Friday, December 30, 2016

Upcoming Reviews for January

It's been a great Thanksgiving and Christmas season, but not a whole lot of reviews got done. Partly because I was celebrating these events with my family, and partly because I was busy completing and publishing my next book, Life in Hyperspace. (You can read more about it in an earlier blog post, or by clicking on the book image in the right panel...)

Anyway, onward and upward! Happy New Year to you all, and hope you have a blessed one. Here's a rundown on what I expect to conquer in this review blog over the next month:


A Way Out of Hell

30272966When ISIS turns your city into a living hell... ISIS unleashes a reign of terror across Indonesia. As a former jihadist, Abdullah knows all too well the high cost and absolute ineffectiveness of fighting such violence with violence. He accepts the impossible challenge of finding the ISIS cell hidden in his city, and disbanding it non-violently. But time is running out, and there may not be any city left to save. Meanwhile, he has to protect his adopted daughter Sari, a Christian university student, who is one of ISIS's targets. Together they come face-to-face with the holy warriors of mass destruction and strive to overcome that evil with good. In this riveting sequel to Someone Has to Die, Jim Baton introduces us to the real people caught in the web of terrorism, with their wide variety of backgrounds and motivations, and the possibility that they, too, can change.

24860887

The Scorpion

You watch the TV news every night and think you know what’s going on… think again.

Three friends stumble upon information that describes an underwater excavation site and refinery that processes a newly discovered source of energy. Who built the site? What is the fuel used for? What happened on December 26, 2004? The friends are determined to reveal the truth about their findings to the public and realize that just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s right. 
“The Scorpion is a Techno-Thriller on steroids!”

30761727

Oki and Harlo: Fairytale Friends

Oki, a little orphaned goat meets Harlo, a shooting star, who falls to earth and ends up in the field where Oki is asleep. They become instant best friends and together they go on a quest to find Oki's momma. 

On their adventure, the little friends encounter wise old, Mr. Owl, Wobbly, the chicken, and a little girl named Ellie and her family. 

Enter a world where children can safely go and learn about making friends, being honest, and believing in dreams, as well as healthy eating and the REAL purpose of rainbows! 

"Oki and Harlo, fairytale friends" is the first ever draw freely e-book. 
The story invites the readers to make their own illustrations. There are free-draw pages that have clear instructions on what to draw
27774433

One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot's Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview

by 
A US Marine fighter pilot explores life’s important questions as he prepares for combat, searches for truth, and wages spiritual warfare during his mission to become a better husband and father. “I highly recommend it.”— John Njoroge, speaker and radio host at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

Jason B. Ladd grows up in a military family with loving parents but spends his young life filled with spiritual apathy. Ladd enters the US Marine Corps, becomes a fighter pilot, and sees combat in Iraq before life events align to nudge him into profound spiritual inquiry. Digging deep into his quest for truth, he realizes the art and science of fighter pilot fundamentals can help him on his journey.

Filled with stories that contrast his spiritual apathy with his post-Christian worldview passion, One of the Few is the compelling life story of a spiritual seeker engaged in a thrilling profession combined with a strong, reasonable defense of Christianity.

For fans of Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, and Frank Turek, Ladd’s remarkable journey shares the transformative power of faith during a time when belief in God is dismissed and religious liberty in the military is attacked.

Beyond the Void Darkly

30283948Can a man and woman separated by a century and a half be destined for each other?

In a love story which spans from 2031 to 1883, a man wrestles with questions of faith, love, and destiny.

Matthew Walton is a man on a mission. As a pharmaceutical scientist working on a top-secret time travel project, his one goal in life is to find a cure for his mother's cancer. But when he sees a beautiful young woman in 19th century Kansas, the daughter of a doctor who may have stumbled across the cure, Matthew becomes enraptured and begins to wonder if there is such a thing as love at first sight.

But she can't see him, hear him, or feel him. To her, he is a ghost.

As he gets to know her from reading her faded old diary and repeated trips through time, Matthew's desire to make contact with Elizabeth grows in urgency, because he has seen her die.

And only he can save her.

Weaving in issues of philosophy, heartbreak and loss, Christian faith, and ultimately, hope, "Beyond the Void Darkly" will remain with you long after you have finished the story. It will make you believe in love again.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Review: Missing Piece by Uzo Okoye

Missing Piece
by Uzo Okoye

29406417A desperate search for what ‘more’ there is to life, eventually leads John Williams to answers. But tragically, everything falls apart, just as his journey appears to be complete. His picture-perfect life is stripped apart - piece by piece - and lies in a crumpled heap. To make matters worse, a troubling dark secret from his past returns to haunt him.


Will John accept his new reality? Is he brave enough to fight for the truth? Or will the enticement to return to his seeming perfect past prove too much of a temptation to resist?


My Take:
John Williams was a rising star in the law firm of Malone and Malone. He was soon set to become partner, but it was coming at a high cost. The demands of the job were destroying his marriage and he had become a stranger even to his kids. His beautiful home, the fancy clothes, the well-groomed executive were just a brittle facade, a house of cards, hiding a broken man with a dark secret.

The pressures of the job, the coldness of his home, the deadness of his marriage, and the emptiness in his soul was driving him to seek solace in the arms of a string of mistresses, to bury himself in work, even to seek answers in the bottom of a bottle. But nothing could fill the black hole eating him from the inside out.

Even as he finds the answer he seeks, his world crumbles around him, and he must choose to stand for truth, even if it costs him everything, or return to the empty gold-plated past.



Content:
Drug Content:
PG - There is some heavy drinking. John descends into drunken rages, and wrecks his car, getting a DUI. Alcoholism is portrayed pretty candidly. Some of the characters are toying with drugs, going to parties where drugs will be available.

Violence:
PG - There's not a lot of violence in the main story, but reference is made to an event in a client's past that is pretty horrific, eliminating the people in an entire village.

