The Shield of Honor: A Review

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The Shield of Honor
by Gilbert Morris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is book three of the Wakefield Dynasty by Gilbert Morris. The synopsis on the back only actually covers part one of the book (the first hundred pages). The historical fiction covers the voyage of the Pilgrims and the English Civil War between the Parliamentarians and the Royalists. It included historical figures like King Charles, Prince Rupert, John Pym, and Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell takes a lead in this story as his history intertwines with the fiction of the Wakefield family.
The writing continues to be flowery. There is a lot of passive verb usage and sometimes it comes off a little pretentious. The plot was interesting. I like learning about how religion and politics continue to affect and shape the history of England. The fictional part of the story was interesting as well. The story follows both Christopher Wakefield and his son Gavin. Each generation has a different journey to God, which I think is the primary point of these stories. The twists were somewhat predictable, especially if you have read the previous two, but it was still enjoyable.
There is, again, no profanity. There was a lot more sexual innuendo in this book compared to the previous ones, but nothing even remotely graphic. There were some almost-rape scenes or sexual assault scenes, and I wasn’t really that impressed with their outcomes. And I seemed to notice some sexist remarks more in this book. One of the major characters remarks that he was “blubbering like a woman” and that took me completely out of the book for a moment. After that, I started to notice just how much the author focused on how attractive everyone was or wasn’t and how that affected their station in life.
Since the focus for half of the book was on the Civil war, there was some violence, but again, nothing really graphic.
While this book series (since this has been a reread so far) has been slightly disappointing, I still recommend it for anyone who would appreciate a light historical fiction with heavy Christian leanings. I am still determined to finish the series and hope that it continues to become more complex and that I learn more about how England was shaped!

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The Archived: A Review

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The Archived by Victoria Schwab

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my first V.E. Schwab book, and I really enjoyed her writing. This particular story is about a girl named Mackenzie who inherits this job from her grandfather as a Keeper. Apparently, when someone dies, a record of them is created in the Archive in the form of a body that looks like what they did before they died. Sometimes these records, or Histories, “wake up” and get lost in the space between the Archive and the Outer (the real world) called the Narrows. So, it’s up to the Keepers to get them back to the Archive. But something is going wrong and a lot of the Histories are mysteriously waking up. So, it’s up to Mackenzie to figure out what’s going on before it’s too late.
There are a few triggers. Of course, the story is about people dying, and it opens with Mac’s family moving into a renovated hotel to an apartment complex after her brother dies. It also addresses grief and loss.
The plot is fast moving, and the world is built pretty well. There were definite twists and reveals that I enjoyed. I wasn’t ever sure just where the author would take the story. The chapters are short and the writing enabled it to keep a fast pace.
I really enjoyed Mac’s transformation throughout the book. She goes from an isolated loner to learning how to trust herself and others. Also, her grief transformation is good as well.
There wasn’t any profanity, which was a nice change from the other recent YA novels that I’ve read. I’m not sure if this is normal for her, but it was nice to see.
There are violent components, mentions of blood and several fight scenes in the book since the Histories don’t always go back to the Archive willingly.
There is romance in the book, but it’s mostly kissing. There is a scene with touching, but touch is a theme in the book. Keepers can see the thoughts and memories of a person they touch unless it is a History which gives off nothing but silence.
I’ve already picked up the second book in this series, and I’m excited to get back into the world. I highly recommend this book.

Inspired: A Review

51orogmi-rlInspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I chose to read this book because it was recommended by someone I follow on Instagram. I hadn’t read anything from this author (unless I might have read something she wrote online, but I haven’t read anything intentionally). The only things I knew about her was that she was considered controversial in some Christian circles, and she leaned left socially and politically.
The book is her journey being raised in the church and then going through doubt and a faith deconstruction before building it back up and continuing to do so. We definitely had similar upbringings, but I would say that my journey from college forward was different. We have different perspectives and personalities, but I still thoroughly enjoyed this book.
What I loved most was how she put the well-known Bible stories in their historical or literary context, how the first readers or hearers of these words would have received them. How the little nuances that revealed some pretty radical thinking for that time period. It challenges me to look at the Bible through new eyes, through others’ eyes. And to realize that while the Bible is God-inspired, it was written by men reacting to their worlds.
I didn’t always agree with her conclusions. I think, for example, we see miracles differently. But I never felt like she was trying to push her way of thinking or her beliefs onto the reader. I think she was merely sharing her journey.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone searching beyond the surface of a Bible story, or someone who might be struggling with doubt or their own faith deconstruction. I think she sums it up in this sentence, “Our relational God has given us a relational sacred text, one that, should we surrender to it, reminds us that being people of faith isn’t as much about being right as it is about being part of a community in restored and restorative relationship with God.”

Point Blank: A Review

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Point Blank: Poems by Alan King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was given this book by the poet author, Alan King, to review. I think these kinds of poems are timely and needed at this moment in our history. King invites his readers into his life in such a vulnerable and authentic way.
I loved a lot of the references and metaphors. Food is probably my favorite of his imagery. I can almost smell the food cooking in the kitchen – the coconut and okra. His parents are immigrants from Trinidad and Tobago which seems to play heavily in with the food. It made it feel welcoming and homey, nostalgic for family.
Some of my favorite poems were about his family. “The Hostess” about his mom welcoming his dad home with food. “The Listener” about his aunt and how her memories live on in the small reminders around him.
But they also described his perspective on racism and racial profiling. “Striptease” is not what it sounds like it would be like. It’s about his cousin being accused of shoplifting. But the vulnerable wordplay is raw and honest.
Also, he has some comic book references, which I can relate to, as I like the superhero comics. “Hulk” which is the first poem in the book was really good about stereotypes put on black men (and I love the twist at the end).
There are a few poems with profanity, and there is some sexual and violent content in some of the poems as well, but as a whole, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly recommend it to those who want to broaden their perspective and understand what it is like for black males and immigrants and sons of immigrants. Very good work.

