Author Archives: Editor

About Editor

Editor and writer, homeschooling veteran, computer skills teacher, occasional engineer. Mother of triplets, mother of two with Asperger’s.

Blaggard’s Moon by George Bryan Polivka, a Review

blaggards-moon-250

Blaggard’s Moon

A Prequel to the Trophy Chase Trilogy
by George Bryan Polivka
Published by Harvest House Publishers, 2009, 373 pages.

Worldview: Moral universe, a God who changes people when they pray.

This book consists of two yarns that converge at the end of the book. One is the tale of a pirate, Smith Delaney, who is sentenced by some primitive jungle-dwellers to die a gruesome death. He meditates on his life in the meantime.

The other tale is about Damrick Fellows, told previously by a pirate comrade of Delaney’s. Delaney remembers Damrick’s tale, in his comrade’s words, as Delaney sits on a post in the middle of a pond full of piranhas and gruesome flesh-eating sea monkeys, waiting for sunset and the end of his life.

Both tales take place in a fantasy world called Nearing Vast, where the law-abiding citizens are in the grip of ruthless pirates. The shipping companies pay off the pirates, and the pirates pay off the Navy, which doesn’t enforce the law.

Into this situation comes Damrick Fellows, a former seaman who dares to challenge the pirates. Damrick’s tale tells his story and that of Jenta, the woman Damrick loves.

The stories intersect, causing the incident that hands Delaney his death sentence. While sitting on the post in the pond, Delaney ponders and rejects his bad deeds and doesn’t regret the good deed that landed him on the post: saving the life of a tiny girl, daughter of Damrick and Jenta.

The book contains some very memorable and finely drawn characters: not only Damrick and Jenta, but the king of the pirates, Conch Imbry. Their interactions form a tale of heroic deeds, not the least of which is Delaney’s decision to save the girl.

The book is lyrically written, bringing a song to my heart as I read parts of it. However, there is also plenty of violence in the book, briefly described. While not for younger children, it’s appropriate for teens–there are no sex scenes in it. Personally I am not fond of reading about violence though.

The Christian faith is evident–there are priests and crosses. At least one character, a drunk, begins to pray and is changed. Delaney’s heart too changes as he sits on the post and reviews his life. My heart yearns for more obvious response from God in the tale, though.

Characters in this book are often faced with apparently morally ambiguous situations and must make a decision. Delaney makes wrong choices at first, and so do some of the other characters, including Damrick, whose motivations in attacking pirates originally seem questionable. But many of the wrong-choosers eventually realize the error of their ways and change.

This book is really about the complexities of the human heart, and how it is capable of changing for the better. It has a nice solid moral groundwork, memorable characters, and a literary flair. For lovers of action, this is a great book.

Check out what others on the CSFF blog tour are writing on this topic:

Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Keanan Brand
Melissa Carswell
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Alex Field
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Kait
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Magma
Margaret
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespack
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson

Blaggard’s Moon: Review Coming Up

This month’s Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour involves a number of bloggers writing about the novel Blaggard’s Moon by George Bryan Polivka. Our aim is to let people know that Christian science fiction and fantasy make great reading, and can convey great truths.

Unfortunately, the market for new writers in this genre has been soft, shall we say. But Tolkien and C.S. Lewis continue to get a lot of attention, so we know there’s interest! So let me tell you about the work of a very talented writer.

George Bryan Polivka’s pirate novel Blaggard’s Moon is actually a prequel to the Trophy Chase Trilogy. All these take place in the land (or waters) of Nearing Vast. The first of these three books is The Legend of the Firefish (which our local library has bought at my request). The third one is The Battle for Vast Dominion, which has garnered a Christy Award nomination.

So this brings us to Blaggard’s Moon. For those who like me haven’t read The Trophy Chase Trilogy yet, this is apparently a great place to start in learning about Nearing Vast.

Tomorrow I’ll give you my review of Blaggard’s Moon.

