"They Shoot Canoes, Don't They?"

Author: Patrick F. McManus
Genre: Humor/Outdoor

When it comes to humor, Pat McManus is in a class all his own. In the spirit of Mark Twain, but with a rather dry and cynical twist, he manages to craft the most hilarious essays and short stories I have ever had the pleasure of reading, bar none.
Occasionally I come across a person who doesn't find McManus funny. I can only offer my sympathies to those people. I can't imagine what life must be like for them.
They Shoot Canoes, Don't They?, while not my favorite McManus book (A Fine and Pleasant Misery takes that prize) nonetheless provided hours of entertainment and laughter for both me and my family. The author's accounts of his outdoor adventures both as a boy and as an adult, and his advice to aspiring outdoors-people are just irresistible.
Since McManus is not a Christian writer, occasionally I come across a slightly off-color remark or reference in some of his work, but it is never anything terrible and only once in a while. My family reads McManus books aloud to each other all the time with no problem.
If you're looking for some light-hearted reading and side-splitting entertainment, or if you simply desire a well-rounded reading repertoire, anything written by Pat McManus is a must-read.


"The Mysterious Maya"

Author: George Stuart
Publisher: National Geographic
Genre: Non-Fiction/Archaeology/History

I've always been intrigued by the ancient cultures of South America, and I occasionally fantasize about being an archaeologist, so finding The Mysterious Maya at the local library sale was a special treat.
The first half of the book was excellent, explaining the history of the Maya people and their culture (including a great story about a Spaniard marrying a Maya woman and then leading the Maya revolt against the Spanish himself), as well as discussing excavation sites and discoveries by modern archaeologists.
The second half of the book veered more into the current state of affairs regarding the modern Maya, descendants of the ancient peoples. I have no problem with that, but the author also took a rather melodramatic excursion through his own journey to understanding the Maya culture. He carried it so far as to have his own children 'christened', for lack of a better term, with ceremonies preserved by the Maya people from ancient times, and to participating in ceremonial offerings to the Maya rain god in times of drought.
All of this, while not particularly surprising to me, was still a bit over-the-top for my tastes. As a history and archaeology book, though, The Mysterious Maya was unquestionably informative and educational, and wouldn't be a bad addition to a person's history library.


"Kristina, the Girl King"

Author: Carolyn Meyer
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Scholastic
Series: The Royal Diaries

In spite of the claims of the historical notes at the back of the book, calling Kristina "the most talked about queen in history, second only to Cleopatra", I had never heard of her before reading this book.
The book was a great read, though (I read the whole thing in a single afternoon) and Kristina herself made a fascinating study.
Since both her parents were disappointed at Kristina's birth over the fact that she was a girl, her father made the decision that she would be raised as a prince and trained to be king after his death (in that culture queens were looked upon as merely the wives of kings, having no power or authority themselves). So, rather than embroidering and gossiping like the other girls in the royal court, Kristina spent her time fencing, riding, shooting, and studying to become a wise ruler.
Her mentally and emotionally unstable mother creates a never-ending source of tension and worry for Kristina, as do the constant promptings from her advisors, telling her that she should marry.
The author does a fabulous job letting the readers into Kristina's thoughts. Of course it's all speculation, but when you read the actual historical facts about "The Girl King of Sweden" and see how well it coincides with the fictional portrayal of Kristina in this book, you feel like you actually know the girl.
If you're looking for something pleasant and relaxing but still educational to read, I definitely recommend this book.


"Isabel, Jewel of Castilla"

Author: Carolyn Meyer
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: The Royal Diaries