Language:
PG - There's a small amount of cussing. The F-bomb is not dropped, that I recall.

Adult Content:
PG - Someone gets a girl pregnant, and has to deal with the results. There's no sexual content, though mistresses are mentioned in several places, as well as some candid office talk about the conquests of the partners in the firm.

Christian content:
This is a solidly Christian conversion story. Several people in the book, through lots of struggle and resistance, come to faith in Christ. The gospel message is pretty clearly presented. Drug and alcohol addiction and its collateral damage are fairly well portrayed. Characters have to make hard choices and depend on their faith to see them through.

Final analysis:
This novel is well-written. The characters are believable and their struggles are real. The action and pace are not rapid, but the drama and conflicts are raw and realistic. It's a compelling story and a pretty quick read. Five Stars!

About the Author:
Little did Uzo Okoye know what God had in store for her when six years ago, she was awakened by a restlessness that persisted. Thus, would begin a journey of many doubts, frustrations, in an attempt to discern answers.
 
During this time of unsettledness and a deep cry for real answers, surprisingly she is ignited with a desire to write, the answers that formed the basis of a book idea.
 
No sooner, risking leaving the familiar, her comfort zone and stepping into the unknown, Uzo began the challenging but exciting work of writing her debut fiction novel, ‘Missing Piece’.
 
Forever grateful to God for entrusting her with this gift, she looks forward to hearing the many testimonies of how ‘Missing Piece’ inspires hope and produces lasting peace, joy and new way of living realised through a personal encounter and walk with Jesus Christ.
 
Missing Piece was published in June 2016, and the ebook is currently available for order on Amazon Kindle, iTunes, Kobo and other retailers. 
 
Uzo is a Management graduate from the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria, and currently works as an IT professional in the United Kingdom.
 
She is a member of the dynamic and flourishing church Kings Court Chapel, located in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire under the senior leadership of Pastor Sola and Pastor Tumise Ewedemi. On Sundays, she enjoys using her gift of teaching Kingdom truths to the delightful and inquisitive kids aged seven and eight.
 
Married to Ejike Okoye, the couple share their home with their three beautiful children in Hemel Hempstead, the eastern part of England.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The book that's taken twenty years to write...

The book that’s taken twenty plus years and a lot of hard knocks to write is finally complete and edited. If you have ADD/ADHD kids of your own and are in need of a laugh or maybe a little help, check this one out...
Christmas Eve, I finally launched the book about our life at home with four ADD/ADHD kids.This is packed full of laughs and advice from parents who have been there in the trenches.
Here’s the back cover blurb:
Spraypainting the cat? What was he thinking?
With four year college degrees under our belts and a dab of training in Child Psychology, my wife and I thought we were ready for anything when it came to this parenting gig.
We had no idea we would be outnumbered and outgunned. From diet to riot, meds to charts, we’ve tried it all, to train up our kids in the way they should grow.
From the Home School of Hard Knocks, our four ADD and ADHD kids have taught us more about coping and planning ahead than any four year college degree could have, especially when it comes to understanding what goes on in the mind of a five year old in a Buzz Lightyear costume flying on a treadmill. To Infinity, and Beyond.
Links are available on my author website at www.lynvia.com.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled reviews...

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Review: Not Alone by Gaelyn Whitley Keith

Not Alone
by Gaelyn Whitley Keith

26489271Find a comfortable chair and spend a few hours with Joe-and if you're blessed in a magnificent way, you may encounter a world that can change your life forever. Have a good visit! Have any of you suffered an injustice, been overlooked, ignored, rejected? Has anyone been denied, repudiated, negated, humiliated, devastated, infuriated, frustrated, or transgressed upon? You're a good person. So why have people disrespected, slighted, wounded, snubbed, oppressed, held down, discriminated against, beaten down, distressed, tortured, haunted, bullied, teased, tormented or talked smack about you? Why? And when it was over, did you think... I don't deserve this! Why me? I'm a good person! If someone is going to get divorced, have a heart attack, be mugged or raped, blown up by a terrorist, lose a limb in an accident, be swindled, slandered, foreclosed on, or fired, don't you think it should happen to someone who deserves it? It should never happen to me! I'm a good person! Well, if any of this has happened to you, I just want you to know that Joseph Michael Moretti has found the answer! www.TruthWins.com

My Take:
Joe Moretti has it all - a beautiful wife, a thriving business, a lovely home on the beach, and five kids who are successfully launched into life. He has a strong faith in God and a stellar future.

But in the spiritual realm, Satan has maligned him and petitioned God to remove the hedge of protection around the life of Joe and his family, and when he loses it all, Joe will curse God to His face. So God gives Satan carte blanc to attack Joe and his family, but denies him freedom to take his life. Will Joe retain his faith, or turn his back on God?



Content:
Drug Content:
PG - There is some heavy drinking at a party or two. 

Violence:
R+ - There is a very bloody scene where demon-driven Satan worshippers do something horrific to multiple people. One is beheaded, there is torture mentioned. There is rape and murder in that scene. The aftermath scene is described somewhat but not in explicit detail.

Language:
PG-13 - There's a significant amount of cussing, from demons, and from Christians as well. The F-bomb is not dropped, that I recall.

Adult Content:
PG-13 - As mentioned above, there's rape, torture, and murder briefly described. The description is somewhat disjointed but still disturbing. Several scenes occur where married couples have sex, but the description doesn't get too graphic.

Christian content:
This is a retelling of the story of Job, with a few twists. It has a bit of scripture in it, and the characters struggle with their faith under tremendous pressure. The depiction of the spiritual world is given as much airtime as the physical realm, and the battles between the angels and demons are violent and compelling. The characters are Catholic and seek help from a priest. Some of his advice is sound. There's a substantial amount of content that points to Word of Faith teaching. Parts of this novel are very dark, and delve into questions of sanity, evil, God's sovereignty, Satan's purpose and power, and our power over our circumstances and his attacks.

