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Review of Chadash Chronicles Book 1: Fool’s Errand by David G. Johnson

 

fools errand

4 Stars

If you love fantasy RPG games you will love this book. There aren’t so many characters that you get lost, but there is a rich diversity along with familiar types. Rogues and clerics, mages, and paladins dot the landscape, as well as cooks and bards and bad guys. Johnson has done some fine world-building. I appreciated the overall high moral tone along with the realistic enjoyment of a good drink and appreciation for a pretty girl (even if she does have black fur) by ordinary men with extraordinary determination and courage. If you expect a resolution, you apparently had better have book 2 on hand, because it’s still to come at the end of this piece. It does include a satisfactory step toward victory. My one warning is that Christian readers will need to extend a certain degree of grace to accept the presence of God and angels in a new world where the curse is not a factor, but this is a minor issue.

Here’s an interview and  post David made for me some time back on another blog. Good stuff on witing Spec Fiction.

As authors, one of the long-standing bits of guiding wisdom in our business is the old adage “Write what you know”. This is solid advice, tried and true, as the most engaging classic works of fiction have come from authors who have so immersed themselves in research of their period, or who lived and breathed in that period, that their very words come alive with the images, sounds and smells of the world of their novels. J.R.R. Tolkien was one of the great masters of this, but the depth and vividness of his work stemmed from the fact that he first created a people and a language, fully developed and real, and out of that poured naturally the stories of Middle-Earth.

Example after example could be laid out along these lines, but in truth if we as speculative fiction authors, and in particular Christian speculative fiction authors, our ability to “write what we know” at some point hits a wall between reality and fantasy. So when our stories take place in the world of science-fiction or fantasy, how can we do all that is possible to fulfill the requirements of the old adage while writing in a speculative fiction genre?

After much time in thought and consideration of this question, here are my thoughts and suggestions.
Know your Bible. If we are truly going to write with the tag of “Christian” author, we owe it to ourselves, our readers, and most importantly to God to first and foremost be diligent students of His word. If we want to make sure that what we write glorifies Him, then we need to know Him. If we do not want our work to become the subject of rejection and criticism by our fellow Christians, we need to understand where God’s Word weighs in on the ideas and concepts we present in our fiction. If we don’t know the Bible first and foremost as the foundation of what we write, we cannot truly present ourselves as “Christian” speculative fiction authors.

Know your world. I cannot overstress the importance of worldbuilding in creating a tangible, believable and consistent speculative fiction setting. The degree of worldbuilding required largely depends on the specific sub-genre of your fiction. For stories set on Earth but in an alternate history, alternate future, etc, much of the foundational worldbuilding is already done. Geography, races, nations, history, religion, food production, waste removal, international politics, etc. are all elements present in the real world and don’t need to be invented. This, however, does not make the burden less on the authors who choose this setting. If anything, the speculative elements require even more detailing because they will significantly alter how certain aspects of the world do work, and these are elements which will have to be strong enough to draw your readers out of their comfortable understanding of reality set in this world and into your world with all the implications thereof. Skimping on thinking through how the speculative changes you introduce to our known reality would impact that reality is a recipe for a cheesy, shallow world which will not engage and immerse your readers into your world but will leave them feeling cheated, like watching a shadow-puppet show when a live performance was what was billed.

Fantasy and science-fiction authors have a different but equally demanding task. If your setting takes the readers to a whole new world, then all of the things we take for granted on our world have to be taught to your readers so they understand this new world. First off, however, you have to know your new world. If you have not thought through things like politics, food production, waste removal, indigenous flora and fauna, mankind’s interaction with nature, different cultures, languages, history, etc. of your world, you will not be able to deal with them vividly and consistently, and your readers will feel like they have been led into a shaky house of cards instead of a beautiful, vibrant, living world. Unless you are writing a world so alien as to be nearly unrelatable to your audience, there will be some elements which will duplicate or approximate things in our own world. That point leads to the third area.

Know your reality. Go. Get out of the house. Travel. See sights. Dig ditches. Ride horses. Climb mountains. Fly in airplanes. Play with animals. Smell flowers. Touch trees. Go to a concert. Visit a bar. Walk the streets of a strange city at night (with safety in mind always of course). EXPERIENCE LIFE! There are going to be aspects of reality that cross over into your fantasy setting. How can you accurately set a scene in a bar if you have never been to a bar? How can you describe a riveting horseback ride cross country if you have never been on a horse? How can you describe the strange feeling of being surrounded by people who don’t speak your language and whose language you don’t speak unless you travel? Imagination only goes so far, and authors who try to write about real-life things that they haven’t personally experienced, will NOT pass the “sniff-test” of discerning readers who have had those experiences. If you do not make chances to get out of your writing studio or home or wherever you have settled and experience life, then you will not be able to realistically write about the world. Again, however, with us possibly writing about things we either economically can’t afford to experience or physically have no chance to experience, how do we do that? On to the next point.

Know your contacts. Do not be afraid to find and seek out the experts to get realistic answers to your questions. I cannot stress enough how poorly “winging it” is going to come off in your writing to readers who do know the reality of what you do not. If you are writing an alternate history where things diverged in WWII, talk to veterans. Talk to folks who lived through that time. Retirement homes are filled with people who have all the time in the world to talk to you and who would love nothing better than to tell you their stories. Most people don’t realize the wealth of information our elders have that we just don’t normally take the time to tap into. I have such a vivid picture in my mind of what WWII was like because when I was younger I used to cut lawns for several WWII veterans, and after the work was done they almost always would invite me to pull up a lawn chair, grab a glass of lemonade and just talk. I have a vivid notion of life on a battleship during Korea from my father. My own stories often involved horses, so while I have ridden horses before, I don’t know all the ins-and-outs of care and feeding of horses, but my brother and sister-in-law own a horse farm, so they are my “equine consultants” when I come up with horse-related questions outside my knowledge. While I have a perfunctory knowledge of Hebrew, I use Hebrew as a basis for one of the languages of my fantasy races, so my friend and fellow writer Zerubbabel Emunah, an expert in Hebrew language and culture, has been an invaluable resource for my research.

Remember, writing a book is more than just sitting down to a keyboard and pouring out your imagination on paper. Writing realistically requires reading (a lot!) and researching and tapping into resources and networking and worldbuilding. Producing quality fiction takes effort, but for the authors willing to put in the time and energy to do all that is possible to “know what you write”, it will be very clear to your readers that you are an author they can rest assured will “write what you know”.
Blessings,
Rev. David G. Johnson

David G. Johnson is an author and teacher with a BA in Asian Studies and a MDiv in Bibilcal Languages who currently resides overseas with his family serving as teachers and living witnesses of their faith. David has been an avid Fantasy and Science Fiction fan for over thirty years and has now turned his cross-cultural experience to the task of blending Fantasy fiction with a biblical worldview in this his speculative fiction series entitled Chadash Chronicles, which mixes the Fantasy storytelling elements of Chronicles of Narnia with the personal spiritual journey elements of Pilgrim’s Progress.