By now I'm sure you've guessed it: I'm a huge fan of historical fiction, and The Royal Diaries series is one of my all-time favorites. I've been reading them since I was 14, and it doesn't look like I'll be stopping any time soon!
Isabel, Jewel of Castilla is the fictional diary of future-queen Isabel of Spain, the woman who would play such a vital role in sending Christopher Columbus on his epic journey of discovery.
I haven't read much about the history of Spain, so this book offered some great insight into this corner of the Renaissance world.
The plot of the story itself was intriguing and enjoyable as well. Though far from being 'gripping' or action-packed (the journal-entry format just seems to have a dampening effect on that aspect, no matter how thrilling the story itself might be) the plot was still engrossing as Isabel is forced to watch and wait as advisors, nobles, and estranged siblings make decisions that will forever alter her fate. Her brothers are warring for the throne of Castilla. Her mother suffers mental illness. And all the while, a host of disagreeing parties are attempting to arrange Isabel's marriage to one of an equally large host of suitors.
On the whole, this book was a fun, intriguing, and yes, educational read. As usual, any book in The Royal Diaries series would be a great way to supplement a history study, but they make great pleasure reading as well.


"Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith from Politics

Author: Alisa Harris

Genre: Memoir, Politics

Publisher: Waterbrook

When I first saw this book, I read the author’s name, Alisa Harris, and subconsciously assumed it was ‘Harris’ as in Joshua and Alex and Brett, as in kissing dating goodbye and doing hard things. I took the title, ‘Raised Right’ to mean ‘Raised Correctly’ and the subtitle, ‘How I Untangled My Faith from Politics’ to refer to keeping one’s beliefs uncorrupted by the influence of political correctness.

I was wrong on all three counts.

Raised Right is the memoir of Alisa Harris, who was, in her own words, “picketing since before [she] could walk”. From praying outside abortion clinics to protesting outside capitol buildings and from Worldview Academy to debate class, her parents raised her to uphold strong Republican ideals and to be ready to combat false beliefs.

Early on in the book she gently criticizes her upbringing, citing instances such as her mother’s avoidance of explaining the definition of a prostitute but freely and graphically explaining the definition and process of abortion, as well as involving her in political circumstances and arenas she was too young to fully understand.

I do agree that many parents thrust their children into political arenas far too early, before the children are capable of understanding what they are taking part in and making the choice to participate themselves. As the author grew older, she began seeing this for herself and grew disillusioned with the extreme political nature of her faith.

What follows is an account of her rocky journey from being a far-right-wing conservative to a moderate to a self-professed liberal feminist.

Personally, I was deeply disappointed, even outraged, by this book. The author’s journey of ‘learning to live out the gospel’ consists mainly of a touchy-feely blurring of the lines between right and wrong, an embracing of vague bipartisan ideals, and subtle subversion against biblical principles.

In discussing the biblical role of women, the author relies on ‘a convincing interpretation of Scripture’ that said the Bible’s command to women to be silent in church was directed only at a particular church in a particular culture, to help them ‘avoid being a stumbling block’ to their culture. But, the author says, in twenty-first century America, ‘forcing women to be silent and denying them certain ministry roles because of their gender’ makes churches who practice that belief a stumbling block to our culture.

But if that is the case, perhaps we the church should stop preaching that adultery and promiscuity are wrong. After all, both those practices are widely accepted parts of our culture, and if people know they will have to give up those practices if they become Christians, that could become a stumbling block for them. See? That theory just doesn’t work.

The author also endorses an ideal of marriage in which both the man and woman are equal, ‘each submitting to the other in Christ’, which is completely contrary to the Bible’s clearly outlined plan for the man to be the head of the woman as Christ is the head of the church. Biblical marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the church. Is Christ supposed to submit to the church out of love, then? Should Christ and His church be compromising on tough decisions? Somehow I don’t think so.

Later in the book the author quotes a friend of hers who makes the following statement: “The whole gay thing? Jesus never mentioned homosexuals at all. I just feel that Jesus’ heart was more for the impoverished and the sick. I don’t feel like He would get so flared up.” Although the author did not make this statement herself and she does not expressly endorse it, neither does she refute or correct it. No, we have no record of Jesus saying anything about homosexuality when He was on Earth in the flesh. But Jesus was God, and the entire Bible, not just the words in red ink, is the Word of God. The Bible makes it quite clear that homosexuality is an abomination. As for Jesus getting ‘flared up’, I would like to point out the cleansing of the temple—throwing over tables and chasing people out with a whip qualifies as ‘flared up’ in my book. And, in direct relation to the homosexuality issue, God rained fire and brimstone on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of the rampant and unrepentant homosexuality taking place there. If that is not ‘flared up,’ I don’t know what is.

