Nightmare before Christmas is the perfect movie. It goes from Halloween and leads right into Christmas! (Not to worry, I’m not skipping Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving!)
Shatterworld by Lela Rose Foreman
I was given this book for free in exchange for an honest review. I was pretty excited about that because it was the first time that had happened for me. J I’d seen other bloggers get books for free to review, but I’d never gotten one before. Exciting.
Shatterworld is Christian science-fiction. It is the perfect example of good writing taking something that probably sounded odd/dumb/crazy and making it engaging. I think anything well-written and developed will be enjoyable regardless of how silly or cliché it might be. This book is proof that I’m right. J
This is the story of a young girl who’s is part of a fundamentalist, theonomist religious group who flees persecution on Earth to form their own society on a new planet. Yes, my brain kept thinking Amish in space. The book begins just as they select a planet and details out the establishment of their colony. Conflict comes when Rejoice’s love of astronomy goes against the rural and agriculturally focused life the Elders have planned. How does star-gazing help grow crops?
Now, before some of you give up on this story based on the ‘Amish in space’ part, hear me out.
This book has hexacrabs.
It is amazing the way Foreman makes everything feel logical, real, and well-developed. But, the beauty comes in her alien race, because *Spoilers* the humans aren’t alone. The hexacrabs are fascinating. Their culture, language, and characteristics are appealing even as they are foreign. I relished every interaction with them. They are the element that keeps this story from being preachy or underdeveloped. Foreman has a gift with cultures, a real gift.
Without spoiling the story for you, I also loved how Rejoice is challenge throughout the story to be herself and yet weigh her own selfishness in that. I love how not only does Rejoice grow and change, but everyone does: parents, teachers, elders, siblings, friends, and hexacrabs. The world feels very rich because no one is static. They are all affected by what they believe, why they came here, the choices they made, and the world around them. This book, while simple in many ways, was a great example of the idea that side characters should all think they’re the main character.
I enjoyed the moment when disaster strikes and Rejoice waits to hear from God to see how she should proceed. At first, I worried she might actually hear God, instead she applies her God-given gifts to the situation and heroically save the day with the help of her autistic brother Makepeace. A perfect example of God using means within his sovereignty.
While I obviously don’t agree with all the theology because it’s a story about a fundamentalist/theonomist space travelers, the story never becomes preachy and the flaws within that belief system are easily seen. I think some good conversations could be had with your children as they read this book about the nature of sin, selfishness, gifts, family, church authority, and so much more.
If I was to nitpick this book, my only complaint would be the huge amount of characters to keep up with complicated by the names of some of them. This wasn’t a big deal to me, but I can see it being a minor hang up for some people.
Overall, this book is a wonderful adventure for both boys and girls, clean, with a strong family structure and plenty of opportunities for discussion. Plus, as an adult, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Curled up together while the autumn storm raged outside, nine cousins listened to Aunt Abby’s story:
Once upon a time, a ghost named Bruce haunted an old abandoned barn out in a cow pasture. He liked the barn with its old tin roof and gray pine-board walls worn down by wind and rain. He liked the old field with its tuffs of grass and wild flowers in the spring. But, Bruce was lonely. Haunting an old barn and scaring away kids was all good and fun, but sometimes he wished the kids would stay. He wished they’d run and scream with him instead of away from him.
One day, a brown and white puppy dog came sniffing around the barn.
“Hello!” Bruce called, floating up.
The puppy raised its nose from where he’d been sniffing a pile of trash and growled at the ghost.
Bruce darted back in the window of the barn. After waiting a moment, he peeked out. The puppy barked again. Bruce flew up through the floor to the dangerous second story. He counted to five: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
After several more attempts to not be barked at involving the gutters, the empty trough, and a blue glass bottle, Bruce realized they were playing hide and seek. He thought and thought for the best place to hide from the puppy. The old watering can? The fox hole in the barnyard? The chicken coop?
He tried each one and every time, bark! bark! the puppy found him.
Around and around the barn the ghost and the puppy raced. Here! There! Under! Over! In! and Out!
“Jude! Oh Jude!” a Princess shouted.
Bruce and the puppy came to a sudden halt.
