In the Bookcase


Book Review: Hammer of the Huguenots

Hammer of the Huguenots by Douglas Bond (5 star review)

Hammer of the Huguenots
Heroes & History series

written by Douglas Bond

224 pages // published in 2015 // Christian historical fiction


Philippe, an orphan shipwright apprentice in sixteenth-century France, is perplexed by the intense religious conflict raging about him. While his friends Maurice and Sophie cling to the good news proclaimed by the church Reformers, Philippe has not yet been persuaded to abandon the teachings of the state church in which he was raised. The gospel sounds liberating at times, but can he risk believing when persecution and bloodshed inevitably follow? As Huguenot communities are massacred and full-scale warfare breaks over France, Philippe must decide once and for all where his loyalties lie. The choices he and his friends make in these violent times may cost them everything.

My Review

5 Star Rating

Before reading this book, I may have heard of the Huguenots before, but I certainly didn't quite know exactly what they stood for that made them famous in the annals of history. Now that I learned more about the Reformation era, I am overwhelmed with the bold faith that the Huguenots exhibited. Wow, these people were strong! Plus, by reading all about it in a fictional setting, I was immersed into an intriguing storyline...

So, I learned some amazing history. Like how it would have been sedition to the king to sing psalms or recite holy scripture in French, instead of Latin. So many thousands of Huguenots died in the cause of the Reformation; a total extermination decree was issued against them in 1569. Who were these people? Peaceful men from families of “merchants, shipbuilders, stonecutters, farmers, fishermen, blacksmiths.”

There's a particular character who really stood out to me, and I thought I should mention it here. Dearest Sophie. I thought of her more as a “background” character for quite a while, and wasn't expecting much from her, with all the other events going on, but I was certainly surprised by her actions. She knocks in out of the park in this novel... What bravery this girl has!!

Douglas Bond has a fascinating vocabulary. In addition to him being able to filter SO MUCH history into a dramatic story, he also knows how to insert such interesting words, some of which I had use “ye olde dictionary” for. I should mention though, there are some chapters in the book which seem long-winded, and the reader takes in a lot of historical accounts at once (I was extremely pleased with the short chapters to quickly break up the harder reading). The government and politics play a huge part in the story, there are lots of speeches to read through too. I'm only mentioning this to say that this book is not “fluffy” or light historical fiction; it's deep and has a lot of information to share with you. That's fine though, because I was completely engrossed in it.

I think this is a serious story that Christians need to hear. It may have happened in France a few hundred years ago, but we need to know how people of our faith were persecuted for what they believed in. There are elements of history that ring true to modern times; we can find some relatable bits, like how in their times, teaching in school about Reformed Christianity is an act of treason (and was punishable by death, my goodness). At least we're not in a religious war right now, but these things really happened.

“Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”
- Chapter 23, Hammer of the Huguenots

Christian families especially will love this novel, the strong and bold type of faith it displays, and the history it imparts on its readers.

There is revival, victory, and hope to be found in Hammer of the Huguenots.

Available on Amazon in paperback and ebook format.

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Book Review: Three Go Searching

Three Go Searching by Patricia St. John (5 star review)

Three Go Searching

written by Patricia St. John

128 pages // published in 1977 // Christian children's fiction


Everyone knows a person like Waffi -- mischievous, willful, and having a knack for getting others into trouble. David, whose father is a missionary doctor in Africa, is Waffi's friend. Although Waffi occasionally gets David into some difficult situations, David is learning to be a witness for God. When Waffi and David find a sick servant girl and a mysterious boat, an exciting adventure begins for them.

My Review

5 Star Rating

What a delightful vintage little paperback this is. Of course, I should expect a touching story from Patricia St. John, and it has certainly been a few years since I've read one of hers, but I'm sooo glad to have picked this one up. It has EVERYTHING that a good moral story should, and it touched my heart generously.

The spiritual content is largely based on being sons of God, and shining as a light in the darkness (from a memory verse that David learns, Philippians 2:15). This added a lot of depth to the plot, as David, a missionary doctor's son, keeps finding himself in trouble, or being persuaded to do things he shouldn't, yet he tries so hard to please the Almighty

Really, it's a simple story, but has an engaging plot. It imparts a lot of biblical truth on the reader, even a young reader can see it. David is trying to be a good son of God, Waffi is kicking against the pricks, and Lela just wants to find out who God is. All three are in a different place in their spiritual journey. But the orchestration of Lord's hand is clear; these children will be loved by Him as He guides them in the right direction.

Excellent quality vintage fiction. It can touch hearts young and old.

Available on Amazon in paperback format.

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Book Review: Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (4 star review)


written by Mary Shelley

324 pages // published in 1818 // gothic literature


Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the world’s most famous Gothic novel about eccentric scientist Victor Frankenstein, who creates a grotesque creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. Shelley's work is considered to be the world's first science fiction, with Frankenstein’s monster being a symbol of science gone awry. Shelley’s masterpiece has inspired numerous films, plays and other books.