Final analysis:
There are parts of this novel that could use a good edit, but the characters and their struggles are very real, the questions raised and stakes compelling. The battles in the spiritual realm and the minions that wage them were exciting but a bit confusing. For the most part, this book was a good look into the circumstances, psychology, and spiritual struggle contained in Job, and as such has merit and value. I found the pace a bit slow. The settings were realistic, the emotions raw; four stars

Monday, December 19, 2016

Review: No Pizza Delivery? (Horse Haven #1) by Grace Marshall

No Pizza Delivery? (Horse Haven #1)
by Grace Marshall

30458861Manure, southern accents, self-absorbed boys, and new faces are all a part of the maze that have become Ruth Deloach’s life.

Her world is sent spinning when she finds out she is going to be ripped from America’s Dairyland to live in the embarrassingly small tourist town of Sainte Genevieve, Missouri. The blow is slightly lessened by the news that her father wants to start a horse ranch, but how enjoyable will it really be to live where there is no pizza delivery and a revolving door to the public? A public with a different idea of how things are done and said. To add embarrassment to her frustration she finds she knows less about horses than she presumed. Maybe the handsome ranch hand her father hires can brighten things up, then again, maybe not.

My Take:
When Ruth Deloach's father announces he's selling the house and moving to a ranch in southern Missouri, she's sure her world is coming to an end. While the move will give her life on a ranch with horses to ride, she will be losing all of her friends from Wisconsin, and the life she's built in the North.

Out in the backwoods of Missouri, Ruth learns some important lessons about friendship, trust, and life on a ranch, which can be messy, hard, and rewarding, as long as you can get past the fact that there's... no pizza delivery.


Content:
Drug Content:
G - Almost none. There's one reference to drugs and alcohol in passing, about public school.

Violence:
G - None at all, there's just a tad of shouting, and one scene where a turkey gets brutally taken down.

Language:
G - there is not any cussing that I recall in the book.

Adult Content:
PG - There's some slight wistful longings, pursuit,  and such between the 14 year old Ruth and a new handsome ranch hand. That situation could have gone a different and dangerous direction.

Christian content:
The family are quiet but solid Christians. They pray before meals, and one of their priorities in finding a new home, is finding a new home church. There is a sermon at that church that has impact and life application for Ruth. Their Christian character is mentioned at least once by an outside observer.

Final analysis:
The conflict level in this book is pretty low - the main villain in the story starts out being the move itself, and how it will impact Ruth and her friend circle. As I'm all about action, I found the pacing a bit slow for my liking, though there were some definite high points.

The Christian elements in the story were undercurrents but strong. I gained some insight into the mind of a teen daughter, which would have been helpful to know back when my girls were younger. The characters and backdrop were well-depicted and realistic. As this is the first in an apparently lighthearted series, the conflict level was probably appropriate, and the novel found good resolution while opening up plenty of room for the series to launch. Five Stars!

About the Author:
Grace  MarshallChristian Young Adult and New Adult Books That Provoke Thought! Grace Marshall is the author of the “Horse Haven” series as well as "Person of Faith"; she has also contributed several articles to newspapers. She enjoys hanging out with her dashing husband, J. Lindsey Marshall, their saucy cat, Amerigo Vespucci, and their playful Mastiff puppy, Mini. Grace loves all animals but especially horses. She has lived in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Tennessee, and currently resides in the Missouri hills. She believes in living life to the fullest and can’t wait to see where God will take her or have her write next! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Review: Truth Be Told by Justine Hemmestad

Truth Be Told
by Justine Hemmestad, Bradley Hemmestad (Illustrator)

29770591Truth be Told is the story of an insightful knight who helps a lady save herself, with the help of her true love, Jesus. Justine Johnston Hemmestad’s first novella was conceived when she was recovering from a car accident 25 years ago in which she suffered a severe brain injury; she is now a wife and the mother of 7 children, as she pursues a Master’s Degree in Literature and continues to write.

My Take:
In an era of knights and chivalry, the war between Wales and England is in full swing. It is a war of beliefs as much as culture, and Lady Meggy, her betrothed, and her knight are caught in the crossfire.
When Lady Meggy is informed that her betrothed has been severely injured, she rushes off with the knight who informed her, unaware of the danger she is in. With her carriage attacked and destroyed and the knights protecting her are slaughtered by overwhelming odds.

One knight, Sir Lawrence, flees with her into the surrounding woods, vowing to deliver her to her betrothed unharmed, at the expense of his honor. And what awaits them ahead in the forest may be more dangerous than the hordes of the Welsh behind.



Content:
Drug Content:
G - None. I don't even remember any drinking.

Violence:
G - Though several knights are killed in the battle at the carriage, there's not any graphic detail.

Language:
G - there is not any cussing that I recall in the book.

Adult Content:
PG - There's some slight wistful longings and such between Meggy and her companion. Some more between her and her betrothed. 

Christian content:
For the most part, this novella presents itself strongly as a Christian work. Scripture is quoted in multiple places. There are some questionable statements in the mix that gave me a check, but i can't recall what they were. I'd say the work is clearly Christian, but be prepared to discuss any questions with a teen reading it.

Final analysis:
Let's start by saying this is a Novella, which is not something I normally read/review. That having been said, the story was a faith-filled adventure and in places the action, adventure, and puzzles were entertaining, and the drama faith filled and challenging to one's walk. All in a good work.
However, a large portion of the work was almost poetic in nature, and consisted mostly of semi-stilted conversations between the characters, with nuances and hidden things 'not said' that were implied.
While I realize that the people of the day probably talked that way, it was enough to break me out of the story multiple times, and that's unfortunate, because it was an interesting story. Four Stars.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Review: A Shield in the Shadows by L.A. Racines

A Shield in the Shadows
by L.A. Racines

25460451In 405 AD, a raid from a band of marauding Huns destroys a Christian village in the heart of barbarian Germania. Among those forced to flee are the pastor and his strong-willed, sixteen-year-old daughter Theona.