The author also expresses angst about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, wondering how war can possibly solve anything, and confusion over the fact that we liberated the people of Iraq from a violent genocidal dictator only for them to look at us as invaders. However, later in the book as she is describing the horrible treatment women in the Middle East receive at the hands of men, she criticizes Americans and Christians for caring more about unborn children being aborted every day than they do about born women being abused, tortured, and killed in the Middle East every day. My question is this: if we were to go in by force and liberate these abused women from the men abusing them like we liberated the men, women, and children suffering under a tyrannical dictator, what would stop them from having the same irrational perspective of us—seeing us as invaders—as the others we liberated?

I agree with the author’s view that Christians can often become too militant and combative in promoting their beliefs, and that we do need to speak the truth in love rather than shouting it from protest groups. I agree that finding a way to speak the truth in love to a culture that doesn’t want to hear it is difficult. But that does not give us license to reinterpret Scripture to suit our own desires and the desires of a corrupt and godless culture.

I received this book from the publisher free of charge in exchange for my review.



Author: Donita K. Paul
Series: The Dragonkeeper Chronicles
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Waterbrook

I’ve read lots of good novels. Lots of good fantasy novels, even. And it’s hard to say what makes one certain novel a classic while other novels, perhaps equally good, somehow lack the ability to endure. But I feel confident in saying that Donita K. Paul’s novel Dragonspell possesses that staying power, that mysterious spark that makes a book a classic.

The cover touts it as “A fantastic journey of discovery for all ages” and it’s no exaggeration. I have known twelve-year-olds and twenty-somethings who enjoyed the book equally.

Dragonspell is the story of Kale, a village slave who finds a dragon egg and is consequentially thrust into a world of adventure she never dreamed of. Encountering grawligs, kimens, wizards (good and evil), a tumanhoeffer librarian, mordakleeps, and of course, dragons.

The action of the story is intense and exciting, but there is no gore or excessive violence, making it appropriate for younger readers. The characters are colorful, loveable, and their interactions with each other are heartwarming and hilarious. Donita K. Paul has created a fantasy world full of strange creatures, geography that begs exploration, and stories waiting to happen.

Dragonspell would make an excellent choice for family reading, book reports, or just personal reading for fun, no matter what age you are. If you want an exciting adventure, a delightful cast of characters, based on a Christian foundation, read Dragonspell.

I received this book free of charge from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for my review. A favorable review is not required; Waterbrook is committed to gathering honest opinions about the books they publish.


Christian Encounters, "Fyodor Dostoevsky"

Author: Peter Leithart
Genre: Biography
Series: Christian Encounters
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

I read this book over Thanksgiving after a long haul of nothing but fiction (time to get back to reality for a while, I figured). Interestingly, I discovered that in spite of the fact that this book is a non-fiction biography, it is written in such a way that it reads like a novel. In the author's notes he explains that this is for an easier, less dry reading experience, which sounds great in theory. However, I personally found that it made the facts of Dostoevsky's life more difficult to pick out - the dates, places, people, etc. The enormous and ever-changing cast of characters became confusing too, especially in light of the author's constant jumping back and forth in time, from Dostoevsky reminiscing with a friend, to flashbacks of his early life.
However, this book did provide a window into the heart behind Dostoevsky's work, and his desire to profoundly effect the Russian culture and people he loved so much. The thought behind his passion for the common people, as well as the symbolism and analogy woven into his writings becomes much easier to see through this book.
I do have to note that his 'deep Christian faith' and his desire to bring Russia to Christ came into question quite frequently as I read this book. I won't presume to pass judgment on the sincerity of Dostoevsky's faith, I just have to say that the salt loses some of its savor when a man is talking about turning his country to Christ, while he's carrying on an extramarital affair and gambling away every penny he has.


