A Season on the Wind (Book Review)

I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
  • Author: Suzanne Woods Fisher
  • Publisher: Revell
  • On-Sale Now
  • Synopsis: Penny Weaver is delighted when Ben Zook, her dearest friend from adolescence, returns to the Amish community at Stoney Ridge, in pursuit of a rare bird. But when he arrives, Ben treats Penny as though she’s a stranger.

I have had the privilege of reading several of Suzanne Woods Fisher’s Amish novels, so I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that this book actually took place in the same community.

Scripture Connections

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…

James 4:8

He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to the comfort of His spacious table, laden with food.

Job 36:16

Spiritual Themes

Woods Fisher beautifully demonstrates God’s pursuit of His children. One scene, in particular, was so beautifully timely, for me. I closed the book to pray, as I felt God’s invitation through the simple words on the page.

There is also a lot of emphasis (which I am so grateful for) on God’s work as Creator. This is a theme I desire to see explored, even more, in Christian fiction.

Another theme that caught my eye, through just a few lines, was about worry: “Leave those worries in the future… Come home to the present.” This message is surrounded with the importance of waiting on the Lord. Ahh! So good. So refreshing.

What I Liked

This book was such a joy to read! It was one of those books that I sailed through, which I quickly found myself in the middle of, wondering how I had gotten there. I am particularly impressed with books that seem uneventful– suddenly you’re a hundred pages in, and although not a lot has “happened” so far, the experience has been thoroughly enjoyable. I guess this could be described as “slow-paced,” in a positive sense: not meaning that the story was difficult to “get into,” but rather that it was delightfully engaging, without being full of action. While I think the Amish community setting certainly contributes to this, I also recognizes that this demonstrates skill on the author’s part.

I appreciated that the novel was well-grounded in community. The novel intertwines various lives and perspectives. Readers progress alongside various narrators: Penny Weaver and her younger brother, Micah; Ben Zook and his sister-like cousin, Natalie. The novel develops more than one romance plotline, but even the romance is anchored in community. Amish youth court on the buggy rides home from youth group. Ben enters Penny’s life while birding with her younger brother.

Woods Fisher’s books are a soothing balm. While I certainly have a strong appreciation for Christian books that demonstrate God’s love and power through action-packed narratives and dramatic events, Fisher’s books present truth in a gentle, yet potent, fashion. These truths are neither preachy nor understated, but roll along with the plotline. I find myself praying, alongside the characters, as God opens their hearts and leads them.

At the same time, with the gentle rolling of the plot, there were some fascinating plot developments. While some books scream “Unravel this mystery!” throughout, A Season on the Wind quietly builds intrigue. And it was brilliant!

Integration of Birding

Birding is integral to the plotline, which was fun for me, as I have become much more interested in birds, due to the variety of avian life that God has blessed us with, here at MeadowArc.

In addition to explanations embedded throughout the text, each chapter begins with 1-2 pages from Micah Weaver’s “Bird-Watching Log.” These pages are formatted to look like a notebook, with handwriting font, and include notations about the appearance, quirks and habits of various birds. Plus, these descriptions brilliantly tie-in with the plotline.

Woods Fisher also describes her own introduction to birding, in an end note, and includes introductory material with a brief glossary of birding terms.

Recommendation

This book is FANTASTIC, one that I would highly recommend without reservation. I have included one SPOILER content note below, for one sensitive topic, but this does not in any way affect my recommendation status. I would recommend the title for mature teens and up.

Content Concerns (Spoiler)

The novel explores the effects of suicide, as one of the characters committed suicide years before the start of the novel.

Princess Cut 2 (Movie Review)

As I’ve mentioned a few times on my blog, Princess Cut is one of my very favorite movies! I really appreciate the strong emphasis on purity and self-worth.

A few weeks ago, I reached out to the production studio, Watchman Pictures, to request a screening ticket to review the show. I had the opportunity to communicate with the director, Paul Munger, and also look forward to sharing an interview with Paul and his wife, Sheilah.

I am not as accustomed to doing movie reviews. I’m being very careful to avoid spoilers, but delve more into plot content in the (labeled) bottom portion of the review.

  • Starring Ashley Bratcher, Joseph Gray, Mimi Sagadin, Brett Varvel, Kendra Carelli
  • Dir. Paul Munger
  • Written by D. B. Hansen, Elizabeth E. Hansen, Paul Munger, Sheilah Munger
  • Synopsis: Grappling with the heartbreaking hardships of life, newlyweds Lauren and Robert must decide whether or not to continue trusting God.
  • Buy Tickets Now

Scripture Connection

“For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”

James 1:3

“But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.”

Psalm 56:3

Premise

While very different from the original, Hearts on Fire carries on the theme of trust in, and surrender to, God.

The film begins with Grace and Clint, now married, living in community alongside Robert (Grace’s younger brother) and his wife, Lauren.

Much like Grace, Lauren struggles with the permanence and responsibility attached to the family farm.

In the midst of overwhelming tragedy, Lauren must decide whether or not she can continue to put her trust in God.

Comparison to Original

While many of the characters from the first film make a reappearance in the sequel, a few of the roles have changed hands. While Ashley Bratcher, Joseph Gray, Mimi Sagadin and even Kate McCallum reprise their original roles, there are several new faces in the cast. Brett Varvell and Kendra Carelli step into leading roles as Robert and Lauren Anderson.

Compared to the first film, this one deals with more mature content. While the film is still “appropriate” for families, the main characters are adults and some of the issues they struggle with are adult-specific (To see those specifics, please look at the Content section at the bottom of the post). The film is also much more serious and weighty, overall, in its exploration of truth. But that truth is life-giving, significant and valuable.