“Jude? Where are you?”
The puppy gave a cheerful yip and raced out of the barn and into the Princesses arms. She cuddled him up and he licked and licked her face.
“Where have you been, silly dog?”
With a giant wiggle, the puppy escaped her hug. He tugged on her beautiful pink dress leading her back to the barn yard.
Bruce wisped through a wall. Playing with the puppy had been fun, but if this Princess swy him it’d be all back to screaming and running away. Bruce decided to hide for real and wafted all the way up to the very tip top of the barn.
“What is it Jude?” the Princess asked.
Jude barked at the ghost. Nothing. He barked again. No ghost.
Suddenly, an orange and brown owl, hooting indignantly, darted from the top of the barn. She spread her wings and gracefully swooped around and around the princess until she lighted on the ground.
“He’s hiding up there?” She pointed with her wing.
“What?” the Princess said unsurprised by the owl’s ability to talk. She was, after all, a very wise and round owl why shouldn’t she speak. “Who are you?”
“I’m Imogene the Owl. Jude wants you to meet his new friend, Bruce the ghost, but Bruce is hiding at the top of the barn.”
“He’s sure you’ll be afraid of him.”
“I’m not afraid! My fairy god-mother, Ellie, made me unafraid of everything.”
The owl blinked her two large eyes at the Princess. She never ceased to be amazed at the silly gifts fairies gave their charges. “Very well, I’ll go tell him.”
“I’ll come too,” the Princess said.
She hiked up her very full skirt and tromped into the barn with Jude at her heels.
Imogene shook her head at the silly, unafraid Princess, beat her wings, and flew back up to the roof to speak with Bruce before the something bad happened.
The floor creaked and groaned under the Princess’s every step as she made her way to the stairs leading up into the gloom. Several boards were missing, but being brave, she climbed over these with Jude under one arm until she reached the dangerous second floor. A shaft of weak light fell across a ladder on the other side of the room.
“We must climb that ladder!” The Princess exclaimed.
Jude sniffed the floor. He didn’t trust it one bit, but the Princess hurried across.
Up in his hiding spot, Bruce listened to Imogene as she told him about the Princess’s fairy curse. Maybe, just maybe this girl could be his friend if she wasn’t afraid of anything.
A scream sounded from below.
Jude barked: hurry hurry!
Oh no! Bruce flew down from the top of the barn passing through walls, floors, hay, dust, nests, and droppings.
“Princess!?” he shouted.
Then he saw her feet dangling through the dangerous second floor. Dirt covered her perfect glass slippers and a cut bled on her knee. The boards had given way under her as she tried to reach the ladder. Worse yet, her scream had woken Joshua the Dragon who slept under the barn. He loved Princesses most of all for dinner and he was very hungry when her yells woke him from his long autumn nap.
Bruce charged through the floor and stopped in front of the Princess.
“Hush! Hush.” Bruce pressed his finger to his lips. “You’ve woken Joshua up.”
“Who’s Joshua?” The Princess asked between gasps as she tried to keep from falling through the hole.
“He’s the dragon that lives under the barn.” Bruce tried to grab her hand but he kept floating right through her.
“What’s a dragon doing here?”
“Waiting to eat people.”
“Oh dear.” The Princess wasn’t afraid of Joshua the Dragon, she was far more worried about trying to explain to her parents how she ripped her dress and then got eaten. They wouldn’t be happy with her. “You have to find a way to help me up.”
Bruce zipped around and around thinking who could help. Think. Zip. Think. Zip.
The Princess slid further down into the whole.
Joshua the Dragon growled and climbed towards her.
Jude barked and barked chasing after the zipping, thinking ghost only to run back and bark at the dragon, and then tug on the Princess’s sleeve.
“I’ve got it!” Bruce flew like the wind out of the barn.
Faster and faster he floated. Bruce passed through trees, houses, and even a cow until he came to the creek where the water nymph, Constance, lived.
“Constance!” he called. “Help! Help!”
Out of the creek, rose a silvery girl with long locks of hair that flowed behind her when she swam. In her arms, a little nymph boy with big eyes sucked on the empty shell of a snail.
