Review 5 star
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The Seed: Into the Darkness is a Christian fantasy story by R. L. Barker. It shows the events of Biblical history, especially the time of Christ, from Satan’s point of view as he tries to prevent Jesus Christ (the Seed) from defeating him. After Satan tempts Adam and Eve, things look well for him—but God tells of a Seed who will crush Satan’s head. Immediately, Satan’s obsession to get rid of this Seed begins, in a war against humanity spanning thousands of years. The problem is Satan doesn’t know who the Seed will be. Although powerful in the underworld, Satan doesn’t know everything—and so he discovers one day when he is startled to realize at long last the Seed might be really arriving.
The Seed: Into the Darkness is a profoundly enjoyable book. There is integrity to the character development and a good literary quality which created an immersive novel. Satan was portrayed in a down-to-earth way that was even light-hearted at times, but his menace and evil purpose towards Christ and Christians was also exceptionally clear. His small-minded mania and obsession was excellently developed, as were his parade of semi-comic and grotesque minions and the humans in his path like eccentric, wild John the Baptist and sour, corrupt Herod the Great. And Jesus Himself, shown only in sketches, possessed a quiet presence that proved He is what the story is really about. From the thundering chambers of Satan’s underworld to the joyous beauty of resurrection, R. L. Barker’s story certainly delivers the themes of the Bible in a fictional package worth putting on your shelf.
Review 4 star
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Braidy von Althuis and the Dastardly Djinn is a quirky and exciting children’s story with an inventive cast of characters. This third book in a series by author Cassidy Dwelis continues the story of young Braidy, who lives in a blended family of humans and magical creatures. Braidy’s grandmother is one of the most powerful fairies in the world. After she disappears to Europe, most of the family goes looking for her. Left at home, Braidy accidentally finds a ceramic container with a djinn trapped inside. To free the djinn, Braidy wishes for his cousin Blockhead, who was cursed so he has a block for a head, to look normal again so he'll feel better after a breakup. But Blockhead doesn’t know what to do with his newfound freedom, the djinn is on the run from someone who wants to enslave him, and before he knows it Braidy is head over heels in an adventure.
This book was an enjoyable reading experience for me and kids craving a story that does a good job delivering thrills, comedy, and sympathetic characters will like it as well. Braidy was a well-characterized little boy who drew me into the story immediately and Blockhead’s portrayal was strong as he grew from shy and underconfident into someone who embraced himself even if he looked different from others. That’s an excellent message and it’s easy to take it to heart after so much action-adventure brings us close to Braidy and Blockhead so we care about them and see their journey each step of its exciting, freaky, epic-scale way. Subtle illustrations captured the character’s emotions and the backstory of European fairies and Asian djinns, who coexist but dislike each other, was developed just enough to create a feeling of mythic scope without slowing the story down. Cassidy Dwelis has great skill with action stories and Braidy von Athuis and the Dastardly Djinn brings a fun fantasy world to life.
Review 5 star
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Sleep, Merel, Sleep by Silke Stein is a children’s fantasy story about a girl named Merel who has to make things right after her bratty behavior sends her personal “Sleep” friend away in a huff. Merel is always angry and upset these days because her infant brother is extremely ill and her parents don’t have time for her. Merel sees things darkly. She doesn’t want to sleep or relax, but to cry, and storm, and throw things. When her Sleep gives up on her, snotty, rude Merel is sent through an Oz-like fantasy land on desperate effort to locate him. Until he does, she will never sleep again. Exhausted, Merel drifts through one obstacle after another, every one reminding her of something in her life, as the elusive Lullabye Grove seems always out of reach.
Sleep, Merel, Sleep is an astonishing story that shines with a glowing honesty. Both the writing and imaginative angles are excellent, Silke Stein weaves a sheer, gauzy blend of both into a world that’s half-Oz, half-Wonderland, and doesn’t have one word out of place. Each aspect of Merel’s journey springs on her in a marvelous, sudden way that seems irrational but operates with the deep logic of a living dream as Merel pieces together her own weaknesses and slowly understands the wrong in her ways, one step at a time. Pursued by a ghostly man with bloodshot eyes, determined to eradicate sleep, Merel learns about the folly of self-pity, the kind heart beneath her mother’s busy exterior, and—the biggest surprise of all—just how Merel really feels towards her baby brother. A delicately symbolic tale that made me care about this girl every step of the way as she learned to accept her family and her place in it.
This is the companion for Sarah Scheele's newsletter blog. In it I share reviews for books I'd recommend/are similar to my own.