Watercrossing by Krissi Dallas

If you’ve kept up with this blog at all, you probably know by now that I’m a pretty big fan of Krissi Dallas. I’ve been waiting on pins and needles for her latest book, Watercrossing, ever since I read the teaser in the back of Windfall. So you can probably imagine my excitement when I won a pre-release copy through her Facebook page. (Since Greg and I were with my parents on vacation in Pagosa Springs when I found out that I won, they don’t have to imagine my excitement. They got to witness it firsthand) Well, the book arrived on Saturday afternoon, and I finished it (all 300+ pages) before I went to bed on Saturday night. Yeah, I was really excited.

There is always a certain exhilarating dread that goes along with the anticipation of the latest book in a series. I find myself asking questions like, Will I like it? Will it live up to my expectations? What if I hate it? Will it be as good as the rest of the series? Believe me, I’ve had to live with my share of disappointment.  But thankfully, Watercrossing does not disappoint. Not only is it just as good as the previous books in the Phantom Island series, Windchaser and Windfall, but I think it’s even better. The story and the characters pulled me in and wouldn’t let me go until the last page.

If you haven’t read Windchaser and Windfall, read them. If you have, you know that Windfall ends with Whitnee and her friends back at Camp Fusion after an out-of-this-world experience on the White Island of the Dorians. Whitnee is desperate to get back and try to find her father, who has been missing for six years but just might be hidden somewhere on the Island. Several individuals on the Island are just as desperate to get her back, for various reasons. While Whitnee, Caleb, and Morgan plan, research, and hope to find a way to get to the Island, life rolls on at Camp Fusion. Romance is in the air, and Whitnee finds herself drawn to her friend Caleb, despite all the potential complications of their friendship and the knowledge that there is someone else somewhere out there — someone she would really like to be able to forget. There are some adorable and downright hilarious scenes between Whitnee and Caleb. I laughed a lot while I read this book.  But just underneath the fun and frivolity, all is not well. Morgan is clearly distracted and not herself, and Whitnee’s camper Amelia sinks into depression because she feels rejected by her parents. As the summer rushes to a close, the friends put together a great plan for how to get to the Island and what they’ll do what once they get there, but you know what they say about best-laid plans…and if you want to know the rest of the story, you’ll just have to read the book.

I do have to say one thing about the ending: it isn’t one. Like the end of Windchaser, it’s more of a pause for breath before the next book. Unfortunately, unlike Windchaser, the next book did not come out simultaneously, so fans will have to wait on pins and needles warmed by hot coals for Watermark, which is rumored to be out “sometime next year.” Bummer. So if you are the kind of person who doesn’t handle suspense well, you might want to wait and read both books at the same time.

When I read the Wind books, what really impressed me was the worldbuilding. Krissi does such an amazing job of it that when I saw the map of the White Island in the front of Watercrossing, I thought, “Yeah, that’s pretty much exactly where I thought everything was.” As you read, you can really “see” the people and the places in the story. In Watercrossing, it’s the character building that really stands out. From Whitnee’s determination to act more like an adult and keep her focus on finding her Dad without distractions (hello, hot Island boy) to Morgan’s struggles, and all the little glimpses we get to see of other characters in between, these people come to life. They feel like real people with real issues that I can really care about it, and I love that.

In spite of the crazy ending, I really liked this book. For some reason, the word that always comes to mind when I think of Krissi’s writing is “sparkly.” Since I love sparkly things, I was thrilled to see that Watercrossing sparkles and shines even more brilliantly than I dared to hope it might.

(In case you’re wondering, Watercrossing officially releases May 22, but you can get it earlier if you know where to look. Also, I reviewed it because I liked it. I receive no compensation of any kind from the sales of this book.)

Radical by David Platt

Awhile back, I started reading a little book titled Radical. I was just getting into it when Katelyn took an interest in it and I had to hide it from her. Then I forgot where I hid it. Greg recently found it “hiding” on a bookshelf (novel place to find a book, right?) and I picked up where I left off. This review is based on my hazy memory of the half I read at first, and the recent insights and convictions I’ve experienced in finishing it.

