In the Shadow of Lions by Ginger Garrett

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

In the Shadow of Lions: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Ginger Garrett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Henry VIII is on the throne, and a mysterious book is wreaking havoc in Europe and the Church. Two women, Rose and Anne, and their guardian angels are steeped in the midst of this momentous unrest…In the Shadow of Lions by author Ginger Garrett.

While perhaps anyone familiar with today’s historical fiction can tell who the woman on the book cover is with one glance, and this first novel in the Chronicles of the Scribe series is called “A novel of Anne Boleyn,” I wouldn’t call it that. Although she is a key player in this story, Anne isn’t exactly set up as the key player.

This tale with bold supernatural elements casts Anne in a rather different light than is usual for her in popular culture. But even with her devoutness in this account, she isn’t a perfect saint who knows it all, and this isn’t a sweet novel. Though sensual at times, it isn’t romantic. It’s gruesome and tragic, a depiction of a hellish period in Christendom.

I’ll admit I nearly gave up on this book after the first third of it, as I felt it spent too long speaking in riddles, and the choppy development made it hard for me to get a good grip on and to feel for the characters, who are each in some kind of agony. For all their belief in a Prince of Peace, no one is at peace here.

Still, novels that are so marinated in historical flavor are hard for me to turn down, and I do enjoy this author’s deft, sharp, ironic style, even when it’s haunting. Sometimes I do need something on the darker side, and while it isn’t pretty, much of this novel’s relevance is in its illustration of how ugly and base “the faith” can become in the hands of self-serving people.

So much religion. So much “holiness.” So much judgment. So much profession of Christ accompanied by little to no real love.

Have we or have we not learned from history?

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Chronicles of the Scribe Series

 

A Plan for Everything by Beverly Varnado

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

A Plan for Everything by Beverly Varnado

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Connie keeps her life sorted and scheduled with a meticulous agenda, including her plans to expand her coffee and ice cream shop into a catering business. But when a stranger comes to town to open a competing business, it could spell professional disaster for Connie in A Plan for Everything by author Beverly Varnado.

The vibrant blue and blend of the businesslike and small-town feel of the book cover drew me to this ChristFic novel I found categorized as a romance, but I wouldn’t call it that. In a romance novel, the romantic relationship is the story, while everything else is secondary. If the story could still be strong without the romantic element, or the major conflict/challenge of the plot could still work out if the main characters were just friends, it’s not really a romance.

Because Connie’s career and her fixated dependency on planning everything are the crux of the plot, I’d call this women’s fiction.

While the read didn’t give me the best sense of romantic chemistry, the small-town vibe, the friendships, and the power of “doing unto others” make quite an impact. The emotional development is a little thin and rushed at times, and the story could have used more subtlety—”showing” instead of “telling” as much—but the serious turns in the plot are compelling.

Other fans of contemporary stories of faith in practical life should enjoy this novel.

 

Broken Strings by Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

Broken Strings by Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Shirli doesn’t land the role she wants in her junior high school’s upcoming play, Fiddler on the Roof, but she does get to partner in the production with cute, popular Ben. While looking for props to use in the play, Shirli finds an old violin in her grandfather’s attic, not knowing the instrument’s connection to a tragic family secret in Broken Strings by authors Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer.

I had quite the experience with this middle grade read. It addresses a dark subject (evidenced by the barbed wire and Star of David on the cover) without having the depressing overall texture/mood of dry gloom that I find in other novels that go to such painful places. Yet, I wasn’t sure for a while if I’d finish this book. The style and phrasing had an unoriginal feel to me, and I wasn’t finding the heroine or her young peers to be particularly interesting.

But the unfolding of Shirli’s grandfather’s part in the story had me intrigued. His poignant role began to bring the story together and, effectively, to strengthen the other characters. The read became richer as I went along, taking history and the need to recognize the value of all humanity, weaving it with Shirli’s personal journey and heritage, and culminating in a beautiful, redemptive finish that tugged on my soul.

The plot held no big surprises for me, but it eventually pulled me in so well that I finished this novel in one sitting—something this reader doesn’t do every day.

 

Zia by Scott O’Dell

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Zia by Scott O’Dell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fourteen-year-old Zia has known for years about her aunt Karana, who was once left behind and has been living alone out on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Zia is determined to go out and find her aunt and bring her back to live with other Indians in Zia by author Scott O’Dell.

Because I just revisited Island of the Blue Dolphins and only learned a few days ago of this novel following it, I was curious to find out what the story of Karana’s niece is all about. However, I think it was only the glimpse into an unjust part of history that kept me interested in this second book: the depiction of people being forced to live and work at Christian missions as if for the sake of their souls.

I can appreciate an understated writing style, but I’m finding that a plot itself really has to engross me (like in Sing Down the Moon) in order for this particular author’s style not to be dull to me. Some parts of this story that got my attention came to anticlimactic ends, and it often felt like the plot didn’t really have anywhere it needed to go. Although the children’s classic that precedes this book isn’t a personal favorite of mine, I do have respect for the heroine Karana, and though her appearance in this book is relatively brief, I suspect that a lot of people who love her story in the earlier book will find her role in this one to be a regretful, unsatisfying, and likely unnecessary addendum.

I don’t know if I’ll try this author again in the future, but I’m not sorry I indulged my curiosity about this sequel.

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Here’s my review of Island of the Blue Dolphins.