Thursday, December 31, 2015

Review: "The Shock of Night" by Patrick W. Carr

In The Shock of Night, evil is breaking forth from the Darkwater forest, but only a few are aware of the dangers. In a world where some people are "gifted" with special powers, Willet Dura unexpectedly is passed a rare and forgotten gift -- a gift that allows him to see the thoughts and memories of anyone he touches. As the king's reeve, he sets about using his new gift to investigate a suspicious murder. The Vigil, a group of others with the same gift, warn him of the dangers of the gift, and help him learn to use it. Though they're not certain they can trust him due to an impenetrable vault of memories hidden in his mind, they will need his help if they wish to uncover what is happening to all of the people who visited the Darkwater forest.

The first book of The Darkwater Saga, the novel is trying to accomplish a lot of world building and historical significance, a difficult task even in its more than 450 pages. I had unanswered questions and some plot confusion, but perhaps all will be answered in upcoming books.

Published by a Christian publishing company, I was having a little trouble with the religion of this world. It is clear that many characters have a strong faith in Aer (God), and it even seems as though Aer may be a triune god (two other names are sometimes mentioned), but it really isn't clear. In future books of this series, I would hope to have more details if I'm to believe that this should really be considered Christian fiction instead of secular fiction.

The way author Patrick Carr crafts the "gifts" of the world he has built for this series is unique and was a major highlight of the novel. For Willet's particular gift, we get to see how he learns to store the memories he receives from others as books on a book shelf in his mind. This and other details of the specifics of how the gifts work and how Willet learns to use his is very interesting and sets this book apart.

Willet Dura may be an unreliable narrator, as he is unable to remember parts of his past and incapable of seeing inside the black vault of his mind, but otherwise he is a fun person to read about in first person. He makes friends with the poor and the ignored and uses everyone else's avoidance of these people to his advantage. His skills as an investigator are Sherlock Holmes-like, which I found enjoyable to read. I look forward to seeing him continue on this adventure in future books.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers for this review.  The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Review: "Whatever is Lovely: A Coloring Book for Relection and Worship"

The Whatever is Lovely coloring book contains 45 one-sided illustrations. The pages are large and square, a nice size for full-page drawings. The designs take up the whole page, but there are often large white spaces featuring a Bible verse or a religious quote. The overall effect is that even the most intricate designs aren't too intimidating because it's not just the entire page filled with tiny lines.

On the reverse side of the illustration, there is a short description of the meaning, whether it be a more extended version of the Bible verse, lyrics from a song, or explanation from a blog post. The illustrators did a nice job of representing the meaning or theme in their art work. Here are a few of my favorite texts that appear as part of the coloring page:
  • Serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13)
  • Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. (Corrie Ten Boom)
  • I am with you always (Matthew 28:20)
  • May we be sensitirve to the ways our words land in the hearts of others (Emily P. Freeman)
  • So be truly glad there is wonderful joy ahead (1 Peter 1:6)
  • We can put God first by giving him our first moments of the day (Lysa Terkeurst)
  • He has made everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiatstes 3:11)
There is a wide variety within the images themselves as well, from flowers and leaves, to an elephant, a deer, an eagle, and more. Coloring the pages is not only soothing, but also provides quiet time to reflect on the verse or quote provided. Whatever is Lovely was a brilliant idea for a relection/worship coloring book and this book really saw the idea through to a beautiful outcome.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Review: A Christmas Celebration Sticker & Activity Book

A Christmas Celebration Sticker & Activity Book is a 16-page paperback that includes more than 50 stickers. With the exception of the coloring pages, the other activity pages are brightly colored, which make for a very attractive book.

Activities include using stickers to finish a picture, finding hidden objects, finding hidden shapes and putting stickers over them, coloring, listing their favorite place to travel, spotting differences between two pictures, counting the number of animals or objects in a picture (2-10), tracing a path, solving a code with pictures representing letters, tracing a word, using stickers to complete a "puzzle", and a color by number.

As the book progresses, it tells the sorry of Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem and baby Jesus being born. On a few of the pages there is a full paragraph of description and then a small activity to follow. It would work best with a child already familiar with the Christmas story, reliving it through the activities, rather than hearing it for the first time since there is not too much detail.

My two and half year old niece was a little young to fully appreciate this book, but she did enjoy placing the stickers that matched the corresponding grayed out areas in the book. The recommended ages for this book are 4-8, and I think that the younger side of that range would have no problems with any of the activities.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Book Look for this review.  The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.