Monday, June 27, 2016

Review: Cupcakes for Breakfast by Su-Ny Kluckow

Cupcakes for Breakfast
by Su-Ny Kluckow

To every man and woman who has ever been unhappy with the way they look, to every person who has found themselves eating when they were full, because they were bored, or angry, or watching TV, or out of guilt because someone expected you to, to anyone who thinks they might be obsessed about, or addicted to, the consumption or control of food, this book is for you.

In a heart-felt book that reads like a daily devotional, Su Ny has laid bare issues in her life with eating, and has provided insight and encouragement for anyone who might be on the same path. Whether you find yourself obsessed with the scale or binge-eating, or depressed about your weight, the content in this book gives a hand up through the deliverance found in Christ.

As a Fat Daddy, I found this book applicable in my own life, as we love to spend our meals in front of Netflix, and this tends to make me overindulge; I find myself continuing to eat until the show is over, and often find that I've taken more than my share.

Food addictions, like any other addiction, require boundaries, dependence on God, and accountability, and Su-Ny gives solid steps for establishing these foundations.

Each chapter leans heavily on God's Word for its basis, with well-researched thoughtful and appropriate passages to support each step in deliverance. Each chapter closes with an appropriate heartfelt prayer.

I highly recommend this book for anyone struggling with weight and food issues. Five Stars.

About the Author:
Su-Ny' KluckowI’m from a small coastal town called Jeffrey’s Bay on the Eastern Cape of South Africa, where I live with my husband and two baby boys whom God gave to us after an 8-year walk of faith. I believe that I am wonderfully and fearfully made in the image of God. I am His devoted daughter and princess of the Almighty King.
Would I write if no one would ever read it? I look at writing as a form or worship, a time to be intimate with God. When I am writing He is inspiring me, prompting me to engage Him on a level that sometimes is deeper than prayer or the words that I might speak otherwise. I feel close to Him when I hear my keyboard chatter with anticipation, each keystroke inviting Him to bless my thoughts and interact with my soul. Writing is a way that I bless others, with words of encouragement and love via, E-mail, text or a physical letter. If I was the last person on the could find me at any coffee shop banging away at my laptop; provided being the last person on the planet there were electricity or coffee shops...wait who would make my coffee?
It is my mission and purpose to advance His Kingdom and love His people.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Review: Dark Destiny by Thomas Grave

Dark Destiny
by Thomas Grave

27224991Great friends. A perfect girlfriend. Life is good for 17-year-old Sebastian until tragedy shatters his blissful existence, awakening a dark power inside him. Visions of a ghostly and broken world lead to a mysterious woman who tells him that he's the reincarnation of Death. With the title comes great power. Will he use it for good? Or, will he drown in the darkness of his own selfish purposes?

Sebastian Scott is just an average video-game loving seventeen year old living in a single-parent home with his police lieutenant mom. He has the perfect girlfriend, Sara, a great set of friends, and life is looking up his senior year. But when Sara hands him an ancient book she found in his attic, his life turns upside down.
That same night Sara is killed in a tornado that destroys her home, and not a natural one. One that destroys only her home, and leaves the neighboring homes untouched. Devastated, Sebastian descends into a fog of depression, one that somehow draws him back to the book she gave him.
Upon opening the ancient tome, Sebastian learns that he is a reincarnation of the Angel of Death, and has great power. Possibly even enough power to bring his dead girlfriend back.

Dark Destiny began with more flashbacks, plot twists and jump scares than a season of Lost, and the author kept me guessing about the true nature of the story up until the very end. The book was packed with anime-style overpowered battles between Sebastian and the Archangels, not to mention the Seals, shades, poltergeists, zombies, and the ghosts inhabiting Purgatory. The action in the book was gripping and I could see it making a decent anime.

That having been said, the flashbacks got me quite confused early on, and I found it a bit difficult to keep reading until I hit about chapter 3. After that point the action was constant, and I was pretty well hooked to the exciting showdown at the end. I'd recommend reading this, with that in mind.

