Tag Archives: Christian book reviews

The Victor by Marlayne Giron, a Review

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The Victor: A Tale of Betrayal, Love and Sacrifice
by Marlayne Giron
Published by Tate Publishing, 2009, 274 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy/romance

This book starts with the rebellion of the faithless steward Lucius against the good King Eloth, in the medieval-style kingdom of Ellioth. When the rebellion is thwarted, Eloth mercifully does not execute Lucius, but banishes him and his men instead.

What Lucius wanted was Eloth’s sword of power, scheming that with the sword, he could exert vast authority. The person who stands to inherit the sword, Prince Joshua, is only a young boy.

Young Joshua is bethrothed to an eight-year-old step relative, Llyonesse. At this point the point of view shifts to these young people, and the story moves to a colony that Eloth sets up across the sea, for Joshua to rule when he is older. In the meantime, Llyonesse’s father Ardon serves as steward.Eloth gives Ardon the sword, for now.

In the colony, industrious settlers work hard. But after a while evil Lucius shows up. Soon Ardon and his wife are dead, and Llyonesse is imprisoned in the castle. Lucius rules the colony with complete evil intent. The sword has buried itself in a stone; no one can touch it and live.

Llyonesse is lonely. She knows evil Lucius plans to marry her when she is old enough, in order to gain rightful possession of the sword–which will fry anyone who isn’t of the royal line. As Eloth’s step grand-daughter, Llyonesse is of the royal line, more or less.

But what of Joshua? Time goes by and the young people mature. Joshua seeks to take back his colony and his sword. Does Lucius marry the lovely young woman in his castle? You’ll have to read the book to find out more!

What do I think?

I had a bit of difficulty getting into this story, because there isn’t a character
to identify with for a while–Joshua and Llyonesse are not at the center of the action
at first.

But once over that hump, I enjoyed the book. It’s a romance, definitely, and will
appeal to female readers more than male, I expect. I found a few copy-editing errors,
not enough to detract. The characters are idealized–the bad guy is very very bad, and the good guys are very very good and good-looking too. However, the plot is more complex than that. One of the “good” characters falls to temptation, and another falls seeking to please his wife.

There are underlying Biblical themes brought out by footnotes linking to Bible passages.
The book contains plenty of actual Bible quotes, worked into the story line. I like this; I
am happy to read the Bible and see it applied. So the work provides a very satisfying read for me, a Christian.–Phyllis Wheeler

Vanish by Tom Pawlik, a Review

vanish

Vanish by Tom Pawlik, a Review

Published by Tyndale House Publishers, 2008, 364 pages
Genre: Christian suspense

I’m no good at reading suspense–I get anxious. Nevertheless, for the sake of the CSFF blog tour, I persevered and read this book. (Actually I skipped the middle and then went back and read it later.)

Pawlik tells the tale of three individuals living in Chicago and a surreal experience they share. A cloud rolls in from the east, not going with the prevailing wind. It’s full of multicolored lightning. After it has passed over, each awakens in the morning and finds himself in a very lonely world–all the other people are gone. Streets are empty, stores are empty, their homes are empty.

But in the shadows they see creatures of nightmare–tall thin “aliens” with white eyes who are reaching out to touch them, liking the shade, shunning the light. When the “aliens” succeed in touching a protagonist, the result is a bruise that slowly spreads.

The three, Conner, Mitch, and Helen, eventually find each other, along with a teenager and a boy who doesn’t speak. They are bewildered. Why is everything suddenly old? Pulling meat out of his refrigerator, Conner discovers it is rotten. His new car has rust the dent it got the day before.

After a lot of frightening encounters with the “aliens,” the speechless boy disappears. They make their way to rural Indiana and are taken in by another wanderer in the empty world: Howard, a farmer who has been in this strange situation for years. He has figured out how to keep the “aliens” at bay: run floodlights all the time. The group gets gasoline to run Howard’s generators by siphoning gas from cars in the abandoned towns nearby.