Today I’ll talk about Polivka’s Web site, www.NearingVast.com.

The home page says,
“Welcome, weary traveler, to the Kingdom of Nearing Vast! ”
I like the design a lot. It’s clearly made by someone who knows what he or
she is doing.

On the home page, one of the trilogy’s characters, Cap Hillis, speaks to the reader as if the reader is a tourist and provides a list of entities to beware of, including pirates and firefish. This is pretty cool. It gives you a good idea of the general lawlessness of the place, and also the idea that in this world, nightmarish monsters can be real. In addition, it gives you a taste of the colorful characters that fill Polivka’s books.

If we click on “Cap’s Pub,” we come over to a blog where most of the entries are in the voice of Cap, but a few are in the author’s voice. Unfortunately the blog entries ended last September. I guess Polivka got busy with other stuff, like writing and promoting Blaggard’s Moon.

“Rumors” takes us to a set of quotes from happy reviewers of his books.

“Captain’s Log” takes us to a record of book signings, with pictures.

The “Vast Encyclopedia” takes us to a compendium of lore from Nearing Vast, concerning fishing, sailing, pirates, prophecies, and so on. So, what do YOU think?

Here are the other CSFF blog tour participants this month:
Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Keanan Brand
Melissa Carswell
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Alex Field
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Kait
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Magma
Margaret
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespack
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson

Pirate Story Coming Up

With the story of heroics in response to piracy in the news, it’s interesting that our next Blog Tour review will be a fantasy book about pirates. This is Blaggard’s Moon by George Bryan Polivka, and I’ll tell you all about it starting Monday.

I’m reading!

You haven’t heard from me because I’m pretty busy, and I do have several books to read. I’m very happy to have these in the hopper. Right now I’m reading Blaggard’s Moon, a fantasy pirate story. Or group of stories actually. Stay tuned!

Seabird by Sherry Thompson, a review

Seabird by Sherry Thompson, a review
Book One of the Narentan Tumults
Published in 2007 by Gryphonwood Press, 349 pages
Worldview: Christian

At the beginning of this young-adult novel, Cara Marshall, age 17, is beginning a beach vacation with her family. She buys a silver seabird necklace. When she puts it on, she is suddenly transported to another world, Narenta, a place like our world and yet not like it.

The Narentans make it clear they expect great things from her. They tell her she has a perilous task to do, as an Outworlder, to help them. But Cara isn’t attached to Narenta and sees no reason to help the people there. She wants no part of the quest they would impose on her. She demands to go home, but finds no way to leave. A new twist on Oz!

She flees and finds she is placing herself and others in deadly peril, as evil sorcerers seek to kill her. She repents and decides to help the Narentans, but not before a kindly couple is dead because of her detour.

Cara is rescued by two enchanters, who do “good” magic and are followers of Alphesis (Jesus), and two seabirds who are sentient beings on Narenta, larger than eagles and full of warmth and good humor. Together, their path leads to a monastery island where Cara meets Alphesis and learns more of her task. She gradually learns to trust Alphesis and becomes braver.

Meanwhile, the evil sorcerers are declaring war on the good Narentans. Cara’s quest, if it succeeds, will allow the good Narentans to win. If it fails, they will lose.

Does she succeed? And does Alphesis allow her to return to our world?

I really enjoyed this book. Sherry Thompson excels at character development. She gets inside Cara’s self-centered head very well, and also shows her gradual turnaround. Other characters are shown in consistent detail as well. Cara must learn to trust that Alphesis will tell her what her next step is at the right moment. So this book does model the Christian walk well.

The world Thompson creates is one where good and evil may be easier to spot than in our world. Alphesis is front-and-center: there is no one who thinks he doesn’t exist. His action in history is obvious, destroying a sorcerer’s castle and locking the sorcerers up for millennia. We glimpse Alphesis’ action in history in snatches here and there, Tolkien-style.

But there are plenty of illusions as well, created by the evil sorcerers and by the good enchanters. There are imaginative details, such as woods full of copper-colored leaves, not green leaves, and “serpent-hawks.”

