Friday, May 01, 2009

Christian Novel Review

The Shape Of Mercy by Susan Meissner
1400074568 / 9781400074563
A story of three women, all strangers, brought together by an old diary. Okay, so I'll never write successful tag lines for movies. Born into the wealthy Durough family, Lauren struggles everyday with her "destiny". She's not the son she believes her father always wished he had, and wants firmly to make her own mark in the world. Foregoing her family's financial assistance, Lauren takes a job as a literary assistant to Abigail, an elderly retired librarian. Lauren's task is to transcribe the journal of Mercy Hayworth, a young girl accused of being a witch in 1692. Lauren immerses herself into Mercy's life and finds herself being forced to change her own and Abigail's. Lauren ends up discovering that she is everything she thought she wasn't, and that everyone around her can see the truth that she so desperately searching for. I found a lot of the story to be contrived and cliche. There were also plot aspects that I found were unnecessary and seemed "tacked on" at the end - for example, Abigail's "lost love" story.
While I found aspects of the story compelling - mostly Mercy's historical bits - it wasn't enough for me to think of this book as one for my bookshelves.
Two balls of yarn


Three books - One author - Reviews

Thanks to Rachel, I've read four new books in the past few days...three by the same author...and here are some reviews...
*PS. None of them are the books that I promised were coming up next...slap on the wrist for me! Sorry!

Megiddo's Shadow by Arthur Slade
0006395686 / 9780006395683
A young adult story set in the time of World War One? And the Canadian prairies? What kind of magic has been bestowed upon me? The first book I've read by Arthur Slade - a Canadian (hooray!) young adult genre author. How often does one experience war and it's consequences through the eyes of a (very) young soldier? The answer: Not very. But, Slade's story of sixteen year old Edward and his journey to bring meaning to, and avenge, the death of his beloved older brother Hector, leaves you wanting more. After enlisting and leaving behind his father, Edward finds himself in a cavalry unit, making friends with his fellow soldiers, bonding with a horse, and finding love with a young nurse named Emily. However, instead of being shipped out to France, where he had hoped to find redemption for Hector's death, he finds himself at the Palestinian front. Under the scorching sun, Edward comes to the realization that war is not all glory and honour, and grows up in a very short period of time. A very definite coming-of-age story, the reader is thrown into the same place as Edward and experiences his sorrows and joys through some wonderfully descriptive passages. As much as the reader yearns for a "happy ending", I was quite pleased to see that the ravages of war are depicted truthfully, and that Edward returns home a changed person. Definitely a book I'd encourage others to read, especially amateur war buffs like myself.
Four and a half balls of yarn

Dust by Arthur Slade
0006485944 / 9780006485940
I can't even compare this novel by Arthur Slade to the previous one, as that would be apples to oranges. I really enjoy his fun use of words and his lovely writing style. What starts off as a seemingly sombre story of a missing child and his family's heart-breaking search for him, turns into a fascinating tale of fantasy and science fiction, which left me shivering with creepy delight. Told through the eyes of 11 year old Robert, Slade uses his wonderful gift for constructing vivid images through his writing, to set the reader in the hot, dry Saskatchewan farmlands. When Robert's younger brother, Matthew, disappears during a walk into town, Robert finds himself torn in two directions - to become blissfully forgetful of Matthew, as his parents have, or to struggle and continue the search for his brother, and the truth behind the mysterious new stranger, Abram Harsich, and his "miraculous" machine that will save the town from drought. Abram is a delightfully spooky villain, and like Megiddo's Shadow, there are subtle undertones of Biblical allegory. I was quite captivated until I got to the end (oops) which suddenly left me feeling a little bit cheated...almost like how I felt at the end of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.
Three balls of yarn