Many people say that authors can’t or don’t do well with more than one genre. You say you are working on fantasy adventure, science fiction, noir detective stories and even have the plans for a steampunk book at some point. What do you think prepared you or qualifies you to write these different types of books?

Well the old adage for writers is to “write what you know”. I think what makes someone a better writer is first being an avid and voracious reader. I grew up on fantasy and sci-fi, so in a way I feel those genres are in my blood. Also growing up my parents loved to watch the old black and white movies and films like Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man all were part of my early exposure. I also love to read the noir masters like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, so I am hoping to break into an homage to that genre with a series I am planning called the Nick O’Brien Case Files. As for the steampunk I have a degree in Asian Studies so while I don’t know much about Victorian England other than their interactions with China, I have quite an extensive knowledge of Chinese history during that time period. I hope to bridge that gap and write a steampunk genre novel set in Qing Dynasty China. That is still a good ways off, though, as other projects are ahead of this one.

Tell us a little about your “real” (Non-writing) life — family, job, church life. Does it give you inspiration for your writing? Does it get in the way of your writing, or are there times when you get help, from people or circumstances?

Well, my family and I currently serve overseas in a closed country in Asia as missionaries. A “closed country” is one where missionaries are not officially allowed. As such, we have a normal platform which allows us to stay in country. I teach English at a small school working as a speaking and listening coach. In exchange for a few work hours per week we get visas to legally be in the country. What we do on our own time then is up to us, and we simply choose to spend our spare time in Bible study. I definitely feel living in another culture has helped me be much more poignantly aware of things which might otherwise go unnoticed. As such, when my characters cross cultures this helps me tremendously to paint a realistic picture, pointing out details that readers may not even have thought about being different in another culture.

Tell us about things you enjoy — what you do for fun or personal satisfaction.

Not to sound too cliché, but writing is what I enjoy. When all the work is caught up, my wife and daughter are out for a ladies day out, and I have several uninterrupted hours just to sit behind the keyboard and write, it is like a mini-vacation. I travel to other worlds, to other times and get to be a part of creating amazing adventures. What could possibly be more fun than that?

Tell us about working with any people who help you create your books — Do you use Beta readers? Hire an editor or proofreader? How do you get your covers?

Well my debut novels, the first two, are going through a traditional publisher, so there is a cover team working on those. I do use Beta readers. One struggle for me was finding a way to balance my love of teaching God’s truth as a minister and writing the fiction that I so enjoy. God gave me an idea for the first series, so I am running with that, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t, in my zeal to create a great story, lose sight of biblical truth or write something blatantly contrary to Scripture. To that end, I asked a group of fellow ministers and missionaries to be my beta readers. They read along, chapter by chapter as I write, and point out to me not only grammatical or plot issues but also if there are any places where they feel I may have gotten a little far from Scripture with something I have presented. They have given me a great peace of mind, freeing me to let go and just write.

Have you done anything writing-related, but besides your books, that seemed to get a lot of positive response? Something that encouraged you?

I used to, many years ago, belong to an online group of poets. That was a challenging time in my life, but it was great to push myself and become expressive in verse rather than prose. I have a good number of poems I wrote during those times. In fact, one of the poems I wrote way back then was the main inspiration for my debut fantasy series and is featured at the beginning of the first book.

Tell us about your newest book. Make us want to read it.

Chadash Chronicles Book One: Fool’s Errand and Book Two: Mystic’s Mayhem will be available by the end of 2013 from Tate Publishing. These books combine the fantasy elements of Chronicles of Narnia with the personal spiritual journey elements of Pilgrim’s Progress. That may sound boastful, and I am not at all comparing myself to these authors, merely that I tried in this series to capture these elements from these two great works. C.S. Lewis was a great writer and we all love Narnia, but I feel he didn’t go far enough espousing the Christian themes, and there is really no sense of any spiritual journey in the stories. Pilgrim’s Progress certainly has an amazingly clear spiritual journey, but the thickness of the allegory can put some readers off. By emphasizing the importance of the spiritual journey elements, and wrapping them in an exciting and engaging fantasy adventure, my hope is that these novels create a blend of these elements which is both edifying spiritually as well as entertaining intellectually.

What is the “message” of your writing? (For example, is your purpose to encourage old-fashioned values, encourage romance, or do you have different purposes in different books?)

My target audience, truth be told, are readers of sci-fi and fantasy who are unbelievers. I came to Christ late in life, and I grew up with the stereotypes usually laid upon youth who love these genres. Sadly these stereotypes are often propagated by “Christians” who would sooner write off these youth as satanic or deranged because they love to read stories about wizards and dragons. I want to write an engaging story but also to put within that story characters who epitomize what true Christians should be like in their interactions with unbelievers. As a secondary effect, I hope that Christian readers will use these books like a mirror to put themselves into the Christian point of view characters and ask, “Is that how I would have handled that situation?” I hope to model through these characters that Christians are not perfect, but if we are truly walking in love, this is what it might look like.

Tell us one place you visited or person you met, that made a big impression on you, and why.
I would say the person I have been most impressed by meeting would have to be Reverend Justin Peters. Justin has an itinerate speaking ministry where he travels around giving talks and conferences on biblical discernment. Justin suffers from Cerebral Palsy and is almost completely confined to a wheelchair now, yet he does not let this stop him from traveling and teaching the word of God, especially as it pertains to biblical discernment. Not only have I learned a great deal from hearing Justin speak, but I have been personally inspired by his commitment to continue teaching the word of God despite a condition which many people would use as an excuse to retire from society. I pray as age takes over and parts of me stop working like they used to, that I will continue my commitment to my calling just as Justin has.

Tell us one place you want to visit, or person you want to meet, and why.

I would love to go to England/Scotland/Ireland on a castle tour. I write about castles and knights and while I take my research seriously, I am so much a visual person. I have visited the fortress of Suomenlinna in Helsinki, Finland, and have walked on the Great Wall in China and those were great fun and very instructive. I think, however, the ability to walk through, to touch and see and fully experience real medieval European castles, not just their construction but the design of the keeps, walls, towers, towns, etc would be an invaluable aid to my fantasy writing.

Share something that makes you laugh, with just plain humor, or happiness, or because it’s so stupid.

I’m an odd bird with an odd sense of humor. To me a good pun is worth its weight in gold.

Share something that’s amazing, touching, or that makes you angry.

