Category Archives: Review

Review of S. C. Easley’s P. W. STONE AND THE MISSING KINGDOMS

In August 21, 2017, the shadow of the moon crossed over the width of the continental United States. Interestingly, the narrow band of this solar eclipse could be observed in seven municipalities named Salem. This unique celestial event became the basis for Easley’s tale. Penelope Stone, a member of the “Salem Seven” from Salem, Oregon, was one of the teenagers who were destined for greatness. This is the story of what happened to them.

S. C. Easley has a wonderful imagination. Indeed, her fantasy story reminded me of Lewis Carroll’s ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND or Madeleine L’Engle’s A WRINKLE IN TIME series. Easley’s story is full of beautiful vistas, deadly enemies (for example Pyrats—beings with python bodies and rat heads) and many others. The seven teenagers meet many characters along the way (as Alice did) as they pursue their quest.

If I have one complaint, I wish this book had a glossary so I could refresh my memory as I meet characters a second time.

There was one part of the story, I particularly enjoyed. Several of the seven, thinking they knew better than their guide, decided to take an ill-advised shortcut to their next destination. The troubles on the short cut led to ill temper, sharp words, and grumbling. With every grumble their packs became heavier, until they opened them up and found rocks inside that had not been there before. These “weighing stones” had words on them that described their origin in the words, actions, and attitudes of the travelers. The teenagers could only continue after they had removed these rocks.

This is a wonderfully imaginative story. Like the best children’s stories, this speaks not only to children, but to adults who read it as well.

 

My Rating: Five Stars

Review of Bowen Greenwood’s Science Fiction Love Story ONSLAUGHT

Langston Wheeler is a member of the Brotherhood of the Gentle Hand. That is to say he is a telepath with extraordinary powers that has pledged to use these powers only for good and in service to others and never to aggrandize power.

On being sent to the planet Felicitas to investigate a rogue telepath, he meets the beautiful, courageous, and brilliant Tia Dynn. As a Gentle Hand, Wheeler is only permitted by his order to marry other telepaths. As he struggles with his feelings for Tia, it turns out the rogue telepath is actually part of a preliminary incursion, preparing Felicitas for a full scale invasion by telepaths and their army of hybrids. Langston and Tia are thrown into a fight for survival. The terror, the fight sequences, and the narrow escapes are well-handled and contain some interesting surprises.

In summary, this is an interesting, entertaining love story and thriller in a sub-genre that might be termed superman meets supermodel. It’s a story I will likely read again. I heartily recommend it to others.

I rate Onslaught four stars.

A Review of J. K. Bailey’s ZEALOT FINALE #1

J. K. Bailey’s first book is a wonderful testament to his vivid imagination and story-telling ability. The story follows the adventures of a boy Chen and is full of wonderful imaginative inventions: Zoas which are animal human hybrids, Wryym which are dragon beings, there is a creature called Bio-Weapon, and a mobile plant-being called, appropriately enough, Venus (reminiscent of the Venus flytrap).

I enjoy books that not only tell an imaginative story, but also make me think. At one point Chen, when talking about fear, makes the counter-intuitive observation that “strength does not do away with fear, love does.” I thought about that for some time and came to agree with him.

My rating: 4 stars

Review of C. S. Wachter’s A WEIGHT OF RECKONING

The fantasy Worlds of Ochen are seven planets linked by portals. Although the worlds are linked, the actions in the series occur on seven islands, one on each world. The islands differ by climate, by the presence or absence of magic, among other things. If you read these books be sure to look at the beautifully illustrated maps on the Wachter Website (https://cswachter.com/).

A Weight of Reckoning is the sequel to the Seven Words series. The action begins quickly with plans for human sacrifices designed to bring back a guardian demon that had been banished. The focus and the capstone of the increasing number of weekly human sacrifices, is the blood and ultimate sacrifice of Prince Rayne who was instrumental in banishing the demons from Ochen in the first place.

The fast-moving story is replete with personal sacrifice, hard choices, desperate actions, and self-sacrifice as it moves from world to world in its march to the final conflict. Reminiscent of Tolkien and C. S. Lewis’ writings, I loved how the author thoroughly anchored this story in a world view that recognized Good and Evil.

Wachter is a superb story teller and world builder. Her writing is clear, concise, and precise. The characters are well-crafted and detailed descriptions of the landscape put the reader right in the middle of a vivid action scene. I highly recommend this series. Although I began with this book, I plan on returning to the first story and read them from beginning to the end.