My Review

4 Star Rating

“Frankenstein” is a peek into the true nature of man, and man's response to “ugliness” of the world, even in each other.

“... a fatal prejudice clouds their eyes, and where they ought to see a feeling and kind friend, they behold only a detestable monster.”

On the surface, it's the unbelievable story of how a scientist works so hard at “infusing life into an inanimate body”, and his creation that becomes destructive and a monster to humanity. But when we look at the story deeper, we see, yes, this strange being “becomes” a monster through his actions; he wasn't a monster or even scary just because a scientist pulled him into the land of the living, but only due to his character and conduct. The same goes for all of us, you know; people can become monster-like, based on their actions, not looks.

“Wealth was an inferior object, but what glory would attend the discovery if I could banish disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!”

Now, this monster, after being born into the world, must grasp knowledge on his own, and does it rather swiftly. He ponders about himself, “My person was hideous and my stature gigantic. What did this mean? Who was I? Whence did I come? What was my destination? These questions continually recurred, but I was unable to solve them.”

And as for Dr. Frankenstein? He transitions from being master of a science never known to man before, being an absolute genius... to feeling like the scum of the earth, creator of destruction, and finally, one full of revenge. “I was guiltless, but I had indeed drawn down a horrible curse upon my head, as mortal as that of crime.” … “I am, by a course of strange events, become the most miserable of mortals.”

I've seen some of the old, vintage Frankenstein films. But the actual book is nothing like the horror story the films portray. In fact, forget Boris Karloff completely; the green skin (it was actually yellow *cough*), the metal bolts in the neck, the incoherent moaning. The strange creature in the book is actually a very articulate being, using the English language so well, it's ridiculous. What an eloquent and polished speaker he is.

“His tale and the feelings he now expressed proved him to be a creature of fine sensations.”

Some Christians may not be completely comfortable with the subject matter of the book, namely, the fact that a humble man creates life, or in Dr. Frankenstein's own words, became “capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.” I do recall at one point that he vaguely mentions “the creation of the world”, but then inversely has thoughts such as the following: “Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of life proceed? It was a bold question, and one which has ever been considered as a mystery...” Not a mystery to believers, one we wouldn't question.

I've got to admit, some of of the story can get a bit dry. At the beginning of the story, I yearned for the actual “adventure” to begin (it took a few chapters before I felt like I was reading something). After it got going, it still had its dry spells, and this could deter some readers, but if you're like me, I pushed through and was rewarded with the achievement of finally reading Frankenstein. I can cross that off my bucket list. The story focused a lot on emotions moreso than action; in this regard especially is where I think the films have veered away, reversing the ratio. Sometimes I thought that certain chapters read similarly to Charles Dickens (who brought lots of emotion into any story) or Robert Louis Stevenson (who was an adventurer at heart, it seems), but at other times the story would still drag.

There are some pretty murderous (or suicidal) thoughts found throughout, sentences like so: “...but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends.” Now there's a horrific threat, if I ever heard one.

Shelley herself has such a wide vocabulary. I was always checking on words to find out what they mean, and it was a bit fascinating. That's classic literature for you.

So, there is a lot in this story – this gothic classic through the ages. “Frankenstein” may be labeled as a scary book or horror story, but the scary thing about is that humankind, ourselves, can be just as destructive as any fictional monster.

Available on Amazon in paperback format, and on Project Gutenberg in e-book format.

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This is book #7 for me in the Back to the Classics 2017 challenge.
[CATEGORY: Gothic/Horror Classic]

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Book Review: The Courtship of Jo March

The Courtship of Jo March by Trix Wilkins (5 star review)

The Courtship of Jo March
A Variation of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women

written by Trix Wilkins

385 pages // published in 2016 // historical fiction


It’s the classic story of four sisters we’ve come to love, and yet we can’t help but wonder. Why did Jo refuse Laurie? What might Laurie have done on the European Grand Tour? What became of Jo’s writing, Amy’s art, Laurie’s music? Would a school have existed without Aunt March? And could Beth possibly have been saved?

This re-imagining of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is for all who have ever wondered how things might have worked out differently for the beloved March sisters – the life Beth might have led, the books Jo might have written, the friends they might have made, and the courtship that might have been.

My Review

5 Star Rating

Have you ever been one to ask yourself what life could have been like for Jo March if she hadn't refused her beloved Teddy? If she hadn't made the marital choice she did? I have thought about it. Apparently, Trix Wilkins has too, so I know I'm not alone in this mindset. In fact, Wilkins has published a beautiful story, one that appends on the Little Women story we cherish, and (I can't be spoiling anything here...) changes the ending.

Honestly, the novel starts out with a prologue that reads like a fairytale... and then we enter into the familiar story of the March sisters, altered just enough to give us a glimpse into another dimension, answering several “what if's” from the original story.

Laurie... he's just as aggravating as ever, in a playful way, yet always the gentleman.

