Favorites Roundup: May ’18

How was your May? Mine involved some senior milestones: college decision day, my final high-school dance production, prom…as well as boring, everyday things like school and volunteering and choir rehearsals. I’ve been fighting off serious senioritis to finish strong…now I only have four days left!

In the meantime, here are some things that have been brightening my days lately…

First of all, this amazing song:

changes everything

 

 

A highly practical guide to the Christian life for young people; just as good, if not better, the second time. (Read my original Goodreads review.)

 

 

A Million Dreams (My Lady Bibliophile) – a thoughtful, uplifting review of a movie that I had mixed feelings about

penderwicks last

 

 

An amazing conclusion to an amazing series. (Read my Goodreads review, although I warn you, it’s a bit fangirly.)

 

 

 

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A childhood show that I rediscovered this month, and fell in love with all over again. It has complex characters, interesting storylines, amazing acting, and hilarious dialogue. Highly recommend for all ages!

Image result for pippin

 

My sister was in this show back in the fall, so I knew I liked the music. But I’d forgotten how much, and recently became obsessed with it again. The show isn’t entirely clean, but the music is, and it’s well worth listening to!

 

 

17 Secrets of Audiobook Narrators – this sounds like it would be such an interesting career path!

And I really want every writer to take Abbiee’s advice, please…?

How was your May? Did you discover any awesome new music? What was your favorite book you read? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Read more:

Favorites Roundup: Feb-April ’18

The Book Life Tag

Interview with Victoria Lynn – London in the Dark Anniversary Tour!

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The Coronation: Uplifting, Family Fun (The Rebellion Blog Tour!)

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I’m so excited today to be a part of the blog tour for the release of The Rebellion by Livy Jarmusch! This is the second book in her Tales of Tarsurella series. I have not read it yet, but I definitely will soon, since I just finished The Coronation, the first book, and really enjoyed it! Today I’m going to review that for you. And once I’ve read The Rebellion, I’ll be sure to share what I thought of that one too!

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The Coronation by Livy Jarmusch

Three Stars

Age Suggestion: 10+

The Book

Prince Addison is only several weeks away from inheriting the Kingdom of Tarsurella. The entire Palace is ablaze with excitement, as the Royal Family prepares for the event of a lifetime. Despite the exciting event which is near at hand, Addison and his younger siblings (all seven of them!) must carry on with their daily activities.

Addison’s sisters, Princesses Bridget, Chasity, and Hope, have their struggles with being iconic European starlets of a modern day monarchy. The teen heiresses grace magazine covers, smile for photoshoots, and gracefully glide through important interviews–until a certain American popstar arrives on the scene. Kennetic Energy, the wildly popular band from the United States, is chosen to play at Addison’s Coronation. David Carter, the band’s handsome lead singer, fumbles through awkward moments with Princess Hope–in front of the cameras. When an embarrassing rumor sparks that Princess Hope is dating the young fellow, she is determined to get the band fired from their Royal gig.

Meanwhile, Princess Chasity is dealing with her own fragile affairs of the heart. Her new security guard, Hanson Fletcher, is completely captivating, yet entirely frustrating. She attempts to keep the entrance of her heart firmly protected, while following the wisdom of Proverbs 4:23. But can she be successful in guarding her heart, from her security guard?

My Thoughts

This was such a sweet book, and while the writing could have been better in places, that was overshadowed by the enjoyable plot and entertaining, touching character interactions.

The concept is so creative – taking a traditional fairy tale story and setting it in modern times; taking a modern royal family and making it a large, close-knit group of siblings, that almost feels like a typical homeschooled family. I loved the details about the media, the dresses, and the place this family occupies in their society. It’s interesting to imagine what that kind of life in the spotlight must be like.

I thought that Bridget, Chasity, and Hope all had very similar personalities that could have been defined a bit better, but overall I loved the large family and the way the siblings interacted. Addison is a great character, and Millie and Willie were so sweet.

Chasity and Hanson’s story felt like it went a little too quickly from hatred to love, while David and Hope were adorable. I did really like the realistic nature of both of those relationships and the thoughtful way the characters dealt with them. My favorite romance, though, was definitely the budding one between Addison and Vanessa. It was slow, and realistic, and sweet, and I can’t wait to see what happens with it!

