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In the Bookcase


Book Review: These Strange Ashes

These Strange Ashes by Elisabeth Elliot (5 star review)

These Strange Ashes

written by Elisabeth Elliot

152 pages // published in 1979 // Christian living


In her first year as a missionary to a small group of native women in the Ecuadorian jungle, Elisabeth Elliot faced physical and spiritual trials. In These Strange Ashes, Elliot captures the mysteries and stark realities surrounding the colorful and primitive world in which she ministered. More than just a recounting of her early days, this is a beautifully crafted and deeply personal reflection on the important questions of life and a remarkable testimony to an authentic Christian commitment.

My Review

3 Star Rating

Another favorite book from Elisabeth Elliot!

This missionary survived a lot during her experiences in Ecuador as a single young woman. In this book, she shares four lessons in faith she had to overcome -- in a land far away from home, in a wild jungle with few comforts, and in just a few months of time.

While I read this book, I found many inspiring moments to ponder about. I tell myself that if she can take all THAT in stride (loss, death, jungle life in general, lack of staple household items)... Well then, I can do anything too, Lord willing.

Her way with words always reels me in -- and I felt it strongly in this book. She is so simple in her manner of storytelling, yet she tells you everything you need to know to make you both laugh and cry. Sometimes I can even detect a bit of humor in her tone. Elisabeth tells it like it is (the good, the bad, and the ugly), and doesn't ask for your pity during even the hardest times. And I'm telling you, she went through some terrible situations during that first mission trip to Ecuador.

My favorite line from the book, which deeply resonated in me:

"Faith's most severe tests come not when we see nothing, but when we see a stunning array of evidence that seems to prove our faith vain."

Read this book. You won't be disappointed.

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Book Review: And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None

written by Agatha Christie

247 pages // published in 1939 // classic mystery


First, there were ten - a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they're unwilling to reveal - and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion.

My Review

3 Star Rating

Wow. What can I say? It's definitely my favorite Agatha Christie novel that I've read so far (and I doubt there's very many that can overpower this one for me). This one will get you hooked, for sure!

After reading “And Then There Were None,” I can now see the same plotline has been used in many other books and movies. Because it's a good one – with depth. And no matter how you change the characters and the setting, it's still gripping.

Ten seemingly random people are invited for a stay at Soldier Island; they don't know each other, and they don't even know their host, but the vacation time and social house party is alluring. But then... death strikes! And in short order, death again. What's taking place is methodical murder. All of the remaining victims can see it happening before their eyes, yet they can't run away, and they can't prevent their own murders. Timed with precision, it's a struggle to the very end, as the truest of human emotions come out... when you're the one being hunted.

And such memorable characters too. I love them all. Christie did such a striking job of pairing just the right personality with each name. If any of them had been missing from the book, it just wouldn't have been the same story.

If you're interested in listening to the audiobook, be sure to listen to Dan Steven's. His British accent adds so much volume to an already amazing story.

Note to the discerning reader: There is quite a bit of mild swearing.

Overall? It's an engaging mystery with lots of twists. It may be on the dark side, but... it's definitely intriguing. And it just may make your heart pound a bit wilder as you read.

Oh, and I've got to get a print to hang up on my wall of the “Ten Little Indians” rhyme. It's so ominous, but strangely I want to memorize it word for word.

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paperback // hardcover // e-book

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Book Review: Moby Dick

Moby Dick by Herman Melville (3 star review)

Moby-Dick or, The Whale

written by Herman Melville

720 pages // published in 1851 // classic fiction


"It is the horrible texture of a fabric that should be woven of ships' cables and hawsers. A Polar wind blows through it, and birds of prey hover over it."

So Melville wrote of his masterpiece, one of the greatest works of imagination in literary history. In part, Moby-Dick is the story of an eerily compelling madman pursuing an unholy war against a creature as vast and dangerous and unknowable as the sea itself. But more than just a novel of adventure, more than an encyclopaedia of whaling lore and legend, the book can be seen as part of its author's lifelong meditation on America. Written with wonderfully redemptive humour, Moby-Dick is also a profound inquiry into character, faith, and the nature of perception.

My Review

3 Star Rating

If you're wanting to fall into an epic sea-faring adventure – this could have been it, but not quite.

If you're wanting a story about a man's need to exact revenge on an animal that stole his leg (and that animal has no intention of returning it, obviously) – well, yes, this might be it.

If you're also wanting to learn a whole lot about the history of whales, the anatomy of whales, how to run a whaling ship, and myriad other textbook facts about whales – well, this also might be it.

Just read this paragraph from chapter 104:

“One often hears of writers that rise and swell with their subject, though it may seem but an ordinary one. How, then, with me, writing of this Leviathan? Unconsciously my chirography expands into placard capitals. Give me a condor’s quill! Give me Vesuvius’ crater for an inkstand! Friends, hold my arms! For in the mere act of penning my thoughts of this Leviathan, they weary me, and make me faint with their outreaching comprehensiveness of sweep, as if to include the whole circle of the sciences, and all the generations of whales, and men, and mastodons, past, present, and to come, with all the revolving panoramas of empire on earth, and throughout the whole universe, not excluding its suburbs. Such, and so magnifying, is the virtue of a large and liberal theme! We expand to its bulk. To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.”