I don’t know if “angry” is the right word, but something that I think is the most disappointing or discouraging thing we have faced working in ministry is encountering Christians in crisis who are seeking for answers. In response, as a good minister, you sit down patiently with them and go through all the Bible has to say about their current dilemma. They fully acknowledge understanding God’s direction or instruction about the situation. The politely thank you and then go out and do the exact opposite of what God has instructed. I really have a lot of trouble knowing what to feel at that point. Pity? Disappointment? Discouragement? Self-doubt at my own shepherding ability? It is definitely one of the hardest things we have faced in ministry.

What’s the worst trouble you ever had with getting a book written (plots, finding needed information, getting a cover done)?

Wow, this is a painful question. I am experiencing it right now. I am no more than a few chapters from finishing the third book in the Chadash Chronicles series, but these other ideas for the next couple of projects down the line are eating me alive. I keep finding myself sitting down at the computer intending to wrap up the next chapter when whamo I am on a research site looking up things for the next book. Distraction and desire to see all the projects I talked about above come to fruition is probably the biggest struggle with settling down and finishing one thing before moving on to the next.

What’s your next project? Tell us so we can’t wait for it to come out!

Well as I said I am finishing book three of the Chadash Chronicles. We will see how things go with the first two books and I will let that decide whether book three comes out from the same publisher, or if I shop it maybe to one of the bigger names in fantasy fiction, or if I take the road of self-publishing. Once that one is complete, though, the project I am so excited about starting is going to be a science fiction/superheroes series. I am planning to write it as pretty hard-science sci-fi as much as possible, i.e. at this point only humans in the known galaxy, first extrasolar colony ship, no three-headed aliens or light-speed drives but incorporating the real scientific challenges to manned missions outside our solar system. Well something goes wrong in flight and some small percentage of the terraforming colonists wind up with enhanced abilities. The story will have multiple levels. One will be how the colony deals suddenly with people who are very different, even “better” in some way than themselves, and the human-natured prejudice and fear which will ensue there. Second will be Earth’s reaction and how to deal with an outlying colony that in some part isn’t fully, or more accurately isn’t merely, human anymore. Third will be the faith aspect as characters of faith struggle to deal with their own questions as well as counsel others through this challenging adaptation to life. And of course, there will be super-villains and super-powered battles too, can’t leave that out, right?

Let me just say in parting I appreciate you asking to interview me and giving me the chance to let folks know about the projects I have coming out. Thank you so much for this excellent opportunity and I pray the Lord continues to bless you in all your work.

Chadash Chronicles Book One: Fool’s Errand and Book Two: Mystic’s Mayhem are now available.

You can find David’s missionary blog at: http://2th31.blogspot.com

and his author page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DavidGlennJohnson

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The Training Place of Mankind; God’s Creation Explained For Normal Folk by David Bergsland A Book Review by Michael J. Findley

I have read several books by this author and enjoy both his writing style and the content of his works. But I must admit that I am not part of the target audience; Normal Folk. No one has ever accused me of being “normal.”
On my android 7″ ebook reader, type set to 100%, this is an eighty page book. According the author and the title, our brief life on earth is a training place. The table of contents and all links work. While a table of contents and working links is something you might just expect, sadly many ebooks fail in these simple basics. Our daughter, an elementary school teacher, believes this is one of the best book covers she has ever seen.
This is an overview of mankind on earth, from the original creation to the New Heavens and the New Earth. It does not cover every topic I would like, but in such a brief work that is simply not possible.
If you have never looked at an overview of God’s Word, or you know someone like this, this book is a must read. If you know someone who is curious about the Bible but has never read it, then this book is a must read for them.
It is both an easy, enjoyable read and introduces most major topics of the Word of God in a single book. Not to mislead anyone; this is neither a theology book nor a Bible Doctrines overview. More than half of this brief book is devoted to the book of Genesis, creation, the flood, the birth of civilization and the beginning of the Jewish nation.
The three plus pages titled So what happened to science? and My point is this: creationism is basic to Christianity are very important points that are both brief and thorough. The creation week: 4,000 B.C. might just be the best nine-page overview of the creation week available.
This book looks at the Bible from a very Gentile perspective. The central chapter, The pivot of history: Jesus assumes that the reader is not even familiar with the most basic information about the Messiah. Sadly, that is probably a valid assumption and makes it so necessary. Many pastors I talk to would likely find the basic information in this book a real eye opener. That is so sad.
The book concludes with Israel is Transformed and The end of creation. He explains prophecy with science to examine what the earth’s future will be like.
Once again, it does not answer everything. But it is a great eye opener for anyone not familiar with the Word of God.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Training-Place-Mankind-ebook/dp/B00B7VY58E/

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“Stolen” from Brad Francis, who doesn’t do reviews … The ‘Pprentices, the Puppets, the Pirates and the Potboiler

This post originally came from Christ, Fiction, and Video Games, the blog and online home of Brad Francis. Sorry, I didn’t manage to preserve all the links, but you can find them in his post linked below. Thank, you, Brad!

http://christfictionandvideogames.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-pprentices-puppets-pirates-and.html

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ask me what sort of books I like to read.

Go ahead, ask. I’m giving you permission. We don’t have to do some big interview thing. I know you’re curious and I want to share, so go ahead and ask.
 
Of course, if it’s a really good book, I may not even
feel worth of holding it with my hands.
You: Hi, Brad! What sort of books do you like to read?
Me: Hi, Reader! Thanks for asking! The answer is good books. That’s what I like to read. Seriously, if a book is bad, I probably won’t enjoy it. But if it’s good? I honestly don’t care about the plot or the genre; I enjoy reading good books!
It’s possible that this is a bit on the subjective side. I don’t read all genres equally. I don’t read erotica, for instance, and I rarely read Norwegian graphic novels, what with not speaking Norwegian and all. I usually don’t tend toward full-blown romances, although I enjoy romance in books if it’s well done. I would even argue that Nick Hornby, one of my all-time favorite authors, tends to write romance for guys. At least, his books often have a lot of romance in them, but all from a male perspective—and not those lumberjack type that women go for either, but real guys like me. Oh, and I would probably classify Frank Peretti’s most recent novel, Illusion, a romance as much as it is anything else, and I greatly enjoyed that book (as I tend to do with Peretti).
My point is that I honestly can’t tell if I’m going to like a book simply based on the genre. I like to branch out and, as a writer, I think that it’s beneficial for me to read a wide range of authors and genres. I think it’s beneficial for all of us to branch out at least a bit, I think. It makes us more well-rounded and maybe even  a bit better to deal with the myriad of different types of people we encounter in life.
Still, if you were to corner me at a Schlotzsky’s and demand to know whether I enjoyed reading steampunk literary tribute novels, I probably wouldn’t start jumping on a coach and start yelling about my love for the books to Oprah.
 
