"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.