R - Wow, there was a lot. Ripping souls out of chests and eating them, destroying buildings and wiping out neighborhoods, a gang beating someone to death, a demon breaking into a peaceful home and killing everyone in it. Lots of anime-level violence between the angels and Death, and other lesser beings.

PG-13 - I don't recall seeing the F-bomb, but there was a scattering of other curse words, even by some of the angels.

Adult Content:
PG - several scenes involved kissing, and one of the bad characters is a girl who dresses very provocatively. There's some teen angst, and a girl is threatened in a bad neighborhood by some thugs who aren't interested in her money.

Christian content: (Catholic?)
Well, where do I begin here? From a Catholic standpoint, there's not as much to object to, so I'll hit this from that perspective. There are the basic archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, but they dress in black and have badditudes. They obviously don't like humans and for the most part don't want to deal with them. At least at the beginning, this casts them in a negative light. Raphael is softer to the fallen humans than the others. But they sometimes drop a cuss word, which just struck me as out of character. Then, there's Purgatory, a shifted copy of our world but Zombified, and broken into rubble. Judging by the fights over there, I'm not surprised... For the most part the view of Purgatory lines up with what I know of it, a chance to process and get to heaven, or wait to end up in Hell.
The seven Seals from Revelation are depicted here as characters, rather than as wax seals, and they are more powerful than the archangels, it seems, though not more powerful than Michael. God does not intervene at all in the story, other than through the characters and events.

My biggest yellow flag I would drop here is the concept of Souls being destroyed or absorbed by those in Purgatory that want to advance in rank. That's obviously counter to Scripture, as each person gets to stand in judgement for an eternity somewhere, Heaven or Hell.
So I'll close this by saying it's a good read, but be aware of these deviations, it's not meant to be a devotional, just an entertaining read.

Final analysis:
I gotta admit, the idea of a Teen who discovers he's Death was intriguing, and kept me reading, though I had to plow through multiple flashbacks in order to get to the meat of the story. The content of the flashbacks was important but could have been (and was) touched on later in the story.
Sebastian was a Good guy turned Bad turned Good, and as he re-learned who he was and his powers, he had to make some tough decisions and learn from some rough mistakes. His character and those of the archangels were real and well-defined. Most of the supporting cast were... not so much. The principle antagonist also had dimension, but for the most part just seemed all bad.
The book was entertaining and reasonably well-written, with plenty of action and a few meaningful emotional scenes in the mix, with a touch of teen romance to spice things up a bit. Four Stars.

About the Author:
Thomas Grave stepped straight off his yacht in a crisp, pink Ralph Lauren polo, pressed khakis (no pleats), and a pair of Sperry Topsiders that gleamed in the bright sun. He'd paid $12 for that shine. Surveying the treeline, he slid the Ray Bans down his nose, leaving them just at the bridge. He said, "I'm going to write a book about Death today." After sliding the Ray Bans back up, he nodded once. He turned around, walked back up the ramp onto his luxury yacht, down the steps into his leather and mahogany study, and got to work.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Review: Yaakov the Pirate Hunter by Nathaniel Wyckoff

Yaakov the Pirate Hunter
by Nathaniel Wyckoff

25155116Los Angeles, 2025. Yaakov and Yosef Peretz discover a treasure map hidden in their family's robot; soon, their family embarks on an adventure that takes them halfway around the world to save a valuable and revered religious artifact. In the Mojave Desert, the Peretz family unearths a mysterious treasure chest stolen from a Santa Barbara billionaire named Aharon Sapir. Yaakov and family manage to return the treasure and to outwit the pirates who stole it, but soon learn of a greater danger to the Sapir family fortune. On the Tunisian island of Djerba rests the Sapirs' most sacred heirloom: the world's oldest Torah scroll, an artifact worth a fortune. Another pirate is after the ancient scroll, and the Peretzes' trusted robot dealer may be involved. Yaakov and family journey to the other side of the globe to track down a ruthless pirate and to thwart his wicked plan. To succeed, Yaakov must decide between saving his prized robot, built with his very hands, and protecting a greater good.

