Monday, December 30, 2013

Review: Martyr's Fire: Book 3 in the Merlin's Immortals series

Because I had not read the previous two books in the Merlin's Immortals series, it took me a while to get a full sense of the setting and time of "Martyr's Fire." And I still don't know why the author chose that title. But I enjoyed the book overall, especially a surprise cameo appearance by Robin Hood. The characters were fun and memorable, and I got the sense that if the series were more lumped together, a larger plot would unfold. As a single book, however, "Martyr's Fire" felt unfinished. The plot did not develop much, and I think it would have been better if the upcoming fourth book had been added to this book. I did, however, greatly appreciate that the chapters were short and easy to read.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review of it.

Book Plot Description: Will this dangerous quest lead the outcast Orphan King toward an ancient secret—or to certain destruction? Posing as a beggar, Thomas escapes Magnus after fifteen men, who are calling themselves the Priests of the Holy Grail, arrive and take control of the castle through wondrous acts and apparent miracles. With the help of his longtime friend Gervaise, Thomas sets out on a journey that leads him to the ancient Holy Land. Unaware that Katherine and Hawkwood are watching over him, Thomas is tested in his beliefs and comes face to face with the ancient power that the Merlins and Druids have long been searching for. Enter the world of Merlin’s Immortals, where ancient secrets and evil conspiracies take you on a breathless adventure of discovery, intrigue, and hidden knowledge. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: NIV Essentials Bible

It is most definitely a marketing ploy to encourage readers to buy the full Bible versions that are included in part in the NIV Essentials Bible. It seems to include a mixed version of the Bible, with its text a combined edition from both the NIV and TNIV, a fact that makes it less trustworthy.

But I was very excited to receive my NIV Essentials Bible. It's full of wonderful study notes from six different study Bibles, my favorite of which is the Chronological Study Bible. If only they would put all the notes from all six versions in one Bible! I know I wouldn't mind the length!

It's long, as it is, and they called it "Essentials" for a reason. This is a wonderful Bible to read for the "best of" study notes, but I wouldn't make it my main Bible. There are better versions (my favorites are NKJV and ESV).

*Disclaimer: I received this Bible for free in exchange for my honest review of it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Review: An Elegant Solution

I gave up around page 100. Normally, I would not review a book without finishing it, but it was taking me forever to read this one due to its tedious details and lack of plot development. It seemed unfair to take a year to read it before posting a review. The story sounded interesting (summary below) as it involved science, mathematics and a mystery. But at page 100, the murder had just happened, the characters were boring and the action often difficult to understand. The author went on tangents describing so many different things, but never got into the actual story. So I gave up. I may try to finish it yet, but for now this review and 100 pages will have to suffice. Unless you're very intelligent and intellectual and enjoy extensive details with little plot development (as many classic novels possess), I can't recommend this book.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review of it.

Description on website:

When the Rules That Govern Men Are Shattered,
All You Can Trust Are the Invisible Rules 
That Govern Life Itself

For math prodigy Leonhard Euler, the Bernoulli family have been more than just friends. Master Johann has been a demanding mentor, and his sons have been Leonhard's allies and companions. But this is a family torn by jealousy. Father and sons are engaged in a ruthless competition for prestige among the mathematical elites of Europe. And now, their aspirations may have turned deadly.

Lured into an investigation of the suspicious death of Jacob Bernoulli, his master's brother, twenty years ago, Leonhard soon discovers he's facing an elusive puzzle as complicated as any math equation. Surrounded by the world's most brilliant--and cunning--minds, Leonhard finds himself tracing an unraveling and invisible spiral of greed, blackmail, and murder. He'll need all his genius to find an elegant solution to this desperate battle of wills.

Review: Clear Winter Nights

Trevin Wax had the right idea when he decided to put several questions about the Christian faith into a story format.

A college-aged man is going through an identity crisis after leaving his fiance and questioning his right and obligation to take part in church planting when doubts about his faith surface. He goes to visit his grandfather for a short time, and while taking care of him, he ends up asking the former pastor several questions about Christianity.

I love the idea here. A story format makes these questions easier to discuss, and Wax has created believable characters and a touching story. However, I felt like the discussions did not go deep enough and that they felt a bit too pre-meditated rather than conversational. For me, personally, I did not leave with any shocking answers to big questions. I go to the non-fiction books for that kind of an eye-opener. "Clear Winter Nights" is more of a coffee table book in that it's a short and easy read. But it's a very good book for beginners seeking answers. I'm just not at that stage any more, having read several non-fiction books with better, clearer, longer answers.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review of it.

Review: Return to Me

I enjoy reading books and watching movies that attempt to fill in the gaps of Old Testament histories and give faces and personalities to the people therein. Lynn Austin's "Return to Me," the first book in her Restoration Chronicles series, follows the story of Zechariah and his family as they return to Jerusalem after King Cyrus' decree. But the road is full of trials, and they don't end when the group arrives in Jerusalem. The Samaritan locals have adapted to pagan cultures and practices, and they don't like their new neighbors taking what they consider their land. Young Zechariah's best friend finds herself attracted to sorcery and other practices outside the Jewish faith, leaving Zechariah torn between his increasing faith in God and his love for his friend.

The book covers a lot of time, and skips quite a few years as well, all leading up to the big moment when you know God will call Zechariah to be His prophet. That moment isn't that big in the book, and it comes at the tail end. It also comes after a series of occurrences where Zechariah finds himself quoting Scripture that doesn't exist, something I wasn't quite sure what to make of. But the only real flaw of the book that bothered me was the inserted of modern ideas and characteristics that didn't seem to fit. Still, I enjoyed the book and couldn't put it down. And I definitely would enjoy reading the rest of the series when it comes out. The characters and stories ultimately won me over.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review of it.