last thirteen years in full-time Christian work.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Destitute, grief-stricken, and unwanted by the people of God, Ruth arrives in Israel with nothing to recommend her but Naomi's, love. Her loftiest hope is to provide enough food to save Naomi and herself from starvation.

But God has other plans for her life. While everyone considers Ruth an outcast, she is astounded to find one of the most honored men of Judah showing her favor.  Long since a widower and determined to stay that way, Boaz is irresistibly drawn to the foreign woman with the haunted eyes. He tells himself he is only being kind to his Cousin Naomi's chosen daughter when he goes out of his way to protect her from harm, but his heart knows better.

Based on the biblical account of Ruth, In the Field of Grace is the story of a love that ultimately changes the course of Israel's destiny and the future of the whole world.


If you would like to read the first chapter of In The Field of Grace, go HERE.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review of The NIV Teen Study Bible

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.


I'm thankful that I've had the privilege to grow up in a Christian home and to now be raising my children in a Christian home. Because of this we never seem to have a shortage of Bibles in our home. And it seems as if there are so many, many different kinds of Bibles- from different translations to paraphrases to study Bibles to Bibles for different ages. I've been looking for a Bible for my son to use as he is reading through the Bible this coming year. So I picked up the NIV Teen Study Bible.


Written in the popular New International Version, this Bible contains the following features:
  • "We Believe" unpacks the Apostles' Creed to reveal the biblical foundation of faith
  • Topical indexes help with in-depth Bible study
  • Book introductions provide an overview for each book of the Bible
  • Bible promises highlight Bible verses worth remembering
  • Q and As test Bible knowledge
  • 4 color pages include a presentation page and information about the Apostles' Creed
  • 8-page full-color map section
  • Biblical advice about friends, family, school, and other issues
  • Complete text of the bestselling New International Version (NIV) of the Bible
There is a great guide in the front that explains some of these features and how to use them. The introduction to each book gives an overview of that book and some themes found throughout the book. "Instant Access" sections throughout the Bible give application points. A "Dear Jordan" section offers Biblical advice in an advice column style. A "Study Helps" section at the back of the Bible gives an explanation of Biblical weights and measures, suggested reading plans, an alphabetical index of Bible truths, an alphabetical index of subjects related to teen life, and a section of Bible maps.

The Bible offers much to make it relevant to teens and their daily lives. The advice column, application points, and study helps will all appeal to teens as they read. The NIV translation is a good one for teens because it's known to be an accurate translation but is still simple to read. The variety of Bible reading plans in the back give options so that reading through the Bible becomes doable and not an overwhelming prospect.

I'm looking forward to having my son use this Bible to read through the Bible next year. I think it's relevant and applicable to him and will be a Bible that he can use easily.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this Bible from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review of Firewall by DiAnn Mills

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

The plot of Firewall holds lots of promise: action, suspense, intrigue, and even a little romance. There were things I really enjoyed about it. But there were also some things that made it not quite a good read.

I was definitely drawn in to the story immediately. It was active and exciting right from the start. I was drawn to Taryn Young, our main heroine; and I even liked Grayson Hall- our hero- although he was a little "prickly" at the start. The story moved quickly and so kept me interested and reading.

Unfortunately parts of the story just seemed choppy. There were things that the characters did or said that sometimes didn't seem to make sense in the situation. And some of the scenes were confusing. In the scenes between Grayson and his fellow FBI agent at the beginning, it was difficult for me to keep straight who was who, and they almost seemed to change personalities. And, although the majority of the book is in 3rd person told mainly from Taryn's perspective, there was an out of nowhere change to first person from a different character's perspective at one point.

Although it kept my interest because I definitely wanted to know what happened, the choppy segments and the sometimes confusing elements cause me to not recommend it as a really good read.

I give it 3 stars and a PG-13 for content.


Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I wasn't compensated in any other way, and all of the opinions are entirely my own.


This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Firewall
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (July 1, 2014)
by
DiAnn Mills


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


DiAnn Mills believes her readers should “Expect an Adventure.” She is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed novels. Her books have won many awards through American Christian Fiction Writers, and she is the recipient of the Inspirational Reader’s Choice award for 2005, 2007, and 2010. She was a Christy Award finalist in 2008 and a Christy winner in 2010.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and is the Craftsman Mentor for the Christian Writer’s Guild. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops.

DiAnn and her husband live in Houston, Texas. Visit her website or find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/diannmills


ABOUT THE BOOK

After a whirlwind romance, Taryn Young is preparing to board a plane at Houston International Airport, bound for a dream honeymoon, when a bomb decimates the terminal. Injured but still alive, she awakens to discover her husband is missing and they’re both considered prime suspects in the attack. Further, the FBI is convinced her husband isn’t who he appears to be.

Agent Grayson Hall’s number-one priority is to catch those responsible for the day’s act of terror. All evidence is pointing to Taryn and her new husband. But his instinct tells him her pleas of innocence are genuine. Is her naiveté just for show, or could she truly be another victim of a master scheme, possibly linked to the software she recently developed for her company?

With both their lives and reputations on the line, and the media outcry for justice increasing with each passing minute, Taryn and Grayson have no choice but to trust one another . . . and pray they can uncover the truth before they become two more casualties.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Firewall, go HERE.


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Friday, July 18, 2014

Review of When I Fall In Love by Susan May Warren

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

If you've been around Leah's Good Reads for while, you may know that I'm a huge fan of Susan May Warren's books. Her newest series is all about the Christiansen family. I had the privilege of being on the launch team for the first book in the series- Take a Chance on Me. Then I was able to read the second book- It Had To Be You. I loved both of these books, so I was super excited to receive the third book in the series- When I Fall In Love.


