New Read: 7-Day Prayer Warrior Experience

7-Day Prayer Warrior Experience

I am a relatively new Christian having come to faith in my late teens. Now in my twenties I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and to hear what other Christians have to say. I like always having a piece of faith non-fiction on the go so after I finished reading Overwhelmed by Perry Noble I was keen to pick something else. I browsed my Kindle’s to-be-read folder and chose 7-Day Prayer Warrior Experience by Stormie Omartian as I enjoyed another of Omartian’s work at the beginning of the year.

In 7-Day Prayer Warrior Experience Omartian shares elements that Christians can use to make themselves a strong and successful prayer warriors. These elements include wearing the whole armour of God, girding our waists with truth, wearing the breastplate of righteousness, helmet of salvation, and using the sword of the spirit (word of God) and the Gospel of Peace. Omartian discusses how these elements can help our prayer, how we can use them, and how they will help strengthen our faith and change our lives. Each element is given its own chapter and ending prayer which gives you seven chapters and prayers to read. I found it very useful and nice to follow this pattern by reading a chapter and prayer a day giving me time to reflect and act on what I’d read before reading this next.

Stormie Omartian was a new author for me at the beginning of this year but this is now the second work of her’s I have read this year. 7-Day Prayer Warrior Experience was a free experience from Amazon which is based on information from Omartian’s full book Prayer Warrior. For this reason I wasn’t surprised to find this was a very different read for me from The Power of a Praying Woman which I read previously. I thought 7-Day Prayer Warrior Experience was well-written, short and concise. Each chapter was a short and easy read, and I really enjoyed the specific prayers at the end of each chapter. Though this wasn’t as detailed as my previous Omartian read I did really appreciate the time to think this work gave me. The short seven chapters and prayers concept I think could work really well for anyone who is in a small church group. I am in one myself and I think 7-Day Prayer Warrior Experience would be great to share with them, using a different element each week. I was really well supplied with new Christian non-fiction in 2013 and it appears that this is continuing this year too. I look forward to seeing what I discover next.

7-Day Prayer Warrior Experience is a concise and easy but thought provoking look at how we can all become prayer warriors. I recommend for individuals or groups interested in enhancing their faith and prayer time.

Have you read Omartian? Any recommendations?

New Read: A Storm of Swords book 1

A Storm of Swords book 1

I was ever so lucky to be gifted with a full set (to-date) of the epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin last Christmas. I had not long finished watching the fourth series of the blockbuster TV adaptation Game of Thrones when at the beginning of July I reached for A Storm of Swords: 1 Steel and Snow; the third instalment in Martin’s epic series.

A Storm of Swords: 1 Steel and Snow is the third instalment in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The next two paragraphs will contain spoilers for the previous instalments.

A Storm of Swords: 1 returns us to the action of The Seven Kingdoms to find them still in chaos with bloody war raging across the land. King Robert’s heir apparent Joffrey is still upon The Iron Throne but the kingdoms are filled with terrible rumours that he is not actually Robert’s. That instead he is the product of his mother’s incest. This has led to the rise of other claimants to the throne. Both Robert’s brothers Stannis and Renly laid claim to the throne and in their struggle for it Renly has been killed in mysteriously; dark magic is being whispered among the people. This leaves Joffrey with one less enemy and the opportunity to betroth himself to Renly’s beautiful young widow Margery Tyrell. This is a popular move among the people leaving Stannis and his new religion less popular than ever yet Stannis is still a threat. There is also Robb Stark, King of the North, the eldest son of Lord Eddard Stark who seeks justice for his land and family. Then across the sea Daenarys Targaryen the only remaining descendant of the Targaryen Dragon Lords still has her eyes upon the throne too. Meanwhile unbeknownst to them all evil is stirring beyond The Wall and there isn’t enough Brothers of the Night Watch left to hold it back much longer. Winter is coming. Oh that phrase continues to send a shiver down my spine! A Storm of Swords: 1 was another action and intrigued packed adventure which I needed my wits about me to keep up with. There is still a lot going on in this series and I could hardly be parted with this instalment because I couldn’t wait to find out more.