As my mom pointed out to me, purity is a consistent theme. In this case, we see purity showcased in relationship with God: the choice to choose Him above all else.

Princess Cut emphasizes purity as Grace surrenders her desires for marriage to God— waiting on His timing and seeking godly counsel. Hearts on Fire reflects purity of heart as Lauren makes the difficult decision to continue to trust God, even when she doesn’t understand why her life is going the way it is. Even when she doesn’t know what the future holds.

Truths

In addition to the emphasis on surrendering to God, grace plays a major role in the film, making for a beautiful storyline! And, as my mom observed, there is a strong emphasis on choosing God above all else.

Overall Impression

Although the film was very different than I expected, it’s definitely worth a watch! I really appreciate that the movie doesn’t shy away from hardship, but it also doesn’t emphasize hardship over truth. We see that life is hard, but also that God is faithful. I think this is important to Christian programming.

Something my mom has told me before is that focusing only on bad is an incomplete truth, just as it is incomplete to pretend that only good (as in happy-making) things happen. Hearts on Fire does not sacrifice one reality (the goodness of life, nor the hardship) to the other, but emphasizes a well-rounded truth, modeled by a life lived in surrender to Jesus Christ! It also shows the beauty of walking in a relationship with Him.

Recommendation

This film isn’t a lighthearted “feel-good” story, but it is a beautiful and truthful one that points to hope in the midst of great hardship. Recommended for mature viewers who are wrestling with the challenges of life.

Tickets

Watchman Pictures has been hosting online screening sessions, which end tomorrow. Tickets are $14.99 and include several hours of material: the video, plus a pre-recorded interview panel. Once your screening time begins, you have four hours to view the content, which you can pause and play at your leisure.

SPOILERS BELOW

Content Warnings/ Spoiler Commentary

The film does not shy away from the truth that the Christian life can be really, really hard. BUT it also showcases the powerful reality of God’s Sovereignty and His closeness in these times.

Subject matter includes the sudden death of a family member, the pain of miscarriage, and feeling of betrayal in a romantic relationship. One of the main characters is also pressured by her romantic partner to have an abortion when she becomes pregnant.

The film does an excellent job of highlighting the hypocrisy of the “pro-choice” movement, as the woman is harshly and repeatedly told that she can “choose” to kill the baby that she wants to keep.

Wolf Soldier (Book Review)

I received a complimentary copy of the book from the author, in exchange for an honest review.

I read my first Hannibal novel, The Paris Betrayal, several months ago (And even my phone knows it. When I type in the word “Paris,” “Betrayal” pops up in my predictive text bar).

I was really impressed by Hannibal’s allegory, which took me by surprise. I didn’t catch the biblical parallel until I was almost finished reading. But when I did, I was BLOWN AWAY. It definitely made me want to reread the book, with the allegory in mind.

When I discovered that Hannibal had written book one of a new allegory series for children, I eagerly requested a review copy from the author. Hannibal kindly sent me a book, which also has a very cool cover showcasing the fantasy elements.

Scripture Connection

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Eph. 6:11

Spiritual Themes

As a whole, the plot strongly emphasizes the sovereignty of God. While “good versus evil” is a common theme in many children’s novels, Hannibal goes a step further by taking the theme back to its roots. The Rescuer (the God figure) not only knows the future. He is also completely in control of its outcomes— even to the point of planning in the mistakes we’ll make.

Spiritual armor also plays an important role in the plot.

Game Background

Hannibal bases the series loosely on the DragonRaid universe, established by Dick Wulf in the board game of the same name.

While I had not heard of DragonRaid, prior to reading the first of the books, Hannibal makes it clear in his introductory note that Lightraider Academy is indebted to the original Dick Wulf creation.

What I Liked

Children’s allegory is my favorite genre, and Hannibal’s latest contribution is excellent!

  • I especially enjoyed reading about Connor’s experiences as a shepherd, which brought to mind the David of the Bible, as well as Jesus’ title of “Good Shepherd.” This was one of the elements, in the story’s description, that caught my attention. Shepherding has such a biblical quality!
  • The characters were engaging and believable. I like that Hannibal introduced characters from differing backgrounds, including a shepherd, a miner and a scribe.
  • I also enjoyed reading about Connor’s friendships and rivalries with the other characters. Amidst all of the action, it was neat to see how relationships developed.
  • The world-building is rich and believable, with numerous mythological creatures— good and bad—as well as a unique vocabulary for family relations. Although I haven’t read Lord of the Rings (but I have read The Hobbit and The Silmarilion), it had a definite LOTR feel to me. Definitely an interesting world to explore!
  • While there was some violence in the novel, the characters are careful to wage war against the dark creatures— not their fellow man.
  • One thing I really appreciated was the treatment of supernatural elements. Hannibal clearly demonstrates that God is the One doing things (or rather, the “God character,” since he states that the allegory does not exactly replicate real life). While the trainees learn Scripture, for instance, this is by no means a magic spell. Instead, Hannibal makes it very clear that, while we ask God, God chooses if, when and how to act.
    • I think this is such an important distinction to make, particularly in a book with such emphasis on spiritual warfare. I’m very sensitive to the notion that we, as Christians, can control God with our words and actions, and I’m glad that Hannibal so clearly debunks this idea.

Recommendation

This is a fall-release with a definite “cozy quality.” (It reminded me of The Hobbit). I recommend it for young readers (8-12) of fantasy, including fans (or will-be fans) of Tolkien’s world.

This book is suitable for Christians and non-Christians, alike. I think that this would be an excellent alternative to Harry Potter, not because the books are equal, but because both explore supernatural battles. BUT, where Rowling’s books rely on witchcraft, Hannibal’s characters rely on God. I would LOVE for children of different backgrounds to be exposed to this truth, instead.