As a reminder: I don’t often read nonfiction. It usually doesn’t hold my interest. If I finish reading a work of nonfiction, it’s usually for one of two reasons: it was short, or I thought it was fascinating. I finished Radical for both reasons. It’s only about 200 pages, and yeah, I think that’s short. But the main reason I stuck with it was that I found myself either agreeing with or convicted by Platt’s statements. He points out several areas where he believes we get things wrong in American church culture; areas where our practices tend to ignore or contradict the teachings of the Bible. He does this using Scripture and stories of how real people live out the Bible in their real lives, both in America and around the world. He then proposes the “Radical Experiment,” a year of living a life based on real faith rather than the pursuit of the American Dream.

I loved Platt’s statements about our need to love and thirst for the truth of Scripture. I completely agreed with his explanation of why we should take the Gospel to those who have never heard. I was challenged and convicted by his call to make disciples and care for the poor.  I think that in our materialistic, cynical, and (quite honestly) lazy culture, this book could serve as a wake-up call to those who claim to follow Christ. Or, it could be a book that people read, or start reading, and say, “Yeah, what he says is fine, but I’ve heard it all before. I think I’ve read it in another book. Yawn.” I’ve actually heard people say that about this book in particular. That makes me a little sad and a little frustrated, because there is good truth in this book and others like it, that might actually change our lives if we choose to live it out. So the question I was left with is: “Am I willing to make changes in my life based on what I’ve read in this book, or am I just going to say it was a worthwhile read, and leave it at that?” I would rather make those changes, because deep within me, beyond my laziness and cynicism, beats a heart that longs to show others the glory of God, no matter what it takes.

So, if you’re just looking for a good read to chew on and evaluate on an intellectual level, I’m sure there are plenty of more academic books out there for you. But if you know in your heart that you’re living a very surface-level Christian life and you want to discover some ways to go deeper and really live out your faith, pick up this little book, read it all the way through, and most importantly, do what God tells you to through it.  Shallow Christians make this world sick. Let’s dare to get a little radical and take back our faith from the American Dream.

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

After reading Inheritance, Paolini’s monolithic finale to his epic cycle by the same name (which I generally refer to as “those Eragon books”), I decided to review the entire series.

The books center around Eragon, a simple farm boy who chanced upon a dragon egg in the forest and went on to alter the course of the world. Throughout the course of the series Eragon grows in his abilities as a dragon rider and in his relationships, as he becomes more mature in his dealings with his dragon Saphira, his elf-friend Arya, his cousin Roran, and the leaders of the various people of Alagaeisa. Ultimately he must face and destroy the tyrannical and nearly invincible Galbatorix in order to free the land from his rule and attempt to restore the race of dragons, which the evil king almost completely destroyed.

Paolini’s attention to detail is impressive. His mastery of a thesaurus is downright heroic. His dragons are delightful. His storytelling is brilliant, but ultimately his story was missing something. I hate to say it, but it’s true: I was disappointed by the ending. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe I just couldn’t appreciate the vastness of what the author was trying to do with the story. Still, in my opinion, it got away from him. After I finished Brisingr, and while I waited for this widely anticipated final volume, I was concerned that he had bitten off more than he could chew, and set events into motion which he would not be able to satisfactorily resolve. And in my opinion, that is exactly what happened. When I finish an epic series like this one, I want to feel something. Honestly, I want to cry. When I finished Inheritance, I felt nothing. Not excited, pleased, satisfied, happy, heartbroken, or any of those things that a really good book (or movie, or TV show, or sometimes even commercial) can make me feel. That in itself made me a little sad.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the series. Remember, in the spirit of positivity I only review things I like on this blog. Paolini obviously put a lot of thought into developing the major races of Alagaesia, including their languages, cultures, histories, and people. And although there are those who say his work is largely derivative of the true masters (read: Tolkien), I actually was impressed with his creativity and ingenuity. Plus, I am very forgiving of anything involving dragons. I love dragons, and Eragon’s Saphira is no exception. She is really a great dragon. There were several other nice touches throughout the series. I could get all caught up in the things I didn’t like and probably bore everyone to death, but I’m not going to do that here. Instead, I’ll say that the books are good but not great. I recommend them to die-hard fantasy fans but people who can take or leave fantasy would probably be better off leaving these books.