The adventure of A Storm of Swords: 1 is peopled with a whole host of interesting characters too.  So many I couldn’t possibly discuss them all here so instead I am going to focus on the four remaining protagonists vying for The Iron Throne. First of course we Joffrey the apparent heir to King Robert and his wife Cersei Lannister. Joffrey is beautiful, cruel, and vain. I can’t say there is any winning feature about him. He really is a character you love to hate. Next we have Stannis Baratheon the brother of King Robert. Stannis is proud, loyal, fair, but not the most charismatic of characters unlike both of his brothers. After his defeat at the Black Water and the mysterious murder of his popular brother Renly; Stannis is more unpopular than ever. Then we have Robb Stark son of murdered Eddard Stark. Robb is young, clever, brave, and yet humble. Unlike those named above he did not set out to be a King it was his men that proclaimed him King of the North because of their love for him. Robb and his men are causing a lot of trouble to Joffrey and the Lannisters which I love. Finally over the sea we have Daenarys Targaryen the only remaining heir of the Targaryen Dragon Lords who were banished by King Robert. Daenarys is the only female claimant. She is young, beautiful, and ambition yet she is kind and fair with it. Of all the claimants the only two I still truly like are Robb and Daenarys. Actually Daenarys is still one of my favourite characters since the first book. Even though the four remaining claimants are all fascinating to read about.

While I have watched the television series, A Storm of Swords: 1 the book is new for me. What put me off reading this series for some time now has been the sheer length of these books. A Storm of Swords book 1 is just under 600 pages so is actually the smallest instalment I have read so far but to me that is still a pretty long book!My fear has always been that the stories would be slow and drag but no fear on that count has been needed. I couldn’t put this book down and had the reached the end before I knew it. Like the previous instalments A Storm of Swords: 1 is jam-packed with action, adventure, intrigue, love, war, lies, fighting, secrets, and shocks! Martin’s writing is detailed and compelling, and love his choice to break these books up into bite-size chapters shown through the eyes of different characters. As a reader I find myself completely immersed in the Seven Kingdoms as I get to explore different cities, castles, and lands from the view-point of the different characters. There are a lot of names, places, and events to remember in this series but I didn’t find it that hard to keep track especially as there is maps and a fantastic appendix to help.

A Storm of Swords: 1 is an excellent epic fantasy adventure. I highly recommend to those who enjoy fantasy and historical literature. This series does contain sexual and violent content so not recommended for younger readers. I am eager to start reading the next instalment A Storm of Swords: 2 Blood and Gold. I may have to hold off for a bit though to make the long wait for the start of the fifth series of the blockbuster TV adaptation Game of Thrones next year.

Are you reading this series? Are you watching the TV series?

Previous instalments of A Song of Ice and Fire series:
1. A Game of Thrones
2. A Clash of Kings

New Read: Sisters of Treason

Sisters of Treason

After a busy June and first half of July I was so very grateful when my college course finished, the schools broke up for the Summer holiday and the sun came out. Finding myself with glorious weather and time on my hands half way through July I decided to throw myself into the political and power intrigues of the Tudor period in Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle.

In Sisters of Treason we join the infamous Grey family during the Tudor period. The young Jane Grey has been overthrown from the English throne by her cousin Mary Tudor after the death of King Edward VI which left the succession in doubt. Poor Jane is put death along with her husband Guilford Dudley and her power hungry father leaving her mother Frances and two younger sisters Katherine and Mary to the mercy of the new Queen Mary and her re-instated Catholic regime. Frances is able to remarry and as a favourite cousin of Queen Mary is allowed to live away from court but Katherine and Mary are not to be so fortunate. Katherine is now the Grey heir and with her looks and royal blood she could become the figure head for the Protestant rebels during Queen Mary’s reign and for the Catholic rebels during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign. For which she is kept close at court under suspicion during both Queens’s reigns. Then there is the youngest Mary who is small with a crooked spine who is not seen as much as a threat because who would wish to marry her and it is believed she wouldn’t be able to bear a child but her traitor’s blood still keeps her at court for most of her life. While Katherine and Mary are two very different young women they will both find themselves on the wrong side of Queen Elizabeth I as they seek the lives and loves they so yearn for.

