Book Review | Edda by Adam Auerbach

Have you ever had an idea for something, and then you go to the store and find that thing on the shelf, even though you’ve never seen that thing available before? I had a very similar experience recently at my local library.

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing books for kids featuring the legendary characters of Norse mythology for a little while now. I just love the tales. As they inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to create Middle Earth, and C.S. Lewis to dig into his spirituality, they inspire me with their depth and insight into the human condition (even though they focus primarily on gods and goddesses).

9780805097030And then Adam Auerbach beat me to it. And worse, he did it in a really cute and fun way.

Edda tells the tale of a young Valkyrie from Asgard and her decision to attend school on Earth. But things couldn’t be more different between the life that she is used to among the gods and the rules that she has to follow in the classroom. Using the imagery of Norse legend, Auerbach expertly captures the struggle of all children to adapt to the differences between home life and school life.

This is a perfect book for parents of children who are about to enter school. It is also the perfect book for people who appreciate Norse mythology. Edda is slightly less than the perfect book for people who cannot yet read, but it is still really good because the illustrations are quite endearing.

So instead of pouting about the fact that Auerbach wrote a great book using my beloved characters, I’m going to be encouraged and say that there’s a market for the type of books that I want to write.

Now I just need to learn how to illustrate.

Book Review | Resurrection Year by Sheridan Voysey

9780849964800I was given this book (among others) by my old pal and new co-worker, Andrew Rogers, when I showed up at Discovery House to drop off some new hire paperwork. Andrew mentioned that Sheridan Voysey has done work with Our Daily Bread Ministries before and thought it would be a good idea for me to be familiar with his writing.

Now, I’m usually not big on non-fiction stuff, but memoirs hit me close to home. After all, what is my blog if not some unholy mix of non-fiction and personal storytelling. So I started to read Resurrection Year.

At first glance, Resurrection Year is a book about life after the broken dream of parenthood. Sheridan and his wife, Merryn, went through round after round of IVF in an effort to have kids. And after so many cycles of expectation, hope, and disappointment, they needed to move on. But moving on meant giving up an influential job in broadcasting and taking new jobs on the other side of the world.

But upon reading it, this book is about more than difficulties in getting pregnant and starting families. This is a book about what to do when God says no to your dream. This is a book about dreaming new dreams and being open-handed with our wants and our fears. After all, we serve a God who is larger than our fears who is capable of giving us more than we think we want.

Sheridan and Merryn’s journey didn’t just take them into new situations across the globe. They went on a pilgrimage through some of Europe’s landmarks as well as L’Abri, a spiritual retreat center started by Francis and Edith Schaeffer in the 1950’s. And as God revealed himself to them, they reveal God to us, the reader.

I’m excited to see what’s next for Sheridan, because it’ll definitely be on my reading list.

5 Reasons to Read Wonder by R. J. Palacio

9780375869020I just finished reading Wonder by R. J. Palacio and it has all the hallmarks of a modern classic. This will be a book that will be taught in schools for many years to come. As To Kill a Mockingbird talks about racism, Wonder talks about being bullied, all with the same childhood innocence.

August Pullman introduces himself thus:

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

Wonder tells the story of August’s first year in a public school. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. And because my wife loves lists, I’m going to give you five reasons to read it.

  1. August Pullman is not easy on the eyes. I can name on one hand the books that feature an ugly protagonist, but I can name hundreds of real people who don’t fit into the “attractive” category (No, not you dear blog reader. Other people, obviously). That sets this book apart and encourages the reader to see life from the viewpoint of undesirability.
  2. We see August’s story unfold from multiple characters in order to understand him even more than he understands himself. When books provide multiple points of view, they usually do so to include subplots and adventures in which not all of the characters are involved. Wonder moves the plot between characters, but it is the same adventure. We get to see the feelings of each character as they interact with August.
  3. Though the message of the book is clear, it does not preach. If I feel that a book is written with an agenda in mind, I will probably not finish the book. Most books that have a message are unreadable because the author will give more importance to the message than to the characters or the plot. With Wonder, R. J. Palacio makes us fall in love with the characters, and out of this love is borne the message.
  4. By the end of the first chapter, you are rooting for August. Though the majority of the world will never have to experience the rejection and loathing that Auggie does, we can all relate in some way to his struggle. August feels real. Maybe because we’re all lending him a bit of our own self-loathing and we want to see him overcome it. Because if he can overcome his messed up face, maybe we can overcome our struggles.
  5. I honestly couldn’t guess how it was going to end. It was either going to be beautifully hopeful or beautifully tragic, and either one would have been good with me. But I’m not going to tell you how it ends, because you really need to read it for yourself.

I am prepared to eat crow.

Last week, I wrote that I would rather read a book with a witch protagonist than a lot of Christian drivel. And while I’ll defend that statement by saying that there’s a lot of Christian drivel out there (and the Tiffany Aching series is really good), I’m ready to retract the sentiment for specific books.

emissaryFor my first book of the new year, I’ve decided to read Thomas Locke’s Emissary, first in the Legends of the Realm series. I wrote about it here after hearing the author speak at the publisher’s sales conference. I remember being intrigued at the time, but I wasn’t sold yet. After all, a product can have a nice pitch, but the proof for a book is in the reading.

