book review: to save a race

To Save a Race

When Duke Callon divorces his wife and decides on an uncanny way of choosing his next duchess, Arianna’s left with little choice. Faced with the intricacies of politics, Arianna struggles to find her place. Just as she thinks she has her footing, a decree, issued with the blessing of her husband, calls for the extermination of her entire race. 

A young innocent girl, a capricious duke, and a decree that will change everything. What will it take to save a race? 

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Esther has always been one of the my favorite books in the Bible, so when I was offered the chance to read and review To Save a Race, a steampunk retelling of Esther, I was more than happy to do so.

WHAT I LIKED:

~The faithfulness of the retelling. Kandi J. Wyatt did an admirable job of placing the story of Esther into a steampunk setting and didn’t switch around story details as many retellings of fairytales and such do. Which is good because Esther isn’t a fairytale – the events in that book actually happened.

~Characterization was pretty solid, as was the writing. I’m not sure that Kenden added a lot to the story, but I still liked him. I was prepared to dislike Callon, but how he changed and grew and worked through his weaknesses and insecurities…I quite liked him by the end. Marcos was great, as any version of Mordecai should be.

~The writing was also well-done. To Save a Race was a quick, easy, enjoyable read because of that.

~I liked Callon and Arianna’s relationship. Believable, even though they got married so quickly.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:

~The steampunk setting wasn’t too clear and aside from a few mentions of leather corsets, the use of gas instead of electricity, and hand-cranked car engines, there weren’t many details. Which was disappointing because I love the concept of steampunk and I wish I could’ve been immersed in the story world.

~Arianna was annoying at the beginning. She reminded me of Esther in ‘One Night With the King’ sometimes and that’s not the best thing.  Still, by the end of the book she’d grown as a character, which is what matters.

Overall, I had an enjoyable time reading To Save a Race and I’d recommend it to fans of retellings and clean Christian fiction.

Have you read To Save a Race?  Do you know of any other Biblical retellings?  I’d love to hear about them!

Eva

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mini movie reviews {#8}

The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012) – Sweet and charming and heartwarming.  Not unlike young Timothy himself.  And Lin-Manuel Miranda plays a bit role. (I’m not a fan, but I know tons of people are, so…yeah.)

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The 300 Spartans (1962) – This movie scarred me as a child because THEY ALL DIED.  It’s still sad, but also a great and enjoyable piece of entertainment.  I think a part of me always wanted to be Ellas and have Leonidas as my uncle.

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The Trouble With Harry (1955) – Another Hitchcock film to check off my list!  This one wasn’t quite as good as some of his others, but it was still lots of [morbid] fun.

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House of Wax (1953) – Speaking of morbid…this one actually made me and my siblings laugh quite a bit because it’s so dramatic and serious and gory but not really.  Vincent Price is something else again and I’m not sure if I mean that in a complimentary way or not.

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TRON (1982) – I’m sorry, guys.  I just don’t understand why this is such a beloved classic.  I realize that the CGI was revolutionary in its time, but it made my mom nauseous and the plot is so boring.  (‘TRON: Legacy’ is still kind of boring, but at least it’s cool to look at.)  It was interesting to see Jeff Bridges as his younger self, since before ‘TRON’ I’d only ever seen him as an older guy.

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The Borrowers (1997) – Great for a one-time viewing, but I can’t see myself re-watching it any time soon.

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Chariots of Fire (1981) – After reading For the Glory, I was very interested in watching ‘Chariots of Fire’ again to see how accurate Ian Charleson’s portrayal of Liddell was.  It was pretty good, with just a few rough patches here and there – my favorite moment was the message he preached after that one race because it sounded just like what one of Liddell’s sermons would be. (See here for an awesome bit of trivia about said scene.)

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The Hurt Locker (2008) – Still not entirely sure what the point of the movie was, but Jeremy Renner was amazing.  Pretty bleak film, though, and one that I’m not sure I’ll ever watch again.

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Lilies of the Field (1963) – I still have that “Amen” song running through my head.  IT WON’T LEAVE.  This is a lovely little film that made me want to read the book it’s based on as well.