They lead a tiny group of survivors on a quest to find a new, safer place to settle, and ultimately join a massive invasion into the Roman Empire assembling on the banks of the Danube River. 

The invasion is led by Gothic king Radagaisus, described by ancient writers as “a worshipper of demons”. His drive to conquer the tempting lands across the river is fueled by his anger at Rome for abandoning the old pagan gods and adopting Christianity as the new state religion. What will he do when he finds that among the thousands of people joining the invasion, he is harboring Christians? And what will Theona do when she quickly draws the interest of Radagaisus’s impetuous son, Roderic? 

Young Gallic aristocrat Marius Ausonius, unaware of the looming threat, joins the Roman Army to train as a tribune. Too soon after his training, he and his cohort are thrust into the eye of the storm when they must defend one of the key strongholds blocking Radagaisus and his hordes. 

The lives of Marius and Theona become intertwined in incredible circumstances that will have far-reaching consequences for both of them and their people. 

My Take:
Pinned between an army of invading Huns and the fading Roman empire, High King Radagaisus makes a cataclysmic decision to invade Rome and sacrifice their Senators to his pagan gods rather than fight the bloodthirsty invading Huns. Nestled in his massive invading force, complete with families and wagons and livestock, is a small band of Christians, forced to join the invasion to escape the tragedy and death behind them. Theona, the beautiful daughter of Pastor Rhodus, having watched her family and village viciously and pointlessly murdered by a band of Hun raiders, finds herself thrust into the limelight as the son of the High King notices her, seemingly by chance.

The chance encounter with Prince Roderic quickly draws Theona into the unwanted attention of the vicious and bloodthirsty king, who wants no Christian in his camp, let alone his family!

Meanwhile, Marius Ausonius, the son of a Roman Gallic Aristocrat, joins the army as Tribune, unaware of the impending invasion, and the central part he will play in it.

As nations and faiths struggle for supremacy around them, Marius, Roderic, and Theona try to come to grips with their differences, their hearts, and the God who guides them.




About the Author:
L. A. Racines is the pen name of Cheryl Bristow, Quebec born, graduate of McGill University in Anthropology, and clergy wife, mother and grandmother. When not raising her family and supporting her husband's work in Anglican parishes in Quebec and Ontario, Cheryl has taught in Nigeria, written a number of published freelance articles, worked in administrative capacities in a number of NGOs and charities, and been a fundraiser. Cheryl's love of adventure, travel, dogs and people of all kinds are contributing factors to the plot development of A Shield in the Shadows.

This historical novel is her first, with three more to follow, and in April of 2016, it tied for first place in the Indie Book Awards--The Next Generation in the category of Christian Fiction. It is also a finalist in the Historical Fiction category of Canada's The Word Guild awards.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Review: Arm in Arm with the Holy Spirit by Patrick Day

Arm in Arm with the Holy Spirit
by Patrick Day

31570503Paul Chambers is perplexed and frustrated. He wants to experience more of God in his life more of the time but is thwarted by his flawed humanity and the demands of the modern world. At every turn, he has to choose between his way or God's way, and God's way too often comes up short - until he learns to listen to the Holy Spirit.

He starts telling the story of his spiritual journey the day he is diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. As he looks back, he sees that his busy life, demanding job, and tendency to do things his own way have interfered with experiencing a consistently close relationship with God. 
But Paul is not on his own. The Holy Spirit shows up in a series of encounters, revelations, and metaphors that transform Paul's faith and empower him to walk arm in arm with the Holy Spirit every step of the way.

My Take:
The author's personal battle with cancer and struggle to reach a point of walking with God most of the time, sound loud and clear in this story, which is both a fictional account and a reflection of the author's path of discovery.

Paul Chambers uses the devastating news that he has terminal pancreatic cancer as the catalyst for him to write his memoirs, with the help of his loving wife Molly. The news affacts all the poeple who do life with him, and their input is invaluable in helping him along this dark path to the brilliant light of Heaven.


 Content:
Violence:
PG-13 - The only violence in this book is the ravages that cancer performs on the body of its victim. In that respect, it's painful to read as I empathize with the experience, having watched several close family members and friends succumb to the disease. The book realistically describes the pain, the nausea, the treatments, and their side effects.

Language:
PG - There are very few curse words in this novel.

Drug Content:
PG -  The effects of morphine are described, and other drugs used in the treatment of cancer and its symptoms. Drinking is discussed and the main character was an occasional drinker prior to his conversion.

Adult Content:
PG - One minor character appears to objectify women. Most all other dealings in the book are squeaky clean.

Christian content:
Very heavy. The story covers a spiritual journey over a span of thirty years in the life of the main character. Scripture is quoted and metaphors are sometimes drawn from other works. One of some concern is Watchman Nee. There was a misquote of Eric Liddell's famous line, "...when I run I feel His pleasure." However, what I read in the book seemed grounded.
While the main character seems to listen and follow the inner leading of the Holy Spirit through the revelation of visions, he is warned by wise friends to be cautious, because every inner voice is not from God. Examples are given where the Spirit leads Paul, and others where he discovers the voice and thought was his own. The admonishment is given that we should be striving to be 'with' God, rather than asking Him to be 'with' us. After all, He's always with us, He promised in Heb 13:5, but we are not always 'with' Him.

Final analysis:
Arm in Arm with the Holy Spirit was an encouraging, thought-provoking life journey in growing closer to God and hearing His still small voice. Coupled with brilliant insight into our struggle to be like Christ or be IN the world but not OF the world, Patrick Day immerses the reader in the life of one dying of cancer, and dealing with the brevity of life, the mortality of our flesh, and the hope beyond death. While some portions seemed to drag for me, the meat for my daily walk is impossible to miss and dangerous to ignore. Clear, memorable metaphors abound that help the reader determine whether they are listening to God or hearing from the world, the flesh, and the devil. There's life application that can be gleaned here, that leads me to give this book Five Stars.


