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Book Review: “Beginnings,” by Steve Stephens

Genre: Christian Inspirational; biblical fiction 

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Plot Summary: Once upon a time, Garden-Maker made the stars and space and time, and spoke earth and light into being.  He formed Man out of the dust of the earth and created a paradise for him to live in and it was perfect.  But then the creature called Shining One grew jealous of the glory of Garden-Maker and enticed Man away from the path of wisdom.  And so begins the epic tale told by an ancient storyteller…   

My Book Review: This series, entitled “The Story Teller” by Steve Stephens, sat on the shelf in our church library for years and they looked intriguing to me.  Finally, I picked up the first one to read and fell in love with the beautiful poem-prose narrative.  They are simple retellings of the Genesis stories, yet the words swirl around in a sort of colorful, magical mosaic.   

Stephens isn’t the first to write imaginative accounts of bible stories, filling in details and elaborating or simplifying finer points here and there.  But I loved his bard-like habit of substituting characters’ names for their signature qualities.  For example, the Creator God is referred to as Garden-Maker and later on in the story as Promise-Keeper.  Noah is Builder, Sarah is Princess and Joseph is Dreamer.  This is also done to place names as well.  Canaan is the Valley of the Apples; Egypt is the Land of the Deltas.  Describing people and places as such gives the familiar Story a fresh take as well as a timeless feel.  But it is still the same. 

I found it wonderful to be reintroduced to these ancients of the faith and most especially, to read of the character of Promise-Keeper who never fails us.  He gave me such encouragement of heart.  If you’re wanting something that will help you understand the heart of God and His Word a little better, this is a great supplement.  It is easy enough for children to understand, and adults will find a deep well of truth to rejoice in.  I truly cannot wait to read the next installment, “Leaders”, followed by “Kingdoms”,  and “Promises”.   

  

If you liked this book, I also recommend… 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Fairy Tales Retold

Listen on BBC Radio 4 for a limited time to free short story readings of various fairy tales!  The retellings are slightly different, and the narrator Lia Williams is interesting to listen to.  I recommend “The Gingerbread Business” (Hansel and Gretel), but there is also “Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up,” and more to be released within the next couple of weeks.  Have a fun holiday season!

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2018 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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Radio Drama (BBC): Titus Groan

I recently published my book review of “Titus Groan,” by Mervyn Peake (read it here) and suddenly the BBC is airing it’s audio dramatized version of the story!  I am preparing to start reading the second book in the series soon (“Gormenghast”), so I thought I’d better prepare by brushing up my memory on the details of the first.

I found this to be a very faithful and rather good adaptation.  The best part about it is that it does not lose the flavor of the book’s descriptions and vocabulary.  It seemed to be well cast, though the parts of Lady Gertrude and Irma Prunsquallor seemed be more ’emphasis’ rather than ‘acting.’  You can tell by the tedious melodramatic deliverances of lines instead of actually owning them.

You can click to listen to it for free for a limited time.

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2018 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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Book Review: “Titus Groan,” by Mervyn Peake

6607257Genre: classic; literary

Plot Summary: Once upon a time there was an infant son and heir born to the Groan family of Gormenghast Castle.  His name was Titus and being so young he was yet unaware of the long line of history and tradition of which he stood in line to inherit.  But things were turned on their head (quite literally) on the day of his christening, and strange events began to unfold that are even stranger than the world into which he was born.

My Book Review: The Gormenghast series by Mervyn Peake has been on my reading list from very early on.  I believe it was a discovery made while perusing the Dover catalog.  I really had no idea what it was about, which sometimes leads to interesting discoveries.  In this case, it was a very interesting discovery indeed, and has become one of my top reads for this year so far.

This isn’t normally a book I would have picked out for myself, so it’s probably a good thing I didn’t know what it was about. I’m proud of myself for completing such a thick book.  I’m also usually more action-oriented, whereas this is more character driven.  There is not a lot of action and when there is there is always a slow buildup to it, making those scenes stand out more.  I tend to quickly forget details and character names of a lot of the books I read, but not this one.  The scenes in this book stand out clear and defined in my mind, in large part due to great detailed descriptions.  With names like ‘Prunesquallor’, ‘Nannie Slagg’, and ‘Countess Gertrude Groan’, they’re hard to forget.  And the author’s own illustrations of many of them are wild and memorable as well.