Windfall by Krissi Dallas

Windfall is book two of the Phantom Island series by Krissi Dallas. It picks up right where Windchaser left off. (If you missed my review of Windchaser, click here) Whitnee Terradora and her friends are marooned on the mysterious White Island with Hot Island Boy (Gabriel) serving as their protector and guide. Everyone on the island, including Gabriel, seems to be keeping a host of secrets that not only frustrate but possibly endanger Whitnee and her friends. At the end of Windchaser, the group from the Mainland Beyond (aka our world) is visiting the village of Aerodora, home of those who are gifted with the life force of Wind. While there, they meet the Guardian of the island and hear of a prophecy that may or may not involve Whitnee in some way. From Aerodora they set out on a tour of the other villages: Geodora (home of the Earth-loving Geodorians), Hydrodora (watery dwelling place of the Water people) and Pyradora (nestled right up to a volcano – the ideal spot for any Pyra). They meet new friends, encounter suspicious characters, deal with danger, and play with all sorts of interesting powers. Oh and did I mention a little romance? Perhaps involving a Hot Island Boy? (wink wink)

I thought Windfall moved much faster than Windchaser (not that Windchaser was slow). The first book told most of Whitnee’s backstory and got the main characters to the White Island; the second book is where (almost) all the fun happens. I loved the rich detail that Krissi poured into the sights, sounds, and smells of the tribal villages, especially Geodora. I found myself really wishing I could sit down to a Geodorian feast with beautiful flowers on my head and around my neck, the way Whitnee and her friends did. Yum! The last half of the book felt a little rushed to me, as events plunge headlong toward the dramatic and emotional climax. I think while I was reading a few chapters I almost forgot to breathe. I am now eagerly anticipating the third volume, Watercrossing (more information here).

Just as a reminder, I am a fan of Krissi’s and I hope anyone reading this will support her by picking up (or downloading) a copy of her books! They are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and everywhere you buy books. Thanks and happy reading!

Beside Still Waters by Tricia Goyer

If you know me, you know that I often have little good to say about Christian fiction.  You may also know that I’m way too picky for my own good and that I don’t like to waste my time reading something I seriously doubt I’ll enjoy.  As a result, I don’t read Christian fiction often, and I’m especially leery of authors that I haven’t read before.  Having read my share of “prairie romance” (think Janette Oke) as a teenager, I have avoided the Amish sub-genre entirely because there are so many of them for one thing, and for another the covers bring to mind such classics as Love Comes Softly and A Woman Named Damaris.  Yikes.

That said, you can imagine my excitement when I opened a box of books to read for a project I’ve been working on and found Beside Still Waters, which pictures a girl in a kapp with a quilt on her lap.  Still, it had to be a read, so I took a deep breath, asked for good wishes on Facebook, and dived in.  What I found was a well-written and touching story that I was happy to have read.

Marianna Sommers has always felt that her life is shaped by the tragedy that took the lives of her two sisters on the night she was born.  In an attempt to fill that void, she tried to be the perfect daughter, perfect sister, and perfect Amish girl.  She also dreams to be the perfect Amish wife to Aaron, the good Amish boy she’s adored forever.  However, her parents have plans to change all that, moving the family from their established community in Indiana to the wild and sparsely-populated mountains of Montana.  Although Marianna dreads leaving everything familiar and comfortable, her parents have grown weary of the way the close-knit community is so involved in – and critical of – the details and problems of their lives.  Montana offers an opportunity for a fresh start.

In Montana, Marianna finds that while she must adjust to many changes, they are not all bad.  In the remote West Kootenai area, people must help each other, both Amish and Englisch.  Marianna finds it suprisingly easy to make friends with the Englisch restaurant owner, Annie, and the very helpful and attractive Ben.  It is not long before she finds herself questioning all she has been taught about God and the ways we should relate to Him.  In her own special spot beside still waters, and through the midst of unexpected circumstances, Marianna encounters the peace of God in a much more personal way than she ever would have imagined.

This book is a well-written and enchanting glimpse into the heart of a simple Amish girl who simply wants to live the best life she can, without knowing exactly how.  I found my heart aching for Marianna at times, as she dealt with the pain of her family’s past and the confusion of trying to live in one world while her heart was drawn to another.  Having never experienced the genre before, I can’t say whether it’s a good Amish book, but I can definitely say that it is a good book, and I am looking forward to reading the sequel … and learning which man Marianna chooses!