A drawback: a number of the characters have names starting with HA. Halprin, Harone, Hathel. I had a little trouble keeping them straight, even though they are very different characters. The two seabirds also have similar names, which also was a stumbling block for me. In addition, the opening scene (which gets the plot rolling) is disconnected from what follows immediately, and so I forgot it completely until I went back to look over the book after I had finished.

Because the protagonist is a typical 17-year-old girl who is eventually enabled to do brave things, I expect girls will like this book. There is also a minor love-interest, which may widen the appeal. The book also has plenty of action. Sherry Thompson is working on a sequel, Earthbow. I’ll be looking forward to reading it.–Phyllis Wheeler

Thinking of buying this book? You can help support this blog by buying it through me.

Interview with Allan Miller: Blog Tour Day 3

This is the final day of the CSFF March Blog Tour, featuring Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow by homeschool graduates Christopher and Allan Miller. These brothers live in the Seattle area. Both are married and have two young boys. Allan kindly granted me an email interview. Here it is!

Q: I saw a banner ad at homeschoolblogger.com that indicated you and your brother were homeschooled. Can you tell me about that? All the way through?

A: We were homeschooled for my 6th-11th (I graduated one year early) and Chris’ 8th-12th grades. Prior to that we attended a private school in Fairbanks, AK. The year we moved from AK to WA (my 2nd grade and Chris’ 5th grade) my mom had homeschooled us so we could be flexible during the move. We loved it! However, this was 1986-87 and homeschooling was not very “popular”. Not yet comfortable with the idea that she could successfully teach us at home, my mom enrolled us in private school the following year after we moved. However, neither us or our parents were settled with the decision.

After my brother completed his 7th grade year he asked mom if we could homeschool again… she had been feeling the same way. So, we bravely jumped back into it and we will forever be indebted to our parents for that gift. Homeschooling truly is a gift from parents for every kid who receives it. One of the greatest benefits of home-based learning is the opportunities it gives you to discover your strengths and invest time into those.

We found that our base subjects (math, english, science, etc) were able to be completed rather quickly, leaving us with time to explore interests like art, animation, or writing stories. Additionally, as our parents started seeing our passions forming, they encouraged us to incorporate them into all of our studies – leading to us writing/illustrate children’s books as our science projects – books that creatively taught the concept of physics or light/color through story. I believe this is a HUGE contributor to directing our future path towards becoming published author/illustrators.

The time homeschooling also allowed Chris and I to really grow in appreciation for each other as friends which eventually led to us attending the Art Institute of Seattle together in 95-97. The combination of our friendship and our strong foundation in faith, nurtured through homeschooling, helped us stand firm in our convictions even amidst a strongly secular college environment. So, in short, we would never wish we had our schooling any other way. It was fantastic!

Q: Who is older and by how much?

A: Chris is older by 2 1/2 years. Somehow that didn’t stop us from becoming great friends – sharing many of the same friends throughout our teens.

Q: Apparently you also worked in a Christian bookstore while homeschooling?

A:My parents and grandparents (mom’s side) ran a Christian bookstore up in Fairbanks, AK for a number of years. So, soon after entering the world both Chris and I were brought into a world of books – tucked behind the counter. Many of our earliest memories are of roaming the aisles after-hours and making little forts between the tent-shaped bookshelves where we’d peek out through holes of the peg-board backing to spy on customers (you never knew there were spies in the bookstores did you?)

After moving to WA our parents started a Christian School Book Club (think Scholastic) and after selling that began traveling as Representatives for a homeschool distributor. So, we never really could escape books. In fact, Chris and I recall thinking about how we would be glad to never have to haul another box of books after high school… oh the irony that we now haul our OWN books from and to events and schools!

Q: Did you find a lack of Christian fantasy works to read as you were growing up?