His [Laurie's] grandfather's words cut into his thoughts. “If you hope to marry Jo, you will need more than words. You cannot win her by persuasion Not Jo, not into marriage.”
“Persuasion is all I have, sir,” he replied.”

- Chapter 6, The Courtship of Jo March

Beth... she's so shy it's crippling in public, but sweet as honey with her friends and family. To see her flourish in this story, is like catching a rare glimpse of something special.

Jo... is just as high-spirited as in the original book, with a large streak of stubborn. She won't marry, or even think of marrying, until she's good and ready. I saw a lot of Louisa May Alcott reflected in the character of Jo, and I liked it. Many of Jo's thoughts on family values and political talk in this volume seemed to fit Miss Alcott's perspectives very well. Says her cheeky self...

“He can pursue whoever he likes, it's his prerogative...”
Chapter 8, The Courtship of Jo March

Of course, Little Women will always be a favorite classic of mine, but there's nothing wrong with adding a little imagination to the story, and pondering how life could have turned out differently for Jo March if her stubbornness hadn't gotten in the way.

One more thing I liked? That it has a plot that shows excitement in the art of words, as was Jo March's specialty in Little Women; her love for writing continues and mayhap even amplifies in this volume.

I would recommend The Courtship of Jo March for adult readers who are literarily inclined. (I.e., not completely a kid-friendly read like Little Women is. Perhaps 15 & up could enjoy it.)

“Is Jo March an an actual published author?” exclaimed Grace. “Oh my, how accomplished! Well, Laurie certainly aims high, we cannot fault him for that!”
- Chapter 9, The Courtship of Jo March

Emotion of every kind is presented in this moving novel – heartbreak, love, grief, passion, victory – it's all in there. If Little Women ever made you cry, this version will too. From Massachusetts, New York, London, Vienna, Paris... what a journey it is to travel into the unknown with the March family! I wouldn't want to gush too much and give away the author's plot secrets... but there are plenty of surprises to be found in this novel, and I truly enjoyed it.

Visit the author online!


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My Top 5 Most Interesting #SUMMER Reads

Ruffles and Grace blog party!!

Blogger Victoria Lynn (whose online home is found at Ruffles and Grace) is hosting a big blog party. She has a lot of fun things happening on her blog, so be sure to check it out this week. Sooo... I've been invited to join in the fun for her BOOK DAY!

What a joy it is to be ASKED to talk about BOOKS!

So, here at In The Bookcase we're going to talk about our best reads of the summer. I hope you've squeezed in some fun titles and made summer 2017 a good one for the books.

Here's a peek at what intriguing literary gems that my eyes have been feasting on... and I want to hear from YOU too! Here's 5 books that I've been totally engrossed in during these hot summer days.

Tarissa's Top 5 2017 Summer Reads

Let's start at the top!

#1. The Magnolia Story
by Chip & Joanna Gaines

One of my favorite reads all YEAR long, not just from my summer reads. This Fixer Upper couple has been through a lot in order to have a successful business... and it's a beautiful (and inspiratinal) ride to read about. I definitely recommend this one!

#2. The Courtship of Jo March
by Trix Wilkins

Have you ever wondered what the American classic Little Women would have been like if things had just... turned out differently? I have. Truthfully, I just didn't "get" Professor Bhaer, but I'm not going to ramble about that here. This is an excellent book for fans of classic literature. {My review will be arriving on the blog shortly!}

#3. The Ape Who Guards the Balance
by Elizabeth Peters

This is book #10 in a series about Amelia Peabody, an archaeologist who excavates in Egypt with her husband Emerson at the beginning of the 1900s. This volume was a particularly good read in the series, especially if you've followed along with Peabody's earlier adventures. Intrigue, mummies, murder...

#4. Aunt Jo's Scrap Bag
by Louisa May Alcott

I read this volume during the annual Louisa May Alcott reading challenge that I host in June. I was thrilled to pieces with some of the vintage short stories found in this collection. I can't wait to read the sequel next year!

#5. The Mysterious Affair at Styles
by Agatha Christie

I haven't read much Christie yet, but I decided that I should start at the beginning somewhere, so I chose to read book #1 of the Hercule Poirot series. I was rewarded with a cozy page-turner, which has whet my appetite for the rest of the series.

I want to hear from you, readers! What were your favorite reads from this summer?!

Now since you've visited me In The Bookcase today, hop on over to Victoria's blog. She has a LOT of goodies happening this + TODAY IS BOOK DAY, which includes a FANTASTIC giveaway.

Ruffles and Grace blog GIVEAWAY!!


~ a Book Bundle of some of my favorite titles, including

· Left to Die by Ivy Rose

· Martin Hospitality by Abigayle Claire

· Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter

· Harvester by Gene Stratton Porter

· London in the Dark by Victoria Lynn

· The Reluctant Godfather by Allison Tebo

~ A Book Bestie (book protector) by Ruffles and Grace

~ Some special handpicked notebooks

~ A Book themed tote by Ruffles and Grace

~ Small Leather Journal

Ruffles and Grace blog GIVEAWAY!!