The three protagonists all have hallucinations involving their loved ones turning into “aliens,” very unsettling. The teenager who is with them vanishes in a flash of light.

We get to know Conner, Mitch, and Helen well. They are what we Christians call non-believers, set in their beliefs.

This situation finally resolves. It’s not a takeover of Earth by aliens. So what is it? In case you read the book, I’m not going to spoil it for you.

But I’ll tell you that we learn that all three protagonists are carrying some pretty heavy baggage, loads of guilt connected with the deaths of loved ones. In the resolution, there is judgment. And there is grace for at least one of the protagonists.

Now, what do I think?

I think the characterizations are terrific. The plot grows out of who the three characters are, what they have done in their lives or not done, and how they are dealing with that. They are consistent and very believable. Dialogue is very well done.

Pawlik is also a master of the suspenseful detail, the scary situation that’s getting worse and worse but isn’t quite a disaster yet.

However, I am pondering this book and think that the “actual” cause of the empty city isn’t all that believable. Why the rotten meat and the rusty car? And why the hallucinations in which the loved ones appear to be aliens? How can the character of Howard be both a human like Conner and an “alien”?

I think Pawlik may be wanting to scare nonbelievers into believing. Perhaps it works, I don’t know.

But I am sure this well-crafted book will be enjoyed by lovers of Christian suspense.–Phyllis Wheeler

Check out what others on the Christian Science Fiction-Fantasy Blog Tour are saying:

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Alex Field
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Margaret
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
Nissa
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Donita K. Paul
Epic Rat
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Hanna Sandvig
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler

Some Thoughts

An author recently sent me a middle-grade fiction book to review. I read it and declined to review it. But I wanted to offer some thoughts on it.

The book, which I am not going to name, has the rousing approval of the reviewers of the world. It has a mainstream publisher. The reviewers find it hard to put down, and a great study in character development. One called it “an action-filled survival story aimed at middle grade readers.”

It is all those things, but it’s also very dark. It reminds me of Lord of the Flies, actually. There is such a bleak view of human nature, and not enough in the way of redemptive themes–although there is one character who prays and whose influence is for the good. In fact I cannot imagine my sons picking this up and reading it for fun. They’d read it if a teacher made them, of course, and would identify the themes, and the character development, and so on. All that is very well done.

I love books that aim for joy.

I am hoping to review books that my kids would read for fun. So I’ll let the other folks review the ones the kids would have to read for school.

Lawhead On Tour

I decided to look at what the other Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy bloggers are saying about Stephen Lawhead’s novel Tuck.

Jill Williamson offers a nice summary of the previous two books in the series. This is a good place to start.

I was amazed to discover that this series has a “sound track”! Here is what Rachel Starr Thompson had to say:

“I also recommend paying a visit to the independent record label Ark Music , home of Jeff Johnson and Brian Dunning. Before I ever read The Paradise War , I listened to the music inspired by it — and Johnson and Dunning have been writing and releasing music based on Lawhead’s work ever since. It’s gorgeous stuff.” It’s eerie music. You can check it out on the Ark site.

Beth Goddard has an interview with Lawhead, da Man. It’s not recent, but hey, it’s very detailed, and tells you what is thinking about his characters.

Since the bloggers on this tour are Christians (many of them writers of Christian science fiction and fantasy), and since this book focuses on Tuck, a priest, there is plenty of conversation about Tuck’s faith, and the faith of the other characters. Keanan Brand found Tuck’s faith to be woven into the story, not preachy. Tim Hicks calls Tuck “a firm believer in the power of prayer.” Nevertheless, he’s ready with his staff when battle arrives. “Through it all, Tuck is a pacifist before the fight and a head-basher during it,” says Steve Rice.

It’s not just Tuck who has faith. Other characters are doing their best to live out their faith too. Becky Miller points out that the false religious ideas and the true ones are presented side-by-side, with no heavy-handed comment from the author–it’s up to the reader to discern. John W. Otte finds the variety of Christian viewpoints to be enriching.