My rating: 4.5 stars

 

A Review of Andrew Seddon’s IRON SCEPTER

The year is 2495 A.D. when the Earth-based Hegemony is expanding its influence across the galaxy to integrate independent worlds settled during an earlier expansion phase. Major Karel Novacek is the ranking officer of the Hegemony’s Political and Ideological Bureau assigned to Lenore, a cold world of about 65,000 inhabitants that is slated for integration into the Hegemony. Novacek faces the difficulty that the inhabitants of Lenore don’t want to integrate. After the Hegemony navy easily destroys the defending Lenore fleet, Novacek has to quell an underground resistance movement. The first contact with an alien space-traveling species further complicates his Lenore mission, but also draws him into a much bigger political gambit.

The fast moving plot, the surprises, and the battle that Novacek fights within himself as he carries out the ruthless dictates of the Bureau, make this the best science fiction book I have read in a long time. Not only is the plot exciting, but many times I found myself thinking about the weighty questions facing Novacek as he agonizes over the conflicting dictates that arise from obedience and loyalty to the Bureau and doing what is right. I’m looking forward to reading two of Seddon’s other books, Farhope and Wreaths of Empire, in the near future.

My rating … 5 out of 5 stars

On Reading the Unabridged Version of George MacDonald’s ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD

I have enjoyed the many fine abridged versions of George MacDonald’s books, but have recently moved to unabridged copies of his works. I can see why many 21st century readers do not have the patience to read the asides and the sermons, but for me they have been a special delight.

At one point in Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood, MacDonald writes down the Reverent Walton’s complete Christmas sermon to his parish. What especially interested me: Walton did not assume everyone in the congregation was at the same place in their spiritual journey. He spoke to three groups of people and recognized the questions they were asking and worked to help each group move further along the way rather than upbraiding some of them for their lack of faith. The first group he addressed were those who had begun to hope that the good news of New Testament were true, but deep down believed it was too good to be true.

People who wished the good news message were true, but thought it was it was not

I think moving from a position of convinced agnosticism (an oxymoron) to a wish that the message were true opens one’s mind to the point where one might listen to what is being said. “Begun to hope” is the operative phrase since these listeners did not really believe their hope could be true. I think there are two disastrous mistakes to avoid here (disastrous mistakes for both the inquirer and anyone who might speak with them on the subject):

The first, is to try to believe something simply because it might be helpful. To use hyperbole, this is akin to a high jumper convincing himself he can clear a ten meter bar in the hope his new found confidence will help him to clear two meters. At all costs, we must not lie to ourselves. It is much better to be scrupulously honest with ourselves even if it takes us longer to recognize the truth. Here is some dialogue from my upcoming book Coventry 2091. In this story, Geisbrecht is a counselor helping Jacob Kraiser get over nightmares about his parents and siblings death in a car accident. 

Geisbrecht looked at Jacob for a moment and then said, “Here’s what I want you to do. Start a journal. Write about the good times with your parents and siblings. By the way, do you believe you’ll see them again?”

“I haven’t really thought about it.”

“Well think about it. If you really believe this absence is temporary—and I mean really believe because you are convinced that’s the reality—then that conviction puts a whole different complexion on these questions. But don’t fool yourself. Don’t talk yourself into a conviction. Be scrupulously honest.”

Giesbrecht looked at Jacob as he thought about the question. “No, I don’t believe I’ll see them again.”

Giesbrecht sighed. “Well that makes things harder. Write down everything you remember about your parents and siblings, good times and bad. Especially, after you wake up after a nightmare, pull out your journal and write. If you were a Christ-follower, I’d tell you to pray. I’d also tell you to write about God’s love and goodness. Maybe you’ll be able to do that honestly in time, but right now you can’t and I don’t want you pretending and lying to yourself.”

Giesbrecht gave Jacob a searching look. “Will you begin journaling?”

Jacob might be tempted to propagandize himself into believing that he would see his family again because of the beneficial effect (I’m not even sure this kind of deep cognitive dissonance is possible) of feeling more at peace and less traumatized by the loss of parents and siblings. Geisbrecht cautions him against this tendency because we ought to believe things because they are true and connected to reality and not because they make us feel a certain way.

The second mistake is to view good news as “wishful thinking” and dismiss it merely because we believe we are falling victim to our own wish fulfillment desires. Dismissing good news, merely because the news is good makes no sense. As truth seekers we must follow the evidence where it leads and one of the chief decisions we have to make has to do with what evidence we allow for consideration.

MacDonald through Walton speaks to two other groups of listeners:

  • Those who have begun to believe the Good News is true, but fear they might be disappointed if they looked into it more closely.
  • Those who have become convinced the message is true. They then wonder what it will mean for their lives. Will they go on? Will they act and their convictions? Exercising our will and making a decision is always the last hurtle, isn’t it?

Those groups of listeners may merit further discussion in the future.