I did feel that the book could have used another round of editing, just for some very small things that kept coming up (and these really aren’t a big deal, it’s just that small things like this tend to distract me more than they should). Things like a little bit of head-hopping, punctuation mistakes, etc. and just to smooth out the writing a bit.

(For the record, though, I noticed much less of those things toward the end, which means either they weren’t around anymore or I was so engrossed in the story that they didn’t distract me.)

I think Livy did an excellent job incorporating Biblical themes without sounding preachy. She put her characters in tough situations, first, and left them there for a little while, and then offered the Biblical solution. That strategy meant that it never felt forced, even when she had a paragraph of someone talking about God that could have easily sounded preachy. It didn’t, and that takes some serious skill!

Content-wise, the romance is very clean, and there’s no language. There is a little bit of an intense section in the middle, that gets slightly violent. I would happily hand this book to both of my younger sisters though (and probably will!) and think it would be fine for anyone ages 10 and up.

Overall, it was a good, light, clean read, and I can’t wait to read The Rebellion! There were some plot threads left hanging at the end of the first book that I’d really like to see resolved, and from the blurb, it looks like it will focus a lot on Addison and Vanessa, which I’m obviously very excited about. Livy is an author who I want to continue to watch – she’s using her talents for the glory of God, and I think she has so much potential and room to grow and develop as an author!

I received a free copy of The Coronation in exchange for an honest review. 

Author Bio + Links

AuthorPic1.jpgLivy Jarmusch is a twenty-something author, singer, and songwriter. She enjoys crafting YA fiction that is pure, lovely, inspirational, and of course, entertaining! When she’s not writing, you can usually find her playing guitar, blogging, drinking peppermint tea, connecting with new friends, planning her next trip to Disney, or pinning images of Europe and Golden Retriever Puppies.

 

Find The Rebellion on Amazon and Goodreads.

Find Livy on her blog, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

What do you think? Have you read either of the Tales of Tarsurella? What other fun, clean books have you read lately? Let me know in the comments! 

love, grace

The Book Life Tag

Books

When I saw this tag on Hailey Hudson’s blog, I knew I had to do it. Who wouldn’t want to create their dream life from their favorite books??

So let’s take a chill Wednesday, a break from the deep posts, and flail over the stories we love…

Who would your parents be? 

Mr. Penderwick and Iantha from The Penderwicks (the fifth book just came out!! go buy it!). They are so kind and wise, firm when they need to be yet always loving. (Not to mention present, rather than being dead or something, and heavily involved in their kids’ lives.) Plus Mr. Penderwick speaks Latin all the time, which is cool!

(And if you haven’t read this series, I insist that you drop everything and go read it. Now.)

Who would be your sister? 

Jane Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. She would probably give really great advice and just generally be an amazing person to have around.

Who would be your brother? 

Peter Pevensie of Narnia. I’ve always wanted a much-older brother to protect me and watch out for me, and he’s basically the epitome of what I would want that older brother to be like.

Who would be your pet? 

From The Penderwicks again…Hound. And Asimov. Because the most fun is when you get to see the two of them pretending to hate each other.

Where would you live/where would you go to school? 

The Children’s Academy of Dancing and Stage Training from Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. That book was such a huge part of my childhood, and I’ve always wished there were performing arts schools like that now, complete with British atmosphere. Those kids live the dream life, let me tell you.

And in order to attend that school, I guess I would need to live in London, where the book is set. Which I definitely have no problem with.

Who would be your best friend? 

Iko, from The Lunar Chronicles! I love her cheerfulness, her unconditional love, and the way she brings humor and brightness to every moment. She would help me get out of my comfort zone and keep me from taking myself too seriously. Plus I could give her all of my hand-me-downs.

Who would be your significant other? 

Calvin O’Keefe from A Wrinkle in Time. He’s so mature and sweet, and would have no problem meeting the approval of older brother Peter 🙂

Okay, I’m picturing this life now and it sounds absolutely perfect. Who wouldn’t want Jane Bennett and Peter Pevensie to be their older siblings? And live in London? And attend a performing arts school? (I mean, that might not appeal to everyone. But it does to me!)