Simplicity Parenting: A Review

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Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Full disclosure, I didn’t pick up this book to challenge me. I wanted to read a parenting book that matched closely with the direction I wanted to take. I fully embrace simplifying my life, my environment, and my schedules.
I was challenged in some ways, especially in the Filtering the Adult World chapter. I felt like it swung to the end of the conservative spectrum. While I do believe that we should be mindful and intentional about what our children are consuming and being exposed to, I don’t think removing the television for the first seven years of their life would be a choice I would make.
The author even suggests at the beginning of the book that you may not agree with everything, or that everything may not be a good fit for your family, which I appreciate. It helped me embrace the book as mere suggestions instead of a set of directives. It freed me to pick and choose as it is appropriate for my family.
The main premise of the book was to provide space for a child to learn how to use their creativity and imagination. As constant consumers (especially with smartphones, I’m so guilty of this), we don’t spend a lot of time creating. Removing clutter and competition from the home and our lives can help nurture a child to create and imagine and grow.
I would recommend this book to parents of young children – perhaps 4 to 10, before adolescence but past the toddler stage. A lot of the examples in the book were from this age range when stress from excess or too much is more apparent. Since I have an infant at this point, I am using this book as a future resource, something to keep in mind as my son grows and develops. I appreciated the author explaining the perspective behind the theory and the examples. I especially will use the toy suggestions (and the toys that shouldn’t stick around suggestions) as my son grows up.

The Winds of God: A Review

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The Winds of God by Gilbert Morris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a re-read for me. This is a series from my childhood, and I felt like reading something nostalgic this summer. I was really into historical fiction at the time, particularly from this era, so I was interested to see if I would still enjoy it.

So the last book ended with Henry the eighth and Anne Boleyn, but this next book skips ahead to the reign of Bloody Mary and Queen Elizabeth, particularly the conflict with the Spanish Armada. It continues with Myles’s grandson, Robin for most of the story. He wants to be a sailor, so we are taken through how the boats were built and sailed, as well as how combat evolved on the sea during this time period.

As for the fictional part of the story, Robin’s father was burned at the stake as a heretic by the Catholic ruler, Bloody Mary (this was on the back of the book, so not a spoiler). He grows in hatred for the Catholics and through his journey he learns where that hatred can take him and what it can take away from him.

The writing is slightly better in this book than the first one. It gets really detailed with all of the ships and the political intrigue, which at times could be a little slow. But I enjoyed the plot. The twists were a little predictable, and the ending was a little too perfect, but it was still a good story.

I felt like the transformation of the main character was better done in this book than the first one. It was more of a slow progression and depended on things that were happening. Plus, you could see his flaws more clearly than Myles in the first book. The conversations had a little more depth to them, though it could still be, at times, pretty surface level.

Profanity is not used in these books. There is some slight sexual content, but nothing graphic. And there is a lot of violence since much of the book either talked about executions or combat. There is an abusive relationship also included, but, again, it’s not very graphic.

Again, this was a nice nostalgic re-read for me. The Spanish side of the conflict was fascinating. I didn’t know a lot about that particular part of history. I would recommend this to late middle grade who like historical fiction, particularly boats (it had a lot of ships and naval information).

Sword of Truth: A Review

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Sword of Truth by Gilbert Morris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a re-read for me. This is a series from my childhood, and I felt like reading something nostalgic this summer. I was really into historical fiction at the time, particularly from this era, so I was interested to see if I would still enjoy it.

The teen Christian novel is set in the 1500s during the reign of King Henry VIII. It follows the fictional family, the Wakefields, who are wealthy Protestant landowners. Because of their position, they are able to interact with some notable historical figures, including William Tyndale, King Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragorn, Anne Boleyn, and Thomas Cromwell. It highlights the evolution of the Protestant movement in England, as well as mentioning other key historical events in the world. The author interweaves the Wakefields into these events very well.

There were two criticisms I had about the book. The writing is a little over the top with the present perfect and past perfect verb tenses. “I had written” “He had gone”. It was just enough to pull me out of the story a few times. Also, while the author does include some of the darker sides of that time period, it’s very muted. Infidelity, promiscuity, greed, and dishonesty are all part of the plot but they are alluded to or implied. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I felt like it affected the character transformations, particularly of Myles. For example, without spoiling anything, his relationship with the court in London was downplayed, so when he had a choice to leave it, I couldn’t understand why that choice was hard.

There isn’t any profanity. As I mentioned above, the sexual and violent content is muted or alluded to. I didn’t feel like there were any graphic or detailed scenes at all. There is an almost sexual assault in the first chapter, and another in the middle of the story, but both are not explicit at all. There is mention of beheadings and heads on posts as they entered London, but, again, nothing graphic.

The story, itself, is actually really good despite the above criticisms. I really liked the way the author includes the characters in major events without affecting the history of those events. I didn’t remember everything that happened in the story, so it was nice to re-read and follow the adventure again. I would recommend this book to a younger teen, possibly preteen. This was a fun, nostalgic read for me, and I plan to continue the series!