If you’re interested in checking out my books, here is a link for your convenience … https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00JB0IWE6

My Review of THE END, THE WAYFARER’S GUIDE TO THE APOLCALYPSE

The End, The Wayfarer's Guide To The ApocalypseThe End, The Wayfarer’s Guide To The Apocalypse by Joanne Rolston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Joanne Rolston, in her book THE END: A WAYFARER’S GUIDE TO THE APOCALYPSE, wrote in the Epilogue, “I hope I’ve given you a different view of the enigmatic end-times book of Revelation.” She has certainly done that!

In the personal, storytelling style reminiscent of PILGRIM’S PROGRESS, Wayfarer is a traveler looking for the house of wisdom after hearing Wisdom speak in a town square. When she finally comes to Wisdom’s house she meets the sisters, Wisdom and Prudence, their father Abba, and Miles who is in charge of the house library.

What follows is a detailed journey through the book of Revelation mostly guided by Abba, but also with input from Miles and his resources in the library. Rolston has worked meticulously to make contact with modern-day events as she expounds on the various passages in Revelation. These modern-day touch points of Rolston’s narrative make this book of special interest to me since I like to check things out. For example, I did not know that the Greek word for the pale rider is transliterated chloros (green), the root word for chlorine, a green-colored elemental gas. I also looked up the UNESCO World Heritage site for the birthplace of Gautama Buddha (the site number is 666 which a significant numeral in Revelation). Finally, I looked up the Halloween asteroid of 2015 on the Near Earth Object database. These are only a few of the significant observations that are open for further investigation and verification by the reader.

In summary, if you have an interest in the book of Revelation and would like a new, easy-to-read perspective that touches on many recent events, this book would be of great value to you. I highly recommend it.

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A Four-Star Review of THE BATTLE FOR HALCYON by Science Fiction/Fantasy Author Andrew M. Seddon

Andrew M Seddon is an author of Fantasy and Science Fiction who has written more than a dozen books. His four-star review of The Battle for Halcyon can be found here on Goodreads. On the other hand, for your convenience, it can also be found below.

You can check out the Andrew M. Seddon website here.

I typically don’t like to jump into the middle of a series, and so decided to read “The Halcyon Dislocation” before embarking on “The Battle for Halcyon”. I don’t know that it is totally necessary, because “Battle”, taking place a year after “Dislocation”, can probably stand on its own, but I appreciated knowing the characters and background situation first.


There is much to like about both books. Kazmaier has obviously put considerable time, thought, and effort into world-building, in the process of which he has combined science fiction with fantasy and created a unique and intriguing parallel Earth into which the island university of Halcyon is dislocated as the result of a physics experiment. Abandoned ruined cities, strange creatures, unusual races both human and non-human, the lurking threat of an ancient evil – all combine to provide a fascinating milieu for the story he aims to tell.


Particularly well-done is the depiction of the effects of atheism and secularism as embraced by Halcyon University – principles (anti-principles?) which flourish in our own universities and culture. The decay of Halcyon society following the death of the morally upright chancellor starkly depicts the consequences when the forces of secularism and atheism are set loose (as if the lessons of the 20th century weren’t enough). The death plants, which “resurrect” the dead into soulless, mindless beings are potentially illustrative of this (although whether this was Kazmaier’s intent or not, I don’t know). On an individual level, the imprisonment of a Christian student for “mental illness” because he prays and believes that God answers prayer, is chilling, and surely not beyond the bounds of credibility.


Kazmaier illustrates the consequences of willful departure from God by creating several races of humans: the Ancients, who possess some capabilities that regular humans lack, still seek to follow God; their opposites are the Bent Ones, followers of the evil Meglir who corrupt the good creation for their own ends; the Lesser Men, humans like ourselves, but lacking the wisdom and some characteristics of the Ancients; the Halfmen, degraded humans that follow their lusts; and the Apeman, soulless creatures that obey the will of Meglir. Best of all are the amiable Hansa, lacking the intelligence of humans, but wise, good-natured, and self-sacrificing creatures.


This depiction of the corruption and degradation of humanity and society is perhaps the strongest aspect of the two novels.


For those who like adventure, there is more than enough and to spare as the Halcionites, most prominently Dave Schuster and his friends Al, Pam, and Floyd, adjust to life in their new world. Dave’s slow journey towards faith is handled discretely. Spiritual themes are generally woven in naturally, although Kazmaier is not afraid to have his characters engage in frank discussions when appropriate. There are fewer instances of this in “Battle” than in “Dislocation,” perhaps because of the increased focus on action in “Battle”.


The romantic relationship between Dave and Arlana (an Ancient) is handled with humor (I love how she likes to call him “Youngling”), while that between Al and Pam is rockier but also satisfying.


