Romans, the Snow Queen, and an Apocalypse

It’s another edition of What We’re Reading Wednesday!

1. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

This is a “retelling” of Andersen’s famous fairy tale.  I’m not sure how true to the original tale it is, as this is the first time I’ve read the Snow Queen.  This book definitely has elements that ring true to the old-fashioned style of fairy tales: lots of characters, a quest to save a friend, battle between evil/good, etc.    My kids, all 4 of them, sat while I read the whole thing through.  That’s saying a lot for Zeke.

I am a huge fan of a good illustrated fairy tale, and this one was… okay.  I don’t know how to explain it other than to say that some of the illustrations are incredible, and others seemed very forced.  Overall, I’d say that this book is fine as a library pick, but perhaps not worth the purchase price?  (Gosh, I’m awful at giving negative reviews.)

2. The Thieves of Ostia (The Roman Mysteries) by Caroline Lawrence

We are studying Rome in history right now, so when I saw this Audiobook (CD)  at the library, I snatched it up, along with the print version.  I was completely unfamiliar with both the series and the author, but just so excited to find fiction that would support their history lessons that we popped it right in and began listening.

Never again.

Thieves of Ostia was an enjoyable read, but borderline inappropriate for my kiddos.  The day before we found it, we were discussing how the Romans had very little regard for human life.  This book illustrates that well.  This book contains death, suicide, unsavory slave traders, animal cruelty, and slavery in general. Some of the scenes are pretty gory.  Oh, and the author does throw in the word “b!itch,” in it’s appropriate usage (female dog), but listening to it on audiobook, I was so thoroughly shocked by it that I gasped.  The girls didn’t pick up on it (the narrator is British so I actually think quite a few words may have eluded them) but I wish I would have known ahead of time.

Thieves contains lots of historically accurate material (food, architecture, Roman culture, etc.)  that made for good discussions, so it wasn’t a complete loss.  It also portrays persecuted Christians in a fairly positive light, although the main character Flavia doesn’t really know much about Christianity. (“Is it true that you Christians eat your god?! “) The plot isn’t very complicated and is a bit predictable for an adult, but my kids enjoyed the mystery aspect to it.  I’d say this book would be appropriate more for 5th grade and up?  Anyone else read this who might have more insight?

3. Father Elijah: An Apocalypse by Michael O’Brien

Rebekah recommended Michael O’Brien to me a couple months back.  If you know Rebekah, you know to take her book recommendations and run with them.  Alas, none of my local libraries carry any Michael O’Brien books, so I saved up my Amazon Affiliate pennies (thank you, dear readers who click through my links and buy stuff from Amazon!) and ordered Father Elijah and another O’Brien book.

Father Elijah did not disappoint.  It’s apocalyptic in nature, along the lines of the Left Behind series, but from a Catholic perspective.  Unlike Left Behind, it contains intelligent theology, a complete lack of hysteria, and far and away more nuance.  This book is unabashedly Catholic, which I loved.  I don’t think I’ve ever read a fiction book that blends the faith with fiction quite this well.  But then, I am a bit of a neanderthal when it comes to Christian fiction.

Synopsis: After a young life filled with turmoil and loss, Fr. Elijah finds a faith in God and becomes a monk with an interest in archaeology.   He lives in a monastery in Haifa, Israel when he is mysteriously called to Rome to help the Holy Father with a task.  There is a new President of Europe who is posed to become a major world power.  Father Elijah undertakes the task of corresponding with the President.  Over the course of the book, Father struggles with his faith, makes friends and loses them, and encounters real angels and real demons.

This book is almost 600 pages and I blew through half of it over the weekend.  It has a bit of a slow start, and a couple slow spots within the book, but is definitely a page-turner.  I enjoyed it so much that it almost felt like cheating to think of it as Lenten reading, but I certainly think it’s appropriate for that, if you’re going to be reading fiction now anyway.


That’s all for today, folks! Head over to Jessica @ Housewifespice for more excellent book recommendations.  (She’s continuing her list of Newberry books, so don’t miss it!)


  1. 1. I think that unless you’re “wowed” it is easier to give a negative review. But when you love something you’ll express that too.

    2. The Romans really are fascinating. Glad your girls missed the language. And that with all the subject matter it’s not a movie.

    3. Love Michael O’Brian.
    Madeline recently posted…WWRW: Life is So GoodMy Profile

  2. I loved Father Elijah! My dad and I get and read every Michael O’Brien release!
    Maia recently posted…insert happy sticker face hereMy Profile

  3. Father Elijah is definitely worth the purchase price. Now go read A Canticle for Leibowitz!
    Jessica recently posted…WWRW – Newberys! and The.One.Thing. I Can’t Abide in Children’s LiteratureMy Profile

  4. I really loved Father Elijah, but not any of O’Brien’s others, unfortunately.

    My kids have been exploring this dictionary of dog breeds and they often want me to read the descriptions to them. It’s very scientific and whenever it lists the “b!itch height” I always stumble. 🙂
    Catherine recently posted…What We’re Reading Wednesday: Revisiting BridesheadMy Profile

    • Ahahahaha! I would do the same, Catherine. In the end, I think it’s good to use the proper words for things, but I always envision my kids busting out with that word in mixed company and someone fainting in shock. 🙂

  5. I second A Canticle for Leibowitz, and also recommend Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson. The latter book is a futuristic, apocalyptic novel written in 1907, but it articulates the subtle evil of certain present-day political ideologies so well, that I was amazed.

  6. Seriously, what is wrong with using a word correctly, even if the word is often abused? Do you really think that dog breeders should not ever refer to female dogs with one word, but always use the phrase “female dog”?

    • Hi Becky,

      I think you are new here, so welcome! Perhaps I wasn’t clear. The shock was in hearing the word, not in its use. I would have liked a heads up, so I gave that to my readers, which I try to do in each of my reviews. Hope that clears things up. Have a good day!

  7. My husband really enjoys books by Michael D. O’Brien. I think we own all of them, but I have not yet cracked open a single one. My attention is on picture books these days. 😉
    Divina recently posted…winner of a little book about confession for childrenMy Profile