Book Review–An Elfy on the Loose by Barb Caffrey

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An Elfy on the LooseAn Elfy on the Loose by Barb Caffrey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Elfy on the Loose is the first half of a duology by Barb Caffrey, so the story is not complete in this volume.

It is about an excitable young Elfy (a magical race) man being sent to, and abandoned on Earth. He needs to find a way out of the mess he finds himself in, as well as rescuing his mentor, and a young human woman, trying not to get any further into trouble. Along the way, he learns that nearly everything he has learned about the human world, his own world, and even himself, is a lie.

The book is alternately exciting, scary, and funny, with mysteries to be solved, and great evils to be faced and overcome.

We meet quite a few characters in this book, good and evil, both human and Elfy, as well as a few ghosts, not counting the house almost seems to have a personality of its own. Two of them, possibly. As well as a couple of friendly backpacks.

All in all, a satisfying read, and I’m waiting for the second half of the story to come out.

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Nocturnal Interlude, by Amanda S. Green. Book Review

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Nocturnal Interlude (Nocturnal Lives, #3)Nocturnal Interlude by Amanda S. Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nocturnal Interlude is the third book in the Nocturnal Lives series.

I have not read the first two books in the series. However, I did not find it difficult to follow the plot in this at all, though no doubt, certain allusions would make more sense if I had read the first two books.

I really enjoyed reading this book, which is a combination of police drama and urban fantasy. The book centers on a family of shifters, people who can change from human form to that of an animal, and the community in which they live, as well as the greater community of shifters with which they interact.

There is excitement and drama and on nearly every page. I found it exciting to read through, though she did give us room to breathe frequently. By the end of the book everything is resolved nicely, the sheep though she did leave some hooks that could go for future books relating to the community at large and the leaders of it.

Note: there is offscreen torture. We don’t see this, but we do see people planning for it, as well as having to deal with the results.

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Review: The Secret Adversary

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The Secret Adversary
The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recently re-read this book (free on Gutenberg). “The Secret Adversary” is Agatha Christie’s first ‘Tommy and Tuppence’ book. Although I’ve never liked Tommy and Tuppence as well as I’ve like Hercules Poirot or Miss Marple, I’ve got to admit that Christie like usual puts out an excellent tale of international intrigue, mystery, and of course, being Christie, romance.

Tommy and Tuppence spend the book looking for the ubiquitous Mr. Brown, who has one of those faces that everyone forgets, and who is leading an international conspiracy to gain control of the world. They get into this by starting on an adventure to find out who the mysterious Jane Finn is. They happened to overhear her name by accident, and every time they mention it, something odd, or threatening, happens.

I enjoyed re-reading this book, like most of the Christie’s I read.

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Review: The End of Your Life Book Club

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The End of Your Life Book Club
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First of all, I enjoyed the book, for the most part. I don’t think it fully lived up to the potential of the first few paragraphs, but it was interesting, and kept me reading.
But there were several things in it that made me go “Huh?” I really don’t think that the author really understood books as well as he thought he did.

The first thing was minor. The author mentioned in passing the book “Johnny Tremain”, by Esther Forbes, saying that the main character in it was apprenticed to Paul Revere, and burnt his hand badly in an accident. That threw me out of the book, saying, “No, he wasn’t.” My husband pointed out that not only was he not apprenticed to Paul Revere, it also wasn’t entirely an accident that he burnt his hand.

Later on, the mother mentioned that she didn’t know anyone who liked both Tolkien’s and C.S. Lewis’s writings, another thing that made me go “Huh?” Everyone I know who enjoys reading Tolkien, also enjoys C.S. Lewis, though the reverse isn’t necessarily true. And a few other lines in there about both writers, made me think he didn’t really understand either.

The last third or so of the book, where it kept praising Obama, was also annoying. It didn’t seem to occur to the author that at least half of his potential audience would have voted against him, and maybe it might be a good idea to moderate his tone at least a little. (Or maybe it already was moderated, which is a scary thought.)