Mainly what I’m thinking now, though: I really need to reread Ballet Shoes.

What do you think? How do you like my answers? What would your book life be like? Pick a question or two and answer them in the comments below! 

love, grace

Read more:

7 Childhood Books I Still Love

Book Review: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

My 7 Favorite Book Couples (in honor of Valentine’s Day…)

Book Review: London in the Dark

London Cover Full (2)

 

You may remember that a few weeks ago, I hosted young indie author Victoria Lynn here on the blog. The tour was to celebrate the one-year publication anniversary of her novel London in the Dark. I got a chance to read the book finally, and today I’d like to share my thoughts with you!

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

About the Book

London, 1910

Budding Private Detective Cyril Arlington Hartwell has a conundrum. London is being ravaged by the largest run of thefts in recent history. His hunch that it is all tied together may put him and those he loves in more danger than he could have reckoned.

Olivia Larken Hartwell is just home from boarding school for the summer anticipating time with her adoring parents. She misses her absent brother, Cyril, hoping for the day he will finally come home. But tragedy strikes, causing upheaval for all concerned and changes her life in a way she never could have imagined.

Olivia, Cyril, and their friends must bring the hidden to light, seek to execute justice, and dispel the darkness that hovers over London… and their hearts.

My Thoughts

This was a quick, enjoyable read. What it lacked in writing quality, it made up for in engaging events and realistic, sympathetic characters.

I’ll start off by just saying that yes, it is a self-published book by a young author, and it does read like one, with the style feeling a bit amateur. I expected that going in – one reason I don’t read self-published books all that often is because I feel like sometimes they get published before they’re ready or before the author’s voice has matured. Once I got into the story, though, the writing didn’t matter quite as much and I was still able to enjoy the book.

The characters were probably the highlight. They were interesting, multi-faceted, and sympathetic, the kind of characters that feel like stereotypes, and are therefore easy to understand as you read, and yet go so far beyond the stereotypes when you actually stop to think about them.

Olivia is sweet, yet strong, and I mourned along with her and cheered her on in everything that she went through. Dudley is amazing (my personal favorite character), yet thankfully not perfect; Mrs. Larken is such fun, and Cyril’s character development is beautiful to watch.

The plot was well-written and kept me interested, especially the way everything started to come together near the end. As a writer myself, I can’t imagine ever attempting a mystery. There are so many plot threads and clues and elements to weave together, and Victoria did it really well!

The themes are beautiful and wholesome as well, a reminder of the grace of God and his support in our sufferings.

My one complaint is that the epilogue skipped ahead too far. It featured an event that, while I wanted it to happen, I wanted to be able to read about everything leading up to it (sorry to be so cryptic, but I can’t give details without spoilers). I just really wish that story had been a whole separate companion novella or something (maybe someday, Victoria? Please?), which in itself is a testament to how much I loved these characters.

Content-wise, there is some violence, especially a death that is pretty gruesome, plus explosions and guns and stuff like that. Tasteful, but there. Otherwise, there’s really nothing to worry about.

In Summary…

London in the Dark by Victoria Lynn

3.5 stars: an enjoyable and clean read

Recommended for ages 12+

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2pJ1thX

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32832281-london-in-the-dark?ac=1&from_search=true

 

What do you think? Have you read London in the Dark? If not, will you check it out? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Read more:

Book Review: Counted Worthy

Book Review: Perception by Emily Ann Benedict

La La Land: Old-School Movie Magic

Should Christians Read Fiction?

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For the past little while, we’ve been exploring what it means to use the arts well as a Christian. I’ve argued that the arts are important for Christians to pay attention tothey are a valid career path for Christians, and that as Christians, our art should be of the highest quality.

Today and next week, I want to look at two very specific types of art, ones that I am personally involved in, ones that I feel some Christians look askance at. I want to explain why I believe they are important and why I believe God created them.

First up? Fiction. Storytelling. The art of writing, of crafting plot and characters and settings to explore themes. I write fiction, although I don’t talk about it much on here, and I believe that it is such an important element of the human experience as God created us.

Whatever is True?

I remember stumbling on one of my mom’s homeschool books when I was much younger, a book where the author talked about her family only read nonfiction or fiction that could be real. They didn’t allow fairy tales, fantasy, mythology, talking animals, etc., using Philippians 4:8 (“Whatever is true…”) as their reasoning.