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Mr. Holmes (2015) – Ian McKellen is incredible.  To still be acting at his age and doing such a first-rate job of it.  This movie is a little forgettable, but his performance is not.

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Jumanji (1995) – Another childhood classic that I didn’t actual watch while a child.  Still, I liked it quite a bit.  The one thing that saved ‘Jumanji’ from being one of those ‘well, that was okay but I’ll probably never watch it again’ was the ending.  I really dug the ending.

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Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2005) – All style and no substance.

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Anna and the King (1999) – Before seeing this, I said “Whoever plays the king will never be able to come close to Yul Brynner” and I almost had to eat those words because Chow Yun-Fat did an excellent job.  Some people say that this movie is boring, but I didn’t find it so at all.  And I liked that Louis had a larger role than in ‘The King and I’ because Tom Felton. (I think I’m the only non-Harry Potter watching person who’s also a big Tom Felton fan.)

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Have you seen any of these films and, if so, do you agree with my opinion of them?  What movies have you watched lately?

Eva

movie review: sky high

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Man.  ‘Sky High’ is one of the very few cult classics where I actually understand why it’s a cult classic.  You’ve got a very fun premise, a story world that lends itself readily to expansion in fanfiction, and some great characters that you can endlessly ship and theorize about because there’s NOT ENOUGH OF THEM. (Like, there’s enough characters for the story.  But not enough information about those characters.)

Plot stuff: Will Stronghold is the son of two superheroes…but he doesn’t have any super powers, something that’s pretty embarrassing, especially when he starts attending Sky High, a superhero high school.  Typical high school drama + evil supervillain drama ensues, with Will learning Important Life Lessons along the way.  Kind of clichéd, but still very entertaining.

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There’s not much I can say about the music, cinematography, etc., because none of them really stand out as anything special.  And besides, what really made me enjoy ‘Sky High’ was the characters.

Will is the main character who goes from being a somewhat deceitful, insecure guy to someone who stands up for his friends and busts down the cliques at Sky High.  For a main character, he’s a bit bland, but still likable.  Then there’s Layla, Will’s best friend, who has nature/plant powers and is played by Danielle Panabaker (the irony and awesomeness are REAL).  I really like Layla.  She’s an independent, outspoken person who’s also really nice. (So, basically Caitlin Snow?  Kinda?)

One of my favorite characters is Warren Peace because his backstory is the coolest.  Seriously.  I want to know how his parents met and fell in love and got married. (Or are they married?  Like, what if they didn’t get married and Warren’s mom raised him and that’s how he got enrolled in Sky High.  See what I mean about the backstory?)  Also, with his fire powers and how he and Layla are (briefly) a sort of couple, it’s like Ronnie and Caitlin 2.0 – *all the heart eyes*. (Even though I don’t ship them.)

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(Will’s parents are super cool, by the way.  Especially by Disney parent standards.)

So, basically, if you like superheroes or teen high school dramedys, watch this movie!

Eva

mini book reviews {#4}

A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White – I’ve read three books by White so far and they all share a commonality: it takes me a while to get into the story, but once I do…wow.  I didn’t want this one to end and I liked it even better than A Name Unknown.

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Rachel’s Tears by Beth Nimmo, Darrell Scott, and Steve Rabey – After watching ‘I’m Not Ashamed’ so often, I wanted to read this book and it was wonderful.  Touching and challenging.  It also gives me great confidence in the movie because I was able to see just how many details they took right from Rachel’s journals.

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A Time to Speak by Nadine Brandes – Just finished this one yesterday.  IT WAS SO GOOD.  Nadine Brandes is a genius at weaving her faith into her stories without it being jarring or heavy-handed.  I love this series.

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Judah’s Wife by Angela Hunt – I often have trouble connecting with Hunt’s characters, though her writing style is incredible, but when I found myself very close to ugly sobbing by the end when a certain character died, I knew I’d connected this time.

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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – Beautifully written, but a hard read for somewhat obvious reasons.  I cried so much.