Why I love Jesus more than Harry Potter

I admit it: I am a Harry Potter fan. I am often skeptical of mega-hits, so it took me awhile to jump on the bandwagon. After recommendations from several different people, I hesitantly decided to give the books a try. So, in the spring of 2005, I purchased beat up old copies of the first four books on eBay, and immediately fell in love. I am now a die-hard fan – although not the type that dresses up and stands in line for midnight book or movie releases. However, I did participate eagerly in online reading groups and passionate debates on how the series would ultimately end. I remember reading the last half of the Deathly Hallows on a church van on the way to a mission trip, heart racing and oblivious to anything else around me as those final chapters unfolded. I have a Harry Potter wall calendar and a Harry Potter ringtone. So yes, I freely admit that I love Harry Potter.

If you have read the books, you are familiar with all the reasons to love Harry. If you have seen the movies, you probably have a pretty good idea. The Boy Who Lived is sweet, loyal, determined, a little stubborn, a little flawed, but ultimately one of those characters who leaps off the page and comes to life. Actually, all of the characters in the series are that way. That is part of the genius of J.K. Rowling. There are some you just can’t help but love, and others you can’t help but hate. Some of the good characters are hard to like, and some of the bad ones are just as hard to hate. And they all live in this rich, imaginative world where magic is a part of life and events are unfolding that will leave the world changed. It is one of those epic fantasy series that will be loved, hated, and debated for years to come.

But back to Harry. He is the ultimate hero. We meet him as a neglected eleven-year-old with no idea who he really is or what his destiny may be. Throughout the series, he grows into a young man who fully embraces that destiny and confidently leads his friends into battle. He has his rough moments. I actually didn’t like him much in The Order of the Phoenix, when it seemed like he spent half the book yelling at people and the other half pouting about his life and relationships and being treated like the annoying teenager he is…but it was at the end of the book when my heart really broke over him as he began to accept who he was and what he needed to do.

So, what does Harry Potter have to do with Jesus? Very little. Rowling wisely leaves religion alone, focusing instead on weaving a brilliant tale that touches on many of the truths of life under the overarching theme of good vs. evil. I believe, like C.S. Lewis, that every good story touches on something deep within us, reminding us that we do live for a greater purpose than the pleasure of today; that we are, in fact, destined for an eternity we cannot fully imagine but that we catch glimpses of on occasion. I do not believe that Harry Potter is “evil” because he is a wizard who is learning magic at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As much as I love fiction (and I do), I know how to distinguish fiction from reality. The world Harry Potter lives in is no more real than Narnia, Middle-Earth, or “a long time ago in a galaxy far away.” Witchcraft in that world and witchcraft in this world are completely different and almost totally unrelated things.

A few months ago, I started seeing previews for Part One of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and like all the other fans out there, I was practically jumping up and down in anticipation. And that got me thinking: wouldn’t it be great if people got as excited about church as they do about the next Harry Potter movie? The story of Jesus is every bit as exciting as the story of Harry Potter, and even better: it’s true. Yet you don’t see lines of people waiting outside the church building at midnight on Saturday, buzzing with anticipation about the upcoming morning worship service. That’s a little sad, but it’s just reality.

So, I’m a Harry Potter fan. I am not a Jesus fan. I don’t “like” Him on Facebook. I love Jesus with all my heart, soul, and strength. Harry Potter is fiction. Jesus is my reality. I’m excited about seeing Harry Potter this weekend. I look forward to spending eternity with Jesus with every fiber of my being. It isn’t just that I love Jesus more than Harry Potter. Nothing else compares with Him.

American on Purpose by Craig Ferguson

Well in case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t posted anything since my verdict on the Twilight Saga. That’s because I haven’t read anything other than articles on digital imaging since I read the Twilight Saga. My class on digital imaging is absolutely not one of my favorite things, so I won’t mention it again! But between it and getting ready for the arrival of the Dukeling (now only a month or so away!), I haven’t had many opportunities to read for pleasure. Normally, I don’t read non-fiction if I can help it, so this is definitely a notable occasion.

Greg and I are fans of Craig Ferguson. I really can’t explain why. He’s got a dirty mind and a filthy mouth and he certainly does not share many of our beliefs and values, but he has at least two things going for him: he’s brilliant and he’s Scottish. I’m not sure how funny he really is, but things just seem to sound funnier with a Scottish accent. We started watching his show because we watched Dave (I liked him at the time, but I’m over him now) and sometimes we would just leave the TV on and stay up too late. During the most recent election, shortly after he had become a naturalized citizen, Craig delivered a few passionate monologues on patriotism and voting that really won me over. Then he started playing with puppets, and I was hooked. So now we DVR his show every night and usually watch it the next night instead of Dave.

