The Last Will and Testament of Captain Nemo by Mary Schlegel

captain nemo

About the Book:

From the tragedy of The Little Mermaid, and the mystery of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, comes the truth that ties them both together: the story of the love that saved a life and started a war, of the quest that became an obsession…of the seaman who, for love of a mermaid, became a legend.


My Review:

This short novella was recommended by another author, so I decided to check it out. I quickly found that it has so much to offer! It is a fantastically imagined mash-up of two stories we all think we know: The Little Mermaid and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Schlegel managed to blend the beautifully melodic cadence of the classics from which this story springs with a steampunk-like twist to bring fresh, new life to the old tales.

And though it is a quick read (Around a half an hour, unless you keep getting interrupted like I was. Grrrrrr!!!!),  you get sucked into the story world so quickly that it feels more than complete. It’s a terrific after work wind-down read or bedtime story.

I’m glad I grabbed a copy, and I’d highly recommend you get your own! Great read from an author I look forward to reading again. 🙂

 

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Two Books by Frederick Buechner

 

Today, I present a double-header set of reviews: two inspiring books by Frederick Buechner. Both are quick reads, but pack quite a punch. First up, A Crazy, Holy Grace.

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From the Book:

When pain is real, why is God silent?

Frederick Buechner has grappled with the nature of pain, grief, and grace ever since his father committed suicide when Buechner was a young boy. In this essential collection of essays, including one never before published, Frederick Buechner finds that the God who might seem so silent is ever near. He writes about what it means to be a steward of our pain and about this grace from God that seems arbitrary and yet draws us to his care. And he tells about the magic of memory and how it can heal old wounds with memories of past goodness and graces from God.

Buechner’s best writings on pain and loss, covering such topics as the power of secrets, loss of a loved one, letting go, and resurrection from the ruins, reveal that pain and sorrow can be a treasure—an amazing grace.

Buechner says that loss will come to all of us, but he writes that we are not alone. Crazy and unreal as it may sometimes seem, God’s holy, healing grace is always present and available if we are quiet enough to receive it.


My Review:

A Crazy, Holy Grace is a book I normally probably would not have picked up. I’m a fiction reader—that’s where I find my book joy. I mean, it’s a collection of essays. I used to be an English teacher. I’ve read more than my share of essays, and I have a serious dislike of them! Yet, I was inexplicably drawn to this book. And I must admit, it touched my heart.

The section where Buechner talks about being a steward of your pain–of sharing your pain with others, in order to help them get through their pain–struck me, how we should not talk about our pain, but talk out of it. What a simple, but profound idea—an idea that can completely change our relationships. An idea I intend to put into practice.

And there is so much more in this small volume! Definitely worth the read.



And now, The Remarkable Ordinary…

buechner 1From the Book:

You may not be able to see it—your life may seem boringly predictable and your work insignificant, until you look at your life as Frederick Buechner does.

Based on a series of mostly unpublished lectures, Frederick Buechner reveals how to stop, look, and listen to your life. He reflects on how both art and faith teach us to pay attention to the remarkableness right in front of us, to watch for the greatness in the ordinary, to use our imaginations to see the greatness in others, and to love them truly and well.

As you learn to listen to your life and what God is doing in it, you will uncover the plot of your life’s story and the sacred opportunity to connect with the divine in each moment.

Pay attention, says Buechner. Listen to the call of a bird or the rush of the wind, to the people who flow in and out of your life. The ordinary points to the extraordinary God who created and loves all of creation, including you. Pay attention to these things as if your life depends upon it. Because, of course, it does.


My Review:

This book really hit me in the feels. I have flagged so many passages, the book won’t even stay closed anymore. His work is infinitely quotable. Buechner’s writing is easy-to-read, yet so profound and poignant that you can’t help but tear up at the beauty and the simplicity of what he is so eloquently writing about.

Buechner really does make you think about the little, seemingly insignificant (or the huge, ground-shaking) moments of your life and how life-altering or life-affirming each can be. But most importantly, how each moment can draw you closer to God, if you will only open your eyes to His leading. Beautiful!

Both The Remarkable Ordinary and A Crazy, Holy Grace speak of some of the most pivotal moments in Buechner’s life. But each book looks at them through different lenses, showing how those moments can affect us in more than one way, depending on where we are in our own lives and in our own walks with God.

