Fiction Review: Jerry B. Jenkins and Chris Fabry’s “The Book of the King”

A recommendation review!

The primary genre I read for pleasure is allegory, particularly fantasy-based. So upon learning of this series, I was interested to see what kind of introduction it created for the younger reader into the genre. 

The Book of the King is the first title in The Wormling Series. Five titles in total, each at just about 300 pages each, this is a good step for younger readers transitioning to longer series. This would be a good lead-in to other young adult series that I fully recommend, such as those by Donita K. Paul or Patrick Carr.

I absolutely love the writing style that Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Fabry use in The Book of the King. The language and cadence are perfectly balanced, and really draws you in. As this is targeted at a younger audience, they do an incredible job of “show, don’t tell” description, without going overboard and getting long-winded. They speak TO the intended audience, not down AT them.

At only 300 pages, the story moves at a brisk pace, but there were several times it felt like the reader was almost being rushed along past the story, instead of getting to participate in it. There were times it was a little blurry as to what was happening in the action scenes, or when there is dialogue between several characters at once. Perhaps, if I were to go back and re-read the work at an intentionally measured pace, it would clear a bit. Also, this is the first book, and usually it takes at least one book for any series to get its footing.

Wait, it ended there?! But we were just getting started on the quest!

The ending comes up rather abruptly, at least to an older reader. Looking at it through the lens of a younger reader, we have just gotten through one epic battle, have geared up for the next part of the journey, and set our foot on the path to it. It is a natural break, and a good hook for them to want the next book.

An interesting read.  I’ll have to look into the rest of the series.

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Non-Fiction Review: John Antal’s “7 Leadership Lessons of the American Revolution”

“Contented men do not lead rebellions.”

Mr. Antal has the gift of the pithy quote. This whole work was filled with little gems, perfect for storing and bringing out in conversation.

The strength of Mr. Antal’s personal quotes are matched only by his great use of quotes by historical and venerated figures. You can feel the depth of his research, the solid foundation upon which he has built his facts and thesis.

Each chapter is focused on a key attribute of leadership, broken into smaller components that are a part of that attribute. These are shown to us through the lens of a specific figure in the American Revolution, with a story-telling style that I enjoyed. The way the history is wrapped into the present on each point is very well done, and made for a very meaty read.

I have a great love of history, fostered by excellent teachers. I love that no matter how many times you learn about a subject, there is always more to know. For example, I did not know previously that Henry Knox was a bookseller, or that Benjamin Franklin was 70 years old when he helped edit the Declaration of Independence.

The greatest strength of the book is that the author understands what makes people tick.

“You cannot lead effectively unless your organization understands your vision and acts upon it.”

“…a leader must make his team members feel the cause as much as understand it”

These quotes both exemplify much of the author’s thesis about the American Revolution, as well as his writing style. There is a good balance between the historical focus, and the leadership focus, neither overwhelming the other. I recommend this work as a teaching tool for those first learning about the Revolution, to round out what they are learning and give them more to chew on.

I received a review copy of this work from the publisher through NetGalley.

 

Non-Fiction Review: Iain M. Duguid’s “Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace”

That moment when everything “clicks”. You know it. That “ohhhh!” instant.

Reading Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace was one long, continual moment of new understanding. It is the latest release in the series The Gospel According to the Old Testament, which I am now eager to get my hands on in its entirety!

Seriously, this work is amazing. I almost don’t even know where to start in my hearty recommendation!

Often, while studying the Bible, we focus on the “big” moments, the triumphs of faith and the faithful. I’ve only ever had a handful of studies that got down into the nitty-gritty of the patriarchs’ life, and looked at the rough edges as well as the refined product. But this is the first time I’ve read a study that emphasized those rough edges as shouting the Gospel from the Old Testament. This is a work that reminds us that while we should strive to live worthy of our final heavenly reward, Christ is here, along the daily path with us, as well.

But we so easily seemingly forget that. In our headlong rush through life, we are often guilty of not waiting on God to do what he has promised, or trusting we will end up where he is leading. Many times we find ourselves trying to give God a “little assistance.” Human nature is so focused on our aspirations, so used to certain “norms” that God has to step in and shake us up, so we will get outside of our self-imposed boxes, and see the full extent of his plan.