Even at a young age, that bothered me. Partially because I had already fallen in love with fantasy stories and stories in general, and I wondered if it was wrong to read those things, if I should give them up.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized why it really bothered me even then.

What Fiction Does

As Christians, storytelling is one of the means God has given us to reveal his truth. When we limit this storytelling to only representing things that happen in the “real world”, we lose a hugely powerful avenue of witnessing to truth and beauty.

Different genres have different purposes, but all fiction serves several important purposes.

Through fiction, we see the world through different eyes and gain the ability to empathize with people who are different from us.

Through fiction, we get to see how the universal truth of God’s Word plays out in a variety of situations that we will never actually experience.

Through fiction, we gain a more well-rounded understanding of God’s character than we would in the course of our everyday lives.

What About Fantasy?

I want to look at fantasy specifically for a second. Even though so many Christians avoid it like the plague, I think fantasy is so important. Through made-up worlds and magic and epic quests, truth and beauty find one of their best representations.

The best fantasy books are those that look seriously at real issues. By taking those issues into a made-up setting, we can consider them detached from the baggage they carry in the real world. Because of that, we can see the problems and their solutions more clearly.

The other thing fantasy does really well: illustrate the clash between good and evil. In fantasy, we see over and over that good always wins, that evil will ultimately be defeated. There is an ongoing battle between good and evil in the supernatural realm of the real world; in fantasy, without the limitations of the natural world, it is much easier to represent the truth of this fight in the way that does it justice.

The Impact of Fiction

Ultimately, fiction and nonfiction must work together. Nonfiction expresses the truth, and fiction illustrates the truth. Fiction takes nonfiction’s ideas, adds dimension, and makes them beautiful. Fiction shows the truth to us in the light of people and places and stories.

Fiction has the potential to impact the world for incredible good. The truths we learn through fiction often stay with us forever, changing our lives more than the most helpful self-help book. That is a power that Christians need to be harnessing and using for the glory of God.

And as for Philippians 4:8, there is often more truth in stories of talking animals and magic wands than there is in the most realistic of contemporary novels.

What do you think? Do you read fiction? Fantasy? What impact has fiction had on your life? 

love, grace

Read more:

4 Ways to Read More During the School Year (+book recommendations!)

Writing for Building Up (or, I’m Tired of Depressing Stories)

Why I Don’t Limit Myself to “Christian” Entertainment

On the Movie Screen: Jan-March 2018

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A new feature, in which I share with you what I’ve been watching, and what I would recommend! 

Movies

Mini-Mini-Mini Reviews: 

Hamlet (3 stars) – appreciated that it was totally unabridged, although it made it a monster-length movie

Persuasion (3.5 stars) – really rushed, although I loved the casting of Anne and Wentworth

Interstellar (3 stars) – not quite as much of a wow as I hoped

The Greatest Showman (4 stars) – will probably rewatch over and over, family-friendly, a visual treat, and the music is amazing

Captain America (5 stars) – my fourth time watching it, successfully got my friend obsessed

The Truman Show (5 stars) – entertaining, yet also deeply thought-provoking, great attention to detail, could write an entire book analyzing it…probably my favorite of the year so far!! must watch!!

Miracle (4 stars) – I always like sports movies more than I think I will

Black Panther (4 stars) – not my favorite Marvel movie, but really good, I loved Shuri, and I appreciated that they tackled really important issues without an agenda-y tone

The Importance of Being Earnest (4 stars) – absolutely perfectly-cast from the play, hilarious, just a really light and enjoyable movie (especially if you want to see Colin Firth in a very different role from Mr. Darcy)!

I Can Only Imagine (3 stars) – inspirational, and I cried a lot

TV

Mini-Mini-Mini Reviews: 

The Great British Baking Show (season 1) – super fun and makes me hungry, the contestants are really positive and support each other (no backstabbing)

Friends (episodes 1-10) – started watching and decided to stop because it wasn’t really clean, so be warned, wouldn’t recommend starting at all because it’s addicting

Mansfield Park (miniseries) – not the highest-quality filming, loved some of the casting and hated others, but liked how true it was to the book

 

What did you watch in the last couple of months? Do you agree with my ratings? Do you want longer reviews or content guides for any of these movies? Let me know in the comments! 