"Reclaiming Lily"

Author: Patti Lacy
Publisher: Bethany House

It's been a busy several days, so I haven't had much time for reading, but I came down with a cold yesterday and haven't felt like doing anything but lay on the sofa while my medic brother tries to convince me that he needs to start an IV on me (thanks, but no thanks). So, I was able to catch up on my reading a bit.
Again, Reclaiming Lily goes back to my fascination with China; it's the story of a Texas couple, Andrew and Gloria, who are unable to have children and so adopt a ten-year-old girl whom they name Joy, from China.
Seven years later, Joy has rebelled against the Christian upbringing her adoptive parents have given her. Her parents are at their wits' end, unsure of how to handle their back-talking, cussing, purple-haired daughter. When a Dr. Kai from Boston shows up, claiming to be Joy's biological sister and warning Andrew and Gloria that Joy could have a deadly hereditary disease, the adoptive parents are naturally wary.
What follows is a battle to break down cultural barriers, admit past mistakes, accept changes, and trust God.
The story line itself was great - no complaints in that department, even though this isn't the kind of story I usually go for.
The big turn-off for me, though, was the over-the-top emotion on all sides. I mean, there's being upset, even being irrationally upset... but this topped even that. I got extremely tired of characters having enormous breakdowns and 'emptying the contents of their stomachs' every time they turned around. The crying, the panicking, the shrieking, and especially the vomiting, all got very old very quickly. Don't get me wrong: I'm a girl, and I know there comes a point where you just have to have a meltdown. And that's fine. One meltdown per character per book I can handle. But after a while reading this book I felt like I was just reading one enormous series of meltdowns. (There also comes a point where you either need to get it together or have someone slap you.)
There was also a recurring problem with grammatical misuse of the word 'were', which I can't help being annoyed by. And there were also several instances of odd, irrelevant questions being inserted into characters' internal monologues. For instance, a character would be thinking about something that happened 'yesterday - or was it a decade ago?' or looking at another character's eyes which were 'blue-gray... or were they gray-blue?' Just a bit too melodramatic for my tastes.
I don't know, maybe my personality just doesn't allow me to appreciate or understand this particular genre of fiction (or emotionally unbalanced and overwrought characters). What I do know is that this book had a great storyline, as I said before, but it would have been much more enjoyable if not for all the careening, uncontrolled emotions going off like a Roman candle every other page.


"Lady of Ch'iao Kuo - Warrior of the South"

Ever since I read A Journey to a New World (part of the Dear America series) when I was eight years old, I have loved historical fiction with a passion. And, for the last year or so, I've had a fascination with ancient China and its history and culture. So when Lady of Ch'iao Kuo fell across my path, I was ecstatic at finding a book that combined the two interests.
The book was an excellent read, telling an exciting story of a time of war and cultural tension as the Chinese moved southward, settling the forest regions of southern China. Lady Redbird, the main character of the story, belongs to the Hsien people, who are native to the forest region and are struggling to accept the Chinese and adapt to the changes the settlers are bringing with them.
The historical information for the book was researched from authentic ancient Chinese history texts, so the insight into the culture, technology, and events of ancient China were rich, realistic, and enlightening.
There were a few instances throughout the book where I thought the author's choice of words was rather odd. The use of phrases like 'they hit it off' and 'a child acting up' particularly caught my attention as feeling rather inauthentic. I can see why the author may have chosen those phrases deliberately to create a connection between the readers and the people of the past, but I still found it somewhat jolting.
And of course, the book is supposed to be a teenage girl's diary, but it was written by a man. So inevitably many of the thought processes and feelings recorded (or not recorded) can seem a little out of place or inaccurate. But then, only someone who was a teenage girl at one point would notice that.
On the whole, I really enjoyed reading this book. It would be great material with which to supplement a study of Chinese history, or just as a fun read on its own. This one will definitely be staying in my library.