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Do Hard Things & Start Here by Brett and Alex Harris – I’ve had Do Hard Things on my shelf for years but I only read it a couple months ago.  WHY DIDN’T I READ IT SOONER? *is angry at younger self*  Anyway, it’s hugely inspiring and absolutely worth reading.  The follow up, Start Here, is almost as good and has lots of practical tips for implementing the ideas in DHT.

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Old Friends & New Fancies by Sybil G. Brinton – A treat for Jane Austen fans.  It’s a little clunky and character-heavy, but once things settle down and Brinton finds her rhythm, it’s a good book.

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The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker – While I wouldn’t recommend the other two books in the Seer series, The Choosing stands well by itself (as far as I can remember) and the world-building/characterization is amazing.  Reminded me, in bleakness, of The Giver.  And the theological issues aren’t as prevalent in this one, so…yes.  Tentatively recommended.

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The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart – Good, but looooong.  I can’t really compare it to The Mysterious Benedict Society, since I haven’t read that in ages, but it was great.

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Fancy Pants by Cathy Marie Hake – A light-hearted, entertaining western with fun characters.  AKA some of my favorite things all rolled into one.

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Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean – I don’t even like dogs but Orlean had me captivated right from the first page.

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First Date by Krista McGee – A frothy, forgettable read centered around the premise that POTUS’s son is going to chose a prom date on a Bachelor-esque reality show.  There were a few heartfelt moments, mostly centered around the main character’s deceased missionary parents, but I wasn’t too impressed overall.

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For the Glory by Duncan Hamilton – I partially rate the skill of a biographer on whether or not I cry at the subject’s death at the end (unless it’s someone like Hitler or someone who’s not dead yet).  Well, Hamilton had me in tears within the first five pages so take from that what you will.  For the Glory reminded me of Unbroken with its rich prose and great characters.  I watched ‘Chariots of Fire’ yesterday and had great fun pointing out all the inaccuracies (and the scenes/people that were accurate).  Now I’m looking forward to see Joseph Fiennes in ‘On Wings of Eagles’.

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What books have you read lately?

Eva

book review: the sea before us

35069215.jpgIn 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France–including those of her own family’s summer home–in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.

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I want to hug this book and (almost) all the characters.  The first book I read by Sarah Sundin (With Every Letter) left me bored and wondering why everyone raved about her.  With this book (her newest, I believe) I understood.  I’m a huge fan of WWII fiction (and nonfiction) and I enjoyed learning about Operation Neptune, Wrens, and the Navy in general.  There was a real, vital plot that wove throughout the romantic parts and so I could enjoy the romantic parts even more.

The characters are what really had me hooked, though.  From the first few pages of the prologue, I’d already fully connected with Wyatt, which was AWESOME.  Dorothy was a lovely heroine, if a little dense at times.  There were times when her relationship (or lack thereof) with Wyatt irritated me, but that’s to be expected in a ‘will they or won’t they?’ plot, right? (Also, I love the cover because you can see Dorothy’s freckles and they are Important.)  I’m looking forward to the next two books in this series soooo much because I can’t wait to learn more about Adler and Clay and see if the three brothers are reunited (they have to be!).

Highly recommended to all fans of WWII novels, historical fiction, and sweet romance.

I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Eva

movie review: 42

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In 1946, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), legendary manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, defies major league baseball’s notorious color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) to the team. The heroic act puts both Rickey and Robinson in the firing line of the public, the press and other players. Facing open racism from all sides, Robinson demonstrates true courage and admirable restraint by not reacting in kind and lets his undeniable talent silence the critics for him.

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Over the past several months, there seems to have been a heightened awareness of racism – sometimes well-founded, sometimes a bit ridiculous.  It seems like everything is racist these days.  But ’42’ is set during a time in which racism meant that people were denied basic rights and freedoms simply because of the color of their skin.  It wasn’t about hoop earrings or Disney’s Maui costume or #sowhite Oscars.  It was about separate bathrooms and drinking fountains and having to move to the back of the bus (or off the bus, for that matter) and horrific violence and vitriol directed toward those who deserved none of it.

