Monday, April 24, 2017


Befriend by Scott Sauls is a 200-page nonfiction book exploring different aspects of friendship in the modern world. Each chapter focuses on befriending various groups, such as "wrecked and restless," "the ones you can't control" and  "bullies and perpetrators." The chapters each conclude with a summary, Scripture references, and questions to ponder.
While I admire the author's purpose, I found myself disappointed in the practice. While the book defends the institution of friendship and supports connections across a wide spectrum of people, it serves as more of an overview and defense than a guide.  For example, chapter 11, "Befriend the Children" is only five pages long. It has an introduction, a section headed 'shifting our priorities,' a section headed 'showing ourselves, showing the Father,' and the summary. Other chapters are likewise brief. That does help reluctant readers by condensing the information, but it doesn't address deeper issues. I was hoping for more information about building and repairing friendships, not just 'oh, you should have some.'
I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House in exchange for an honest review.

The time Mom met Hitler, Frost came to Dinner, and I heard the greatest story ever told: a memoir

The time Mom met Hitler, Frost came to dinner, and I heard the greatest story ever told: a memoir by Dikkon Eberhart, is a 300-page memoir telling the story of Dikkon Eberhart. His father, Richard Eberhart, was a Pultizer Prize-winning poet, who also was the United States Poet Laureate from 1959-1961. Growing up, Dikkon frequently met literary and society icons around the dinner table. But being surrounded by these icons left him uncertain how to lead his own life.

I requested this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review, but I really wasn't quite sure what I was requesting at the time: short stories? Historical fiction? Memoir isn't a genre I read much anyway, so I had no preconceived notions when I read it.

The author has a clean, professional style and keeps the pace moving well, with plenty of interesting incidents and a good sense of what details to include in a story and which ones to leave out.  As an English major, I recognized most of the people mentioned in the story, but none of them really jumped out at me.

If you like memoir or the late 20th century, this is a good book, but I have no plans to reread.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Call the Midwife and plots

There are  (at least) two ways to consider any story: on the emotional level or on the structural level. At any given time, I'm probably analyzing both.  And with last night's episode of Call the Midwife, I set out to determine just how many heartbreaking storylines they can fit in 1 hour. Starting with the overall season arc, it goes as follow (spoilers):
The primary arc of Sister Ursula taking over Nonnatus was brought to a conclusion after the near-fatal accident that befell Lucy and Lin. I am always impressed by how the show develops one-episode characters, including backstory and the ongoing effects of said backstory. The backstory for Lucy's mother-in-law was well-done and realistically portrayed. Likewise, Sister Ursula's history explained her actions, but didn't excuse that. Also, I loved Nurse Crane's interaction with Sister Ursula, explaining Barbara's actions and the results....just, Nurse Crane seems to have taken over Sister Evangeline's role as resident hardliner.
The Turner's storyline about the mother and baby home was also well done, historical but relevant for many people. The ever-present trend of cutting local services can be seen in rural Midwest clinics as well as 1960s London.
Then you get the smaller, individual storylines: Trixie's return, Sister Monica Joan and the television, and Sheila's pregnancy. The later will continue into the next episode, from what I've seen online, but it's nice to have some lighter moments too.  The moment when the man carries out the bench and pulls back the blinds for Sister Monica Joan....hilarious and heartwarming at the same time.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Hero is a Four Letter Word by J.M. Frey

 This collection of three short stories is entertaining and funny. One tells of the return of King Arthur, one focuses on a washed-out supervillain confronting his past, and the other... well, I don't want to spoil the twist, so I'll just say it's not all it appears to be.
Sometimes, it's easy to become over-focused on thrilling sagas and tense epics and forget that fantasy can be fun. These stories are quick, light-hearted reads for those times you just need something different.
I received a free ebook from Story Cartel.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

We're Not Invincible: AOS 4.15

I know I'm not real. I'm all phantom limbs. But that doesn't make the pain less real. You don't have to feel pain. You say you don't anymore. But that pain, that regret... that's what made you a person ... a person I love.
--LMD May

Of all the weeks to miss an episode, it would have been last week.  I mean, I picked up online that some of the agents had been replaced with LMDS, but I had no clue which ones or how many or.... agh!
And the emotional heartache--AGH! Those terrifying, tense moments when Fitzsimmons suspect each other of being LMDs, so Fitz cuts himself (side note, good job both of you at the blood test, but surely there's somewhere less dangerous than wrists that could also expose circuitry). And for a moment, you think it's going to be okay, but then---eeep. I'm very glad I hadn't seen the trailers,  or I would have gone crazy.  My poor Jemma, having to take out that LMD....
And then Skye and the bouquet room (yes, because a bunch of daisies is a bouquet, and I'm still calling her Skye), just EEP room full of crazy. Then she has to fight everybody and... convincing Simmons that she's herself with Quake powers...they needed that hug, and they're going to need a lot more of them.
Just, the whole concept of the base being infiltrated like that, of being hunted down and killed by people you thought you could trust with your lives....Aida may have copied their mannerisms and memories, but she got the whole idea so wrong. The way she saves everyone just eliminates their lives, their choices, their freedom.
And LMD May standing up to LMD Coulson and making her own choice. That is so meta-inducing on its own, the difference between a fraud and a self-aware LMD, when it turns out that she can make her own choices.
Then into the Framework.
But not until April.
oops wrong director.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Oswiu: King of Kings

Oswiu: King of Kings is the conclusion of the Nothumbrian Thrones novels by Edoardo Albert. Oswiu's brother Oswald was recently killed by Penda, king of Mercia, But rumors have spread that the site of Oswald's death has miraculous qualities, healing the sick and injured. His mother Acha urges Oswiu to recover his brother's body, but the new king has few men and little support; wouldn't it be a death mission?
Since this book concludes a trilogy, it is best read after the previous two books, Edwin: High King of Britain , and the sequel  Oswald: Return of the King. Together, the three books provide an intriguing look at British history in the early- and mid-600s, as well as the interaction of paganism and Christianity. The unfamiliar names of tribes and individuals may make this confusing for some people, but the author has thoughtfully provided a list of main characters in the front of the book.
I enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction of the Middle Ages, as well as epic fantasy fans.  The author is careful to distinguish between fact and fictional invention in his afterward, as well as citing some of his historical sources.
I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for an unbiased review.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Day and a Life

A Day and a Life by Penelope Wilcock is the ninth and final volume of her Hawk and Dover books. The series has followed the daily life and  is set in a 14th-century Yorkshire abbey, from events significant (the arrival of a new abbot) and mundane (the cook really isn't very good). After coming to know and love so many characters,  I picked up this book with a mixture of eagerness and regret. I was excited to read more, but this was it. There wouldn't be any more stories.
Unlike the short-story format of the first two books, or the slow development in Remember Me, A Day and a Life covers a single day at St. Alcuin's. Featuring most of the characters we've come to know and love--and introducing some new ones as well-- the book is a wonderful example of character-driven storytelling.
As with all the books in this series, I would recommend it for many readers, not just historical fiction fans. It's not a high-stakes, adrenaline-filled story, but the characters are well-written, and the stories wrestle honestly with the messiness of faith in everyday life.
I received a free copy of this book from Kregel in exchange for an honest review.