"Cyrano de Bergerac"

Author (or in this case, Playwright): Edmond Rostand

This play was originally performed in 1898. It tells the story of Cyrano de Bergerac, a proud and refined man who is a poetic genius with words - a gift that should make him irresistible to the ladies of 17th century Paris, where the story takes place. Unfortunately, Cyrano's romantic life is virtually nonexistent, due to an unfortunate physical attribute: his enormous nose.
Anyone who knows Cyrano knows to avoid mentioning anything about his nose, but a few ignorant strangers learn the lesson the hard way over the course of the play.
And of course, a monstrous nose hasn't kept Cyrano from falling madly in love with the beautiful-but-shallow Roxane, a woman who has declared she could never love anyone ugly.
I won't give away the entire story or the ending, I'll let you read it for yourself. I will say, though, that the ending of the play was a slight letdown. It's open enough that you can imagine everyone living happily ever after after all, but it doesn't really come out and say that they did. It makes you work for it.
But the story itself was a fun, hilarious ride through the the tragically absurd and hilarious side of Paris you've probably never experienced before.
Even though the play format was a little difficult to get into right at first, I got used to it quickly, and I enjoyed this read a lot. It had me laughing out loud almost every page. If you're up for something out of the ordinary to read, this one is definitely worth checking out.



Author: Bryan Davis
Series: Dragons of Starlight
Publisher: Zondervan

I just read the last third of this book today, in between helping out with cooking and dishes and trying to stay caught up on my NaNo novel. I have to say I loved it!
Starlighter is the story of two worlds: one, a world where legends of dragons kidnapping humans as slaves and taking them to another planet abound. The other, a world where humans live in slavery to dragons, clinging to hope by retelling stories of a planet where there were no dragons, where humans lived in freedom.
A teenage girl enslaved to dragons discovers she has an incredible and unusual gift, one that could either get her promoted into a life of ease... or get her killed.
On another planet, a teenage boy dreams of finding the portal to the dragon planet and rescuing the humans the dragons took as slaves so long ago.
A couple parts of it were slightly confusing - for instance, I didn't understand exactly why Diviners were so feared on the human world... but then, I was reading so fast that I might have just missed it.
One of the most unique features of this book, and one that I really enjoyed, was the distinct blend of both fantasy and science fiction flavors. The dragons, swords, and castles all stand in staunch support of a fantasy element, while the photo guns, planetariums, inter-planetary portals, and genetic identification devices all lend their support to the science fiction element.
I thought at first that the mix might be difficult to pull off successfully, but it worked amazingly well and made for a very fun read.
I definitely recommend adding this one to your library if you haven't already. The copy I read was a loaner from a friend, so this book is definitely on my 'add-to-my-library' wish list!


"Dug Down Deep"

I really don’t want to sound like an ad campaign parrot, just repeating over and over again how much I loved this book. But truthfully, I couldn’t put it down. Joshua Harris has done a stellar job with this book, walking through the core, fundamental beliefs of Christianity, as well as taking the distant, ‘holier-than-thou’ feeling and sound out of words like ‘doctrine’ and ‘orthodoxy’ by explaining their essential meaning versus what they’ve come to be taken as.

The author begins the book with a recounting of his own years in which the gospel meant little, if anything, to him. He then shares the story of how he began to truly desire God’s word and to learn more about God Himself. He does this while cautioning Christians against coming to view God as an object we can study under a microscope rather than a living person we can know and have a deep relationship with.

The book dedicates a great amount of page time to the person of Jesus Christ, who He was, His complete uniqueness, and the purpose for which He came and died. I think that is a very necessary thing for Christians today—especially new Christians—to be told, since so often the essence of who Jesus is and the truth of His mission to Earth is lost amid diluted, child-friendly Sunday school stories.

There is also a chapter dedicated to discussing the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians, clarifying much common confusion.

Another chapter discusses the church—why it’s so incredibly important, what it really means to be the church rather than simply ‘going to church’ on Sunday morning (although the author does clearly urge church attendance) and how we the church are supposed to function as the bride of Christ.

There was so much more to this book that I could go into, but I’ll leave off with simply telling you that you must read it! Even if you’ve been a Christian for years and years, read it anyway. I’ve been a Christian for years too, but this book still helped me to see things and think about things in ways I hadn’t considered before.

Read this book. Loan this book to your friends. Add this book to your library—it’s definitely staying in mine.