This installment follow Grace Christiansen as she heads to Hawaii to attend a cooking school camp. She's not very adventurous and wouldn't have chosen this for herself. But her family keep pushing her to have adventures and expand her experiences. In Hawaii she meets Max Sharpe, who is actually on the same professional hockey team that her brother Owen played for (and that Jace from Book 2 played for.) It seems that Max and Grace are destined for a relationship, but Max has a dark secret in his family and avoids serious relationships.

Once again, I loved the book. Susan does such a wonderful job drawing the reader in and causing up to be absorbed in the characters and in the story. Her characters are deep and compelling. There's a perfect balance of reading behind the scenes to know the characters' thoughts and emotions and providing enough action to keep the story engaging.

Susan uses such descriptive words that invoke a response as we read. I can read her books and really feel as if I'm in the story, as if I know the characters. I find myself thinking about the characters in between reading, and I wonder how they are and what's going to happen to them. (If you are a book lover, you won't think I'm crazy!)

I love the tender romance. But along with that, I love the way that Susan brings in a spiritual focus without being "preachy."

I can definitely recommend this one, and of course, I'm now eagerly awaiting book 4 in the series!

I give this one 5 stars and a PG rating.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and I was not compensated in any other way.


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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review of How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

How to Teach Your Children ShakespeareI have a confession. Although I'm an avid reader and read many genres, I wasn't all that interested in Shakespeare when I was in school. I think we had an obligatory part of a play to read in high school; but the writing was difficult, and I felt sometimes as if we were over-analyzing everything when I just wanted to read the play. I was familiar with Shakespeare and somewhat knowledgeable about the difference between a comedy and a tragedy. I knew enough to be considered "well read", but I really didn't have much interest in the Bard.


And then I began to learn more about a Charlotte Mason style of education and classical education. Both of these homeschooling methods use readings of Shakespeare. And as I studied these methods and read more of why teaching Shakespeare was really important, my interest was peaked. (By the way, reasons why we should teach Shakespeare should be a whole other blog post, but you can read some about it here.)

We began a gentle introduction to Shakespeare by reading some of the classic books that have Shakespeare's plays as stories. As the kids got older we began taking one play a semester and reading through the actual play with a modern translation handy. And last year we were able to watch a YouTube presentation of A Comedy of Errors.

And so when I saw the book How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig, I was intrigued. I expected a good, solid book with some ideas about introducing Shakespeare to children successfully. I didn't expect much different from the techniques I already knew, but I was hoping to have some ideas to add to my Shakespeare repertoire. Instead, I got much, much more.

How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare isn't necessarily written to homeschool families. Indeed, Ludwig assumes that parents are going to be using these ideas on the weekends and something above and beyond to teach their children. The book is so much more than just suggestions. It is a collection of 25 passages from some of Shakespeare's works (with some additional passages thrown in throughout and extra passages at the end if your child wants to keep going.) Ludwig gives parents a step by step guide to help their kids memorize the passages- and to memorize the passages for themselves. The meanings of words and ideas in the passages are broken down. For it is much easier to memorize when we grasp the meaning behind what we are memorizing.

Ludwig provides additional resources and quotation sheets that he suggests to use in teaching the passages at a website that he gives readers in the book. He groups the passages by play, and the book includes passages from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Henry IV, As You Like It, Henry V, Hamlet, and The Tempest. Throughout there are also chapters that cover various aspects of Shakespeare's work.

I love this book. I was busily devouring myself just so that I could learn more about the plays we had been reading. I had several ah ha! moments when I finally understood a phrase whose meaning had alluded me. I haven't even gotten around to using it with the kids yet, but I do plan to work on teaching them the passages. I've always been a fan of memorization, and I love the idea of familiarizing kids with Shakespeare's work using memorization.

Although it's not written to homeschoolers, I recommend this as a great addition to your homeschool resources- especially if you use classical or Charlotte Mason methods and are introducing your kids to Shakespeare.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Review of Rope of Sand by C.F. Dunn

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

In the last two years I've had the privilege to read and review Mortal Fire and Death Be Not Proud by C.F. Dunn. These are incredible reads that combine suspense, intrigue, romance and a taste of the the supernatural. The first book- Mortal Fire- ended in such a way that I thought I would perish waiting for the sequel. I've just had the opportunity to read the third book in the series- Rope of Sand- and I was NOT disappointed.


Rope_of_Sand_COV[1]I can't reveal too much about the book's plot without ruining the first two for you. But here's the synopsis from the back of the book:
"Emma has discovered Matthew’s secret, but this is only the beginning. In order to prepare for the future, she must also understand the ghosts of his past."
C.F. Dunn's characters are incredibly compelling. Although the stories are in first person with professor Emma D'Eresby as the narrator, readers don't have any difficulty getting to know the other characters because Dunn's writing style helps to reveal them all through Emma's eyes.

The story is also incredibly interesting. The intrigue, the sweet romance, the suspense- all keep the reader entranced throughout the story.

Without giving too much away, I was confused by an abrupt happening in this book. It made things seem a little choppy, appearing out of nowhere. But I was quickly caught up and swept up in the story again. So the book was still a fantastic read.

These books are the kind that make me want to finish so badly because I want to know what happens, but at the same time I am so sad to see the end. I've been missing the characters since I finished the story a couple of days ago. (Other readers will know what I mean and not think me crazy!) And I can't wait for a fourth book to find out how Matthew and Emma's story continues.

I give this one 5 stars and a PG13 for content.


Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I received no other compensation for this review.



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