Even better than just the names and pictures are the full-bodied characters themselves. You really have to read the book for yourself to make them come alive, and once you do I can almost guarantee they will live forever in your mind.  The insane Lord Sepulchrave, the 76th Earl of Gormenghast, who thinks he’s an owl; his epileptic twin sisters Cora and Clarice who are stupid and vacant-minded; the vain, middle aged Irma Prunesquallor in love with a teenager; and the sociopathic Steerpike, the young puppet master behind the inhabitants of the castle.  These aren’t all the colorful people of the story; there are many more besides.  It’s ironic that the title character really doesn’t play a major role in this first of the series.  In fact it really only covers the first year or two of his life, but all the important things that occurred during it.

f021918e76aa942568f2cff1ff2172c9It’s hard to put a finger on why I liked this novel so much. At times it seemed rather dark, and longwinded, yet the wonderful descriptions and the weirdness of it all lured me on.  The author had a way of making even peeling paint sound interesting.  I think one of my favorite scenes was the description of Fuchsia’s attic hideaway.  Who wouldn’t want a great hidey-hole retreat like that all to oneself?

Is this book fantasy? I would not call it that, although it is set in a fantasy world.  If you go into it expecting fantasy, you might be bored.  It is not set in a particular time era, though the closest one might get is the 1880’s-1910 era with a fantastical twist.

Some say this book reads of despair and futility. It is dark and the people of Gormeghast do live futile lives of pointless ritual, but the unusual turn of things as Titus grows gives a glimpse that things may change with Titus as heir… ?

One caution: there is one chapter in which a character, Keda, has a one-night stand with a lover.

I’ve read that there is more than one audio drama of this series, and also a movie, but I don’t see how any of them can be as good as the novel.  If I ever come across them, I’ll surely review it and post if worth it.

Titus Groan won’t be for everyone.  But I’ve certainly learned that character-driven books can be just as interesting (or even more so) than the plotted ones.  I’m not sure what the other books in the series will be like, but I can’t wait to see what will happen in the next installment of Titus Groan’s life.  The entire series are as follows:

  1. Titus Groan
  2. Gormenghast
    1. Boy in Darkness
  3. Titus Alone
  4. Titus Awakes

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Posted by on October 28, 2018 in Book Reviews

 

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A Post Full of Audio Dramas

I came across something entirely new to me– the ATC Seneca Awards, which recognizes the best in family audio dramas.  The Awards are according to the opinions of the Audio Theatre Central podcast which you can check out here.  I thought it would be fun to dredge up trailers for as many nominations as I could find and collect them all in one place on this post.  Audio dramas are a great source of favorite family memories and long car trip entertainment.  Have fun!

Captain Bayley’s Heir – (Heirloom Audio Productions; John Fornof (writer/director); starring John Rhys Davies, Finty Williams)

The Trials of St. Patrick – (AIR Theatre; Paul McCusker (writer/director); Philip Glassborow (producer); starring John Rhys Davies)

Ode to Saint Cecelia – (AIR Theatre; Paul McCusker (writer/director); starring Derek Jacobi, Hayley Atwell)

The Giant Killer – (Lamplighter Theatre; John Fornof)

Wulf the Saxon (couldn’t find a trailer) – (Heirloom Audio Productions; Todd Busteed (writer/director); John Campbell (score))

*You can find reviews of all of these audio dramas and more on the ATC podcast.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2018 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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Listen to “The Man Who Was Thursday” on BBC

Are you in the mood for a little G. K. Chesterton?  I enjoyed reading “The Man Who Was Thursday” a few years ago (see my book review here), but I am enjoying Geoffrey Palmer’s reading of it even more!  For a limited time, you can listen to it for free on BBC Radio 4.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2018 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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End of Year Random Book Post

Must do this post because my current new stack would fall over if it wasn’t propped up between my bookcase and my nightstand.  I’ve now started Bookcase #3 and have about 1 1.2 shelves left of free space on that.  Oh dear…  Does anyone else have these problems?

I love going through my accumulations because I forget what I have and it’s like Christmas all over again!

 

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2017 in Book Shopping

 

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