'Book of a Thousand Days'

Author: Shannon Hale
Genre: Fantasy/Fairytale
Publisher: Bloomsbury

Having read (and adored) Princess Academy, I was pretty excited to read this book after picking it up at the library.
Book of a Thousand Days is a thrilling re-telling of a little-known fairy tale, 'Maid Maleen' from the Grimm brothers. Having sword loyalty to her mistress, Lady Saren, the main character Dashti finds herself getting bricked up inside a windowless tower after Lady Saren refuses to accept the marriage her father has arranged for her. They're sentenced to stay there for seven years.
But with rats decimating their food supply and a war raging outside the tower, things might not work out exactly as planned.
I won't say more about the plot, lest I give something important away. What I will say is that I really, truly enjoyed this book. A colorful, vibrant fantasy culture combined with adventure and a remarkably sweet love story made it a joy to read.
I wouldn't recommend this book for young readers, for a couple of reasons. One, parts of the story definitely contained some dark elements, fine for mature readers but not so much for younger ones. Two, the polytheistic religion of the main character's culture might be a problem for some families.
But for my part, I found this to be yet another excellent contribution to fairytale fiction from an author who is quickly earning my respect.

'Sondok: Princess of the Moon and Stars'

Author: Sheri Holman
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Scholastic
Series: The Royal Diaries

I was a little surprised when I came across this book, because I hadn't realized that Korea existed as far back as the 6th century. Actually, though, while the book is set in the area we now know as Korea, it didn't exist as the nation of Korea at the time. Instead it was divided into a few small kingdoms who were constantly at war with one another, all the time worried that they would be overrun by their enormous next-door neighbor, China.
In the midst of all this we find Sondok, oldest daughter of a king with no son in a culture that doesn't believe a woman should rule. These circumstances have left Sondok torn in many directions. Her love of the stars and the belief that the king controls what goes on in the heavens drive her to spend countless nights measuring, calculating, and tracking the movements of the celestial bodies in preparation for the day when she is king after her father. Astronomy is considered a man's task, though, too high for a woman. Sondok is also torn between honoring the ancient shamanistic religion of her native land and embracing the new religion, Buddhism, being introduced from China.
There is hardly any historical information about Sondok today, but using what little there is I think Sheri Holman did a great job on this book. The look into the ancient culture, from shaman rituals to everyday tasks like feeding silkworms, was fascinating. And of course, anything containing astronomy is intriguing to me.
The book is, of course, written in journal form, and the entries are addressed to Sondok's grandmother who is deceased. Sondok has been given the task of caring for her grandmother's spirit, which the family believes resides in a jar they keep in a place of honor in their home. Sondok frequently mentions that she offered fresh rice or wine to her grandmothers 'spirit jar' and that each journal entry is written on a slip of paper and placed inside the jar.
Personally, I don't have a problem with this being in the book, as it is true to what the ancient culture believed, but it's something I feel I should mention in case anyone might be offended by it.
This book wasn't my favorite of the series (it's just really, really hard to beat Cleopatra and Jahanara) but it was definitely a read I enjoyed, and it will be staying in my library for a long, long time.


'The Coming Revolution: Signs from America's Past that Signal Our Nation's Future'

Author: Dr. Richard G. Lee
Genre: History/Political Commentary
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

To be honest, when I agreed to review this book, I was expecting just another political commentary bewailing the sad state of our nation and calling (rather vaguely and inconstructively) for a spiritual awakening and revolution.
What I found instead was a remarkably inspiring account of the history of our nation's founding and the scope of what led the founders to do what they did - a much wider scope than we tend to take into consideration.
This book made a very slow read and occasionally got tedious, mostly because there was simply so much information. It took time and a huge amount of focus and attention to get through the book with any amount of retention.
The only other problem with the book is that some parts of it will become obsolete in a few years or months as the political landscape changes.
However, this is still an excellent resource if you're interested in learning about the events, attitudes, and cultural trends that united the people of the American colonies and made them into the American people rather than simply 'colonists'. It offers intriguing insights into trends and events, puzzle pieces that could well be falling into place again to spark a peaceful revolution taking our nation back to its roots of Christian faith. Again, while a bit slow, it was worth the read if you're willing to take the time necessary to digest it.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for my review.


"What He Must Be... If He Wants to Marry My Daughter"

Author: Dr. Voddie Baucham
Genre: Non-Fiction, Christian Life and Thought
Publisher: Crossway Books