A: As a matter of fact, we did. The older we got, the thinner the selection of GREAT Christian books became. There were some wonderful books, to be sure, but not enough in our opinion. This is one of the driving factors in why we’ve chosen to write the Codebearers Series. In fact, you could say that we are writing these books for ourselves – the 10+ year-old versions of ourselves. These are the kind of stories we loved to read (and still do) These are the stories we believe we’ve been called to write and we hope our work answers that call well. There has been nothing more fulfilling than hearing from a reader or parent about how it connected with them and met that very need.

Q: Is the second book out now?

A: The second book, Hunter Brown and the Consuming Fire, is written going through the editing and illustrating process right now. It is slated to be released 9/9/09. You can follow our progress through our website, Codebearers.com, and blog, http://themillerbrothers.blogspot.com

Q: How long are you planning the series to be?

A: We have a 3 book story arch for Hunter Brown that Warner Press has contracted us to complete. The 3rd book should come out summer/fall of 2010. However, we have some other storylines we’d like to explore that may extend the series into more books… possibly following another main character, but that’s all I can tell you now!

Q: Is there a videogame to go with the book? If so, is it similar to the book trailer?

A: There is an online game off of our Codebearers.com website, but it’s not animated in that sense. It plays more like a first-person mystery – where you get to solve visual puzzles and riddles to discover the message that Hunter eludes to at the end of book 1 – so it’s a continuation of the story between book 1 and 2. If you’ve ever played the popular PC games, Myst or Riven, then you’ll be familiar with this style of game. Ours is built with the widely distributed Flash plug-in, so it works on any browser (though dial-up is not recommended). We try to add a new level every month or so, but it’s tough when you are writing a book too!

My brother and I are professional website designers/programmers. That has been our “day job” for the past 11 years. So, much of what you see on Codebearers.com is a direct application of our skills. The website also offers a great community for kids to interact with each other. We also make appearances via a fun “3D Chatroom” every so often. I should also mention, the online game plays for points as does other things like writing a review of the book, recruiting a friend to Codebearers.com, etc. On December 15th we awarded a $400 gift card to Best Buy for the top points earner. It was a lot of fun and we will be starting up the next round of competition soon. (end of interview)

Be sure to check out what other bloggers are saying on this today on the CSFF Blog Tour:

Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Melissa Carswell
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Jason Isbell
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Magma
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
Wade Ogletree
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson

Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow, a Review

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Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow by Christopher and Allan Miller, a review
Book 1 of the Codebearers Series

Published by Warner Press, 2008, 366 pages.

Worldview: Christian

In this middle-grade Christian fantasy novel, Hunter Brown keeps making bad choices. Nevertheless, he finds redemption.

The book starts off with a prank that goes bad. Soon Hunter finds himself visiting a mysterious bookshop with an odd little man as the proprietor. He is given a book. The book soon leads Hunter and his friend Stretch into another world, Solandria.

Solandria is connected to our world, which Solandrians call the Veil. Both worlds are ruled by the Shadow. In our world, the Veil, people aren’t aware that the Shadow rules. They are fooled by appearances.

However, the Book showed the truth about us, our dark and evil eyes, to Hunter and continues to guide him. In Solandria, it’s obvious who the evil folks are. In fact, Hunter seems to have some of their evil characteristics. He certainly makes some choices that reflect that. But friendly folk, the Codebearers, teach Hunter how to use a special force-sword, activated by speaking words from the Book. They send him to look for Aviad, the son of the Author–Author of life and of the Book.

After many trials, Hunter finds Aviad. It turns out that he is the bookseller, the odd-looking bookstore owner–a man with short legs and too many cats. Now Hunter must seek to undo the curse that has fallen on Solandria. Aviad has a role in lifting the curse as well.

This book has good characterization, with consistent, well-drawn characters. It has plenty of action, and keeps you turning the pages, that’s for sure. It does a good job of portraying the Christian walk. Clearly the swords used are the swords of the Spirit, activated by the Word of God. This book is an allegory in many ways, but it is also a page-turner.