This should clear up any confusion.
But I need to be true to my philosophy, you recall, and I just literally said two paragraphs ago that I can’t tell if I’m going to like a book based on the genre. Based on the cover? Absolutely. But not the genre.
And, honestly, steampunk literary tribute novel is a pretty weird niche little genre, isn’t it? I don’t even think it gets its own bookcase at Barnes and Noble. If I asked you whether you read steampunk literary tribute novels, you’d probably say no, adding perhaps that you haven’t even heard of steampunk literary tribute novels and possibly looking about for a police officer in case the strange bearded author started to get violent.
But here’s the thing: I only get violent with authors I interview. And, even then, it’s only the threat of violence.
Oh, and here’s the other thing: I understand if you’ve never heard of a steampunk literary tribute novel before. But if you let that little fact stop you from reading the book I just finished, your world will be a little less rich than it could have been.
Longtime visitors to this blog have heard of this obscure little book category before, as one of my favorite interviews ever featured the author of such a story, Sophronia Belle Lyon. We spoke at that time about the first steampunk literary tribute novel I had ever heard of, much less read. It was called A Dodge, a Twist and a Tobacconist and I genuinely enjoyed it. The story brought together a slew of characters from authors as varied as Jane AustenCharles DickensRudyard Kipling and others to fight crime and shut down a human trafficking ring run by a mysterious figure somewhere in the shadows. Even though I’ll sheepishly admit that I hadn’t read all the classic novels that inspired the book, the great writing, exciting plot and well-developed characters drew me in and kept me hooked. I had a few minor quibbles that tempered my enjoyment of the book a bit, but I was eagerly awaiting the sequel, and Ms. Lyon knew it.
 
This is…not the cover to The ‘Pprentices,
the Puppets and the Pirate. 
This is
just an original working title that
the author was once considering and
I really loved it and this is my
blog so it’s here again!
Well, the sequel is here. It’s called The ‘Pprentices, the Puppets, and the Pirates and it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Sophronia Belle Lyon is a master storyteller who excels at her craft. I don’t care whether you think a steampunk literary tribute novel would be your cup of tea or not; you should read this book because it is a great story, well told and full of adventure, romance and intrigue.
I read a lot. I read a lot because I love reading, but also because I’m a writer and it’s very important for writers to read and because I’m a blogger who likes to interview authors and talk about books here. I have never, in my professional career, officially endorsed another book before. I’m endorsing this one. Let’s throw the Christ, Fiction and Video Games Book Club stamp on this baby and throw it back into the pond and see how quickly it tops the New York Times bestseller list. This is one of those times in my life where it would be convenient to be Oprah.
My favorite character from the first book in the series, Oliver Twist, is front and center for this one (I might also point out that I really love Dickens and so I felt a certain affinity toward Twist from his original story as well). Everybody’s favorite orphan (with all apologies to Annie) has grown to be a master inventor, and there are indications that his old mentor may be involved in the trafficking from the first book—and worse. This is a story about rebirth, redemption and the fact that no one is beyond the love of God.
For me, reading The ‘Pprentices, the Puppets, and the Pirates was a bit like taking a creative writing course. It was a delight to see how all the different pieces of the story fit together, and I took great joy in joining Twist and his teammates through their well-crafted story in the same way you might love listening to an album where the songs build on and enhance each other or seeing how a masterful television show tells its story on many different levels throughout the seasons.
 
Of course, it goes without saying that
Oprah endorses all of my books AND
Sophronia’s books. It goes without saying
because it’s not true…but that’s just a detail.
Another of my favorite authors is JK Rowling, in part because I love how many different story elements she brought full-circle throughout the series, how a minor detail in the first Harry Potter book could recur in a brilliant, unexpected way in the sixth or seventh. Sorry if I’ve lost some of you. There was so much of this going on in theHarry Potter books that it didn’t all work, but when it did? I love that stuff, and it’s why Jo Rowling is one of my all-time favorite storytellers. Plotwise, Sophronia Belle Lyon’sAlexander Legacy series has absolutely nothing to do with Rowling’s fantasy novels. But you strip away all the detail, all the twists and risks and successes, and what you have in both cases are natural born storytellers, weaving tales full of memorable characters. Lyon could release a novella about Oliver Twist and Phoebe Moore-Campbell making a BLT sandwich and I’d write it because I know it would be a fine example of storycraft, just as millions would rush out and buy Harry Potter and the Trip to Costco were it to be released.
 
You can buy Death Eaters in bulk here!
Like I said, I love great stories. In The ‘Pprentices, the Puppets, and the Pirates, Sophronia Belle Lyon gives us a great story. I heartily recommend it. I realize I may be setting the bar of expectations unreasonably high, and that’s not my intention, but if you sit down with this book, sit back and let it entertain and tell its tale, I can’t imagine you being disappointed.
I don’t care if you join the legions of steampunk literary tribute novel fans or not. But I do think you should become a fan of Ms. Lyon. I don’t think she’ll let you down.
Posted by at 10:05 PM

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Book Review: The Narrow Gate: How to Thrive During the Great Falling Away by David Bergsland

The Narrow Gate

David Bergsland neither contacted me nor does he know me. In order to be honest, he reviewed our book Antidisestablishmentarianism, a book as long as 3 or 4 doctoral dissertations. For that I feel a great moral obligation to review not just one, but several of David Bergsland’s book. This influence, though considerable, is the only influence he has over me.

To begin, the topic is after my own heart, though I am writing on other topics and have no time for this subject. David Bergsland has biographical information on twitter, Amazon and Smashwords. He has a facebook page and blog as well as a twitter account.

As someone who writes massive books, I greatly appreciate a smaller work that I can read in less than an afternoon. Ten different English translations of the Word of God are used and properly documented.

The opening chapter states; “The way the church teaches, the gate is not very narrow. There are several common practices in the modern church that seem to provide a wide open gate. But it is an illusion. That gate is narrow.” He supports this position with Scripture.

Though he is not a Baptist, he takes the Baptist position on Baptism. “Baptism is not a magic act of power. It is the result of an adult decision.” He also says, “there is no evidence that baptism provides salvation, it is a ceremonial event of public proclamation and a ritual of cleansing.”

“If you have any personal concerns about whether your baptism was real or not, get dunked-as in fully immersed-as an adult.”

This next issue he brings up I personally believe has destroyed the modern Church in America and England. “How many people do you know who came down front to an altar call (especially at a large crusade), prayed the sinner’s prayer, and nothing happened?”

“The most common figures are that somewhere between 6% and 10% of people who come down for an altar call become church members.

