Blog Archives

A Review of Robert Jordan’s THE EYE OF THE WORLD, Book #1 of THE WHEEL OF TIME Series

The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time, #1)The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time is my favorite fantasy series. In The Eye of the World I particularly appreciate the wholesomeness and goodness of The Two Rivers society. The principal characters are unique, yet show a strength when faced with great adversity. They are clearly on the side of what is good and oppose evil. It’s a world in which I want to spend my time.

The plot is fast-moving and the characters grow as they face adversity. This story keeps bringing me back to read it again and again. I see something new each time I read it.

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My Review of Andre Norton’s LORE OF THE WITCH WORLD

Lore of the Witch WorldLore of the Witch World by Andre Norton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This anthology consists of seven short stories set in Estcarp, the Witch World imagined by Andre Norton. I don’t normally enjoy short stories because I prefer longer tales that allow me to get to know the characters, but this collection worked for me precisely because the imagined world was familiar. My favorite short story in the set was The Toads of Grimmerdale.

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My Review of D. S. Martin`s CONSPIRACY OF LIGHT

Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. LewisConspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis by D.S. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I share D. S. Martin`s love for the writings of C. S. Lewis. For that reason, reading Conspiracy of Light was for me a double pleasure.

On the one hand, I can enjoy D. S. Martin`s poems on their own merit. For example I can picture a lion standing between two mountain ashes in What Lucy Saw and be carried on to plumb the depths of what it means to follow Christ even when the path is unclear and uncertain.

On the other hand, when I re-read one of Lewis`s books, I can also read a poem associated with it from this collection. D. S. Martin has a helpful Notes & Acknowledgements section in the back which makes it easy to read the poems associated with a particular Lewis book or essay. Reading “Conspiracy of Light“ in conjunction with Lewis adds a dimension to my enjoyment. The beauty and logic of Lewis`s writings is amplified by the pictures and emotions that D. S. Martin`s poems evoke.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves reading Lewis.

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Review of Lee Child’s NOTHING TO LOSE

Nothing to Lose (Jack Reacher, #12)Nothing to Lose by Lee Child
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Of all the Reacher books I have read so far, I liked this one least. I had a difficult time deciding if I should rate this book three stars or two stars. I finally decided on two stars. I primarily have two reasons for the low rating: the over-used modern literary trope of the evil preacher (or lay preacher in this case) and the implausible ending.

The over-used trope led to a number of contradictions in my view. The story portrayed a lay preacher (Thurman) who believed he had the key to understanding the Book of Revelation and it’s prediction of the future, yet felt he had to help events along by setting off a depleted uranium bomb designed to blame the Iranians for the blast and start a global apocalyptic conflict. To me this is inherently contradictory. He believed the prophecy yet acted as if he did not.

The ending was also implausible. Thurman, the lay preacher and his workers, had assembled this bomb containing twenty tons of TNT surrounded by depleted uranium in a container that had been welded shut. The TNT was triggered by a simple cell phone. As soon as the cell phone number was called, the detonator exploded. No security code, simply a phone call. Who would do such a thing? A wrong number, a telemarketer auto-dialing numbers in a particular area code, even Thurman’s cell phone provider asking how he liked their service, would set off this explosion off prematurely.

To add implausibility on top of implausibility, Reacher told Thurman he was going to dial the detonator number. A steel container completely shields microwaves. If the cell phone is outside the container, all Thurman had to do was disconnect the phone. If the phone was inside the container, Thurman only needed to disconnect the external antenna to deactivate the bomb. He had considerable time to deactivate the trigger but did nothing until he and the whole complex was destroyed by Reacher’s phone call from several miles away. Why assume Reacher won’t call?

Having said that I enjoy novels that, as a side benefit, explore science, theology or philosophy. There was some of that here with Reacher the Preacher attempting to put Thurman in his place with some well-placed theological one liners. That was the best part of the book for me. Reacher’s one liners and statements deserve some thinking about and make up for some of the plot deficiencies.

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Review of Joshua Grant’s Novel PANDORA

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

PandoraPandora by Joshua Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If I were to describe Joshua Grant’s novel PANDORA in one line it would be: the movie ALIENS enacted on a cruise ship.