I'll say this: Reading Moby Dick is like reading a fiction book and a non-fiction book at the same time; the chapters go back and forth between a swashbuckling adventure and facts about whales. I'm not a fan of the “essays”, although I guess all those essays contribute to the overall aura of the making of the essential book on whales. The story though is interesting enough, and there's bits of comedy rolled in there, which is a truly refreshing drink of water... in a vast sea of words. :)

When I think about the story itself, I see the topic of obsession, with Captain Ahab and his monomania. He was certainly crazed to be going after that whale, while nothing else mattered to him in the world. He just happened to have a whole crew of men that would aid him in this mania.

Characters. Definitely there are some memorable characters in this novel, such as Ishmael, Captain Ahab, Starbuck, Queequeg, and others.

I think there is a lot of historical context that sometimes the modern reader is missing. After I (finally) finished, I felt like although I read the words on each page, I still missed something in the symbolism, or in the gray areas that I just wasn't sure what it meant. I dived right into Nathaniel Philbrick's 'Why Read Moby-Dick?' next, to help me. (Personally, I recommend reading that particular book after finishing the classic itself, and not before... just so that you don't learn all about the outline of the plot of Moby Dick.) Anyways, I then learned more about Herman Melville himself, and some bits about why certain elements are brought up in the book.

“There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea....”

One BIG element in the book, that just wouldn't stop popping up... Herman Melville's vocabulary. It's like he used a dictionary to construct his sentences. How did he ever learn so many weird, rare words, and remember to use them all in this one (albeit long) novel? It's amazing how many dozens (hundreds?) of words are in this book that I have no clue what they meant (I tried to keep a dictionary handy for most of my reading). For the first few chapters, I felt that I must be reading something akin to Shakespeare (i.e., something that although is written in the English language, you still need to translate it). I fell into the flow better as I kept reading... but still.

Note to the discerning reader: There is some mild swearing and taking the Lord's name in vain.

There's a handful of scenes that bring out the nasty side of the whaling business. Once or twice it was getting a bit gory, but... oh well.

As of yet, I'm on the fence as to whether of not I wish to read more by Melville, or not.

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paperback // hardcover // e-book // audio

This is book #9 for me in the Back to the Classics 2018 challenge.
[CATEGORY: Classic That Scares You]

...Yep, the thickness of the spine scared me, plus knowing it might be a deep story to take in. Whew!

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#FREE Audio Book: The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

If you enjoy listening to audio books, do check out this limited time FREEBIE from Tantor Media!

Audio Book: The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

The Last of the Mohicans

Author James Fenimore Cooper

Narrated by William Costello

Running time 15 hrs

A story of survival and treachery, love and deliverance, James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans follows an adroit scout named Hawkeye and his companion Chingachgook, who weave through the spectacular and dangerous wilderness of upstate New York during the French and Indian wars, fighting to save the beautiful Munro sisters from the Huron renegade Magua.

Download (free for a limited time) at tantor.com


Summer TBR Wipeout 2018 [Wrap-Up]

I finished 1 more book since my last Summer TBR Wipeout update... so that's 7 off my Summer list... plus, maybe a few more "others" that I read instead of the titles I originally put on my list. You know, it just happens!

There's 3 on my Summer list I'm actually still finishing... that's Moby Dick, The Outsiders, and Stars Above.

Finished [7]

The Vanishings Village School A Hero's Guide to Deadly Dragons The Keys of the Kingdom Mark of the Thief OutbreakNightmare at the Book Fair

Not Finished... Yet [5]

Moby Dick The Outsiders Stars Above Sense and Sensibility He Shall Thunder in the Sky

What Else I Read (Instead of my Wipeout List) [8]

Swiss Family Robinson Escape and Endurance The Inn at Ocean's Edge Kate's Dilemma Beyond Downton Abbey Second Chance Rinkitink in Oz The Expedition of Humphry Clinker

This was a fun challenge for the summer... already can't wait to play again next year!


Choose Your Own Story Adventure: Journey Through Taelis

Welcome to In the Bookcase.

Today I’m taking part in Sarah Holman’s "Choose Your Own Story" event. We're celebrating the release of her latest book, Escape and Endurance!! (In this event, you get to pick the outcome of the story by making choices.) A lot of different things can happen. What are you waiting for?

----->> Start your adventure by clicking the image below ----->>


Today's adventure decision...

     Andrew set off in the opposite direction. He felt a little guilty after all he was a knight. And sworn to protect women. However, he knew that he wasn’t the only one who had been wronged by the princess. Just the thought of Gail’s smug airs and unkind ways was enough to keep him moving.

     He soon found the spring weather did much to soothe his conscience. When he finally was finished wondering aimlessly, he decided that would go visit…

His Mentor A Woodcutter

Are you interested in reading about a knight, a tower, a princess, and a servant? Pick up a copy of Escape and Endurance!

Haven’t read the other books in the Tales of Taelis series? Not to worry. Each book can stand alone.

Check out my own 5-star review of Escape and Endurance, just posted earlier this week.

About Sarah:

Sarah Holman is a not-so-typical girl, a homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and lives in the great state of Texas. If there’s anything adventuresome about her life, it’s because she serves a God with a destiny greater than anything she could have imagined.

You can find out more about her at her website: www.thedestinyofone.com

You can join the Adventurers (her newsletter) by going here: http://eepurl.com/bitBIf

Author Sarah Holman