As we will talk about in a bit, becoming a church member has little to do with entering the Kingdom of God. There are no statistics about true conversions resulting from an altar call. It may be only a percent or two.”

My concern is that most of these “altar calls” actually inoculate against the gospel. I do not see David Bergsland drawing this conclusion. It is my own.

“I’m not sure what to do with this modern phenomenon [of mega-churches]. I’ve never been a part of one which truly preached the Gospel.” I can truly amen that statement.

“The megachurches I’ve attended were major problems and more like a cancerous tumor than healthy growth.”

“The only megachurch is scripture was the church at Jerusalem and God scattered that one.”

David Bergsland then changes to God’s standards, not our mistaken beliefs. “The gate is quite a bit narrower than we are commonly taught.”

As David Bergsland points out, we do not want to hear “Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.” Because “many will seek to enter and will not be able.”

The horrifying part is  “This is a limited time offer,” to use a modern advertising slogan. As David Bergsland points out, that in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the Church age will end. And what happens next will have little resemblance to the Left Behind series.

Jesus had the most problems with “the heavily involved, defenders of doctrine, self-righteous hypocrites” who go to church constantly, “helping to set policy, zealously watching for infractions, and running the church.”

The next great sin engulfing the American Church is lawlessness. David Bergsland uses pages of examples to back up his belief that the modern American church will both welcome and help to usher in the government of the Anti-Christ.

David Bergsland next deals with the problem of knowing the information of the Scriptures without knowing God or having the power of God. This builds on the earlier points and is the core of the book.

He also extends the Biblical parallel of the family. That is how we instruct children and how God instructs us.

The Scriptures, music, worship, communion, community interaction and fellowship can all be used to replace, as substitutes for the true relationship with Christ Jesus.

Probably the most important point is that “This type of relationship takes time.” The baby/parent relationship is “good for the baby-not so good for the parent.”

The last section of this book is a number of very helpful illustrations and person experiences.

It is a very short, easy read on a very important topic. You can easily read this in less time than a morning Church Service. I highly recommend this. It certainly stands out among modern Christian books which are, for the most part, not worth reading.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Narrow-Gate-David-Bergsland/dp/147823279X

 Image of David Bergsland

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Review of Pharmacia: Those Magic Arts: Revelation Special Ops, book 2 (Volume 2)

Pharmacia: Those Magic Arts (Revelation Special Ops)
I read the first book in this series and have been looking forward to the second. Yates has some wonderful characters. This story changes points of view several times since the Special Ops team is scattered around — Babylon, Jerusalem, and locations in Russia. Matt’s experiences should drive readers to prayer because his ordeal is not so different from what persecuted believers are undergoing right now. Hadassah’s friendship with a Russian “princess” is beyond bittersweet.

Once again, the team’s efforts are bathed in prayer. A discussion about the way God sometimes handles our prayer requests for healing and miracles makes the book worth the read all by itself. But you will also get to breathe scented gold, clean up after fighting dinosaurs, and see firsthand what a mother will do when her child is in danger, when that mother used to be Mossad.

http://www.amazon.com/Pharmacia-Those-Revelation-Special-ebook/dp/B008P7U3RA

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So, What Is a Book Review Anyway?

From iAuthor's official Facebook page

The last book review I did brought up some interesting questions about a book review. Book reviews are different from most other forms of writing in several ways.

First, whether a book review is printed in a print magazine, newspaper or electronically in a blog or on facebook, the first few lines will be printed with the title. These become your “ad.” The first few lines must be interesting enough to click on the “more” or link or turn the page. These lines must generate enough interest that the reader will invest more time in reading the rest of the review.

Second, compared to a term paper, you already have the thesis statement laid out for you. It always is “you should/should not read this book because…” A skillful writer might turn this “because” into a separate thesis statement which will be the last sentence of the first paragraph.

Third, no matter how much I want to go on about War and Peace, book reviews must be brief. Concentrate on a few points which you believe to be the most important and focus on these points. Use some brief quotes from the work to prove your point and support your conclusions.

Fourth, the best books have weaknesses, except for the Bible, and the worst books have strong points we can all learn from. Include some of each.

Fifth, have a strong conclusion. If you can discern what it is, attempt to show what the author’s point is. Then draw your own conclusion as to why this book should or should not be read. A good book review will not have time for a summary.

 

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War And Peace: A Book Review

If you search for a book, you might go to a library or a bookstore. You might be looking for a magazine or newspaper, or even searching online for an ebook. As you search, you will find that modern fiction dominates. In some places, such as used bookstores, you will find hundreds of fiction books for every nonfiction book. Though fiction is older than Homer’s Iliad, what we think of as fiction today was in many ways born with a Russian we know in the West as Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910). Born Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, War and Peace, along with Anna Karenina, are not only his masterpieces, they are some of the greatest works of all time for any culture.

This is just a very brief mention of the plot and a few very brief comments on style. These comments are supported by a few passages I found interesting.

War and Peace opens in Petersburg, Russia, when Napoleon Bonaparte controls France. It is set in a drawing room where rich aristocrats gather for a social evening. Tolstoy writes down the thoughts and motives of various people, as well as a brief description of the surrounding and a record of the conversations. Leo Tolostoy firmly believed in the gospels, especially the Sermon on the Mount. He adopted a very similar writing style to that found in the first three Gospels and Acts.

Though he goes into the details of individual people’s motives, this is also a sweeping epic of Napoleon’s march across Europe to capture Moscow as told from the Russian point of view. Children become debutantes, get married and have their own children. Men join the army and are killed. Fortunes are made and lost. Yet the entire story is told from the viewpoint of individuals. Like the gospels, no detail is insignificant. “The visitor made a gesture with her hand,” shows both condescension and a desire to change the subject.

The number of characters is bewildering. I never did keep everyone straight. When I saw a movie based on the book, it helped me understand who was who. If you see the movie before reading the book, understand that the movie is “based on” the book. It is not the book.

The main characters are fictional, though they are composites of real people. Real people, such as Napoleon, are referred to, but either do not appear at all in the story or their appearances are well verified by historical documents.

Though Tolstoy was a famous writer by the time War and Peace was published, Leo Tolstoy and his wife took years completely rewriting the story at least seven time. Portions were published in serial form under the title 1805 while they were busy editing it. This created a massive demand for the work, so that War and Peace was translated into at least ten different languages soon after it was written.

The beginning of the story centers around an old sick man, Cyril Vladimirovich Bezukhov, the richest man in all Russia. He is not mentioned by name for several chapters. He has at least one legitimate son and several close relatives. His illegitimate son, Pierre, was sent away to Paris for tutoring. Pierre arrives in the drawing room and horrifies the people there by defending Napoleon. Prince Andrew is given charge of Pierre, but Pierre leaves Prince Andrew and goes back to some friends, gets drunk, and is thrown out of Petersburg.