How come we desire the blessing more than we desire God himself?

Praise the Lord for Grace.

Through the lives of Isaac and Jacob, this book reminds us over and over of the powerful God we serve, and how his plans and blessings for us are beyond the short-term things we are so often running to. He shakes up our “normal” and proves over and over that his favor is not measured by man’s yardstick, his Grace cannot be earned.

This is a reminder I needed, and will continue to need. And re-reading this book is a great place to start! The extra questions and readings at the end of each chapter are great study and small group material.

I really like this hard-hitting and transformative book. I know you will as well!

I received a review copy of this work from the publisher through NetGalley.

Fiction Review: “Flambé in Armagnac” – Le French Book

I’ve just finished reading the next Winemaker Detective book, Flambé in Armagnac, being released this summer! Previous reviews will tell you of my great affinity for this series, and I have no hesitation in saying each one is better and better.

The opening was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time – taking an everyday item or occurrence, in this case, buying a yearly calendar, and spinning it to draw the reader in with a great visual hook. I re-read it about three times for the sheer pleasure of a cool bit of writing, those little moments in books that stick with you even when the other quotes have faded.

At this point in the series we *know* there’s going to be a mystery or some puzzle to solve, so the authors turn our expectation around on itself by introducing an insurance claim for Cooker to investigate. To still keep us on our toes, however, they add a few layers to what is going on, several mysteries at once to solve. It makes for a busy, but exciting read.

Flambé in Armagnac is interesting in that the resolution and explanation comes straight from the culprit’s mouth, unlike the previous works where we are looking back and someone else is explaining it. In this case, it was the best way to bring conclusion to everything that had happened, and also show the authors’ strengths in varying their style, even within the same series.

As always, food, wine, and even more food, but this time the reader isn’t just treated to the sights, smells and tastes in consumption, but also while preparing the dishes! I liked the expansion of this central part of these works – it made it feel more accessible to me, as a reader without much prior knowledge of the French plate.

Beyond all the mysteries and food, there was another, slightly veiled theme that stays with the reader, to muse upon once the rush of solving the puzzle passes. That being, how far-reaching and impactful the actions of one family, even one person, can be on those around them. This is the first time where not only the great cuisine but also the mystery can be pulled out and looked at in the context of the reader’s own life and experiences.

We get to know more about Virgile, and hear from his point of view a great deal. This was one of the best aspects of this book to me, as we finally start to really understand him not just as apprentice, but assistant, and heir-apparent to Cooker’s legacy. Seeing from his view also gave us more moments of intentional humor and joking, which made this book both a fun, and at times, funny read.

I cannot wait for you to get your own copy!

I received a review copy of this work from the publisher through NetGalley.

Non-Fiction Review: Jim Defede’s “The Day the World Came to Town”

It’s been a while since I have sat down and read a book cover to cover, and I enjoyed this one immensely! The story-telling style, the pacing, and the story itself made for an amazing work that I am definitely adding to my personal library!

I was in 8th grade science class when I learned something had happened to the twin towers. And then….nothing. For the next four years of secondary education, I didn’t learn about it in school, or really even talk about it in any class. This book taught me several things about that day that even up until this point, I personally didn’t know – starting with the fact that ALL of United States’s airspace was shut down.

And that’s where the work starts, with what happened to all the other planes up in the air, heading to American airports. The story is fascinating and will definitely inspire you to get out and help your neighbor!

I learned the facts of 9/11 in the many works I’ve read since then, and I still wonder about never learning about it from my schooling. Was it because it was still so soon, so raw? Or because we were old enough to understand what had happened and had “experienced” it, our educators felt we didn’t need it added to our history lessons? I might go and ask my parents and grandparents about how long it took the JFK assassination or Pearl Harbor to show up while they were in school. Perhaps my experience is unique. All I know is I wish it hadn’t taken me 13 years to find this book! (published in 2002)

I can’t say enough good about this work. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!