Book Reviews for December

If any day of the calendar year feel like one for reflection and anticipation, it’s December 31st. We look back at the triumphs and disappointments of the last 364 days, and think of how we can try and make the next a little better.

I’m not one for making resolutions, in general. But I usually do set some reading related goals. At the beginning of 2018, I set a goal of reading 65 books. As of yesterday, that goal was met.

With 2019 staring me in the face, I have a new goal:

Read less.

That’s not a typing error. This year, I don’t want to achieve some great number of books by the skin of my teeth. I don’t want to cram in as many as possible so I can look impressive. This year, I want to read for the joy of it. I want to go for quality over quantity. No putting off titles that I really want to read because they’ll take too long and I have a quota to fulfill.

Perhaps my review quality will even increase.

… Don’t count on that one, though.

Here’s the final installment of crunch-time book reviews for 2018. Crunching aside, it really has been a good book year.

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Dandelion Fire and The Chestnut King by N.D. Wilson

This is my second read-through of the 100 Cupboards series, and I just want to take a minute to call attention to something. I noticed it the first go-around, but it stuck out even more this time. I am referring to N.D. Wilson’s rare and remarkable ability to write children’s fantasy stories with compelling roles for parents/adults.

Why is this so rare, so difficult to achieve? My guess is because in real life situations, it is the grown-ups who are generally in control. Kids in trouble and danger are going to head to Mom and Dad for help. In a fictional story, however, young characters will not hold much interest to readers if they are not forced to face challenges on their own, to change and grow.

This is probably why fiction breeds so many orphans, why parental figures so rarely play a major part in children’s books. It’s a tricky game, keeping the focus on a young character if they have that safety net of trustworthy adults beneath them. There’s not a lot of drama in that.

But Wilson somehow escapes all the pitfalls, incorporating great adult characters into his books, while at the same time never letting them detract from his younger heroes and heroines.

Anyway. Brilliant characters. Brilliant book. Brilliant series.

The Princess And The Goblin by George MacDonald

One of my all-time favorites (though I actually like the sequel best).

A long term dream of mine is to see this classic adapted into a quality screenplay. Maybe even to write it myself, if no one better gets around to it first.

It’s been done before, but it could be done better.

A Royal Masquerade by Allison Tebo

On the one hand, I was skeptical of this Goose Girl retelling. My loyalty to Shannon Hale’s treatment of the same fairy tale (one of the finest of the retelling genre) was firmly established long ago. On the other hand, Miss Tebo’s The Reluctant Godfather, a fresh take on Cinderella, was the most purely delightful indie read of the year.

The other hand didn’t lead me wrong.

A Royal Masquerade takes the classic tale (which, let’s face it, is pretty dark and melodramatic) and turns it into a lighthearted, madcap romp. Think: less horse murder, more enchanted skunk hi-jinks.

Anyone who enjoys the combination of humor, fairy tales, and baked goods are strongly advised to look into this and Allison Tebo’s other stories.

How To Be A Perfect Christian: Your Comprehensive Guide To Flawless Spiritual Living by The Babylon Bee

It’s tricky to write a clever review for a clever book.

My solution? To not even try.

Anyone familiar with the Babylon Bee doesn’t need to be told that this is a satirical work. Yet I found that this particular breed of sarcasm is better suited to the Bee’s traditional news articles than an entire book. It also seemed that they were lumping the progressive, truth-schmooth, love-conquers-all variety of church-goer together with the more traditional gun-toting, Republic-voting, teetotalling Christians. I think of these more as opposite extremes, so the characterizations often seemed a little inconsistent.

Qualms aside, How To Be A Perfect Christian does offer it’s fair share of laughs, along with relevant and pointed criticisms of cultural Christianity.

Recommended for believers who value truth, and can take a joke.

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