Rachel Starr Thompson has such a way with words. She said it this way:

“Faith is a very real force in Tuck. Nearly every character claims it, be he villain or hero, priest or Norman soldier or Welsh king. Most believe themselves to be on God’s side—or at least sincerely hope they are—and most are wrong in some respect. God is on His own side, after all. But the men and women of Lawhead’s eleventh-century Britain never make the modern mistake of thinking that God is not involved at all.”

So, what genre are we in? Lawhead seems to have moved from fantasy to historic fiction in recent years. What is he up to? Brandon Barr answers that question with a quote he fished out of Lawhead’s Web site: “I don’t see strong boundaries between SF, fantasy or historical novels, at least not as I’m writing them. Regardless of the particular genre, I am trying to evoke a sense of wonder through the story.”

Everybody agreed that the story is a worthy one, written by a master.

Check out the posts of the others!

Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Keanan Brand
Rachel Briard
Grace Bridges
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Alex Field
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Kait
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Terri Main
Margaret
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
Eve Nielsen
Nissa
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Epic Rat
Steve Rice

Crista Richey
Hanna Sandvig
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson

Reading…

Just a report–I’m reading George Bryan Polivka’s book The Legend of the Firefish, Book 1 of his trilogy set in Nearing Vast.

I’m having trouble putting it down! That’s all I’ll tell you for now.

Sons of God by Rebecca Ellen Kurtz, a Review

Sons of God by Rebecca Ellen Kurtz, a Review

Self-published by Maximilian Press Publishers, 2007, 209 pages.

Genre: Christian horror. Think of Twilight, the Mummy movies or Indiana Jones, full of paranormal activity. But this one has a Biblical worldview. Also, it’s not for kids.

This novel doesn’t really fit with others I have reviewed. It’s not fantasy or science fiction. In fact, it’s at heart a romance. It describes plenty of violence, so much that I am glad it’s not a movie.

It does fit in with some others I have reviewed in that it is self-published and could use some editing. Kurtz is an amateur archeologist, not a professional writer. Occasionally she “tells” rather than “shows” action–mostly in these gory situations where I didn’t want to hear the details anyway. She also jumps around with her point of view from one character to another in an unsettling way, something a good editor would have changed. Dialogue is occasionally clunky and often too modern.

However, given the fact that the publishing industry pretty much shuts out unknown authors in this genre, I am often willing to check out self-published novels and look past the rough edges.

What I found was a wild tale of the paranormal: demons and immortal half-angels (some with vampire characteristics) sharing the earth with the rest of us, who are mostly unaware of them.

The protagonist of the book, Rachaev, is an immortal Nephilim (a halfbreed race, offspring of fallen angels and humans who mated at the dawn of time). Although her parents had chosen the evil path, she has chosen to follow Elohim (God). She is in a spiritually dry spell, lasting 2,500 years. At first she blames God, but she eventually figures out isn’t God’s fault.

There’s a love interest for Rachaev; after all this time she finally has found a man who interests her. However, it is forbidden for her to wed a human. How is this resolved? And how is she able to finally do what Elohim has commanded her to do (kill her evil, bloodthirsty mother, Ishtar)?

This book is for adults, because of the violence and the sexual tension (no sex scenes — the emphasis for Raechev is purity). If it were a movie, it would probably be rated somewhere between PG-13 and R.

The book is not only a story. It also contains translations of ancient manuscripts including the Bible, interpreting them to show that Nephilim, half-angel, half-human, are talked about in a variety of texts from around the world. I am not sure what to make of this. Is she arguing that Nephilim really exist? If so, this argument is muddying the waters–what she is selling is a tale, not a history.

It’s a gripping story, hard to put down once you get into it. The best thing about it is its rock-solid affirmation of the existence of God and his control of all things, and of his mercy–in providing eventual happiness for Raechev despite her long disobedience.–Phyllis Wheeler

Blaggard’s Moon by George Bryan Polivka, a Review

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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.