I’m about halfway through Emissary, and I’m impressed so far. Locke writes fantasy like a thriller so it keeps my attention well. If anything, the writing could stand to be a little more drawn out. As a fantasy nerd, I’m not afraid of books that are as thick as they are wide (as is not the case with Emissary). The main character, Hyam, is likeable and interesting. I’m curious to see where it will go.

So I might be writing this prematurely, but I think people should know about this book and series. Maybe you could read it too and we could have a good fantasy book discussion or something.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

P.S. I teased it in my previous post, but I’ll come out and say it now: Thomas Locke is the new pen name for established author, Davis Bunn. Bunn is better known for his contributions to Christian literature in both the romance genre and the modern thriller genre. Since mainstream Fantasy readers are unlikely to be impressed by such credits, Bunn decided to write under a pen name. Thus Thomas Locke was born. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

I am a bigger fan of a book with a witch protagonist than a lot of Christian books.

I realize that’s a long title. It also may be a bit shocking to my Christian readers, especially considering the fact that I am a Christian.

9780061340802The book series that I’m referencing in the title is the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett. The first of which is Wee Free Men.

So what do I like about Tiffany Aching that I don’t like about most Christian books? Personal responsibility.

In Pratchett’s Discworld books, witches are the nurses/midwives/judges/wise-women of the community. They are the ones that will do what needs to be done, regardless of whether it is popular or not. They visit the sick, feed the poor, and help the helpless. Let’s be honest, if Jesus Christ was born on the Discword, there’s a good chance that he would have been a witch.

But the thing about Tiffany Aching, even among the other witches in her world, is that she will never pass the buck when something is her fault. She accepts the responsibility for her actions, for her mistakes, and for her ignorance.

I think one of the most dangerous aspects of Christianity is in the ability to pass off responsibility to other people or to God himself. It is too simple to say that some horrible thing is acceptable because it is God’s will that it should be that way. We avoid helping people because God is probably punishing them for some sin in their life. And the thing is this: I can’t say that God’s will isn’t for bad things to happen or for people to be punished for their sins.

But using God’s will as a cover for avoiding personal responsibility only reinforces the belief among atheists and agnostics that Christians are more concerned with their comfort and their appearances than they are with the people we were called to reach.

So if you want a good book series for your kids to read that will encourage them to love other people as God loves the church, find a Tiffany Aching book and embrace your inner Discworld witch.

Book Review | The Baker Book House Story by Ann Byle

This coming weekend, I’ll be attending the Baker Book House staff appreciation party with my wife. I’ve been working for the bookstore for a full 10 years now, and I can’t imagine working for a better business.

9780801016585In my time at Baker, I’ve picked up on bits of trivia here and there, but I never knew the full story of the company prior to reading Ann Byle’s book, The Baker Book House Story. And it is a really good story.

Starting as a used book shop during the Great Depression, Herman Baker’s bookstore has grown to become a destination bookstore as well as one of the top Christian publishers in the world. Through it all, Baker Book House and Baker Publishing Group have remained family owned and loyal to the ideals of their founder.

I know that books like this don’t have a wide appeal to people who either don’t work for the company or who are unfamiliar with Christian publishing, but I really think this is a good book on its own merit.

Reading The Baker Book House Story has impressed upon me the great honor that it is to work for the Baker family. If you live in West Michigan, appreciate a good success story, or simply want an uplifting, quick read, pick it up and spend a pleasant afternoon with your nose in this book.

And if you just happen to start shopping at my bookstore more loyally afterward, I couldn’t blame you.

Book Review | Loki’s Wolves by K. L. Armstrong & M. A. Marr

9780316204972Fresh off my reading high of Myths of the Norsemen by Roger Lancelyn Green, I was eager to dive into Loki’s Wolves, a middle grade adventure in the vein of Percy Jackson, but informed by the Norse mythology of which I am so fond.

Norse eschatology (the study of the end times) consists of the final battle between the Aesir (Odin, Thor, and family) and the evil race of Giants (aided by Loki and his children) called Ragnarök. Unlike most other religions, the gods of the north are killed in the battle.

In Loki’s Wolves, the gods of north are already long dead, but their descendents still walk the earth and must assume their role at Ragnarök. When thirteen-year-old Matt Thorsen first discovers that he is the human embodiment of Thor, he is happy if a bit overwhelmed. But when he remembers that Thor must die in the final battle–and that his grandfather is supportive of his death–he embarks on a plan to change the legend.

Is it possible to stop the Fimbulwinter and the end of all life without making the ultimate sacrifice himself?

The problem is that in order to change his destiny, Matt must rally the other human heirs of the gods to his cause, and the children of Loki can be a bit wolfish at times.

Loki’s Wolves by K. L. Armstrong & M. A. Marr is a quick read that focuses on the tension between family expectations and the bonds of friendship. It was a refreshing twist on Norse mythology that teaches as well as it entertains. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to fans of the other “gods-re-imagined-as-teenagers” books that are out there.

Parents should know that by its nature, threads of violence run throughout this book. All the same, I don’t feel that violence was glorified as the solution to problems. Rather, even the representative of Thor–a god who never had qualms with using his hammer to start or end a fight–seeks alternatives to violence when they are available.

The story continues in the next installment of The Blackwell Pages, Odin’s Ravens, which is also available now (and is next on my reading list).