The narration of Sisters of Treason is told from three perspectives. There is Katherine (as spelt in this novel) Grey a beautiful and spirited young woman who is less worried about the monarch or religion but longs only for love and marriage. While I found Katherine’s motive innocent I think she is often selfish and rather naïve to individuals and the dangers around her. Then we have her younger sister Mary Grey while she might be small with a crooked spine Mary is intelligent, witty and loving. I really liked Mary she certainly wasn’t perfect but I always felt she tried her hardest and thought of others with her only wish being to live a quiet life away from court; which doesn’t seem that much to ask really. I did sympathise with both sisters plights though as it was other people’s actions which has left them tainted with treason no matter what they do. The third narrator is Levina Teerlinc a Flemish artist who makes miniatures for the royal court. In this novel Levina is a close friend with Frances Grey and is often like an Aunt to the young Grey sisters. I liked reading about a woman with a career and artisan skills in the Tudor period. Levina also gives a perspective from someone outside of royalty and the aristocracy which I thought gave a good balance to the story.

I had heard of Elizabeth Fremantle before but Sisters of Treason is the first novel I have read by her. After reading positive reviews of Fremantle’s debut novel Queen’s Gambit I snapped up the opportunity to read her second novel Sisters of Treason. I thought Fremantle’s writing style was detailed and easy to read with the story flowing really well and smooth transitions between the three narrators. The action and tense of the story is firmly set in the present which means that tension can be built about the retribution for the sisters acts even though if you know anything of English history you already know what is going to happen. Last year I read a couple of short histories that looked at the three Grey sisters and yet I was so drawn into this story I didn’t find myself thinking back to the facts but waiting instead for the novel to unfold the story. After finishing Sisters of Treason I realised how little I thought about the actual feelings or personalities of the Grey sisters when reading those short histories. Even though this was fictional it really did help me to think of these young women as really people. Fremantle has obviously filled in some historical gaps and fictionalised events and people in this novel which I thought she did really well. I totally believed in her characters and the Tudor world she created with her words. At the end of the novel Fremantle also references the real historical characters, events and facts she took inspiration from.

Sisters of Treason is a well written and fascinating look into the intrigues and lives of those living under the shadow of treason in the Tudor period.  I highly recommend to those interested in historical fiction and English history. I would really like to read more by Elizabeth Fremantle.

Thank you to Penguin Books (UK) for providing a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Elizabeth Fremantle?

New Read: Overwhelmed

Overwhelmed

I am a relatively new Christian having come to faith in my late teens. Now in my twenties I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and to hear what other Christians have to say. I like always having a piece of faith non-fiction on the go so after I finished a re-read of Mere Christianity by C S Lewis I was keen to pick something else. I plumped for Overwhelmed by Perry Noble a recent acquisition which seemed perfect as I was feeling little overwhelmed getting my college portfolio ready for submission.

In Overwhelmed Noble discusses the situations, feelings and stress that can leave us feeling overwhelmed and without hope. Noble says however if you have a faith in God then you are never alone in these overwhelming times and that God is not letting you suffering needlessly he always has a plan. I have an anxiety disorder and so can often feel worried and overwhelmed by some of the smallest things let alone the big things. I thought the best advice Noble gave was not to worry about the things you cannot change because it is pointless just worry about the things you can change. So simple and obvious but often something I completely forget to do yet if I followed it my life would be so much easier. I also loved how Noble used the stories of Daniel and Job from the Old Testament to help explain his points. Two great stories about being overwhelmed but staying true to your faith.

Perry Noble is a new author for me in 2014. I was really well supplied with new Christian non-fiction in 2013 and it appears to be continuing this year too. I was drawn to Overwhelmed because of the bold title and cover which seemed to be speaking to me at a time where I was feeling rather overwhelmed myself. I am pleased to say the content was really relevant and helpful for me too. I thought Noble’s style was friendly and informative. I enjoyed how Noble started each chapter with an anecdote from his own life but I don’t think I felt I learnt about him as much as perhaps as I did about other authors I have read this year. This is not a criticism just a reflection there was enough of personal touch to this to give a down to earth and honest feel to this non-fiction.

Overwhelmed is an interesting and supportive book on the overwhelming situations individuals may find themselves in. I highly recommend to those interested in Christian non-fiction.

Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for providing a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read Noble? Any recommendations for other faith literature?

Re-Read: The Colour of Magic

The Colour of Magic

The beginning of July was a busy time for me as I got my portfolio of work ready to hand in for my college course; which left me with little time and brain power left for reading. With that in mind I picked up The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett, the first in his epic Discworld series, for a comforting  and easy re-read. With its blend of fantasy and humour I thought it the best medicine for my stretched mind.