Tolstoy shifts the scene to women gossiping in Moscow. The gossip scene gives us vivid detail both about society in Moscow and about Pierre.

“That is what comes of a modern education,” exclaimed the visitor. [1805] “It seems that while he was abroad this young man was allowed to do as he liked, now in Petersburg I hear he has been doing such terrible things that he has been expelled by the police.”

“He is a son of Marya Ivanovna Dolokhova, such a worthy woman there, just fancy! Those three got hold of a bear somewhere, put it in a carriage and set off with it to visit some actresses! The police tried to interfere, and what did the young men do? They tied a policeman to the bear back to back and put the bear into the Moyka Canal.”

Since Tolstoy is so skilled at keeping the story moving chronologically, it is difficult to name a “main character.” How the illegitimate son Pierre becomes sole heir to his father’s estate is interesting in itself, but the important point is that Pierre has both a heart for the plight of the Russian peasant and an understanding through his foreign education as to what to do to help them. Pierre represents “doing what is right” when the entire world is fighting you. His father’s estate actually gives him tools to win some battles.

We are introduced to Natasha and Sonya as fifteen year olds. “…just at that charming age when a girl is no longer a child, though the child is not yet a young woman.” They become the romantic focus of the rich and powerful nobility.

Nicholas is my personal favorite. Of noble birth, his parents lose their property and he becomes an officer to support his family. As a trained hunter, he is given a group of what we might call “special forces” to harass Napoleon’s huge army. These are the men, according to Tolstoy, who are the real saviors of Russia, when the regular army is overrun. Yet when he returns to civilian life, his mother does not understand their dire financial situation, which forces Nicholas into desperate circumstances.

Before Pierre is declared legitimate, he goes to Moscow and shows some the same confusion I have.

“Ah, Count Rostov!” exclaimed Pierre joyfully. “Then you are his son, Ilya? Only fancy, I didn’t know you at first. Do you remember how we went to the Sparrow Hills with Madame Jacquot?…It’s such an age…”

“You are mistaken,” said Boris deliberately, with a bold and slightly sarcastic smile. “I am Boris, son of Princess Anna Mikhaylovna Brubetskaya. Rostov, the father, is Ilya, and his son is Nicholas. I never knew any Madame Jacquot.”

Pierre shook his head and arms as if attacked by mosquitoes or bees.

“Oh dear, what am I thinking about? I’ve mixed everything up. One has so many relatives in Moscow! So you are Boris?”

My feelings exactly.

Much latter on, during the battle for Moscow, Pierre’s close friend, mentor and romantic rival, Prince Andrew is mortally wounded by a cannon ball.

“‘Lie down!’ cried the adjutant, throwing himself flat on the ground.

Prince Andrew hesitated. The smoking shell spun like a top between him and the prostrate adjutant, near a wormwood plant between the field and the meadow.

“‘Can this be death?’ thought Prince Andrew, looking with a quite new, envious glance at the grass, the wormwood, and the streamlet of smoke that curled up from the rotating black ball. “I cannot, I do not wish to die. I love life-I love this grass, this earth, this air….’ He thought this, and at the same time remembered that people were looking at him.

“‘It’s shameful, sir!’ he said to the adjutant. “What…”

“He did not finish speaking. At one and the same moment came the sound of an explosion, a whistle of splinters as from a breaking window frame, a suffocation smell of powder, and Prince Andrew started to one side, raising his arm, and fell on his chest.”

While there are happy marriages, there is also lingering death through illness, as in the case of Princess Mary’s father and Natasha. Strategies, conferences with generals, rulers and diplomats, hypocrisies, hope and new children are all painted with vivid realism.

As the book draws to a close, Tolstoy explains why he believes what he does.

The life of the nations is not contained in the lives of a few men, for the connection between those men and the nations has not been found.

Only the expression of the will of the Deity, not dependent on time, can relate to a whole series of events occurring over a period of years or centuries, and only the Deity, independent of everything, can by His sole will determine the direction of humanity’s movement; but man acts in time and himself takes part in what occurs.

The presence of the problem of man’s free will, though unexpressed, is felt at every step of history.

All seriously thinking historians have involuntarily encountered this question. All the contradictions and obscurities of history and the false path historical science has followed are due solely to the lack of a solution of that question.

If the will of every man were free, that is, if each man could act as he pleased, all history would be a series of disconnected incidents.

If there be a single law governing the actions of men, free will cannot exist, for then man’s will is subject to that law.

In this contradiction lies the problem of free will, which from most ancient times has occupied the best human minds and from most ancient times has been presented in its whole tremendous significance.

This issue of the Divine direction of history versus man’s free will takes up many chapters and closes the book War and Peace.

But as in astronomy the new view said: “It is true that we do not feel the movement of the earth, but by admitting its immobility we arrive at absurdity, while admitting its motion (which we do not feel) we arrive at laws,” so also in history the new view says: “It is true that we are not conscious of our dependence, but by admitting our free will we arrive at absurdity, while by admitting our dependence on the external world, on time, and on cause, we arrive at laws.”

In the first case it was necessary to renounce the consciousness of an unreal immobility in space and to recognize a motion we did not feel; in the present case it is similarly necessary to renounce a freedom that does not exist, and recognize a dependence of which we are not conscious.

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“This Is Not a Small Thing!”

McKenzie

McKenzie Worthington is a desperate woman. She lives in a world of such wealth and privilege she has never even had to spoon food onto her own plate. She is willing to give it all up. Temporarily, at least. Someone must rescue her sister from a truly terrifying marriage in the wilds of frontier Montana, but McKenzie has no reason to hope for her family’s help.

McKenzie grew up in the comfort of Boston high society but she has known heartache. The “perfect” man jilted her for her best friend. She struggles to trust and love in a world of the proper and dutiful. There’s no example of open love or personal sacrifice or pain.

A mail order marriage doesn’t seem “binding.” Marriage is only for convenience and comfort. She travels to Montana only to find to a man who might help her find her sister. Zach Sawyer, however, teaches her the difference between her social customs and empty religion back home and the real God and His Word straight from his father’s worn-out Bible. He teaches her honor, duty and real sacrifice.

This story contains gems of greatness. McKenzie’s first dinner in Zach’s home had stunning potential to show how ill-equipped McKenzie would be. But, while we get description of Boston life, down to the wallpaper patterns, there is little of the hardness of life in Montana. Vague references to learning to cook didn’t satisfy.

When Zach cries out to God about the difference between a wife’s small shortcomings and the “big thing” McKenzie has done to him, it is another gem of greatness in the book.