Greg checked out American on Purpose, Craig’s autobiography, from the library. After he finished it, he handed it to me and told me that it was a fast read and that I’d enjoy it. I did. I did not enjoy some of the language – Craig is particularly fond of the f-word – but I was fascinated by the story and by the fact that this dude who left school at sixteen is as brilliant a writer as he is a comedian and late night host. Of course, he does read extensively, and I always say that avid readers are generally not stupid.

Greg was right: this book is a fast read. I’m not sure whether it’s entirely true and accurate, but it is certainly an interesting story. I suppose it’s a fairly typical Hollywood story – alcohol, drugs, women, failures and successes – but he tells it in a witty, cynical style that is easy to get caught up in. His story of coming from a lower class Scottish family to achieving fame and fortune in America, while working through all kinds of sordid stuff, is pretty interesting. But woven through it all is this philosophy, this idea that America really is the greatest country in the world, and that ultimately his life is about becoming a part of this country. Craig Ferguson may be an unlikely patriot, but he somehow manages to be an inspiring one.

The Twilight Saga: My Verdict

Yes, it’s true.  I must confess that I actually checked out and read all four of the Twilight books.  Now, you might ask (as I sometimes ask myself): “Why would someone who refuses to read or see anything involving vampires, feels sick at the mention of blood, and is annoyed by teenage love stories read the Twilight books?” It’s a good question.  So why did I?  Peer pressure.  I caved.  So many people I know were talking about the books and the movies, and I wanted to have an informed part of the conversation.  So I read them.  And the first thing I have to say after reading them is that I do not want to kill myself, wash my brain out with soap, or wish I had found some better way to waste my time.  Because these books are actually good.  Anyone who finds my reviews boring can stop reading now. If you’d like to know more, please feel free to continue. 🙂

The first book, Twilight, is a teenage love story with a twist: Boy meets girl, boy saves girl’s life, they fall in love.  The twist, of course, is that while the girl (Bella) is a fairly ordinary human, the boy (Edward) is a vampire.  Oh no!  Have I said too much?  Honestly, if you don’t know that, you need to get out more.  So Twilight continues and introduces Bella’s family and friends and the Cullen family of “vegetarian” vampires who feed on animals instead of humans.  Bella’s presence in a group of vampires, even if they are “good” vampires, leads to some fairly predictable conflicts, as well as some not-so-predictable ones.  There is some humor, exciting action, and great character development.  Despite all the teenage angst and the melodramatic love story, I decided the first book wasn’t so bad, so I went on to the next: New Moon.

New Moon picks up right where Twilight picks off, and just as I was beginning to dread a whole book filled with, “Oh Edward, I love you so much, why can’t I be a vampire too?” things took a very interesting and unexpected turn.  Heart-broken and half-crazed Bella now turns to her friend Jacob Black, who helps her repair a motorcycle.  They develop a very close friendship and just as Bella is beginning to hope that she might begin to enjoy life again, Jacob starts acting very strange.  It’s only a matter of time before Bella discovers that Jake isn’t totally human either, and that his family are the mortal enemies of Edward’s family.  Before she can work out all of those difficulties, she’s off to Italy to try to save Edward from certain death at the hands of the Volturi, the powerful “ruling family” of the Vampire world.  Things end pretty well, but now there’s this whole Edward-Bella-Jacob thing to have to deal with…on to the third book: Eclipse.

Now we have several conflicts to deal with: Bella’s “best friend” Jacob likes Bella, who loves Edward; vampires vs. werewolves (oops, did I say werewolves…?); and a crazy evil vampire, bent on vengeance, creating a nasty army to come take Bella out.  If you haven’t figured it out, Bella is a sort of magnet for otherworldly, supernatural trouble.  After a whole book full of emotional roller coasters, danger, and action, some conflicts are resolved, while some become even more troublesome and painful.  At this point, it looks like there is no possible way to really resolve everything happily, which is why we have book four: Breaking Dawn.