A cruise ship suddenly goes missing and then reappears one week later. All attempts to contact the ship fail and the ship’s owner dispatches his own security team ostensibly to see what’s happening before governments and the military takeover the investigation.

The investigating security team knows not only that something is seriously wrong with the ship, but also that the investigation is being handled in a completely unorthodox manner. However, the ship’s owner, Carver, knows exactly how to manipulate each member of the team to keep them on mission despite their serious misgivings. He also seems to have enough influence to keep normal modes of disaster investigation at bay.

This book is nonstop action delivered in frightening detail, with surprises at every turn. As readers we explore the devastated ship with the team as they suffer terrible casualties. Having traveled on several cruises, the layout was reminiscent of my own trips (except for the massive destruction of course) and that bizarre warping of a familiar and pleasant scene only added to the impact.
Grant is an excellent storyteller and the plot is well thought out. The fine descriptions put me into the midst of the action and kept me reading.

For my part, I found the coarse language jarring and distracting, but I realize for many readers this would make the tense, life-threatening scenes more realistic.
Joshua Grant

Amazon Link to Pandora
In summary, if you like Science fiction that comes across as Horror, then I think you will like this book.

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Review of SPACETUG COPENHAGEN

 

Spacetug CopenhagenSpacetug Copenhagen by Richard Penn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever wondered what could be accomplished in terms of space exploration if a group of interested engineers and space enthusiasts pooled all of their resources, forgot about the risk, and simply tried to do as much as they could with the technology available today? Richard Penn in his novella Spacetug Copenhagen walks the reader through the steps involved. If you are interested in science and like to see it used to perfection in science fiction then I highly recommend this short book.

Richard Penn on Goodreads

 

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Now That the Movie THE SHACK is Coming Out in theaters …

shack-cover-noncomm-no-modI published this post a while ago when I first read The Shack. The original post was lost when my WordPress server had to be decommissioned. Now that the movie version is coming out, this may be of interest.

‘The Shack’ by William P. Young

Warning: If you haven’t read The Shack and are planning to read it, leave this review until later since I do discuss the content.

My overall rating is 4 stars. The Shack is a thought-provoking book well worth reading.

The Shack is a novel that tackles very difficult questions in a way that puts the reader in the very middle of the action and challenges him to tackle the questions in a personal way..

Mackenzie Allen Phillips lost his young daughter to a serial killer. MacKenzie called this trauma, which tormented his life, THE GREAT SADNESS. One day he receives a letter from Papa (his wife’s personal name for God) that invites Mackenzie to meet ‘Papa’ at the shack in the woods where Missy, his daughter, was brutally murdered. The shack is the last place in the world he wants to go, but eventually he decides to go without telling his wife.

God appears as three people (Papa, Jesus and another woman called Sarayu (wind)). Mackenzie is able to watch them interact, watch them serve him, and answer his questions. What Young achieves are scenes that are not simplistic, but rather convey to the readers the complexity of fashioning and then sustaining a world that has free will, independent agents that make moral choices (e.g. human beings) and God. Although God is All Powerful and Good yet He still has to work within His own rules and His own character and honor the free choices made by human beings.

For me, this book caused me to think about who God is and how simplistic my own caricatures of Him are because of the unconscious assumptions I bring to the table when I think about Him. For example, as C. S. Lewis has pointed out somewhere, in God moral character and will must coincide in some fashion. For human beings, morality is something objective that is above us, and we have a duty to obey these moral imperatives. However, if God had moral imperatives in the same sense we have, then He wouldn’t be God, since the moral law would be above Him. On the other hand if moral law were simply an invention by God, it would be arbitrary. As I read the book, I had to grapple with this conundrum. I saw that this fusion of morality and will in God is one of the things that puts Him beyond my understanding.

If you go to amazon.com, and read comments on this book, you will find many that laud it, and some that most emphatically do not. Some of the objections are theological. Respondents argue that the book fails to properly account for some point of theology. I think that claim is fair, but it misses the point. Young has written a novel and wanted to bring us into an interaction with the person of God in a new way. I think it is better to learn what one can from the book, without trying to make it into a theological treatise.