Over all, though, it was a sweet, gentle lesson in replacing what the world teaches us about family, duty and what’s “proper” with truth, honesty and love based on God and His Word.

Image of Penny Zeller

About the author of the Montana Skies Series
Penny Zeller

Penny Zeller is the author of The Montana Skies Series from Whitaker House, known for her down-to-earth prose and creativity in conveying spiritual truths with clarity and humor. On her blog, “A Day in the Life of a Wife, Mom, and Author” she addresses the challenges and joys of day-to-day family life from her perspective as a stay-at-home Wyoming wife and mother.

Penny has loved to write since childhood, but it was in 2000 she dedicated her writing skills to God, making a commitment to use her talents to inspire others with stories centered on God’s love. Her Montana Skies Series: McKenzie (2009), Kaydie (2010) and Hailee (2011), her first in the historic romance genre, have been well-received by readers and critics alike.

Her previous books include: Hollyhocks (Booklocker 2003), written for children with food allergies; Wyoming Treasures (Medallion Books 2005), a living history of the region with interviews of residents who had lived through the depression, World War II and other significant events. Her 2008 book from Beacon Hill, 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference, put her in the national spotlight with speaking engagements, radio, and television interviews, including syndicated programs on the ABC Family Channel, CBN, and LESEA Networks.

Penny’s articles have appeared in Woman’s World, Brio, MomSense (official MOPS magazine), Victory in Grace, ePregnancy, Grit, Woman’s Touch, Vibrant Life, Village Family Magazine, Teenage Christian Magazine, Hopscotch, Idaho Magazine, On the Line, and many more.

Penny is active in her community and church, leading a Bible study and women’s prayer group, and regularly volunteering at her daughters’ school. She co-organized a local group designed to provide fellowship among local women, “Sisters in Christ Community Girls Night Out,” and enjoys canoeing, gardening, and playing volleyball with her family and friends.

Website: http://www.pennyzeller.com Blog: http://www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com

For review copies or to schedule an interview, please contact Cathy Hickling,
800-444-448 ext. 283, chickling@whitakerhouse.com.

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The Law by Claude Frédéric Bastiat

(originally published in French in 1850)

Over 99% of everything ever written is not worth reading. Of those higher quality works which contribute to spiritual growth, more than 99% of those are only worth reading once. A tiny number are worthy of a second or third look. The Law, a tiny book of less than 50 pages, falls into the rarest of categories. Read and reread until its principles become part of you. It should be a textbook in schools. And it is free as an e-book! Unlike a normal book review, this little more than a collection of quotes.

“The law perverted! The law- and, in its wake, all the collective forces of the nation.The law, I say, not only diverted from its proper direction, but made to pursue one entirely contrary!”

“It is not because men have made laws, that personality, liberty, and property exist. On the contrary, it is because personality, liberty, and property exist beforehand, that men make laws. What then, is law? As I have said elsewhere, it is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.”

“God has bestowed upon every one of us the right to defend his person, his liberty, and his property…”

“The law has been perverted through the influence of two very different causes – bare egotism and false philanthropy.”

“Now, labor being in itself a pain, and man being naturally inclined to avoid pain, if follows, and history proves it, that wherever plunder is less burdensome than labor, it prevails; and neither religion nor morality can, in this case, prevent it from prevailing.”

“When does plunder cease, then? When it becomes less burdensome and more dangerous than labor.”

“It would be impossible, therefore, to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this – the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder.”

“The delusion of the day is to enrich all classes at the expense of each other; it is to generalize plunder under pretence of organizing it. Now, legal plunder may be exercised in an infinite multitude of ways.”

“…the true solution, so much sought after of the social problem, is contained in these simple words – LAW IS ORGANIZED JUSTICE.”

“Here I am encountering the most popular prejudice of our time. It is not considered enough that law should be just, it must be philanthropic.” “This is the fascination side of socialism.”

“The Socialists say, since the law organizes justice, why should it not organize labor, instruction, and religion? Why? Because it could not organize labor, instruction, and religion, without disorganizing justice.”

Socialists “divide mankind into two parts. Men in general, except one, form the first; the politician himself forms the second, which is by far the most important.”

“Whilst mankind tends to evil, they incline to good; whilst mankind is advancing towards darkness, they are aspiring to enlightenment; whilst mankind is drawn towards vice, they are attracted by virtue.”

As Frédéric Bastiat pointed out in his 1849 The Law, when the majority of those who make a country work are convinced the Law has been subverted to the point where there is no hope, there are only two possible choices. People will either stop working seeing that the government will take the fruits of their labors or there will be armed revolt.

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This “Blog in a Book” Waters Christian Seedlings!

 

Growth Lessons

 

Review of Growth Lessons by Naty Matos

 

Naty Matos says she has been through some tough times, but she doesn’t dwell on them in this work. She keeps a sweet, cheerful attitude, a lot like the gardener, while gently and persistently digging around our roots, aerating our soil, fertilizing our ground, and pruning our parts to get some growth going.

 

She knows better than anyone what it’s like to grow up “saved,” but to only become truly converted after many years of “do-it-yourself” Christianity. What a timely message for today this book is. Folksy, flowing, as good as a chat over tea. Here’s the heart of a fellow believer opened to us, begging us to open our hearts and examine our relationship with our God.

 

I can’t think of a real surprise to tease you with from this book, because it’s not so much new, as charmingly presented, drawing you along from subject to subject. It’s a project, a patchwork quilt Naty invites you to work on together with her. Plenty of Scripture gets mixed in with Naty’s own thoughts.

 

It’s a blog, as I understand it, a person’s scattered thoughts collected and shared, in a stream of consciousness style. Yet the author says she has a Masters Degree, so I have to say that there seems very little regard for traditional punctuation here, especially periods. She also says she grew up with other languages so I hope that is an explanation. I enjoyed the book and could recommend it wholeheartedly with that one proviso.

Image of Naty Matos

 

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Unlike Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, They Met At Shiloh Gives Us Hope

They Met At Shiloh

Review of They Met at Shiloh by Phillip M. Bryant

I think I was required to read The Red Badge of Courage in High School. Normally a compliant student, I failed to complete that assignment. I don’t really like war stories, particularly graphically realistic and gruesome ones. I did, however, finish reading They Met at Shiloh. Yes, there is extreme realism in the description of the battle scenes and aftermath. But even if you’re very squeamish like me, here’s why you should read it anyway.

I swear I was there, trudging down those endless roads, rolling up those bedrolls, changing from my nightcap to my forage cap, hot, cold, sweat-soaked and rain-soaked, right along with these characters. Michael, Stephen, Robert, Phillip — I know them. Bryant gives such a richness of detail to his scenes, his clothing, and his characters. I smelled the powder and the blood. I saw that horrible pool you must read about to understand.