In The Colour of Magic we are first introduced to Pratchett’s magic, weird and fantastical Discworld; a flat disc world which stands on the back of four elephants who themselves stand on the shell of giant turtle who swims through the universe. I never cease to be amazed and amused by Pratchett’s wonderful imagination. The story of The Colour of Magic takes us to the ancient city of Ankh-Morpork that see’s the arrival of naïve and rich tourist Twoflower; a small man with four eyes from the Agatean Empire. Only thing is the citizens of Ankh-Morpork have no idea what a tourist is. Fearing trouble the city’s Patriarch charges Rincewind the wizard with escorting and keeping Twoflower from coming to harm. Sadly Rincewind is a poor excuse for a wizard. After kidnap threats, fights and a devastating fire Twoflower and Rincewind are forced to flee the city setting them on the path of an unexpected adventure.

The protagonists of The Colour of Magic are Rincewind, Twoflower and his magical walking chest; who even though it can’t speak really does seem to have its own personality and way of communicating. Rincewind is clever but is utterly lacking any bravery, confidence or magic which all in all makes for a very poor wizard. It is very funny to read about his many miss-adventures and forced moments of heroism. Then we have Twoflower the first tourist who longs to see the sights regardless of his health or his safety. Twoflower is not necessarily brave though he is just naïve and far too trusting but things have a way of working out for him. The combination of Rincewind, Twoflower and his magical walking chest makes for a hilarious read before you add any of the other characters and creatures they meet along the way.

Terry Pratchett is a well loved author of mine but scandalously I haven’t read one of his novels since 2012! To make up for that and to refresh my memory I decided to go back to where it all started. The Colour of Magic is the first instalment of Pratchett’s epic Discworld series. This is not a series you necessarily have to read in order as the stories are usually short, fun and simple which also follow many different characters/sets of characters. I felt it would be nice to read the first novel again though so I could have the chance to focus on Pratchett’s first descriptions of the actual world itself to get better sense of it before going on to reading some new adventures. I really enjoyed this re-read not just for the familiar comfort it brought but also for remembering well loved jokes and noticing extra details. It has reminded me all over again why I love Pratchett and how I should get a move on reading more of his Discworld series.

The Colour of Magic is a wonderfully fun and colourful adventure. I highly recommend to those who enjoy fantasy and comedy.

Have you read Discworld? Have a favourite instalment?

New Read: A Lifetime Burning

A Lifetime Burning

I don’t generally read a great deal of chick lit or women’s literature but I make an exception for Linda Gillard who is rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors. I had read four of Gillard’s novels but I haven’t read one since last year so I thought it was high time I read another. Luckily for me A Lifetime Burning one of Gillard’s earlier novels was handily waiting for me on my kindle.

A Lifetime Burning follows the Dunbar family, in particular the Dunbar twins Flora and Rory. The twins were born to their parents later in life, seen almost as miracle babies, as both parents had long believed they were never to have children after so many years of marriage. From the start blonde and blue-eyed Flora and Rory were intensely close. We watch as they play and grow but while their personalities and interests begin to differ, Rory being musical while Flora immerses herself in stories and dramas, they are still as close as ever. So close that when they are split by Rory being sent to boarding school Flora refuses to sleep and Rory escapes from school and arrives home on foot weeks later. Both Flora and Rory leave home to study and eventually marry but nothing seems to fill the gap being apart seems to create. They are each other’s other half they feel incomplete without each other. A feeling which is to impact on them, their parents, spouses and even their children.

I think the main protagonist of A Lifetime Burning is Flora as she narrates the majority of the novel and the fact I think I connected with her the most. Flora is beautiful, often naïve and starts out with the best of intentions however Flora is not strong and when she leaves home the reality of life outside in the world seems to corrupt and ultimately destroys her. Rory is also beautiful but he is more worldly and selfish with Flora and his music career being the only two things he really seems to love. While I found him interesting I didn’t like Rory. Flora I had much more sympathy for. Flora and Rory are joined in this tale by their elderly parents and aunt, Flora’s spouse Hugh an older handsome vicar, Rory’s spouse love struck music student Grace, Flora’s son Theo, and Rory’s children Colin and Charlotte. This really could be described as a family drama and as it spans over four decades it could also be described as a family saga too.

