Author: Richard Harland
Genre: Steampunk
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 388

I was very unsure when I first picked up this book at the library. A book I'd never heard of, from an author I knew nothing about, in a genre that's still considered cutting-edge and somewhat experimental... but, I figured, it's just the library. I can always bring it back if I don't like it.
To my delighted relief, however, I loved this book!

At 16 years old, the main character Colbert Porpentine knows nothing about anything outside of his highly sheltered and controlled Victorian life on the upper decks of the massive juggernaut Worldshaker. When he's told that the 'Filthies' who live in the bottom decks, 'Below', are mindless, animal-like creatures with no emotions, no capacity for intelligent thought, no ability even to speak or understand speech, he believes it. When he's told that the 'Menials' - slow, speechless creatures who serve the upper classes - are Filthies who have been improved with intense training, he believes it. His whole life consists of social functions, and training to succeed his grandfather as Supreme Commander of the Worldshaker.
Until a Filthy escapes and accidentally finds her way into his life. Amazingly, she can speak and think and learn, and she seems completely human. What else has Col been told that isn't true?

Honestly, I couldn't put this book down. From beginning to end, it kept me eagerly turning pages and didn't get boring a single time. The action and character development are great, and the story has a thrilling plot as well as a great message, all in an amazing steampunk setting the likes of which you've never seen before. But on top of that, there is the added delight of a story that contains absolutely no language, and no inappropriate scenes. There was one scene that was the slightest bit suggestive, but the suggestiveness lasted for maybe two sentences, literally, and as I said, it was very slight.
The only thing I can say that would come close to a complaint would be the dark, brutal violence of the story. The darkness itself, I don't have so much a problem with because of the message of the story. You have to have darkness to show light, after all. But the violence towards the end of the book, as things started coming to a head, was very brutal and bloody in places, which I didn't like. I understand that realistic violence is bloody and brutal, but we all know that. We don't need to see it in technicolor.
The only other thing was the few instances in which some of the non-central characters seemed to make choices for which there was no prior suggestion in their character. The readers are left with a little bit of the where-did-that-come-from? feeling, since we were given no reason to think a particular character had it in them to make that particular decision. (I can't give specifics lest I give something away.) But it wasn't an overpowering thing, and I was able to enjoy the story in spite of it.
I would definitely say that Worldshaker is a book for older readers, simply because of the violence factor. Otherwise, a great read that I really, really loved!


The River

Author: Michael Neale
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Pages: 287

I have to admit, when I first picked up this book I was more than a little skeptical. I've read enough books that were backed by countless rave reviews to know that great reviews don't always mean a great book. Having read dozens of 5-star reviews about how The River changed the reader's life, I was just a bit doubtful.
I was very pleasantly surprised with the book, though, I'm pleased to say. Though I'm not sure I would call it life-changing, it was most definitely meaningful and impacting - and I don't just say that about any old book.
I've recently been reading quite a few books that follow themes similar to The River's - namely, don't live life on the sidelines, get in and embrace it, take risks and follow your destiny. And although that trend has been unintentional on my part, I've been enjoying the ideas it has encouraged me to explore. The River is definitely the best book of that nature that I've read so far. Who knows? Maybe God is trying to tell me something.
My only complaint - and it's so small and trivial that it doesn't really even qualify as a complaint - is that throughout the book, every time anything was said about the river (which was a lot - it's about whitewater rafting), the words 'the river' were capitalized. I get what the author or editor or whoever was trying to do with that, but when you're reading along at a good speed and all of a sudden The River is capitalized in the middle of a sentence it can be jolting. More than once my rhythm got derailed because I saw the capital letters and thought I was starting a new sentence, which didn't make sense with the words themselves. And then it wasn't even done every time the words 'the river' were written. I caught several instances in which they were all lowercase, with no detectable pattern to the difference. That whole issue got on my nerves quite a few times throughout the book.
But other than that tiny annoyance, as I said before this book was great. What makes it even more impressive is that it is apparently the author's first work. As a fellow writer, I take my hat off to Mr. Neale. Well done on an outstanding first novel! The rest of you out there, take note. This is an author to watch.
On the whole, a really enjoyable and thought-provoking read. This one will be staying on my shelves for a good long while, and I'm already thinking about reading it again.

I received a copy of this book free of charge for the publisher in exchange for my review. A favorable review was not required, and my opinions are my own.


Two Ends of a Rope

Author: David Kyles
Genre: History/Biography
Publisher: Lamplighter Publishing
Pages: 121

Two Ends of a Rope is a self-proclaimed biography of William Carey, the pioneer missionary to India. And while it does focus largely on him, personally I think it would be more accurately categorized as a light history of the beginnings of the Baptist missionary movement in India. It delved into the lives of many different people involved with the beginnings of that work, not just the life of William Carey. That's not a bad thing at all. I quite enjoyed it, actually.
As I said, it is a light history - at 121 pages, it couldn't really afford to go into any kind of deep detail. But the information delivered was straightforward and helpful. This book would make a wonderful introductory read for anyone wanting to learn about the events and people involved in the founding of the Baptist Missionary Society and the beginnings of the efforts to evangelize India. It's definitely helped me figure out how and where to channel my continued research.
The only thing I can say that approaches a complaint is that the author's writing style got rather annoying from time to time. It wasn't a serious or constant thing, but every so often the wording gave off the impression that it was written by a great and wise sage addressing an audience of small and saintly but none-too-bright children. I'm sure it wasn't intentional on the author's part, and it certainly didn't hinder my enjoyment of the book, but it did just strike me every now and then as a little odd.
Regardless, this was a great read that I plan on adding to my personal library at the earliest opportunity.