About The Author
Patrick DayPatrick Day's active Christianity has seen him work as a church elder, prison minister, Sunday school teacher, mentor, and long-time Gideon. As a cancer survivor, he has first-hand insight into the healing power of God and the enduring human spirit.

His passion for writing grew from a Master's Degree in English Literature at the University of Minnesota and encompassed his twin careers of education and advertising.

He is an author of two previous novels: Too Late in the Afternoon and Murders and Genealogy in Hennepin County. He also writes a weekly blog entitled the Melody of the Holy Spirit, which you can access at www.melody33.com.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Review: Arcpoint Traveler: Book One by John Wozniak

Arcpoint Traveler: Book One
by John Wozniak

32927533Arcon Franklin has grown up in ArcPoint, a community isolated for over two centuries by an impenetrable mass of tangled briars, as well as an enormous chasm known simply as "the Rift." The people of ArcPoint believe they have created a utopia: no crime, no greed, no unmet needs, and no worries. They do not care to re-connect with the outside world-to them, it is a place of anarchy and terror. Arcon once felt the same way-but no longer. Defying tradition, he establishes communication with the outside world-specifically, a girl named Elaina. Over the years, their rebellious connection blossoms into a desire for a lifetime relationship. Soon, Arcon is risking his life to make his escape. Major religions, ancient civilizations, and even modern day sociologists all point to a coming age of mass terror and chaos. But what happens after that age-after we escape into our own isolated communities, our own versions of ArcPoint? Is a time coming when we put down our weapons? Can evil be stopped, or is it an inescapable part of human nature? In ArcPoint Traveler, John Wozniak examines evidence from the Bible and current events to create a frighteningly realistic scenario of the future. Concise and fast-paced-because time is short-this debut novel reminds us of what can happen when one man is willing to risk it all.

My Take:
Nestled in a remote part of the Mojave Desert, the tiny Christian community of ArcPoint seems like the perfect, isolated utopia. The genetically modified Arc Trees, a source of food and fuel for the community, also creates an impenetrable region of massive needle-sharp briers. Nobody gets out, and nobody gets in. And that was a good thing, as two hundred years ago, the world had gone crazy, murdering one another and devolving into total anarchy. Then the radios went silent. But the ArcPoint community thrived in its isolation.
But that was back then. Now, the society of ArcPoint is in trouble. With inexplicable declining birth rates and a critical lack of females, the small Christian community is about to die off. And Arcon Franklin, descendant of the founder, isn't satisfied with life in the community. He feels an unquenchable drive to leave, to pass the barrier and meet the girl he's contacted on the outside. Will he find love, and purpose, in the world outside? Or will he bring about the destruction of the world he's known?
Content:
Drug Content:
G - if there's anything alcoholic in the novel, it's not obvious. 

Violence:
PG - There's a very real danger from the four inch long thorns forming a deadly barrier around the community, and risk from the coyotes living in the perimeter of the barrier. There's a risk of death in the bottomless rift protecting the community, and some minor descriptions of the violence in the world outside. In one scene a couple is blown up from an accident involving a pressure cooker. Arcon bears the scars of many falls into the thorns.

Language:
PG - there is not any cussing that I recall in the book. The D word might be dropped a time or two.

Adult Content:
PG - The father of the girl Arcon has been communicating with has a discussion with the Ranger about sleeping arrangements and the risks involved in that. There's some discussion of fertility and barrenness.

Christian content:
The community is strongly Christian, if isolationist. Most of the characters in the book wear their faith like a comfortable cloak. The book is set during the Millennium Reign of Jesus, so for the most part there is virtually no evil except in flashbacks to the past. God gives guidance and orchestrates the lives of individuals, and they depend on His provision, guidance, and grace. I'll give latitude on the possible divergence of the plot to biblical prophesy in Revelation, as there are varying views as to when and how the Tribulation is to take place, etc. As a whole the book is wholesome and solid and an example of God's provision, guidance, and the faith of the believer.

Final analysis:
The genetic enhancements of the ArcPoint trees is well-thought out, and interestingly described. The world inside the utopian society is well-constructed and the plot is interesting. The novel is a fast-paced, encouraging read, and the world building is excellent. The characters are real enough, and the book is clean and uplifting. Five Stars!


About The Author(s):
John Wozniak is a retired international trouble-shooter in a mechanical trade.  He joined Mensa at age 28, and is currently owner of Elisha Records. He enjoys the lapidary and jewelry hobby with his wife of 30+ years in their home in Oregon.

As a trouble-shooter, he was tasked with creating multiple “what if” scenarios to protect millions of dollars worth of equipment against damage. He researched every option and contingency, because failure was extremely costly. When he transitioned from being an atheist to belief in a Creator, he utilized those skills in his faith. He discovered new terms like end of days, rapture, tribulation, and millennium. Like other buzzwords, their use was widespread, and their meanings were convoluted. In this book series, Wozniak examines life in a world after these events have happened. Actually, two lives and two worlds, that are about to collide.


Friday, November 4, 2016

Review: How Two: Have a Successful Relationship by Phil and Maude Mayes

How Two: Have a Successful Relationship
by Phil and Maude Mayes

30075491Back Cover Blurb:
Do you and your partner argue too much? Are you always fighting about who is right? Are you feeling estranged and distant? In How Two: Have a Successful Relationship, experts Phil and Maude share their process and their radically different approach to relating. They insist that conflict is not inevitable and that it is possible to have a passionate and peaceful relationship.