Hunter learns to ask Aviad for help, after first going his own way and heading for disaster. When he finally calls for help, he receives it. Through most of the book, Hunter thinks he is OK, when he really is under the curse. In the end, when he submits to the Author, the curse is lifted for him, and he becomes a Codebearer like his friends. And so it does describe the path to Christ pretty well.

I do have a minor reservation about this book. I am uncomfortable with the idea of portraying Jesus as an odd-looking man with short legs, wispy hair, and so on. This is no Aslan. But Isaiah did describe Jesus as unremarkable in appearance, so this Jesus could be more Biblical than Lewis’ Aslan.

In short, this is a great book for your middle-grade boys to read. They will like it, and they’ll learn something about the road to Jesus from it. –Phyllis Wheeler

Tomorrow: an interview with the authors!

If you want to buy this book, you can help defray expenses of operating this blog by ordering here:

Check out others on the blog tour and what they have to say:

Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Melissa Carswell
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Jason Isbell
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Magma
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
Wade Ogletree
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson

Middle-grade reader recommendations

A Christian mom emailed me and asked for recommendations for her middle-grade reader who likes science fiction.

So I asked Becky Miller of A Christian Worldview of Fiction what she would recommend, since I didn’t know. She kindly responded. She only knows of Christian fantasy, not science fiction, for that age group. Here is what she recommends:

  • The Landon Snow series by R. K. Mortenston starting with Landon Snow and the Auctor’s Riddle (Barbour)
  • The Wilderking trilogy by Jonathan Rogers starting with The Bark of the Bog Owl (B&H Publishers)
  • The Knights of Arrethtrae series by Chuck Black starting with Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione (Multnomah Books)
  • The Codebearers series by the Miller Brothers starting with Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow (Warner Press)

Flashpoint by Frank Creed, a Review

Flashpoint by Frank Creed

Book One of The Underground, published by The Writer’s Cafe Press 2007, 190 pages.

Worldview: Christian

At the beginning of this book, a loving father tells his two kids to jump from his slowly moving car, sending them to hide in the support beams of a highway overpass. Then he drives home to be arrested for a terrorist crime–being a Christian.

In Frank Creed’s grim Chicago of AD 2036, America has succumbed to control by the One State, based in Belgium. Technology allows the government to monitor everyone’s whereabouts, based on numerous video cameras , and on ID chips embedded in people’s left hands and in their cars. Chicago is barely recognizeable, divided into Wards. What were once highway tollbooths have now become checkpoints for crossing from one Ward to another. The One State version of Nazism scapegoats the Christians. Christians when found are arrested and sent to “rehab” where their DNA is rearranged and they forget who they really are.

Against this backdrop, the two kids, aged 16 and 20, are rescued from the highway overpass by the Christian underground, which they join. They are spiritually and physically “re-formed” with super-tech powers. They take new names: Calamity Kid and his younger sister e-girl. The two dive into a breathlessly fast-paced set of adventures, seeking first to aid some widows and orphans, and then setting out to rescue their family members from rehab. Calamity’s now a Sandman–an elite fighter who doesn’t kill his foes, but instead puts them to sleep. E-girl aids him as a “hacker” on the Internet.

Creed’s Christian worldview is front and center. Calamity and his trainers do their best to live out their faith. Calamity learns to trust the Lord, and gets plenty of direction from Bible verses that the Holy Spirit uses to guide him. I really like that about this book.

What I don’t like is the lingo. This book is a story told by Calamity Kid. He uses plenty of 21st-century slang, some of which I had trouble following. Also, the overall effect is rather cheeky, which doesn’t fit his humble-servant intentions.

It’s a well-written tale, full of action that draws you right in and keeps you turning the pages. It’s a great Christian witness to the gamer generation: its hero, with plenty of techno-superpowers, still must depend on the Lord for any measure of success.–Phyllis Wheeler

If you would like to buy this book, consider buying it through me to help pay the expenses of operating this blog. Thanks!