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Book Review: Storybound and Story’s End by Marissa Burt

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Storybound (Storybound #1)Storybound by Marissa Burt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Storybound was one of the Barnes & Noble Free Friday’s books, and I enjoyed the book so much I paid for the second volume in the series, Story’s End. The books seem to be closely bound together plot-wise, which makes me wonder if Marissa Burt originally wrote it as one book, and Harper Collins divided it into two books because of the length. I’ve heard of such things happening before. Also, the Nook version tends to not give adequate notice when switching scenes. I’m assuming the print version does better.

All is not right in the Land of Story. Una Fairchild is Written In from the Land of Readers (presumably, but not necessarily, our world), and must work together with various Characters she meets to help overcome the Talemasters, and bring back the Muses and the King of Story.

One thing I really liked about the books were that they seemed crammed full of Christian imagery, especially the second book, once we meet and recognize the King. The imagery is subtle enough that it’s entirely possible the author didn’t even realize that she was putting it in, But portions of the final battle between the King and the Enemy reminded me strongly of images in Revelation 19, where Christ battles the Beast and the False Prophet. And portions of it doesn’t. Like I said, it’s subtle, and other people might not see it.

I do not know if Ms. Burt intends any more books in this universe, but I believe that this story concludes with Story’s End. There are other threads that could still be concluded, such as, will Una return to our world? Should she? but the main Good vs. Evil, save the universe, plotline has finished.

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Book Review: The Forgotten Garden, Kate Morton

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The Forgotten GardenThe Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the few books that I’ve read for our Avondale Book Club that I can say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, without reservation.

It is written in three time frames, through the eyes of three women (Eliza, Nell, and Cassandra), with occasional glimpses from other people. I quickly adapted to the frequently shifting time frames, being sure to note at each one where and when the story was taking place. Other people said that they found it distracting, so YMMV.

The book is a mystery of sorts, though not a murder mystery, which is usually what one thinks of when hearing the term. Rather, it is a mystery of who Nell’s folks were, who left her on the ship going from England to Australia, and why they never came back for her.

Each question is answered by the end, following a story of false leads, red herrings, and other plot points you expect in a mystery, to a very satisfying conclusion.

I had some problem with Nell, reacting on being told at age 21 that she was adopted, basically trying to drop out of life, and distancing herself away from her family, not for a few weeks or months, but apparently for years. I was able to justify it to myself by assuming she inherited the family trait of brooding and making everything worse by it (seen in the 1915 timeline done by Creepy Uncle Linus, Aunt Adelaide, Rose, and even Eliza). Other people complained about Nell then breaking off with her wonderful fiance, and going off and marrying a jerk, but I must have missed that part. What little I remember seeing of her husband (and very little it was, too), was that he moved the family from Australia to America, that he really loved his daughter, and that he died young, so Nell and her daughter moved back to Australia. Not enough for me to make a real judgement in the matter.

Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. If you enjoy mysteries, don’t let the size of the book scare you off, it reads quickly.

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Book Review — Fighting Angel, Portrait of a Soul, by Pearl S. Buck

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The Fighting AngelThe Fighting Angel by Pearl S. Buck

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found Fighting Angel to be a profoundly touching and deeply moving book by Pearl S. Buck, about her father. From other reviews on GoodReads, I see that she also wrote one about her mother, called The Exile. I’m going to have to track that one down, and read it as well.

Part biography, part character sketch, this book covers the life of her father, Andrew, as he grew up, left his family farm, and came to China as a missionary. He spent the rest of his life in China, except for a few short furloughs home, and made it through several revolutions with a child-like serenity.

As I was reading, I kept wondering if Andrew had what would today be labeled as “Asperger’s Syndrome”. Obviously, if he were, he was very high functioning, and would have been seen as merely eccentric. Such things, as the fact that the notion of marrying would probably never would have even entered his head, if his mother hadn’t said she’d only bless him going out as a missionary unless he did.

Or another story, which seemed to be typical of how he viewed things. Someone had donated a great deal of money, in remembrance of his wife, for Andrew’s mission to build a chapel. But Andrew didn’t need a chapel at that point, he needed a boat. So he bought one, never considering whether the person who donated the money would want his wife memorialized that way or not.