Jolted by Arthur Slade
0006395694 / 9780006395690
Again, such a different story from Arthur Slade, but I could sense the same writing style, and I love it! Fourteen-year-old Newton (brilliant name!) comes from the long line of "death by lightning" Starkers. Apart from his great grandmother, Enid, he's the last of the Starkers and has a long list of rules to "survive" by. He goes to a special school for Higher Learning and Survival in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan (yay for Canadian settings!) and ends up learning more than just how to find edible bugs in the woods. I found it all pretty brilliant! I loved the descriptive passages, the fun play with words and the creative conventions of the actual layout of the book/story - a diagram of the school's Scottish uniform, recipes (that I will be trying!), excerpts from Newton's Rules for Survival and more. Despite, or perhaps as a result of (!), his fear of his impending doom, Newton manages to form friendships (a big "no-no" from his loving, but deceased, mother), get high marks, whip up gourmet meals, and possibly experience fledgling love. I would gladly hand this to any bored reader, old or young, male or female, and almost DARE them to not enjoy it.
Four balls of yarn

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Star Wars, Wedge Ficlet - Untitled

For otahyoni

Wedge exhaled and looked out the X-wing's canopy window. All around him, the ground crew was cheering and celebrating. A brief smile appeared on his tired face as he waited for someone to place the ladder against his cockpit. After a few minutes, the thought crossed his mind that he might have to flag someone down, but a sudden thud let him know that he hadn't gone unnoticed. He opened his canopy, and a happy face greeted him.

"Welcome back, Commander! Congratulations!!!"

"Thanks...Burny," he replied, proud that he'd remembered the man's name.

The grounds crewman disappeared down the ladder, and Wedge hauled himself up. It felt good to stand. His legs were tense and he bounced up and down a few times, urging the circulation to return to his lower limbs. Making his way down the ladder, he surveyed the chaos around him. Pilots, mechanics, astromech droids, flight traffic controllers and other Rebel personnel were happily celebrating the destruction of the Death Star, and the collapse of the Empire.

His foot touched the duracrete and he was immediately surrounded by his squadron-mates. Wedge endured the good-natured back slaps and shoulder punches, laughing inside as Wes and Hobbie descended into petty bickering. Tycho stood by, grinning cheerfully. He turned to Wedge.

"We should make our way to the big party. Up in the Ewok village. Lando's waiting for us." He looked towards the hanger entrance, and Wedge followed his gaze. General Calrissian was laughing with some grounds crew, but looked up, as if he knew he was being watched, and waved at Wedge. Wedge nodded, and turned back to his friends.

"Come on Rogues...or what's left of you," he said playfully, and then stopped. Wes. Hobbie. Tycho. And himself. That was it. They were the only Rogues to survive. The four of them. And one other.

"Rogues?" Hobbie said sternly and threw an arm around Wes. "We're Reds at the moment. And Tycho is a Greenie. Are you reassembling Rogue Squadron right here, right now? Is this it? Are we it?"

Wedge shook his head and rolled his eyes. "The Force help us if the two of you made up one half of Rogue Squadron!"

"I think we our fearless leader is full of fear." Wes said slowly, and looked over at Hobbie who nodded solemnly.

"Maybe you should stay here," Wedge suggested, "and Tycho and I will join the General up in the treetops." Saying this, he motioned to Tycho and they left the two lieutenants to sulk.

"Are we really leaving them behind?" Tycho asked quietly.

"Of course not," Wedge retorted. "But, it's fun to let them think we are."

They reached Lando and the General happily shook their hands. "Come on," he said eagerly, "grab those two and let's go find the others!" Tycho nodded and ran back to collect Wes and Hobbie. "Why are they pouting?" Lando asked Wedge as they set off to the Ewok village.

"Because they can," Wedge replied and laughed. They paused and waited for the others to catch up, and then the group headed towards the music and laughter than floated down from the village in the trees.

They were greeted by Lando's co-pilot, Nien Numb, and were soon immersed in good tidings from ground troops and fellow pilots. Wedge peered over the crowds, searching for one person.

Ewoks ran around gleefully, some were playing instruments - large drums, and one had even set up a percussion set of sorts out of scavenged stormtrooper and Imperial gunner helmets. Wedge grinned wryly and slowly made his way towards the centre of the celebration. Small Ewoks danced together, their joy and happiness infectious. Even Threepio and Artoo were partaking in the festivities. Some familiar faces caught Wedge's eye.