Phil and Maude share a simple step by step understanding that is easily accessible to everyone. Their strong desire to make their direct experience available to all couples shines through their writing and will renew your faith in what is possible and attainable. In these pages you will learn:

* How to find mutual solutions to decision making and problem solving
* How to remain an individual within the relationship
* How to break the vicious cycle of anger and recrimination
* How to avoid the pitfalls that create separation and estrangement
* How to keep that original loving connection to your partner

This book is a gem. It's short, it's practical, it's based on real life experience. If you want to improve your relationship, this is the book for you.

My Take:
Phil and Maude Mayes have taken their peaceful relationship over many years and built a platform to assist other couples in achieving the same level of harmony, acceptance, and oneness in a relationship.

They have  a thriving ministry, if you will, to couples through youTube and an online blogs on their website, www.PhilandMaude.com

The book covers the art of communication, acceptance, conflict resolution, intimacy, peace, and respect for one's self and one another pretty candidly through personal experience and interviews of other couples. Each chapter begins with a quote from people like John Denver, Dr. Phil McGraw, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Maggie Scarf, and Donna Quesada, contains information from Phil and Maude's personal story, and a conversation back and forth between them, ending in a question and answer session from other couples at various stages of their relationships.



Content:
Violence:
As this is nonfiction, I expected none, and got none - not even a description of domestic violence. ;-)

Language:
None. It's clean.

Adult Content:
PG - The book covers sexuality and intimacy but there's nothing graphic at all in it. Even the question and answer sessions don't devolve much into any real details of the couples sex lives, only about the intimacy of sharing touch and time together, cuddling and watching TV, that sort of thing. One statement from a couple was that 'We see sex as an act, and intimacy as a connection.'

Christian content:
Oh my. From a Christian perspective, this book is rife with issues. It has plenty of spirituality and faith embedded inside but it's New Age and Eastern Mysticism. Zen and Karma make appearances in places, and the quotes are from mostly followers of that worldview. If that's your cup of tea, you probably would get something out of this, but from a Christian perspective, you might get more confusion than answers.

Final analysis:
There aren't many typos in this book, and the organization of the subject matter is solid. The topics are relevant and it covers important ground. However, I found the 'Conversations' portions to be merely a recap with simple agreement from the other partner back and forth. So I found the 'yes man' feedback unnecessary, and the book would have improved if those were simply stricken from the conversation. Some of the couples interviewed did not even cohabitate, so I found their input irrelevant, and from a Christian perspective, the subject of marriage, weddings, commitment, and vows to be almost lacking. And that's disheartening. The presence of a different worldview was another thing that made it difficult for me to complete this book, but setting differences aside, the book has some relevance. Four Stars.

About the Authors:
Phil MayesPhil Mayes lives in Santa Barbara, California, having started in London, England. Phil is a software developer, photographer and writer. He likes cats, movies, chocolate and quirky people. He is married to Maude Mayes, a fact that continues to amaze and delight him.







Maude MayesMaude Mayes lives in Santa Barbara, California, having started in New York City. Maude and her husband and co-author Phil Mayes have been writing and speaking about spreading peace one relationship at a time for many years. They wrote the book Secrets of a Successful Relationship Revealed, and write a weekly relationship newsletter, as well as a weekly blog available on their website http://PhilandMaude.com. Phil and Maude are the producers of a number of relationship videos, as well as the series Kit and Kat Relationship Experts, all of which are to be found on their YouTube channel The Couples Project. They have been featured in a number of live interviews and write articles, both online and in print.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Review: Inevitable Ascension by V.K. McAllister


29563845The innocent never waver from doing what’s right, even if it means drowning the world in fire. 

Violina had been burned and betrayed by mankind ever since she sprang into existence. They named her a heretic and condemned her to a pit to live and die in agony. Though she sat stranded, starved and bloodied, she would not submit. Violina, the girl who had been mocked and hunted for rejecting the warped ideals of artificial authority, would lay down her own law. 



Inevitable Ascension — The rapid-fire action/adventure novel packed with a host of twists that will make your mind explode! But not literally, otherwise that would be really gross.

My Take:
In Inevitable Ascension, plot twists and non-stop action make for an amazingly fast and enjoyable read. The main characters, Violina and Lux, begin as 'hunters', mainly poaching for live animals for a post-apocalyptic advanced society in a sprawling mega-city called Eden. 

Their last job, however, didn't go as planned, as they were stiffed their fee to retrieve cloned 'Reichoden', a fluffy form of dinosaur long extinct, with soft down and razor sharp teeth. Cloning is illegal, and the Enforcers or Wardens are coming to shut down the scientific lab that is experimenting with the new acquisitions, so Violina and Lux decide to steal the cuddly monstrocities back, leaving the lab to explain to the authorities how they 'lost' the dangerous specimens.

As is often the case, things don't go as planned, and the two girls are propelled back in time, where an inadvertent act of kindness sets things in motion to destroy their future world and possibly end their own existence. Every attempt they make to correct the past seems to end up making things worse, and the resultant far future seems to end in a toxic world that ends Mankind.

Violina uses her amazing tech and resourcefulness combined with an incredible inability to die to try to save the people of each time era, while they try to end her by any means possible. Their depravity and ingratitude leaves her wondering if the human race is even worth saving?


Content:
Drug Content:
PG - There is some drinking in the book, and a few heavily inebriated minor characters. 

Violence:
R+ - This book seems bent on ending the human race. Lots and lots of people die, in explosions, war, poisons, and flamethrower immolation. A practice called 'Separation' by a group of fanatics in the far future involves ripping a person apart, separating bones, flesh and blood. This results in a tower of bones, a fountain of blood, and a flesh pit. I won't say this book isn't graphic. 

Language:
PG - there is not any cussing that I recall in the book. The D word might be dropped a time or two.

Adult Content:
G - I really don't remember any at all, not even innuendo.