(Also let me know your thoughts on the format of this post. I’m experimenting and I want your suggestions and feedback!) 

love, grace

Interview with Victoria Lynn – London in the Dark Anniversary Tour!

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Hi everyone! Today I’m really excited to bring you a slightly different post. Fellow blogger Victoria Lynn is hosting a blog tour to celebrate the publication anniversary of her book London in the Dark, and I’m participating!

It seemed opportune since I’ve been thinking a lot about Christians and the arts lately, and Victoria is a lovely example of someone seeking to use their gifts for the glory of God. I ask her more about that in my interview with her! Plus you can get more information about her book, and enter the giveaway she’s hosting this weekend.

About London in the Dark

London Cover Full (2)London, 1910

Budding Private Detective Cyril Arlington Hartwell has a conundrum. London is being ravaged by the largest run of thefts in recent history. His hunch that it is all tied together may put him and those he loves in more danger than he could have reckoned.

Olivia Larken Hartwell is just home from boarding school for the summer anticipating time with her adoring parents. She misses her absent brother, Cyril, hoping for the day he will finally come home. But tragedy strikes, causing upheaval for all concerned and changes her life in a way she never could have imagined.

Olivia, Cyril, and their friends must bring the hidden to light, seek to execute justice, and dispel the darkness that hovers over London… and their hearts.

 

Meet the Author

headshot for book and websiteVictoria Lynn is in her 20s and if she’s not writing, she is probably sewing, singing, playing the piano, washing dishes, creating something with her hands, or learning something new. She has a passion for serving her Creator, encouraging others and being creative. She blogs at www.rufflesandgrace.com about writing, fashion, modesty, her walk with God and life. She lives in Michigan with her parents and 8 siblings.

 

My Interview w/Victoria

Welcome to the blog, Victoria! I’m so excited to have you here. 

Thanks so much for having me Grace! I am excited to be here!

When did you start writing?

I have always been writing stories. I have lots of notebooks and binders full of things I have written over the years. It was about three years ago that I started writing with the idea of publishing in mind.

What advice do you have for young people who want to start pursuing their passion?

Don’t be afraid to try new things. To push yourself. Learn everything you can about what you want to do, and most importantly, pray and ask God’s blessing and guidance.

How do you incorporate your faith into your writing?

It’s not so much a matter of incorporating as it is a matter of letting it flow. I can’t seem to write anything without the truth of God’s word flowing into it. And I hope and pray that God breathes into my writing and uses it to encourage others.

What impact have writing and storytelling had on your life?

Ooh. that’s a tough question. It has really given me a purpose. I’ve really found something special in doing this and it feels like such a gift. I feel so blessed to be able to do this and to have so much inspiration.

What does a day in your writing life look like? How do you find balance between writing and other responsibilities, such as family?

Good question, to be honest, I find a hard time balancing it in the other direction. Writing is something that I have to find and make time for. It’s hard, but I have to be purposeful about it and MAKE the time to write, or it will fall by the wayside and I tend to put it off. Any small moment is worth it.

What are a few books that you think everyone should read?

Every girl should read Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. Louisa May Alcott was the biggest inspiration of mine along with L.M. Montgomery and Grace Livingston Hill. Some other little-known classics are by Gene Stratton Porter. Read Freckles. Your life won’t be the same. 😀

What are your plans for future books?

London in the Dark is the first book of a trilogy. Book two is coming along quite nicely and I hope to finish the first draft in the next few months. I am also nearly finished with a modern suspense that I hope to have published by the end of the year. Lots of great things happening and I can’t wait to share them with the world. 😀

Thanks, Victoria! Best wishes in all your future writing endeavors. It’s so great to connect with someone seeking to honor God with their art. 

Thanks so much for having me Grace, it has been a pleasure!

 

Giveaway

Victoria is hosting a giveaway to celebrate! Here are the details:

Giveaway

First Place winner must be in the United States only. Winner receives one paperback autographed copy of London in the Dark, a London themed t-shirt of their choice from my Zazzle shop, and one Book Themed mug designed by me from my Zazzle shop.