While I enjoyed both books, “Battle” does not feel as polished as “Dislocation”. Both come across stylistically as a little stiff, perhaps because Kazmaier prefers to use dialogue tags such as “said Dave”, “answered Al”, “encouraged Pam”, rather than the reverse. Other readers may not mind this. First person thoughts interjected into a third person narrative felt intrusive. And there are several inconsistencies. For example, Dave is distraught when he loses his New Testament when captured by Halfmen, but there was no mention of him possessing or reading a New Testament before, and no mention of one ever again. Similarly, a Swiss Army knife and flashlight appear out of nowhere.


“Battle” could benefit from additional proof-reading and polishing. There are numerous missing commas and quotation marks, repeated phrases, too many dialogue tags, and a tendency to use a character’s name repeatedly, when “he” or “she” would suffice.


But technical and stylistic details aside, it is really the story that matters, and Kazmaier’s Halcyon Cycle is certainly a worthwhile, enjoyable series with spiritual depth that is natural and not forced. On the level of storytelling, Kazmaier delivers. Not everything is resolved at the end of “Battle”; Kazmaier wisely leaves the door wide open for a sequel. The battle of good versus evil isn’t over. And surely there is more to come for Dave and Arlana…
I definitely recommend this series.

My Review of Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt’s book THE CODDLING OF THE AMERICAN MIND

The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for FailureThe Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Jonathan Haidt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

To my thinking, THE CODDLING OF THE AMERICAN MIND is really two books which I would rate very differently and as such the average overall rating (three stars) is misleading. The first three chapters are excellent and I would rate that portion of the book as four or five stars. They delineate the root causes behind many of the disturbing trends one sees in the thinking and conduct of undergraduates today and analyzes these causes in terms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). They distill their observations and recommendations into three lies and about nine pit falls in thinking CBT attempts to counteract. I found these ideas very helpful and continue to use them to analyze my own thinking. I will read these chapters over and over again.

I am much less sanguine about the second part of the book which provides anecdotes, supposedly in support of the early chapters. Reiterating the events at Evergreen State College was useful, but for most of the anecdotes and discussion, I found that the authors broke their own rules. They used labeling extensively without clearly defining their labels. Many of the labels were highly pejorative, yet as far as I could see the authors did not explain why the labels were appropriate. They seemed to engage in mind reading (another of the pitfalls) in that they seemed confident they knew what motivated the various non-university groups which they also seemed to blame for the anxiety-ridden undergraduate mindset.

When I finished and thought about what I had read, it seemed to me they were aiming for an “equality of blame” in their analysis of the anecdotes. This made no sense to me. The university administrations establish codes of conduct, enforce them, hire faculty, permit or exclude external speakers, and ultimately decide if they will support or not support teachers and students that are under attack for their views. Similarly the reading lists, course work, examinations, and grading are carried out by the faculty. Furthermore professors, by their own conduct and the way they approach questions provide examples to the students on how one should behave as one purses truth in an unbiased and objective manner.

It seems ludicrous to me to argue that outside forces or groups that have trouble even getting an invited speaker onto campus can share equal culpability for how students are turning out.

In summary, the early chapter are excellent and deserve a rating of four or five stars. The rest of the book, to my mind deserves only one or two stars. The average or overall rating, is perhaps, 2.5 to 3 stars.

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Another Encouraging Four-Star Review of THE BATTLE FOR HALCYON by Author J. R. Baude

Reviews are valued by all authors since they represent feedback from very significant people–our readers. When those readers are also authors themselves they often bring an added level of insight from their own writing experience. I am grateful for this four-star review by J. R. Baude. By all means check out the original either on Amazon or on Goodreads. If you love fantasy and science fiction, why not check out J. R. Baude’s book, The Lazarus Chain on Goodreads or Amazon?

Links to the Original Reviews

Review on Goodreads
Review on Amazon

If you can’t find this review elsewhere …

The battle for Halcyon is a classic “second in a series” kind of book that moves it’s characters through a dense landscape of worlds and cultures. It is a journey picking up from the opening act (Book one which I unfortunately didn’t read before this) and leaving us wanting more in the end and looking forward to the third book. The story contains too many facets to elaborate here (and not to add spoilers as well), but as a whole, the novel has something for everyone with some deft surprises one would expect from any well-crafted, world-building speculative fiction.

There is a lot going on here, so any reader will want to consult the glossary in the back periodically to gain background and some history in regards to pretty much everything in the book. It’s a thoughtful addition by the author to aid the reader. Also, The length of the book is rather daunting and if I have one gripe, the writing can be over-detailed making the pace a bit too patient at times for the reader.

If you are a fan of speculative fiction, you should give this a read.

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