“What is it Bruce?”
“The Unafraid Princess fell through the floor and woke Joshua up and now he’s going to eat her!”
“That silly dragon always forgets he swore to stop eating princesses years ago.” Constance set the little nymph boy down. “Stay here Rook, until I get back. And no teasing the fish!”
Together, Bruce and Constance hurried back to the barn, passing back through trees and houses, though Constance made him go around the cow, instead of through it, much to the joy of the cow. Back in the barn, Constance, with the help of Jude, pulled the Princess up through the hole and onto boards that were safer.
“Just because you aren’t afraid,” Constance said. “Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make wise decisions. Didn’t Ellie the Fairy explain that?”
As Constance said her name, Ellie appeared.
“You called?” she said.
Joshua roared. The whole barn shook.
“My goodness. What is that?” Ellie peered down into the whole.
“That is Joshua the Dragon, which your Princess woke up because she’s not afraid of anything.”
“Well, not exactly—” the Princess started to explain, but Ellie loudly interrupted.
“Why would you go and do something like that?”
“I didn’t mean to wake him up.”
Joshua spread his wings and flew up into the room breaking the dangerous second floor to bits. Ellie fluttered out of the barn with the Princess who was still not scared. Constance grabbed up Jude and hurried out of the dragon’s way with Bruce behind them. Interrupted from her afternoon sleep by all the racket, Imogene came to see what had happened.
“I smell a tasty Princess!” Joshua snapped lashing his tail. “And I’m HUNGRY!”
Everyone stared at the big green dragon.
“No.” Bruce said. “No. You can’t eat her.”
“Why not?” Joshua growled. Smoke drifted up out of his large nose.
“Cause she’s my friend. And her dog is my friend.”
“Isn’t Imogene the Owl your friend, and Constance the water nymph, and Ellie the Fairy?”
Bruce looked around at not just the Princess and Jude, but also at the others gathered to help him.
“Don’t forget me!” a small voice said. “I’m your friend too.” Out of the barn fluttered a small moth with wild hair.
“Hello Remi,” Joshua said. He blew a soft puff of air at her to help her over to Bruce.
“Thank you, Joshua,” she huffed quite out of breath.
“All of you are my friends?” Bruce said.
“Of course!” Ellie shouted.
“But I’ve felt so lonely.”
“Maybe it took the unafraid Princess to remind you that you have lots of friends,” Constance said.
“Are you really going to eat me?” The Princess reminded them of why they were all here.
Joshua opened his big great mouth. Rows and rows of teeth gleamed in the sunshine. Smoke billowed up out of his throat.
“No.” He clamped his mouth shut. “No. I just remembered I promised not to eat any more Princesses.”
The unafraid Princess ran over and gave him a great big hug.
“I knew there was nothing to be scared of.”
“He thinks that since we’re all here, we may as well play a game of hide-and-go-seek.” Bruce translated.
“We should!” Ellie yelled.
The dragon, nymph, fairy, princess, moth, owl, and puppy darted back into the old barn while Bruce closed his eyes and started to count.
“Am I sick? Health is mine, strength is mine, well-being is mine, a perfect enjoyment of all the good things of life is mine, because all that is Christ’s, who is God’s and who dispenses them according to his pleasure. And to whom would he dispense them if not to me, his child? If then he refuses them to me today, for a fleeting moment that passes like a ship of the mist, he has his reasons. It is because there are in those pains and this bitterness hidden blessing that are worth more to me than that health which is so precious or that well-being which is so sweet. He will never deprive me of any good except to give me some other, better one. That is my consolation; it is all in his love.” – Living in the Hope of Glory by Adolph Monod
(I think this may be my most favorite religious books. They are sermons preached by Monod from his sick bed during the last few months of his life, and I have found them rich.)
Using my husband, the Lord has graciously taught me the value of systematic theology and sound, solid doctrine.
It’s not like I didn’t know before that theology and doctrine were important. I did. But I kept theology in one hand and practical application in another as if the two were totally different things that never touched each other. It’s an easy thing for the modern Christian to fall into, even one raised in the Reformed faith.
Over the last three years, the Lord has shown me the practical benefits, personally and corporately, of sound theology.