2 second place winners. Open internationally. Receives one ebook copy of London in the Dark.

Click here to enter!

Learn More:

Find London in the Dark on Amazon and Goodreads.

Join in the Facebook event today and tomorrow for more fun.

Find Victoria Lynn around the web:

Blog

Amazon

Facebook

Instagram

Pinterest

Go check out these links and give Victoria some love! 

 

 

I’ll be reviewing London in the Dark sometime in the next month, so keep an eye out for that too! 

Have you read London in the Dark? Will you read it? How do you make time for the things you love to do? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Superheroes, Science, and Sanderson (Reading Recap Jan-Feb 2018)

I’m starting something new today: here on the blog, every two or three months I’m going to share a collection of the books I read and highlight what I thought of a few of them. Here’s my collection from January and February.

*the inspiration for this post’s format came from the lovely Tracey at Adventure Awaits, this post in particular!

12 books (9 fiction, 2 nonfiction, 1 play)

Lowest-Rated

stargirl

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli – 2.5 stars

unsatisfying ending//looks at an important problem but offers no solution//rushed romance//new age elements//genius in some ways but overall disappointingly forgettable

heart of darkness

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – 2.5 stars

read for AP Literature class//beautiful writing and fun to analyze//super weird though

Rereads

penderwicks

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall 

approximately the fourth time I’ve read this//made me almost cry//never gets old

a tale of two cities

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens 

amazing in a different way the second time//wow, the foreshadowing//must read

Favorite Reads

renegades

Renegades by Marissa Meyer – 4 stars 

totally met my expectations//incredibly unique settings//memorable characters//read entire second half in one day//thought it was a standalone, need the sequel now

earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde – 4 stars 

read for AP Literature//read out loud in class which is highly recommended//hilarious Victorian comedy//so much quotableness

counted worthy

Counted Worthy by Leah E. Good – 4 stars 

didn’t feel self-published//Christianity not sentimental or cheesy//inspiring//I need to memorize more Bible verses//God is bigger than government

final empire

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson – 4 stars 

audiobook//narrator makes great voices//how did it take me so long to read this??

 

What were your favorite reads of the last few months? Which of these books would you like me to review? Have you read any of them? And what do you think of this post format? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Book Review: Counted Worthy

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Counted Worthy by Leah E. Good

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Age Suggestion: 12+

About the Book

Heather Stone lives in fear of repeating the past, yet she continues doing the one thing that could trigger another disaster. When the police trace an illegal Bible to her house, Heather’s world begins to crumble.

Her father’s life hangs in the balance. No one with the power to help knows or cares. If she tries to save him, she could lead her friends to their deaths. If she does nothing, her father’s fate is certain. Can she evade a hostile police force and win public sympathy before it’s too late? (from Goodreads)

My Thoughts

This book is scary to read; it’s dystopian, yet it doesn’t feel like much of a stretch from where our society is right now. A government intent on hunting down Christians, Bible-smuggling, and a society built on fear and lies are what make up the backdrop of this book, and it is a terrifying backdrop.

But that is what makes the book even more inspiring. Because it follows a girl who, even in the midst of all of this fear, is willing to stand up for what is right and do what it takes to get her father out of jail, and all of the people who stand with her.

The plot is exciting and fast-paced. It doesn’t offer trite answers or simple solutions, but shows the struggle of being a Christian in a hostile world honestly and clearly, with a good dose of action and banter mixed in which makes it a quick, engaging read. Heather’s character development is phenomenal. I can’t say too much about it without giving away the ending, but it ties so beautifully into the theme and is so well-done. And she’s surrounded by a cast of supporting characters who all have unique situations, strengths, and personalities. Especially Bryce. I love the simple care and chastity of their relationship, although I reallly hope it develops into a romantic one in the future 😉

The world-building is good, although the plot is very limited to one area, so I didn’t get much of a sense of the surrounding world. I do feel like that might have been purposeful, and I’m hoping to get more details about the history and the government in all of that in future books.

The writing really surprised me with how good it was! I went in knowing that this was a self-published book, and as such, expecting the writing to be the weak link, as I’ve found is the case so often with self-published books. But not this one! The writing is short and to-the-point, but somehow still manages to pack in tons of detail. Overall, in both writing and design, Counted Worthy didn’t feel self-published, and I could tell that Good knows her stuff.