'Breath of Angel'

Author: Karyn Henley
Series: The Angeleon Circle
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Waterbrook

I’ll admit, at first the cover design had me edgy and expecting something dark, more along the lines of paranormal or horror than fantasy. Fortunately, the old adage about judging a book by its cover came through for me and I was delighted to find an exciting story set in a unique fantasy world, built on a very intriguing premise. The dark mood set by the cover doesn’t carry over into the story itself.

The story begins when a haggard young man staggers into a temple courtyard. Melaia, a priestess, offers him shelter, but before the stranger can accept he is attacked and killed by a vicious hawk, which Melaia chases away. Already shocked by what has happened, she is even more stunned to find that the murdered stranger has wings growing from his back.

She moves the body into the temple to be prepared for burial and await the return of the high priestess, Hanamel. Before Hanamel returns, however, another stranger arrives—the hawk that killed the stranger, this time in human form.

His arrival throws everything Melaia thought she knew into chaos, leading her to discover that what she has always been taught about angels is not entirely accurate, and there are many things she has never been taught at all.

As circumstances and events unfold, Melaia is drawn deeper and deeper into an ancient feud between two brothers, now immortal, whose battle destroyed the stairway to heaven, trapping countless angels in the world of mortals, with no way to return to their home.

I had a little trouble understanding the workings of the story world at first, until I realized that I was expecting the angels in the story to be and behave like the Bible tells us real angels do. Once I stopped trying to apply that template to the story’s angels, everything made a great deal more sense and was very easy to follow.

The scenery and descriptions in this book were just beautiful. From towering cities built on the brink of high cliffs, to the joyful dance of a fire angel in the flames of a campfire, you are in for a visual treat with Breath of Angel. And the story’s inhabitants—from green-skinned sylvans to varying ranks of angels, each with different gifts and abilities; from shape-shifting immortals to gruesome draks (spy birds with human hands instead of feet)—form an enthralling cast you’re not likely to forget quickly.

My only complaint is that a lot of the major plot points of the story almost seem ‘too easy’. A piece of earth-shattering, life-changing news arrives, altering everything Melaia thinks she knows about herself and her identity; she acts shocked for a while, and then just moves on, seeming to take everything in stride. And while the story’s ending is fantastic and a perfect conclusion to the rest of the plot, there is little buildup to that ending, so it hits somewhat out of the blue.

Along that same line, Melaia’s character definitely changes, grows, and matures over the course of the story, which is good, but there really isn’t a visible turning point. There doesn’t seem to be a point at which she hits rock bottom and decides “okay, I’m going to stop fighting it, here’s what I have to do, now I’m going to do it”. There were a couple of instances that I suppose could have been turning points, but they didn’t come across that way openly. Melaia does struggle with a lot of the things she’s facing and dealing with, but she seems to be just going along with it anyway, playing it by ear.

Aside from that, Breath of Angel was a very unique and exciting adventure that had me hooked from page two.

You should know that as I sat writing this review, a bird flew into the window behind me; you will have to read Breath of Angel to appreciate the heart attack it almost gave me.

I am legally obligated to inform you that I received this book in exchange for my review as part of Waterbrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program. There. I have informed you.


'Fable Weaver'

Author: Carlie Gernhart
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Clear Water Press

If you are looking for a fun, exciting, and unorthodox adventure, this book is a must-read. Winner of the 2008 One Year Adventure Novel (OYAN) contest, Fable Weaver combines the story of a modern teenage girl with a generous helping of fantasy adventure.
Linnet, the main character, is a Fable Weaver, responsible for making sure that all figments return to Tierra Fabula (the place where characters go after their stories are over) from their vacations on earth. Always around to guard and assist her are Sekker, Arkose, and Izar - a trio of changelings with an obsessive love for cinnamon and video games.
The best thing about this book is the fact that it literally give you the best of both worlds, from car chases to sword fights, attic crawlspaces to Camelot, security systems to enchantments, and struggling to outsmart everyone from the local police to Morgan le Fay.
Really, the only thing that the book left me wanting (aside from a sequel) is a bit more explanation regarding how Linnet became a Fable Weaver in the first place, because other than a brief mention of it in passing at the beginning of the book, we really don't get a lot of information on that.
Otherwise, this is a fun and fabulous story that you can enjoy over and over (although I recommend having a plate of snickerdoodles handy when you do - you'll understand why when you read the book).