I am no stranger to Gillard’s work I have now read five of her novels. Each new read I am not disappointed either. I think Gillard’s writing is beautiful, detailed, but also comfortable and down to earth which is why I enjoy reading her work so much. I always feel her characters and story are realistic and interesting. I especially love all the history she puts into her stories too. A Lifetime Burning was different in the sense that the history was contained to the Dunbar family history really not bigger country or world history. I think this was a pleasant change and over four decades I thought we got some really detailed history of the family; good and bad. I also loved the detail Gillard added to Flora and Rory’s interests. Flora was often discussing the novels, plays and dramas she is reading or has been in. While Rory as an adult becomes a world-renowned pianist and there is plenty details about music and composers. I think this drama and music detail helped create a rich and interesting underlying mood to the story which could be often sad and bleak. The story is told in a disjointed manner flicking backwards and forwards in time which compliments the confused mind of Flora well but also helps to break up the bleakness and builds the mystery. I think A Lifetime Burning  is both heart-breaking and beautiful in equal parts.

A Lifetime Burning is another beautiful tale of the love, life, and death from Linda Gillard. I highly recommend to those interested in women’s literature and family history. I can’t wait to read more of Gillard’s work.

Thank you to the author for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read Linda Gillard? What should I read next?

New Read: The Revenant of Thraxton Hall

The Revenant of Thraxton Hall

June is another busy month for me with college coursework and my placement at college which scarily will be coming to an end in July! While my previous comfort go to has been fantasy this year as the weather has begun to warm up I found myself hankering for a good mystery. So I reached for The Revenant of Thraxton Hall by Vaughn Entwistle which has been on my Kindle for a while.

The Revenant of Thraxton Hall joins Arthur Conan Doyle the legendary creator of Sherlock Holmes in the days after he infamously kills off his creation and the nation’s beloved sleuth. Doyle is shocked by the angry and the some times violent backlash he has received from the general public who believe he is a murderer with many wearing black bands of mourning as if a real person has been killed. While Doyle is trying lay low he receives a most intriguing invitation to join the newly formed Society for Psychical Research (SPR) for a four day retreat at Thraxton Hall. This is not the first time in the last few days that Doyle has heard the name of Thraxton Hall. Earlier in the week Doyle was approached by a renowned spiritual medium who has foreseen their own murder which they believe will happen by them being shot in the chest during a séance at Thraxton Hall. At first Doyle was not inclined to believe this claim but now he has received this invitation he beginning to rethink his first thoughts. Doyle and his close friend Wilde pack their bags and head off to Thraxton Hall to see if they can solve this mystery like Doyle’s fictional sleuth.

Arthur Conan Doyle was the real life creator of the famous private sleuth Sherlock Holmes however this novel is a fictionalised view of Doyle and a period of time in his life. I really liked Doyle he came across as honest, loyal, sensible and kind. Doyle is joined on his adventure by his close friend Wilde which if hadn’t already guessed is the famous poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. If I like Doyle I loved Wilde he is flamboyant, emotional and totally fabulous; and because of the film Wilde (1997) all I could picture him as was Stephen Fry. Together Doyle and Wilde make a great pairing they reminded me of an opposite pairing to Holmes and Watson. While Holmes is an over the top protagonist supported by sensible Watson. Here the sensible protagonist Doyle is supported by the flamboyant Wilde.

The Revenant of Thraxton Hall is the first novel I have read by Vaughn Entwistle. I took a chance on this novel because I have been making my way through Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes short story collections and novels; and I thought this might be an interesting spin-off story from them. I had always heard that Doyle was as interesting a character as his creation Sherlock Holmes. I thought Entwistle drew an interesting and realistic portrayal of this real life author. Some of the other characters and some of the events were also based on real life. Entwistle very usefully gave a brief summary of his research, inspirations and real life characters and events; giving details about any changes he had made and why. I thought The Revenant of Thraxton Hall was a well written novel with a great mystery and some wonderful passages of description. I could really imagine the dark and brooding wreck of Thraxton Hall and what it would be like to be there with all the interesting members of Society for Psychical Research (SPR). Drafty bedrooms, dusty suits of armour, creepy family portraits, séances and guttering candles. With this sort of detail I found myself gripped after only a few chapters into this novel managing to polish this novel off in only a few sittings.

The Revenant of Thraxton Hall is a well written mystery full of murder, twists, turns and the supernatural. I highly recommend this to fans of mystery, the supernatural and Sherlock Holmes.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for providing a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Are you a fan of Sherlock Holmes?