Lando strode ahead, and laughed loudly as he saw Han Solo. The two men threw their arms around each other excitedly. Wedge watched as Chewbacca stretched out his long, hairy arms to Lando. Leia Organa stood behind them, her long hair free and she was smiling.

And then from the corner of his eye, from one of the walkways around the trees, he saw a figure clad in black walking towards the bonfires, towards them. It was Luke. The fifth remaining member of Rogue Squadron. No, Wedge corrected himself, he was the last of the Jedi now.

Luke Skywalker headed straight for Princess Leia, and the two embraced. Like brother and sister, Wedge thought idly. As they finally released their holds on each other, Wedge's view of the reunion was blocked by Lando's excited gesticulations. He was relating the space battle to Chewbacca. Wedge smirked as he recognized his X-Wing in Lando's storytelling. Now, Luke and Han were greeting each other. A quick hug, a few words, and then Luke was making the rounds.

Wedge hesitated, standing uncertainly off to the side. Luke seemed different, older. He was a Jedi, and suddenly Wedge had an uneasy feeling that maybe there wouldn't be a place in Luke's life for his old squadron mates. His path was going to be much different now, and a tiny, cold knot formed in Wedge's stomach. Luke was his friend, a good friend, and he would support him however he could, but he felt like their friendship had reached a turning point. They had been through a lot together - two Death Stars, countless skirmishes with Imperial pilots, and Wedge blinked as he realized that Luke was his oldest surviving friend. They had been thrown together by a common foe, their relationship baptized by the deaths of their fellow soldiers, and a bond had been forged that he thought would have lasted the rest of their lives. But, now, maybe Luke Skywalker, last of the Jedi Knights, wouldn't need this cocky X-Wing pilot to turn to, or have a place for Rogue Squadron in his new "career" choice. The thought grabbed hold of a tiny piece of insecurity in Wedge's mind, and curled around it, threatening to bring it forward. Wedge's smile faded and he took a step back. Perhaps it would be best to just let it be as is, and return to the other pilots. And suddenly, Luke was in front of him. A welcome handshake, and he was pulling Wedge into a hug.

"Great to see you, Wedge!" Luke said, smiling broadly, and Wedge felt his fears melt away.

"You too, Luke," he replied, a wide smile blossoming on his face.

"I knew you'd make it out," the blond man said. "I just knew you would."

"Luke!" Wes Janson's voice rang out behind them, and Wedge stepped aside for the brief reunion of Rogue Squadron. He grinned as Wes and Hobbie enfolded Luke in a collective bear hug, and breathed a reluctant sigh of relief. Everything would be fine now. He had worried over nothing. He breathed in deep, content, and looked around again.

Han and Leia found each other and Wedge smiled. It looked like those two were finally going to allow each other into their respective lives. He'd have to tell Hobbie and collect on an old bet.

An unexpected tap on his shoulder caused Wedge the turn. Han Solo, momentarily freed from the Princess' warm grasp, stood there, his hand outstretched towards the X-Wing pilot. Wedge grinned, and clasped the other Corellian's hand firmly.And then Chewbacca approached him. Inwardly, Wedge grimaced, as the Wookie's large hand engulfed his shoulder and squeezed. He released General Solo's hand and gamely shook Chewie's. He hoped he wouldn't be expected to use his blaster anytime soon...that hand was going to be sore for a while.

He watched as Luke turned away from the celebration and looked out into the dark and trees just beyond the village. A small smile played across the Jedi's face, and Wedge wondered what his friend was thinking. And then the Princess was there, pulling Luke back towards the warmth and light of the fires. Wedge stood there, happier than he'd been in a long time, gazing out at his comrades, his friends, his family. They stood together, smiling and laughing - Lando, Chewbacca, Han, Leia, Luke, and the droids - almost like a group portrait, and chuckling softly to himself, Wedge took a mental snapshot of the moment.

"Hey Boss," Hobbie said, coming up from behind him. "Did you see General Solo and the Princess? I think you owe me fifty credits."

"Me?'re the one who said it would never happen..."



"Wes was our witness, right? Wes...Wes...didn't I say that...hey Wes..."

Wedge allowed himself a chuckle. Yes, everything would be fine now.