If you’ve read the book or watched the movie, I would like to know what you thought of it.

 

Review of Peter Kreeft’s BACK TO VIRTUE

Back to VirtueBack to Virtue by Peter Kreeft
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another thoughtful book from Peter Kreeft with many valuable insights. Of particular significance to me was his observation (and my realization) that our society speaks of “having values” rather than “pursuing virtue.” This crafting of our language supports the subliminal indoctrination that channels us into believing or even espousing the idea the “the good or what is right” is not a real quantity like the natural laws but rather is made up or invented by people. Kreeft calls us back to pursuing virtue and abandoning the relativism that plagues us with moral equivocation. He sums up this idea by stating that society cannot long exist without virtue and virtue cannot long exist without religion.

A second important insight for me had to do with the strands of thought and practice that were brought together in Christianity. He argued that as Christianity built on it’s Jewish foundation, wrote it’s ideas using the Greek language and gradually brought more and more gentiles under it’s wing, it brought together three strands: conscience from Judaism, reason from the Greeks, and imagination from the pagan gentiles to craft the fabric of the faith.

Having said that, I will read this book over and over again because of the powerful and significant ideas it advances. I am less enthusiastic about the writing style. Kreeft often uses short sentences and the ideas do not flow well but rather come out like a machine gun barrage. I overlook the stylistic deficiencies because of the content.

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Another 5 Star Review of THE HALCYON DISLOCATION on Goodreads

THD-2_Front_PageWith permission, I have reproduced a review from Goodreads on The Halcyon Dislocation. It’s always encouraging to find that the hard work has paid off. Here’s the text of the review:

 

An incredible adventure – Glad I wasn’t there for the dislocation.
I try not to give books 5 stars very often (cheapens the value). But I read this and enjoyed every minute. Well-deserving.

Basically a University/Naval station Island… is relocated to a different reality. What appears to be a science experiment gone wrong becomes much darker and deeper than first realized by our valiant band of heroes. And somehow Jesus and truth fits into all this. Go buy your own copy – you can’t have my signed 1st edition. (Is it Peter? Don’t care. I’ll boast anyway.)

I read book 2 first, I thought that would be a creative challenge and insight into Peter’s writing abilities. Indeed this made me totally enjoy the character development and early obstacles (AND Evil escapades) that are being set-up in the beginning of the Halcyon series. In Book 1 We get to know the characters in a less stressful setting. By book 2: Everything is Off the Rails and non-stop action. Similar to Star Wars 2: The Empire Strikes Back, no time for intros – start shooting at stuff.

Now I may have to go and read book 2 again, just for the flow of the story. Maybe i’ll do that when book 3 comes out. Quit stalling Peter – get to work, your fans are close to rioting.
_________________________

Peter gave us a brilliant setting for Christian Apologetics and liberal moral mayhem (those two always go together). Like Eve in the garden we get to see a New society apply a godless lack of morality and spiritual blindness, all in the name of young lusty freedom and Corporate/Political Power. Even though this is Sci-fi, we have a very modern University doing its debaucherous best to erase any Christian virtues and family structures ALL in the name of liberal progress – and thankfully Peter shows us the undeniable results of this secular materialism and free thought: throw out the rules, you throw out the meaning and purpose of Love, Hope, Peace and family values.

And I especially enjoyed the Dalyites. Even in a setting like this we see the uprising of a religious cult. This is endlessly entertaining. Hope this plays out nastily in the 3rd book. I loved seeing our Christian hero “AL” dealing with Atheists on one side, and Fundamental extremist Cults on the other…and monsters of course.

But all is saved by the cute – Badger like: Hansas. Short insightful Warriors of truth. And they make great friends. Can’t get enough of these guys.

5_starsPeter has a huge challenge theologically with this sci-fi scenario. How does Jesus, Sin, and God’s Glory play out in this alternative realm? We’ll see. I have a feeling Peter has a plan to tie it all together. This book appears to be succeeding where Stephen R. Lawheads “The Song Of Albion” failed – Christianity is truthfully laid out and brought to the front of the story. I look forward to even more of this in book 3.