Into that world stepped Jackie Robinson.  Standing behind him were Branch Rickey and Rachel Robinson and, eventually, the Brooklyn Dodgers themselves.  ’42’ is all about how Robinson stood up to the hate and prejudice and anger…and triumphed.

I could cheer and clap and shout for hours because of it.

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This movie holds a special place in my heart and a huge part of that is because of the people who inhabit it.  Chadwick Boseman brought such strength and determination and sensitivity to the role of Jackie Robinson.  I’d liked T’Challa in ‘Captain America: Civil War’, but my admiration for Boseman grew exponentially after watching him in ’42’. (He’s made a disgustingly small amount of films, though. *sigh*)  I also appreciated Nicole Beharie as Rachel Robinson.  Rachel is such a wonderful character – very supportive of Jackie even when everything is against him.

And I can’t say enough good things about Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey.  You really lose sight of the fact that it’s Ford in the role, he does such a good job at embodying a historical person.  Such a good job.  I also like that reporter guy and the guy who’s always hanging around Rickey and a lot of the Dodgers, too.  Especially Pee Wee Reese.  That scene where he just drapes his arm over Robinson’s shoulders and chats with him?  I cry.  It’s epic. (I cry a lot during this movie, in case you couldn’t tell.)

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Then there’s Ben Chapman.  Let me tell you…I hated the n-word before watching ’42’, but I loathe it a hundred times more now.  Still, I don’t hate Chapman.  I actually kind of feel sorry for him because, yeah, that is one messed-up worldview but so many people were pretty much trapped in that way of thinking for so long. (And I definitely feel sorry for Alan Tudyk.  After reading interviews…ouch.  It was so draining and depressing and horrible for him to scream those obscenities for hours on end.)

Anyway.

’42’ is an important movie.  It’s my favorite movie of 2017.  I rated it 10/10 stars on IMDb (which is rarer than rare).  And even though it’s hard to watch in places, I believe everyone should at some point.

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Eva

mini book reviews {#3}

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes – Forbes wrote something supremely special when she wrote this book.  The prose is simple and clear and evocative of the time period.  The characters are lovable or villainous.  And the British soldiers are not horrible monsters, which I appreciated.

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IMO, Johnny looks vaguely like Luke Skywalker on this cover.  I think it’s the hair.

A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes – I’ve wanted to read this book for forever.  Christian dystopia with such an intriguing premise and such a gorgeous cover?  Yesss.  It was a highly entertaining book, full of heart and brilliant characters.  My only complaint is that the next two books are so hard to find.

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Esther: Royal Beauty by Angela Hunt – Had some iffy content (and for a Bethany House publication at that) but Hunt’s writing style is entrancingly beautiful and I’ll never read the book of Esther the same way again.

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The Fangirl Life by Kathleen Smith – Blech.  I expected it to be something different (re: good) but it was mostly feminist drivel wrapped up in a package of vaguely fandom-related talk and ‘life advice’.

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Wickham’s Diary by Amanda Grange – I’ve been a fan of Amanda Grange ever since reading Mr. Darcy’s Diary (though Mr. Knightley’s Diary is #no for me) and this little novella was entertaining, though I wish that Grange had lengthened it and gone ahead to the events in Pride & Prejudice.

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The Reluctant Godfather by Allison Tebo – Hey, you know what?  You can just read my full review here.

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Brionne by Louis L’Amour – This book will always be special to me because I read it in one night at a cool hotel on The Great Road Trip.  Said cool hotel was cool because it had a little lending library in the lobby with books that were actually good.  Children’s literature classics, adult classics, Louis L’Amour books, and so on.  Not simply Danielle Steele and Dan Brown.  Anyway, Brionne is one of the better L’Amour books I’ve read.  The main character is very awesome and sympathetic and his wife is GREAT and, yep, I loved it.

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SADDEST COVER EVER. (Also, check out this cover ’cause I love it as well.

Have you read any of these books?  What’ve you been reading lately?

Eva