Over all, he had much more success dealing with the Chinese people than he did with his fellow missionaries, though how many of the converts he made were true, deep conversions is left doubtful.

I was left with the impression that Pearl, though she loved and respected her father, didn’t really like him too much.

(One final note: I got this book through Google Books via B&N. It was an OCRed copy, apparently without being edited after it was scanned. I showed my husband one short paragraph which had the word “tell” come out as “teU”, “Carie” (Pearl’s mother’s name) as “Cane”, and at least two more scanning errors. This continued through the whole book. I don’t know if Gutenburg has this book yet or not, but I’d suggest trying to get it there before looking at Google Books.)

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Book Review — The Prophet

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The ProphetThe Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

For a book of platitudes and proverbs, it wasn’t bad. I’d prefer to read Chesterton, Poor Richard, or even the Book of Proverbs, which all deliver their platitudes with more humor, but it wasn’t bad.

I also didn’t understand the use of the scifi/fantasy frame story. I don’t think it needed it, and it set me up for actually expecting some plot when I started reading it.

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Book Review: Wolf Time, by Lars Walker.

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Since Lars was kind enough to let me have a copy of his book “Troll Valley” to review last spring {{put in links to both}}, I thought I probably should read the rest of his books. And, some months later, I finally have.

Like much of today’s popular fiction, Wolf Time takes place in a dystopian world, and like many of them, the dystopia passes itself off internally as being just two steps short of a utopia. But unlike many of them, it isn’t a post-apocalyptic dystopia (it might be a pre-apocalyptic dystopia, but that’s a different discussion), so many of the characters actually remember better times. Instead it’s a dystopia based on political correctness gone mad, and as such I find it far scarier than other dystopian literature I’ve read recently.

The story takes place in a small mid-western Christian college, shortly after a federal bill passed that defined legitimate religions, and only allowed full freedom of speech to them. There is also a small group of terrorists convinced they’re doing the Lord’s work, a small cult group in a farm on the edge of town, and a scary, but usually genteel, old man who may or may not be the incarnation of Odin. And miracles happening on both sides. Altogether a very weird, but interesting book. Fortunately, I’ve always liked weird.

I’d say my favorite part of the book though, is toward the end, when one of the characters gets a vision of the two rather stern founders of the college. It seems that in heaven, they were given the task of learning vaudeville, since it appears that God thought that one of the main things lacking in their lives was a sense of frivolity.

Book Review — Troll Valley

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Troll ValleyTroll Valley by Lars Walker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve never done a book review before, so I’m still figuring out how to do it. First of all, I’ll say that I really enjoyed reading “Troll Valley”. I’d call it a Christian/American Historical Fiction (turn of the 20th century)/Fantasy book, with a light dusting of horror from time to time (mostly off-screen).

When I started the book, the fact that it opened with a character waking up in a strange room with no idea where he was, or how he got there, I almost burst out laughing. That set-up is almost a cliché for a bad slush entry. Fortunately, though, it didn’t stop me from reading it.

I enjoyed the fact that the book was unabashedly Christian, though not always in favor of the Church, especially as shown in the narrator’s mother.

Another thing that I really enjoyed about the book was the glimpses of magic seen throughout it. The narrator will be talking about some perfectly ordinary happening of the early 20th century, and then suddenly and matter-of-factly go into a vision or some other magical event. He does no magic, but has magic in his blood, which profoundly effects him and his family, even four generations later.

Portions of the book revolve around the narrator’s church experience, which starts off well, and gradually deteriorates. But at the climax of the book, some of the characters stop a great evil from being done by quoting Scripture. That was a high point of the story to me.

The low point was the section shortly before that, where we watch the first person narrator gradually turning himself into a world-class jerk, and seeing all his justifications for it.

The main story ends on a sustained note of pure, undeserved grace. I enjoyed it, but it reminded me, that to the world, and on the outside, moments of grace can sometimes be confused with stupidity. It also made me wonder how Bathsheba felt.

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