'Epic: The Story God is Telling'

Author: John Eldredge
Genre: Non-Fiction, Christian Life and Thought
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

The book begins with Sam Gamgee's quote, "I wonder what sort of a tale we've fallen into?" From there Eldredge proceeds to remind us just exactly what kind of a tale it is that we humans have been born into. We have been born into a world at war, into the midst of an epic story of beauty and devastation, trust and betrayal, good and evil, love and sacrifice. People love sweeping, epic stories conveyed through movies and books, and it is because those stories echo the nature of the story we live in... the story we were created for.
Eldredge discusses the basic plot structure that every great tale more or less follows, and you may be surprised to realize that it is the exact structure of the story of our world.
While this book was intended as a resource for Christian living, I am also going to recommend it as a resource for Christian writing. "Every story we tell is out attempt to put into words and images what God has written there, on our hearts," Eldredge says in the book.
That kind of helps it all make sense, doesn't it? The reason that books like Lewis' The Last Battle or Tolkien's Return of the King can reduce us to tears, the reason heroes like Aragorn and sacrifices like Boromir's have so much power to move us... the reason we writers have this overpowering, unexplainable longing to write a tale of that caliber: a truly epic story that will move people the way these tales move us.
I suspect I'm not the only one who sometimes thinks "Is writing (fantasy, sci-fi, etc.) really what I should be doing with my life? Isn't there some way that I can serve God even more?"
But after reading this book, I don't think you'll wonder that any more. Yes, God may tell you at some point that your time as a writer is over and it is time to move on to something else that He has for you. But until then, just remember: it may be a fictional story you're telling, but dragons, sorcerers, warp drives and all, every epic tale is an echo of the true epic tale we're living in.


'The Charlatan's Boy'

Author: Jonathan Rogers
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Waterbrook

Over the weekend I managed to severely burn my finger and was on limited activity as a result, so I was thrilled when this book arrived and gave me something to do. And if laughter really is the best medicine, my finger will be healed in no time.

The Charlatan’s Boy stars Grady, a pitifully ugly boy who travels the country of Corenwald with Floyd—a professional flimflam man. Grady’s ugliness makes him perfect to play the part of a feechie (the wild little savages the people of Corenwald believe inhabit the swamplands), and he and Floyd make a handsome living off of people who are curious to see “a genuine he-feechie; alive and in the flesh!”.

But as the people of Corenwald gradually stop believing in feechies, times get tough for Floyd and Grady, and they’re forced to find another way of making a living. The book follows their hilarious string of schemes and escapades, including an “Ugliest Boy in the World” routine and a stint in the phrenology business. Alas, nothing seems to work as well as the feechie trade did, back when people believed in feechies.

So, Floyd and Grady decide to cook up another great feechie scare, something to revive the old beliefs in feechies and put them back in business. Unfortunately, as the scare gets underway they realize that they aren’t alone. It seems every huckster and charlatan in Corenwald wants in on the excitement, and before long they’re all claiming to be the only act of their kind, the only one to have a genuine, captive feechie.

If Mark Twain had written fantasy, The Charlatan’s Boy could have easily passed as his work. The settings, the characters, the language and grammar used, and the unique style of humor work together to create a one-of-a-kind fantasy read like none you’ve read before. This is a book to be read aloud in the family room in the evenings; it had me laughing out loud from start to finish.

The plot had a tendency to meander from time to time, but in my opinion that didn’t hurt the book a bit. In fact, I think it only added to the lighthearted and refreshing effect of the story. This was my first time to read anything by Jonathan Rogers, but you can be sure that after this I will be checking out more of his work, including the sequel to The Charlatan’s Boy, slated for release this fall!

I received this book free of charge from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for my review. A favorable review is not required; Waterbrook is committed to gathering honest opinions about the books they publish.