This MG Science Fiction story is a fun little tale with robots, pirates, and international intrigue and adventure. Filled with Jewish words and references to the Shabbat and other Jewish laws, customs, and traditions, it was also instructive into the daily life among Jewish families.

My Take:
This first offering in the Peretz Family Adventures gives kid-friendly adventure without too much of the violence. Finding a hidden map projected from one of their robots was a great device reminiscent of the message hidden in R2D2 in Star Wars IV. The main character, Yaakov, is a likable kid genius inventor, who uses some impressive tech to help solve the mystery and catch the baddies. His siblings are mostly unlikable and spoiled, though Yosef does contribute from time to time. His father doesn't seem to have enough dimension but his mother is fire and steel, and when her babies are threatened she breaks out the Mama Bear.

The antagonists are for the most part off-screen, and therefore not well-developed or dangerous-seeming. This is not an issue with books for younger readers. However, the pacing in the story could have been smoother and quicker in places to hold the attention of kids (or adults). The frequent references to Jewish traditions like how they keep the Sabbath (Shabbat) were informative, and kids outside the Jewish faith might be interested, while kids inside the faith might be, like Yosef, a bit bored.

G - While the family is threatened by pirates at one point and robots in another, there's no real violence done at all, and no one is harmed at all in the story except a robot.

Very clean.

Adult Content:
G. There's not even hand-holding by Mom and Dad.

Christian content:
The story is written from a Jewish point of view, and contains many references to the Sabbath, morning prayers, and other references to the Hebrew faith. There is a lot of attention given to the value of an ancient copy of the Torah, which is as it should be. Moral lessons like confession, repentance, and forgiveness are covered well. Family is portrayed positively and as a cohesive unit.

Final analysis:
Yaakov and his mom are likable characters, and the tech set 10 years from now was interesting. Yaakov's siblings were not likable, which will probably develop in Character Arcs as the series progresses. The settings were fairly well-described and the action and plot in the story are entertaining. I found the book fun and informative. Four Stars.

About the Author:
Nathaniel Wyckoff was born and raised in the beautiful San Fernando Valley of southern California. From an early age, he was interested in reading, writing and listening to stories.

Nathaniel's storytelling career took flight with the births of his children. His children enjoy all kinds of stories, but most of Nathaniel's stories for them are of the fantasy and adventure variety. Nathaniel's first novel, Yaakov the Pirate Hunter, was inspired by his son's request for a story about robots. It combines elements of science, adventure, and Nathaniel's beloved Jewish tradition.

In addition to writing, the author also enjoys studying his Jewish traditions, reading, playing the accordion and the piano for his family, playing games and sports with his children, and taking his family on hiking trips, camping trips and other adventures.

Yaakov the Pirate Hunter is the first volume in his Peretz Family Adventures series. Volume 2 is now on the way.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Review: The Buried Symbol by Jeffrey L. Kohanek

The Buried Symbol
by Jeffrey L. Kohanek

29910761Without a rune marking his role in society, Brock is doomed to an existence below the lowest rung of the social ladder. Unwilling to accept his fate, the teen risks his life to obtain a fake rune that marks him as a member of the Empire's ruling class. He then embarks on a quest to join an institution where the Empire’s future leaders are trained.

As a student of the Academy, he soon uncovers a chain of secrets kept hidden for centuries, secrets that expose cracks in the foundation of Empire society. Among his discoveries is a powerful magic, long buried and forgotten.

Brock’s compassion and sense of justice are seeds that sprout tight friendships and a blossoming romance. An unwillingness to be bullied earns him a dangerous enemy, becoming a feud that escalates to a climactic showdown.