Breaking Dawn is a LONG book.  It’s actually three books in one: Books one and three are told like the rest of the series, in first-person by Bella, but in book two we get to hear from Jacob.  Each part is essentially its own story, but they all tie together into a very fascinating whole.  That’s my best way to describe this book: absolutely fascinating and, for the most part, totally unexpected.  At the end of book two, I had to put the book down and just say, “Whoa.”  It’s really almost brilliant.  The last part is very good too, but I have to say I was mildly disappointed in the ending.  There is ultimately a final confrontation with the Volturi, in which there is a good chance that pretty much everyone will die, but I won’t spoil that for anyone who hasn’t read them and might possibly do so at some point.  I will just say that Stephenie Meyer did channel enough genius to resolve the conflicts in a way that was both surprising and satisfactory, just that the ending lacked a certain…something.  That’s all.

In my opinion, the best thing about these books was the characters.  They are very well-developed, and almost seem like real people, despite the somewhat fantastic nature of the story.  I think the only exception is Edward.  I understand that the point of his character is to be absolutely perfect, but still, I like my heroes to have some flaws, and Edward simply doesn’t.  Bella and Jacob are both much more “real,” and for me, likable.  Of course, they’re much more human, and Edward isn’t, so maybe that is intentional.  I don’t know.  But it’s my review, and so my opinion stands.  I neither like nor dislike Edward.  Comment if you’d like.

The other great thing about these books is how well the story moves.  Every once in awhile it does get bogged down by its own weight, but for the most part, it’s a good balance of romance, action, normal stuff, and even some humor.  In the meantime, we really get to know and understand the characters so that we actually care about what happens to them.  I was even able to get past my aversion for blood and vampires and enjoy the story, although I did have at least one fairly disturbing nightmare during the course of reading the series, and I seriously doubt I’ll have anything to do with vampire-related material in the future.  I also have to say that I’m not sold on the genre of “paranormal romance,” which is how I would classify these books.  Not really fantasy or horror, and definitely more than just romance, they sort of hover somewhere in between.  Twilight definitely feels more like a straight romance, while Breaking Dawn really seems to enter the world of fantasy, but none of it is totally one or the other.

A few final comments, and then I’ll be done.  First of all, these books are remarkably “clean.”  Considering the fact that they deal primarily with vampires, who are generally portrayed with large amounts of sex and grisly, bloody violence, there is actually very little of either in these books.  More blood than sex, but not terribly graphic.  There are a few scenes in Breaking Dawn that were a little hard for me to handle, but again, I am a total weakling when it comes to any mention of blood.  So if you were curious about those aspects of the story, perhaps I have helped to enlighten you.  Finally, I will say that while these books were good and I enjoyed them, I would not list them among the best I have read, and I’m not likely to ever read them again.  But I do recommend them to anyone who enjoys a good story and can tolerate a lot of romance.  They are worth the read.

Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer: The Ultimate in Regency Romance

I just had the pleasure of being able to enjoy reading one of Georgette Heyer’s Regency Romance novels for the first time.  I don’t get that experience very often, because I’ve read most of Heyer’s books by this point, and read several this year that I didn’t necessarily care for.  Sourcebooks has been putting out beautiful trade paperbacks of Heyer’s works for a few years now, and I got two of them for Christmas: The Grand Sophy, my absolute favorite, and Regency Buck, which I had never read.  Although The Grand Sophy must still remain my favorite for several reasons, Regency Buck is now right up there with Sylvester, Cotillion, and a few other of my “almost favorites.”  If you aren’t a fan of Regencies and don’t want to be yawning by the end of this review, you might want to stop here.  For anyone brave enough or who just doesn’t have enough else to do, feel free to read on. 🙂

Unlike many of Heyer’s Regencies, which set up with a drawing room conversation between a few minor characters or a major and a minor character, Regency Buck launches right into the story.  Mr. Peregrine and Miss Judith Taverner are on their way to London after the fairly recent death of their father has left them wards of the Earl of Worth, who they have never met.  On the way, Perry hears of a prize fight about to take place near the town where they have randomly stopped to rest, and he insists they stay for it.  Judith reluctantly agrees, and they meet several interesting gentlemen during the course of their stay.  One, a very pleasant man who gives up his rooms at the inn for them, turns out to be their cousin, Mr. Bernard Taverner.  The other is a high-handed dandy who seems rather lacking in manners, accosts Judith on the road, and refuses to give his name.  To their dismay, when the Taverners reach London they discover that this insufferable person is none other than their guardian, Lord Worth.  Despite his obvious reluctance to have anything to do with them, as the young Taverners make their place in society, Lord Worth continues to take a high-handed approach with them.  Judith finds herself unable to decide whether she detests his interference or appreciates the security he provides.  Meanwhile, several plots to remove the Taverners from their large fortune – and also possibly their lives – must be dealt with, as well.  The mysterious aspect of the plot is so subtle that the reader is never totally sure whether anything nefarious is actually taking place or who the villain or hero will turn out to be.