And ultimately, the best thing about this book is the Christian themes. This might be the first Christian fiction book I’ve ever read that portrayed Christianity with high stakes, deep emotion, and no cheesiness. The Bible-quoting felt seamless and powerful, the faith wasn’t instant or easy. This book showed how hard Christianity can be, and how worth it. It showed how faith makes a person brave even when they’re scared. And it was powerful. Christianity in fiction is very hard to get right, and this book gets it right for sure. 

(Content: No language. Bryce and Heather have a boyfriend-girlfriend act they use to attract less attention, but there’s very little focus on it and their relationship is pretty much totally platonic. Some slightly intense scenes because of the genre and subject matter.)

Overall, I think every Christian should read this book, and I absolutely cannot wait for a sequel to come out!

Have you read Counted Worthy? Did you like it? How do you feel about Christianity in fiction, and what other books have you read that do it well? Share in the comments below! 

love, grace

Read more:

Book Review: The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

8 Books Every Christian Teen Should Read

Writing for Building Up (or, I’m Tired of Depressing Stories)

Movie Review: Murder on the Orient Express

Image result for murder on the orient express

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) 

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Age Suggestion: 14+

About the Movie

Directed by Kenneth Branagh, based on the book by Agatha Christie

PG-13, 1 hour 54 minutes

When a murder occurs on the train he’s traveling on, celebrated detective Hercule Poirot is recruited to solve the case. (from IMDb)

My Thoughts

First of all, let’s talk about what an amazing cast this movie has. The cast list features all-star after all-star, and every single character is cast perfectly.

Obviously Branagh himself, as Poirot, is amazing. I also especially liked Daisy Ridley (of Star Wars fame) as Mary Debenham; it’s a very different character from Rey, but she does it extremely well. And let’s not forget Sergei Polunin, who plays ballet dancer Count Andrenyi and looks the part spectacularly, since he happens to be an actual ballet dancer!

I do wish some of the characters and their relationships had been developed a bit more, but that’s hard to do in a movie with so many characters.

Full disclosure: I hadn’t read the book in a very long time, so I went into the movie not comparing it at all. I heard from some people that it wasn’t true to the book and they were disappointed by that, but since I wasn’t comparing it, that didn’t hinder my enjoyment.

I found the plot to be well-paced and engaging. However much of it came from Christie, she was a master of the detective novel, and the twists and turns and red herrings and connections and surprises were great. I had also forgotten nearly everything (which I highly recommend *smile*) so the ending was a surprise all over again, just like the first time I read the book! Isn’t that the best feeling?

In addition to the great plot and characters, it is stunningly filmed, a visual feast. The costuming and design of the train’s interior are great, and the landscape scenes are absolutely gorgeous. The music, too, is amazing. It was no surprise when I found out it was by Patrick Doyle – all of his music is incredible (Thor, Cinderella, Hamlet…).

While there isn’t a lot of deep theme, that doesn’t really matter for this genre, and I wasn’t expecting it. But even without thematic depth, the movie is very emotionally intense, especially at the end. Not to mention it’s just a very intense movie in general. The murder is fairly graphic, while in a tasteful way, and the subject matter of the entire movie makes it have a dark feel all the way through; so keep that in mind if you’re planning on watching it.

(In terms of other content, there is one character who has had several husbands and there are several innuendos/things implied about her, plus a very sensual moment between her and one of the men on the train – no touching, but their conversation and body language is pretty PG-13. There are some other innuendos and a little mild language throughout, and one character who drinks a lot.)

Overall, this movie is fantastic, both in the scripting/acting and in the cinematography/music aspects. Visually stunning, it drew me in and got me very invested in the murder and the characters. If you’ve read the book recently, or often, you might have to mentally separate the two in order to really enjoy it. But if you can do that, and if you can handle the intensity of the subject matter, this is a movie well worth seeing!

Have you seen Murder on the Orient Express? How did you like it? Are you a book purist, or were you, like me, able to separate the two? Any other Patrick Doyle fans out there?? Leave a comment and let me know! 

love, grace

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