My Take:
Once Brock gets a rune, the bond between him and Tipper is one of the most controversial relationships in the book, because hardly anyone who has a rune will associate at all with an Unchosen. The bigotry against and ostracizing of the Unchosen is reminiscent of the treatment of blacks in the South.

The protagonist begins innocent but law-breaking, a bit like Aladdin, and is fairly likable throughout. The antagonist in this book is not as well-developed, and mainly seems driven by pride and revenge. There is little to like in him. Some of the supporting cast are well-developed, likable, and the combination of their talents makes for an unbeatable force, which I expect will be put seriously to the test in upcoming books. The world is reasonably well-developed and immersive. There are a few plot twists to keep you guessing, and plenty of action to keep you turning pages.

Drug Content:
PG-13 - Brock gets into several situations where he drinks himself under the table, and cannot remember the next day what went on. He does learn later on to go easy on the booze.

R - There are a few horrific scenes - one where a man's face is ripped to pieces, and his dead body is reanimated to fight, and another where a person's head is crushed in a vise. Several healing scenes occur where blood is expelled forcefully from the lungs.

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

Adult Content:
PG-13. The main character seems to be chased by more girls than Captain Kirk. Several of their escapades result in waking up partially or fully unclothed. One of the main Inns mentioned in the book appears to be a brothel, though the book never comes out and says it. The reason this is not R is that there's no real description other than the mention that a character is naked, in multiple scenes. In one scene, the main character is aroused, and the girl with him notices the fact.

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. There is little in the book that mentions prayer, but many references are made to pleasing the god Issal, and there is a temple or two. Some characters seem devout in their faith to Issal. The passages that mention the god are less offensive to this reader than the ones in The Lightning Thief, if that is helpful.

Final analysis:
The Buried Symbol is a well-written action-packed fantasy similar in some ways to Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. Intrigue, hi-jinks, hidden potential, and plenty of action and some romance make for a solid offering by Kohanek. I'm looking forward to a sequel. 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.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Review: Hattie the Hummingbird - Where is Heaven, Anyway? by Dunnett Albert

Where is Heaven Anyway?: A Hattie the Hummingbird Story 
by Dunnett Albert
Illustrated by Catherine Wilder

30408185After the loss of her friend Auggie the Frog, our sweet Hattie the Hummingbird sets out to answer the question "Where is Heaven Anyway?" Through this beautiful poem and stunning watercolor images, Hattie's question is answered through a story, dreams, and her just "knowing." A story for all ages, young and old, who want to understand how the ones who love us the most never truly leave us.

My Take:
This beautifully illustrated picture book is a poignant poetic story of coming to terms with death and heaven, for children of all ages who have experienced a loss.

The pictures in this book are just gorgeous. The poetry is poignant and written on a 2-5 year old level, quite appropriate for the target audience. The sentiments in the book are heart-felt; apparently the author has experienced a similar loss, as many of us have. The questions of why does death occur, where do people go when they die, and where is heaven, are dealt with tenderly.

While younger children need a simplistic concept answer to these questions, I'll put in the caveat here that this story relates, as the blurb above mentions, that heaven is around us, and that our loved ones visit us in our dreams, and are always with us. This concept is comforting for younger children but is from a non-denominational perspective, so be prepared to answer questions from older kids.

Final Analysis:
In closing, I'll say that this picture book was clean, kid-friendly, and perfectly appropriate for preschool kids dealing with grief and in need of healing, and it's artwork is just stunning. Five stars.

Review: Dash's Busy Day by Terrance Perrin

Dash's Busy Day
by Terrance Perrin

29941831Learn basic direction concepts and counting as Dash the dragonfly flies left, then right, and all around the pond seeing several other pond inhabitants along the way. Simple, brightly colored, engaging character checking out the environment in which it lives, counting as it goes. The original illustrations were done in ink and watercolor and scanned into computer for final touch up and addition of text. 24 page picture book.