During this process, one of the greatest things I’ve learned is that the greater God is, the greater our salvation! The more we grasp and hold to the creature/Creator difference, the more powerful, gracious, and merciful our salvation is. Praise God that He would save me!
This same truth struck me a few Sundays ago when Pascal Denault preached for us after our SBFC-SW: God didn’t save us because He needed us. He saved us because He loved us!
What a powerful thought! What a harbinger of hope!
Think about all that Christ endured in this life only to die a torturous death, but then you see He did that out of love for me and His church, oh my heart! Here is beauty! We, the church, the chosen bride of Christ, are loved by Him that much! Not because He was incomplete without us. No, because He loves us. Oh how great God is! How great is salvation when it is all of grace! How great is this love!
He didn’t need me! He loved me!
We sell our salvation cheap when we think we are saved because God needed us somehow. It lessens God and glorifies man. It’s all about me. It’s all about me being something. It steals glory from God and leaves room for my pride. And, perish the thought, if He ever doesn’t need me anymore, or a better me comes along, I’m lost. What slavery!
I don’t want my husband to keep me around only cause he needs his socks cleaned or his meals cooked. I want him to love me outside of my abilities. I’m sick and can’t do much. One day, I’ll get old and be able to do less. If he only wants me for what I do for him, then I’m sunk. But, if he loves me, cooking and cleaning because a joy and no longer a burden. Old age can be faced with less fear because I know he loves me. He won’t abandon me when the road is dark, because he loves me.
The same is true of the Christian walk. If I obey out of fear that God will stop needing me, I don’t love Him. I’m only thinking about me. But If I obey not to earn God’s love, but because of it, than I am free from fear. I’m free to obey without worrying about losing my salvation. I did nothing to earn it. It is safely held in the sovereign, impassible hands of our mighty God.
Do you see how sound theology is infinitely practical?
(This is a new take on Chesterton’s quote about Fairy Tales. I love this idea! Read your children stories where the monsters are defeated.)
I just wanted to update all my blog followers, that yesterday afternoon I finished the rewrite of Book 1 of my YA Fairy Tale.
I finished the original rough draft last summer (2014) only to realize, with a little promoting from one of my Alpha Readers, Rob Akers, that there was a major plot point going in the wrong direction. Since then I’ve been up to my neck in rewrites. The plot problem had to be fixed and it’s effects on the rest of the world had to be followed through.
It was a lot of work, but I’m so much happier with the book now. It’s gone from 54 chapters to 93 and totals out at 168,800 words.
I think it is now ready for another set of Alpha Readers to come along and check it for holes, problems, and any issues. If you’re interested let me know!
Now I’m starting the next part of the story. My plan is to finish the series without worrying about whether its two more books, one more book, or twelve. Once the whole story is done, I’ll go back and start editing from the top!
Thanks for Cheering me on!
I’m sorry all these reviews are so short. These books deserve better, but I got behind and am to tired to do more than say if I liked them or not.
I was very excited to get my hands on this book my Wilson after reading his thoughts on children’s literature. This book has some very cute elements and I particularly loved the family that the MC moves in with. The setting is also delightful. The story balances just the right amount of humor and fear. I look forward to reading the rest of his work. This would be a great book to read aloud as a family, and both boys and girls will enjoy it.
Rated G: scary witch, magic.
I’m going to just admit up front that I got more out of this book when I read it aloud with my husband. We read the first letter, and then I read the other three on my own. It is a rich and theologically deep book, but still applicable today. I found it amazing to read the work of a saint from so long ago.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
I thought this was a great book. It proves that there are creative and fun children’s stories still being written. Any girl who enjoys fairy tales will love this version of Cinderella with a twist. In fact, the twist made me nervous for the author. It seemed so challenging, but she handled it perfectly. The book does a good job having a lead female character without destroying all the male characters. The prince is brave and good. I recommend this book for any young lady!
Rated G: magic, step-mothers, fairies
“What I have feared most has come to pass. Military victory had become political defeat.” – Moshe Dayan from The Lion’s Gate by Steven Pressfield
(Oh, how often this is true!)