This book is set at the very height of the fashionable Regency period, when Beau Brummell actively sets all the fashions, Gentleman Jackson is quite active in his club and in society, Almack’s is at it’s very height of influence, and the Prince Regent’s summer castle at Brighton is the place for high society to spend the warmer months of the year.  Judith and her brother are swept along by all the brilliance and activity that their rank and fortune allows them.  Judith in particular is quite the rage, with her combination of beauty, fortune, and pert opinions.  She is pursued by a number of suitors, including a Royal Duke, but finds much more interesting pursuits for herself in driving a phaeton and becoming a connoisseur of snuff.  Her easy friendship with such society greats as Mr. Brummell and Lord Petersham, not to mention her guardian and protector, Lord Worth, keeps her buffered from some of the censure that some of her unorthodox behavior might otherwise incur.  She is certainly one of the most delightful and fascinating of Heyer’s heroines.

As I mentioned, I enjoyed this book very much.  I think it is an absolute essential read in the genre of Regency Romance.  It defines and describes the period better than any other book I have read, while also presenting an intriguing plot and a very satisfying romance.  Having read An Infamous Army, I was already familiar with most of the characters.  Because Regency Buck actually comes first, a few of the plot twists were ruined for me, but I still found the book hard to put down.  For anyone considering reading Georgette Heyer, it is important to know that most of her books stand alone, but a few have common characters.  They are These Old Shades, Black Sheep, Regency Buck, and An Infamous Army, and they make the most sense if they are read in that order.  I didn’t care for An Infamous Army, which is much more historical than romantic, and contains both an irritating heroine and painstakingly accurate details of the Battle of Waterloo.  Unless that somehow sounds exciting, I would suggest skipping that one altogether.  The other three are quite good, though Regency Buck is the best, and can be read by itself.

Summer Reading Project Book Ten: Redeeming Love

This book is a treasure. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is one of those rare books that absolutely every adult should read. If you haven’t read it, do it! Even if you happen to be a guy! Yes, it is a novel, and it is a romance novel, and actually, it’s a Christian romance novel, which might make some of you groan and gag, but no matter. You have got to read this book. It is really so much more than a novel. It’s an allegory, a retelling of an ancient story, and a revealing glimpse of humanity at its best and worst. It will rip your heart out, break it into pieces, and then very slowly put it back together, whole and new full of hope and promise. All that from one book? Yes. You just have to read it.

Set in the California Gold Rush, the book first introduces Angel, an incredibly beautiful girl with an unspeakably horrible past, a miserable present, and a hopeless future. We then meet Michael Hosea, a godly, wholesome farmer whose peaceful life is interrupted when God tells him to marry a prostitute. The complicated, heartrending, beautiful story of their relationship fills the book. Every character in the book fills an important role: Michael, the forgiving husband who loves his wife no matter what; Angel, the tortured soul who runs from love, refuses hope, and yet longs for peace throughout the story; Paul, the antagonist, who allows his bitterness to wreak destruction in the lives around him; the Altmans, who bring a picture of the “perfect” family in contrast to Michael and Angel’s struggle; and even Duke, so great an instrument of the Enemy that sometimes the two are indistinguishable. Yet despite the symbolism and allegory of the story, still the characters seem real, with real emotions, real failures, and real victories. Although I could never imagine the kind of life Angel lived, still I could feel her struggle, her futility, and the belief that everything that had ever happened to her was somehow her fault, that she had been to blame from the moment of her birth. Yet just as real as all that is the steadfast love of her husband, wooing her with a picture of the deeper, greater love that God had in store for her.

Reading this again, years after the first time, I did notice that there are a few lines that are a little cheesy, a couple of cliche’s, and a little more sappy sweetness than I had noticed before. It’s not flawless writing, but it’s still excellent and powerful, and definitely a cut above what you often get with Christian fiction. Also, it is a little more “racy” than Christian fiction usually is, although some writers have gotten a little edgier in recent years. Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend it to younger readers, but for older teens and adults, I definitely think it’s a must-read!