Above all else, I saw how real men felt and described their different Christian faiths, something glaringly missing from anything Stephen Crane might have written. Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, as well as those who only scratched their heads at another’s belief (or screamed that it was hypocritical and false) all had their say. Crane gave us no hope. Bryant didn’t “save” everybody, or straighten everybody out to one belief, even. He let them grope, struggle, and come to grips or turn away in bewilderment as real men do.

That isn’t to say the message of what brings a man peace in Christ wasn’t clear. It was realistically presented, but not everybody understood what was happening or how it applied to them. Green soldiers think they understand how to do battle before they really engage. Some run. Some fumble. Some understand and do exactly what they must to do their duty. So it is with the lost. As prepared or unprepared as they may be by our poor efforts, God gives the increase.

 

 Image of Phillip Bryant

 

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Review of Hope and the Knight of the Black Lion by Michael Findley and Guest blog “Character Interview”for Vienta

Also, please check out our cover redesigns and let us know what you think!

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.351117068247836.100610.149992491693629&type=1
Every Star Trek the fan must admit that nothing exciting ever happens until someone does something incredibly stupid. By writing this story from the first person point of view of a 17-year-old girl, Mary Findley makes the opening chapters very believable. Hope is stubborn, proud, ignorant and keeps the action moving. Unlike Star Trek, TV and movies in general, where the stupidity never seems to stop, Hope learns from her mistakes.
This is a highly readable historical novel. Unlike Tolstoy’s War and Peace, I can remember who the characters are. I both read and studied Tolstoy and he still confuses me. The much shorter Hope and the Black Lion has a consistent point of view and a limited cast of characters. This is a big plus for me, because I can keep them straight.
For those of you who love period vocabulary, this will be a great book. For me, this was the chance to become intimately acquainted with the online dictionary. Just click (or tap if you have touchscreen) and for a brief definition and you may continue reading. For instance, what is damask, anyway? The setting and titles of nobility are historic, though none of the characters are.
The story is set during the time of the Crusades. Hope is a Lady whose father died. Hope and her mother go to live on the estate of her mother’s brother. She pitches a fit for oysters, trades an heirloom for man’s clothes so she can run in a race for boys only, nods off during Latin lessons, sneaks off to meet a boy by climbing down a castle tower and this is all in chapter one. This is followed by seventeen more action packed chapters.
We have action, love, romance, swords, castles and unbelievable stupidity all in the same book. Actually, it’s all very believable; and lovable.

Karen Baney’s Blog features a Character interview with Maeve Collinswood of my Historical Romance Vienta. Please check it out, and thank you, Karen!

http://www.karenbaney.com/archives/1427

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Review of Karis by R.M. Strong

We all need heroes, and some of us even need to be heroes. The vigilante seeking justice is certainly not a new or original idea, but R.M. Strong has put, for me, a highly desirable twist on it with the story teenaged Tamara Weatherby. I’ll talk about the twist shortly. Tamara’s family and scores of others fall victim to a deranged bad-guy, Nothos, who uses gasses to force his victims to fear him but normally does not kill. He takes hostages, makes demands, and releases them. This time, however, when costumed crimefighters Krino and Krisis do not make an appearance (the police commissioner forbids them), Nothos uncharacteristically shoots everyone in the art museum. Tamara ends up being the only survivor.

I have to state that I believe this story is handled clumsily and the whys and wherefores of the plot elements are sometimes not explained at all. Sometimes the explanations just don’t satisfy. The book includes a lot of social commentary, about the rich and how people treat (but should not treat) them, but it doesn’t give the right answers for change. It also gives its heroine too much power and “attitude” for my taste.

Several times the point is made that Tamara should have a “female figure” in her life but it’s made weakly and shouted down. It shouldn’t have been. Questions about her new living arrangements and threats against her purity are dealt with too lightly for my taste. I wish the character Kuria had been developed more and put into that “female figure” role. I think that would have been a great help. Even her “disability” would have been an intriguing plot element.

The book ends at an odd place, even understanding that it begins a series. There was a potentially great climax point and though it wasn’t handled as well as it could have, it would have made a better ending.

The twist Strong puts on this is to add Christianity into the mix. Karis, the title character, goes through the same struggles all budding crimefighters do: the sense of loss, the realization that her ordinary friends can’t offer her the sympathy and understanding she wants, the rage and thirst for revenge. But over and over she is forced to examine her feelings, her actions, her decisions, and those of others, in the light of God’s Word and her upbringing in a Christian home with active church involvement. Christian readers need to know that there is some profanity, but a pleasing evangelistic and Christian growth emphasis balanced that out for me. There are also two pretty strong instances of attempted rape, clearly presented as evil and wrong.

R.M. Strong as an author and Karis as a character don’t always make the right decisions in this book. We all fail, and can learn from our failures to turn them into opportunities for growth. I am certainly not saying this book is a complete failure. It is an opportunity for growth, and a hopeful sign in a world, and a writing genre, where Christianity is so marginalized. The author seems to have promise of growth as a writer, and here’s hoping Karis will grow along with her.

I give it three stars

Also, here is a link to a blogger interview for our writing:

http://vickiejohnstone.blogspot.com/2011/12/words-with-mary-campagna-findley.html

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Kids Need Friends and Heroes

This is the cover image for the book, created by Levi Whitworth. This book is copyrighted by Emmy Swain. It should not be copied or downloaded for any reason.

“Meet Franklin Bean” is a children’s fantasy chapter book by Emmy Swain, illustrated by Levi Whitworth. I reviewed this book for the
author and she provided me with a pdf copy without compensation and asked for an honest review. I am a mother of three, former
teacher, and children’s book author.

Franklin Bean deals with real, important issues that affect children and their families, everything from unemployment, moving to a new town, bullies and how a child feels about all these pressures.

John, a ten-year-old boy, meets Franklin Bean just when he needs a friend the most. Who Franklin is and how he changes John’s life is
part magic, part good advice and part timeless friendships and all they mean to us.

Levi Whitworth’s illustrations are colorful, simple enough to appeal to even very young children, but also, to me, some of them even
showed of John’s loneliness and confusion by the use of muted, sometimes almost non-existent backgrounds.

I especially like the way adults are treated in this book. They are respected and an important part of the story, unlike many books I
have recently read. I also like John’s polite, respectful character, and how he wants to help meet his family’s needs.

Pancho Frijole was a surprise, to put it mildly, but children need heroes, especially when they feel lonely and times are tough. I look
forward to seeing how the series develops and how John learns more about Franklin Bean and Pancho Frijole, and I’ll bet Emmy
Swain’s readers will, too. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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