The only thing this book was missing was a long nasty car chase. (but the stories not over yet). Maybe I can get Peter to make a Hansa character in my honor??? A brutally snarky theologian comedian.

Warning: You may learn more about boating than you ever wanted to. I’m a landlover myself. (less)

How to Support Indie Authors

Why Look at Independent Authors?

NA Bittern_BlogThe world of books (and e-books) is changing. Traditional publishers with their teams of editors, their distribution networks, and advertising power are consolidating. Many smaller book stores are closing as readers shift to mega-stores and the internet. From my perspective, traditional publishers are focusing more and more on blockbusters to shore up their bottom line. This means that well-known authors and people with a platform (e.g. sports stars, celebrities, and pastors of mega-churches) have an edge. Increasingly, it is difficult for established publishing businesses to take a chance on a new author with an unproven track record.

Along side this trend, advances in on-demand publishing, easy internet and social media access, and the ready availability of contract editing expertise has led to the explosive rise of the independent publishing movement. More and more in my own reading, I find myself ignoring the best-sellers list and looking for the works of outstanding independent authors. There are many advantages to this:

  1. There are increasing numbers of high quality books available as professional editing becomes accepted as a key to producing a high quality book among indie authors.
  2. The numbers of indie books is enormous. You will find a huge selection in your favourite genre.
  3. Independent authors have true freedom to write what is on their hearts, unencumbered by the constraints of political correctness, or the biases of the mainstream media. I often wonder to what degree the philosophy, brand, and convictions of the owners of traditional publishing houses impact their product. Once they buy the rights to a book, they  can (if they choose) influence it to a remarkable degree. To get away from that possibility, you have to look at the independents for whom the freedom to write what they like is paramount.
  4. It’s usually easy to get to know and chat with indie authors. They are generally delighted to talk to someone who has enjoyed their book and their following is often small enough that they have the time to engage in dialogue.
  5. Although the cost of hard copy books (hard cover, trade paperback, or paperback) are generally more expensive for independent works than for mass produced paperbacks by the traditional publishing houses (because of the higher cost of short print runs), e-books are not. Often e-books are available for much less from indie authors who are eager to get a foot in the door and expose as many readers as possible to their creation.

Although independent authors have many things going for them, they also have many challenges:

  1. It’s hard to become known. Most newspapers and best sellers lists focus on authors publicized by traditional publishers.
  2. Most awards are restricted to traditional publishers. It’s very hard for an independent author to get a prestigious award.
  3. There  is a view that has been promulgated that self-published works are of poor quality because had it been good, it would have been picked up by a traditional publisher. In my experience this is false. Undoubtedly there are some poor books in the independent realm, but there is also a lot of poor and (to my mind) distasteful products in the traditional arena—works that make me question what I was thinking when I bought the books (check my one and two star ratings on Goodreads if you want details on my evaluation).
  4. It’s very hard for an independent author to get a review in a major newspaper. Again they tend to focus on their long-established links with traditional publishers.

So How Can I Help an Independent Author?

  1. Make reading independent authors a regular part of your reading diet. Use the internet to find books that interest you. Follow reading sites such as Goodreads.com and identify books from their huge database that are interesting to you.
  2. When you find a good book by an independent author, write them a review. As an author, I think I have to write a well-thought out, detailed review, and so I write very few of them. As I write this, I think I’m changing my mind. Certainly the long review is best, but perhaps a quick one or two line review is also good—better than saying nothing. Authors often don’t like to ask for reviews (even though they wished they received from people who laud their books) because asking defeats the purpose of an independent review.
  3. Help independent authors with social media: “like” their Facebook pages, retweet their book announcements, let your friends know when you like a book.
  4. Give an indie book that you like as a gift to someone else.
  5. Take the time to add an indie book that you like to a genre lists such as those found on Goodreads. Even two or three votes identifying a work as a valued book in a genre can make a big difference.

I belong to a couple of indie authors groups on Goodreads. In reading their comments, I think many feel like the green heron sitting alone in the marsh in the cover photograph. One often receives excellent feedback from readers on one’s writing, but one misses the little things such as reviews, posted ratings, and genre listings that can go a long way to helping a good creation become recognized. Let me know what you think. Why not fill out the poll below?