Christian content:
Well... This book is rife with parallels to scriptural stories, just a bit 'off'. The main 'god' in the book is the Second Sun, a glowing hot orb that is a satellite of the planet. It eventually leaves the planet with a message, pulled partly from Revelation, that leaves no hope for humanity and they are left to perish in a toxic atmosphere on a relatively desert planet. People from the biblical account show up, like Adam, Eve, Cain, Enoch, Noah, the A.R.C. The total depravity of Man is pretty well explored, but rather than having a Savior it's pretty well condemned. People can attain immortality, at a high cost. There is a strong culture of death as liberation, and there is some discussion about life after death.

Final analysis:
Inevitable Ascension was written by a husband and wife team, writing in secret apart from each other and combining their stories when done. One would think this would result in a train wreck, but the book didn't have one of those. Instead, it's a cohesive, entertaining (if graphic) post-post-post-apocalyptic thriller that is immersive and thought-provoking. The epochs covered during Violina's and Lux's adventure reminded me a lot of Chrono Trigger, and I considered that the story would do well as a video game. Just hopefully with less blood and gore. Well-written, fast-paced, adventure-packed, I couldn't put it down. Five Stars!

About The Author(s):
V.K. McAllisterWe're a husband/wife duo with a unique approach to writing. We work simultaneously and in secret before combining what we come up with, resulting in dramatic and unexpected twists! Crazy? Yes, yes it is.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Review: The Ivory Caribou by Caroline McCullagh

The Ivory Caribou
by Caroline McCullagh

30301772Is it a love story? Or is it an adventure story? Or is it a commentary on the tragedy of war? It is all of these, and more.  Caroline McCullagh weaves a thrilling and dynamic story around Anne O’Malley’s genealogical search for the story of her late husband’s father that takes her to the far North of Canada to find new relatives among the Inuit culture, to Europe behind the lines in World War I, and back to the small Inuit village where she finds romance.

My Take:
When Anne O'Malley's husband died, her world seemed to come to an end. As so often happens when a spouse dies, her world collapsed in on itself, and she was caught going through the motions of just surviving.

After about a year of this mourning, her lifetime housekeeper Carola encouraged her to break out of the depression and pursue her husband Robbie's goal of finding out more about his long dead father.

The genealogical research leads her to Ottawa Canada, and from there to the far North, searching for answers. Little did she suspect that what she would find there was romance and a new future.

The Ivory Caribou is a story of romance and adventure in the frozen North among the Inuit, as well as a journey to the past, replete with espionage and tragedy overseas during World War I. It gives the reader a solid understanding of the life and times of the Inuit, or Eskimo, peoples in their battle to survive in the frozen wilderness around the Arctic Circle.


Content:
Violence:
PG - While this book covers some of the atrocities of WWI there is actually little wartime violence on screen. Natural predators, weather conditions, and plague are the major antagonists in this novel, and while violent, their ravages are not given in graphic detail.

Language:
PG-13 - There are a few curse words scattered sporadically in this novel, and the F-bomb is dropped once in a critical plot point.

Drug Content:
PG-13 -  Drinking occurs to excess in a few places. One incident involves a few overly drunken locals causing trouble. Several scenes occur at bars, and one person has to be escorted to their hotel room repeatedly because of their inebriated state. Harder drugs do not seem to make an appearance in the book, at least that i recall.

Adult Content:
R - The main character ends up in multiple sexual encounters, and their accounts give significant detail, mainly over the foreplay. A woman at a bar is a known 'easy target', and two female characters compete over a male companion. Adultery occurs in several scenes, though it has consequences, and there is some frank discussion about the value and status of women in the Inuit culture. Some shopping for undergarments occurs in preparation for a tryst. One character lies to cover up an affair.

Christian content:
In the world of World War I, a character consults a priest and takes classes to become Catholic so he can marry a woman. His respect for the priest is genuine, but he already has a wife back home that he despairs of ever returning to. Guilt over sin occurs in multiple places, but is never taken to the cross. The gods of the Inuit are explored somewhat, as well as amulets and rituals to protect from their wrath. Most of the characters in the book have little or no faith exposed.

Final analysis:
The world of the frozen North, its challenges for survival and its rich history are explored and displayed in immersive glory, and it's where this book really shines. The quality of the writing is strong, and the characters are believable. The world of the past in WWI is clearly described, and the challenges of life as a spy in wartime are intriguingly portrayed. The romance permeating this book was too much of a focal point for me, but I suspect I'm not a regular target reader and that the indulgence in romance would be attractive to other readers. The action wasn't really gripping to me, but the characters were real and their emotional scars raw. What really stood out was the world building, and that earned this book Five Stars.

About the Author:
Caroline McCullaghCaroline McCullagh, award-winning author of The Ivory Caribou, coauthor of American Trivia & American Trivia Quiz Book with Richard Lederer, earned a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of California, San Diego. Her diverse writing projects include five novels, a cookbook, a memoir, a student opera (under the auspices of San Diego Opera), fourteen years of monthly book reviews for the San Diego Horticultural Society, and one year as Books Editor for The American Mensa Bulletin. For the past three years, Caroline has written a weekly column for the San Diego Union-Tribune with Richard Lederer. As a professional editor, she teaches creative writing two days a week.  The Ivory Caribou, then titled Fire and Ice, was a past Winner at the San Diego Book Awards as Best Unpublished Novel. Caroline has won twice and has been a finalist once.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Review: The Emblem Throne: Runes of Issalia II by Jeffrey Kohanek

The Emblem Throne: The Runes of Issalia, Book II (Volume 2)
By Jeffrey Kohanek

32344265
As they strive to become Masters within the Ministry, Brock and his friends resume their training at the Academy, an institution founded on magic, science, knowledge, law, and combat. They soon discover an expansive web of conspiracies and deceit within the Ministry, hidden behind a veil of benevolence and piety. The exposure of one of those secrets forces Brock and his friends to flee the institution with their lives in the balance.