A good book to me is one that can change you, change the way you see the world around you. And that is exactly what these books by Frederick Buechner have done. I’d highly recommend you read them both, with a box of tissues and a highlighter or some page flags in hand. 🙂 I can’t wait to share my copies with friends!

Many thanks to Handlebar Media for the copies of these books for review purposes. I was not required to give positive reviews. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig

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From the book:

When you stare into the abyss, it also stares into you.

The bullet that rips into Cole “Tox” Russell was never meant to kill. It was meant to send a message. Only one man is skilled enough to have taken the shot, a rogue Special Forces operator who vanished months ago.

Alec King is perhaps the only person as skilled as Tox, and he’s out for justice. Furious with orders that got his men killed, he intends to make those responsible pay. And he insists Tox join him, believing they are the same breed of soldier.

Afraid his old friend could be right, Tox battles a growing darkness within himself as he and his team are forced into another deadly encounter with antiquity. It appears Alec is harnessing the power of a mysterious artifact, a crown that history has linked to some of the worst slaughters in humanity. Racing to stop Alec before his vengeance is unleashed, Tox must fight the monster without becoming one.


My Review:

Ronie Kendig has done it again—written a book I couldn’t put down! I really enjoyed reading the prequel novella to this series, The Warrior’s Seal (which is free on Kindle, if you’d like to get to know Tox and his crew), and I was impressed with the first Tox Files novel, Conspiracy of Silence (you can check out my review here). But Crown of Souls surpassed them in my eyes.

Cole “Tox” Russell has deepened even more as a character, torn between love and justice. And the plot was full of so many twists, turns, and whaaaats??, that I couldn’t help staying up way past my bedtime to keep turning the pages. And did I regret it the next morning? Absolutely not! The read was definitely worth the bags under my eyes!

With shades of some of my favorite suspense authors, like Steve Berry and David Baldacci, Kendig has crafted a series that I want to keep reading (and re-reading!). Here’s hoping a new installment of the Tox Files comes soon!

Many thanks to Bethany House for the copy of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women by Lindsay A. Franklin

adored

From the book:

In an ever-changing world, we can be certain of one thing: we are beloved by God. Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women tackles tough topics girls face, from bullying and social media to friendships and dating, all the while showing readers how infinitely precious they are in God’s sight.

Each day features an easy-to-read, relevant devotion paired with a scripture verse and journaling space to help readers reflect on the day’s message. With honest, poignant, and sometimes humorous text, every page will speak to the pressures and changes girls face, giving them real-world applications to find God in their hearts and in their lives. Perfect for everyday use, Adored will resonate with girls searching for truth and guidance. Gift givers will love this highly designed book featuring a beautiful, foiled cover, and two-color interior pages.


My Review:

What an “adored-able” devotional! Lindsay A. Franklin has designed a beautiful collection of thought-provoking and heart-touching reflections on God’s Word. From love to justice, from beauty to pain, these devotions cover just about every topic a young woman would be concerned about. And they are written in an easy-to-read, conversational tone that will speak easily to the hearts of teenaged girls.

If you know a young woman who longs to draw closer to God and to understand His Word more deeply, I’d highly recommend you get her a copy of Adored.

You can learn more and even get a free sample! Just hop on over to the Zondervan website.

I received a copy of this devotional from Handlebar Media in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

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The House on Foster Hill by Jamie Jo Wright

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From the book:

Kaine Prescott is no stranger to death. When her husband died two years ago, her pleas for further investigation into his suspicious death fell on deaf ears. In desperate need of a fresh start, Kaine purchases an old house sight unseen in her grandfather’s Wisconsin hometown. But one look at the eerie, abandoned house immediately leaves her questioning her rash decision. And when the house’s dark history comes back with a vengeance, Kaine is forced to face the terrifying realization she has nowhere left to hide.

A century earlier, the house on Foster Hill holds nothing but painful memories for Ivy Thorpe. When an unidentified woman is found dead on the property, Ivy is compelled to discover her identity. Ivy’s search leads her into dangerous waters and, even as she works together with a man from her past, can she unravel the mystery before any other lives–including her own–are lost?


My Review:

It’s a bit hard to believe that this multi-layered, intricately crafted tale is Jamie Jo Wright’s debut novel. She did a marvelous job of building tension and creating that perfectly eerie atmosphere that a good mystery needs. I found my eyes flitting across the page (against my will!) to see what was coming up—that, to me, is a great sign of a well-written mystery.