I picked this book up after a friend's enthusiastic recommendation. While I didn't think she would recommend something that wasn't worth recommending, I still wasn't sure what to expect from this book, considering today's view of courtship and marriage, even among Christians.
I was thrilled, however, with what I discovered. What He Must Be is far from being just another 'make sure your little girl gets a good one' book. It's a veritable instruction manual on how parents - particularly fathers - can work alongside their daughters to find and choose a suitable spouse for her.
This is a great book for fathers who know they want a great son-in-law and a good man for their little girl, but aren't sure about how to define that 'great' son-in-law.
This is a great book for fathers who want to raise sons into solid, godly men worthy of taking godly women as their wives.
This is a great book for young men who desire to be good Christian husbands but aren't entirely sure what the biblical requirements of a good husband are.
This is a great book for young women who want to be godly wives and to have a godly husband.
If you haven't got the idea already: I love this book!
Today's culture has twisted and polluted our concept of marriage into something God never intended for it to be, to the extent that most Christians can't even define the respective roles of Christian husbands and wives as the Bible defines them. This book takes care of that step by step. Dr. Baucham walks readers through what it means to have a multi-generational vision for your family, what the biblical roles of a husband are as opposed to what our society has made them, a father's role in protecting his daughter's heart and in evaluating potential suitors, and more.
This is a book that will require multiple re-reads, simply because there is so much information to digest, but that doesn't bother me a bit. Dr. Baucham laces the serious material with doses of southern humor and drives his points home with touching anecdotes from his own life.
The thought of trying to evaluate a potential suitor can be intimidating, and it certainly isn't something that we can afford to take lightly, but in What He Must Be, Dr. Baucham makes it clear that it isn't rocket science or brain surgery. It's immensely important, and it can be difficult, but it doesn't have to be complicated.
I can't say it enough: read this book! Give it to your relatives and friends to read. It's worth it.


'The Amaranth Enchantment'

Author: Julie Berry
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fantasy/Fairytale
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books

Having been recently appointed chairwoman of the committee for previewing books for my 12-year-old sister, I made a trip to the library this past week in search of some new titles for her. I'd never read anything by Julie Berry before, but the teaser on the back of the book sounded interesting, so I picked it up.
Fifteen-year-old Lucinda was taken in by her uncle and step-aunt after the deaths of her parents. Though her parents were wealthy nobles, Lucinda's relatives are struggling to keep their jewelry shop afloat and she is forced to work as an unpaid servant in the shop.
Naturally, things don't stay that way forever. In a single day, a mysterious woman comes to the shop with a remarkable jewel she wants reset, and the crown prince himself shows up looking for a gift to give his betrothed. In a fairy tale, that's a recipe for big change, which is exactly what takes place.

I truly enjoyed this book. Beneath the gorgeous cover art, the action and slower scenes were paced remarkably well, the plot kept me guessing without being terribly vague, and the characters were well-rounded and lovable - if infuriating at times.
A couple of minor things that bothered me:
1. The lack of a solid, definable worldview. I understand this book is not categorized as a 'Christian' book, so I don't expect it to behave like one. Still, the main character Lucinda has apparently been raised Catholic, but she doesn't consider herself particularly devout or pious, rather casually blaming the fact on her step-aunt never allowing her to go to Mass. I suppose her somewhat flippant attitude towards her religion is what bothers me, even though it's not the religion I hold myself.
2. One of the major turning points that resolves the plot at the end of the book has a mild flavor of being contrived - to my tastes, anyway. The book still ends well and the plot wraps up all its loose ends satisfactorily, however, in spite of that. I won't say more, lest I spoil something!
All in all, The Amaranth Enchantment was a fun and delightful read. I don't plan on giving it to my sister to read right away, but in a couple years or so I think she'll enjoy it as much as I did!


'Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor'

Author: Chuck Black
Series: The Knights of Arrethtrae
Genre: Fantasy, Allegory
Publisher: Waterbrook

When it comes to Christian fiction, few things delight me more than well-crafted allegory. Which makes it seem somewhat odd that Sir Quinlan was my first experience with Chuck Black’s work. But regardless, this book had me hooked from page one, and I couldn’t put it down.

The story begins with Tav and Twitch—two young knights in training for the service of the Prince of Arrethtrae. Their training is basically just a hobby for them, an enjoyable pastime. But then Tav’s uncle Baylor, who his family considers just a little bit shy of sane, shows up and tells Tav that he wants him to come and join the Swords of Valor. Baylor claims that a deadly war is engulfing the kingdom of Arrethtrae, and that they need men willing to leave everything and join in the battle.

But no one—neither Tav nor Twitch—has seen any sign of a war being fought, so why leave a comfortable and peaceful life at home to chase imaginary enemies and fight unnecessary battles? Tav refuses his uncle’s offer. Baylor offers him two days to think about it and make his final decision.

It is Twitch, however, who finds himself seriously thinking about what it really means to be a knight of the Prince and what a life of service really looks like. It is Twitch who meets Baylor two days later and offers his life in service as one of the Swords of Valor.

At first it seems like the life he’s always dreamed of… until disaster strikes. It is a disaster so terrible that the Swords of Valor disband completely. And it is Twitch’s fault. Ashamed and convinced that he’s incapable of serving the Prince, Twitch returns home.

But his destiny won’t leave him alone, and before long he finds himself back on the road of service to the Prince. Back on the road to rejoining the Swords of Valor. Back on the road to becoming Sir Quinlan.

As I said before, this book had me hooked from page one and held me until the end. It has a classic plot filled with page-turning drama and delicious, breath-taking action. Best of all, there is a deeply moving and convicting message woven through the story. Unlike a lot of attempts at allegory, the author doesn’t pause the story to ‘preach’. The reader knows the message is there and understands what it is saying, but Chuck Black has done a stellar job of weaving it seamlessly into the natural structure of the story.

Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor is a book I will definitely be coming back to for a re-read, and there will be many more of Chuck Black’s books joining Sir Quinlan on my bookshelf!

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.