Joined by a fierce Tantarri warrior, the group embarks on a quest to locate a mysterious throne that has been lost for centuries. Guided by the cryptic words of an ancient prophecy, and backed by a forbidden magic that they are still learning to wield, they journey across the continent to save humanity from extinction.

My Take:
The Emblem Throne picks up where the Buried Symbol left off. As Brock and his friends return to the Academy, he is quickly exposed as an Unchosen and imprisoned, to be shipped off to work in a mine. But Brock's friends break him out and they escape the academy. On the run and hunted as outlaws, and one step ahead of invading hordes of nightmarish monsters bent on humanity's extinction, Brock and his friends race against time to find the Emblem Throne and uncover the means to deliver mankind from its greatest threat.

Content:
Drug Content:
PG - There is a minor amount of drinking in this book, and a few heavily inebriated minor characters.

Violence:
R - The invading hordes are merciless in their horrific violence, though the graphic nature of the battles are not gratuitous. Swordfighting and magical attacks abound, and there are quite a few decapitations. The violence is a bit less graphic than in the first book.

Language:
PG - there is not any cussing that I recall in the book.

Adult Content:
PG. The main character has a steady girlfriend, and they have a physical relationship, but the story doesn't pursue anyone into the bedroom. Other characters also find partners in the story. There is some discussion that the Unchosen are forbidden from marrying officially, but they do often publicly declare their vows, even if the State doesn't recognize their unions.

Christian content:
None at all. The main god in this book is Issal, the god of Order, and Order and Chaos are set against each other in the book, somewhat like Yin and Yang. Order is described as the life force in all living things, similar to the Jedi religion of Star Wars fame. Chaos, the hidden symbol and power from the first book, is more power and death, and is pitted as the thing that will save humanity. There are moments when characters mention praying to Issal to save them. Or to receive fallen comrades.

Final analysis:
The Emblem Throne is, if anything, a more riveting read than the first one. It is well-written, immersive, and a page-turner. As in most middle books in a series, the story line resolves some things, leaving the plot at a stopping point but with the major conflicts unresolved. I'm already looking forward to the next book, really enjoying this fantasy series. From a Christian perspective I would only give a caveat that this book would be appropriate for older teens grounded in their faith. Five Stars.

About the Author:
Jeffrey L. Kohanek

Jeffrey L. Kohanek grew up in rural Minnesota where comic books sparked his young imagination, inspiring fantasies of heroes with super-powers saving the day. His tastes later evolved to fantasy epics featuring unlikely heroes overcoming impossible odds to save worlds born from the writer's imagination.

Now residing in southern California, Jeff uses that imagination to weave tales of engaging characters caught in fantastic plots to inspire young adults and the child within us all.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Upcoming Reviews for October

Well, summer is gone, kids off to college and homeschool, and the arrival of the Great Pumpkin is due by the end of the month. ;-)
I'm off to a late start this month, as I did a pre-release and expected to complete five books last month, but got the last two done in the first week of this month. So, October will probably be a light month. Here's what I'm expecting to read and review this month:

The Emblem Throne: The Runes of Issalia, Book II (Volume 2)
By Jeffrey Kohanek

32344265(This one was supposed to be a pre-release review, but it's already available on Amazon, and will be soon as a Kindle there. Hopefully I will get it complete in a timely fashion. Looking forward to this...)

As they strive to become Masters within the Ministry, Brock and his friends resume their training at the Academy, an institution founded on magic, science, knowledge, law, and combat. They soon discover an expansive web of conspiracies and deceit within the Ministry, hidden behind a veil of benevolence and piety. The exposure of one of those secrets forces Brock and his friends to flee the institution with their lives in the balance.

Joined by a fierce Tantarri warrior, the group embarks on a quest to locate a mysterious throne that has been lost for centuries. Guided by the cryptic words of an ancient prophecy, and backed by a forbidden magic that they are still learning to wield, they journey across the continent to save humanity from extinction.


30301772Is it a love story? Or is it an adventure story? Or is it a commentary on the tragedy of war? It is all of these, and more.  Caroline McCullagh weaves a thrilling and dynamic story around Anne O’Malley’s genealogical search for the story of her late husband’s father that takes her to the far North of Canada to find new relatives among the Inuit culture, to Europe behind the lines in World War I, and back to the small Inuit village where she finds romance. The Ivory Caribou won Best Unpublished Novel in the San Diego Book Awards.




29563845The innocent never waver from doing what’s right, even if it means drowning the world in fire. 

Violina had been burned and betrayed by mankind ever since she sprang into existence. They named her a heretic and condemned her to a pit to live and die in agony. Though she sat stranded, starved and bloodied, she would not submit. Violina, the girl who had been mocked and hunted for rejecting the warped ideals of artificial authority, would lay down her own law. 

Inevitable Ascension — The rapid-fire action/adventure novel packed with a host of twists that will make your mind explode! But not literally, otherwise that would be really gross.


...and, if there's time...
How Two: Have a Successful Relationship
by Phil and Maude Mayes

30075491Do you and your partner argue too much? Are you always fighting about who is right? Are you feeling estranged and distant? In How Two: Have a Successful Relationship, experts Phil and Maude share their process and their radically different approach to relating. They insist that conflict is not inevitable and that it is possible to have a passionate and peaceful relationship.

Phil and Maude share a simple step by step understanding that is easily accessible to everyone. Their strong desire to make their direct experience available to all couples shines through their writing and will renew your faith in what is possible and attainable. In these pages you will learn:

* How to find mutual solutions to decision making and problem solving
* How to remain an individual within the relationship
* How to break the vicious cycle of anger and recrimination
* How to avoid the pitfalls that create separation and estrangement
* How to keep that original loving connection to your partner

This book is a gem. It's short, it's practical, it's based on real life experience. If you want to improve your relationship, this is the book for you.