And it’s almost like you get two complete novels in one, because of the historical story running alongside and intertwining with Kaine’s story. Bonus! The House on Foster Hill is a terrific read! I’d recommend you pre-order it or grab your copy as soon as it is released on December 5, 2017.

Many thanks to Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for the advanced digital copy of this novel. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

The Beast of Talesend by Kyle Robert Shultz

beast of talesend

From the cover:

Private eye Nick Beasley lives in a world where fairy tales ended a long time ago – where zeppelins now soar the skies instead of dragons, and where the first automobiles have taken the place of flying carpets. He’s made a name for himself across the Afterlands by debunking fake magicians and exposing fraudulent monsters. This is the modern age, after all. Magic and monsters are long gone.

At least, that’s what Nick believes. Until he gets magically transformed into a monster, that is.

The only person who may be able to help Nick is Lady Cordelia Beaumont, one of the last enchantresses in the Afterlands. But in order for her to cure him, they’ll have to retrieve a powerful artifact from a ruthless crime lord – who is also Cordelia’s father.

The fate of the Afterlands lies in the hands of a runaway enchantress and a monstrous ex-detective. What could possibly go wrong?

Perfect for fans of Doctor Who, Once Upon A Time, or The Dresden Files, the Beaumont and Beasley series features high adventure in a world where fairy tales are history.


My review:

So, I looked at the cover of this book many times as I passed by Kyle’s table in the Realm Makers bookstore a few weeks ago, and I must admit, I wasn’t sure it was my type of book based on the cover alone. But you know the old cliché…I learned my lesson about not judging by the cover! This was an absolutely charming, wonderfully interesting, refreshingly cheeky mash-up of fairy tale and noir detective novel.

As I read it, I thought it was almost like Beauty and the Beast meets Sam Spade—I even heard Nick Beasley speaking in Bogart-style voice in my head 🙂 Shultz took the classic detective novel, mixed it with a twisted fairy tale, and produced something that was more fun than either would be on its own.

This book was such an enjoyable diversion for me 🙂 I’m so glad that I listened to other reader friends who recommended Kyle’s books—so I’m passing the favor along! Go out and grab your own copy of The Beast of Talesend today.

Perfectly Abnormal by Chris Morris

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From the cover:

Why is God silent in my illness?

Living with a chronic illness is tough enough on its own, but it can become an overwhelming burden when we believe widespread myths about chronic illness. Without a strategy to overcome these lies, we can descend into a listless existence, even as people of faith.

In Perfectly Abnormal, Chris Morris tears down the erroneous and misinformed beliefs surrounding chronic illness. From the unique standpoint of being both a parent of a special needs daughter and having a seizure disorder himself, Chris guides readers through difficult terrain as he shreds the eight most common myths the chronic illness community faces. Then he begins the conversation of developing a better theology of illness, with the intent of bringing his readers to a place of intentional excellence in spite of their conditions.


My review:

This book came into my life at the moment I needed it most: just as my mom, for whom I am primary caregiver, was preparing for major back surgery for another collapsed disc, and while she began her recovery (which ended up being the most traumatic part of the continuing ordeal). Being able to turn to Perfectly Abnormal and hear Chris’s words of encouragement and empathy helped me so much at this desperately stressful time of my life.

Chris Morris knows what he’s talking about–he’s both a caregiver and a person who lives with chronic illness. His writing shows his vast knowledge of the Special Needs/Chronic Illness community and his true empathy for those who deal with SN/CI every day. His heart and his passion for the SN/CI community shine through this book.

If you are a caregiver for or a family member/friend of anyone who lives with a chronic illness or has special needs, you need to read this book. It is filled with both spiritually enriching and practically sound advice. And this isn’t an academic treatise or a self-help book full of psychobabble and big words. This book is like a friend coming alongside you, putting his arm around your shoulder, and saying, “Let me share my experiences to help ease the burden of yours.”

It is wonderful, and I highly recommend it to you and anyone you know who could benefit from its blessings.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the author for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂


Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“The greatest paradigm shift we can help others make so they can better help and support us is that we are influenced by—but not defined by—our illnesses.”

“…we can’t always get our illnesses under control because they were never under our control in the first place.”

“God walks us through moments in our life to teach us how to minister to others. Your pain isn’t just about you; it’s about others, too, and how to bring them hope in the midst of their pain.”

And, probably my favorite: “Not being in control of our own bodies or being able to help our loved ones is emotionally debilitating. And yet the illness doesn’t own our attitudes; we do.”