My Take:
Dash the dragonfly has a busy day flying up, down, backwards, forwards, and every direction conceivable as he spends the day counting the creatures and objects he sees in his colorful world.

Children will enjoy counting along with Dash as they learn directions and numbers along the way. I have read picture books with my children and this would make a great addition to that collection.

The art style is soft pastel watercolors in the same style as the cover, and all of the characters in the book have friendly smiles, even the mushrooms.

One of the things I noted is that the author used the number combined with the name of the number, as in (3) and (three) to help children who are early readers to learn the words for their numbers.

Written and illustrated in a simple, kid-friendly watercolor fashion, Dash's Busy Day is a fun fact-filled frolic. Five Stars.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Review: The Extraordinary Temptation by Patrick McCusker

The Extraordinary Temptation
by Patrick McCusker

While on a routine sewer line dig near a thousand-year-old monastery in Ireland, the crew unearth an unmarked cubic meter of white marble. Young archaeologist Ed Weaver, assigned to the dig, finds funding from a Texas billionaire, arranges for the marble cube to be broken and its contents stolen.

25946401Ed's girlfriend Jennie is murdered in process of the theft, and he is bent on finding the murderer, retrieving the stolen contents, and bringing the perpetrators to justice. But how can you trace a stolen artifact when you don't even know what was stolen?

Bill Bronoski, the Texas billionaire, discovers that the stolen artifact is none other than the Crown of Thorns placed on the head of Jesus Christ. Attached to a thorn is a tiny piece of mummified flesh, and Bill uses a team of experts in his biotech labs to attempt to clone Christ.

My Take:
The idea behind this book is both riveting and revolting. From the perspective of a Christian, murder and theft pale in comparison to the heinous blasphemy of attempting to clone the Savior. The author reflected this in the extreme deliberation the antagonist went through before taking advantage of the singular opportunity his crime provided. The protagonist, Ed, uses his wits and training and his expert contacts to prove who was behind the murder of Jennie and theft of the artifact, even determining through evidence what was stolen. The pursuit by Ed and the struggles the biotech team have to accomplish the impossible make for a reasonable read. But, it didn't end there...

Drug Content:
PG-13 - There's a bit of drinking in this book, and several references to hallucinogens.

R - The murder of Jennie is not very graphic, but there is a fatal automobile accident that is described in horrific detail. There is a description of a raider attack in a flashback that is quite graphic.

R - The Lord's name is taken in vain throughout the book, several characters seem to have difficulty communicating without it... The F-bomb is dropped a few times, and there is a scattering of other curse words here and there. The language was obviously intentional to depict the characters as they are.

Adult Content:
R - One of Ed's American friends spices up each contact with oblique and direct innuendos, sometimes even hinting at bestiality. There are multiple references to women as objects. I do not recall any actual sex scenes.

Christian content:
Sigh. From a Christian perspective, the book gives a clear and winning testimony of the deity of Christ, of His power and Godship. Of God's eternal power, omniscience and omnipotence. Evil spirits are very present and allowed to attack and harass the antagonist and the staff on his ranch.

On the other hand, it also depicts all other beliefs and paths as equally valid and saving, which does not agree with Christ's own claims to be the only Way (John 14:6) (John 15:5). While the book's request that the church return to simple origins and eschew opulence is valid, some of its points don't align with scripture.

Final analysis:
The first half of this book was an excellent and engaging read. I was riveted by the action and struggle of Ed to discover the truth, of the scientists in their attempts to do the impossible, even the terrorizing of the villain. The book could have been a five-star if it had ended when Ed retrieved the crown, or with Bill's punishment. Unfortunately, it didn't end there, and the second half of the book devolved into a second coming advented by the cloning, and a message to the global church by God to simplify and go back to its roots. This was almost a book in itself, when it could have been a few chapters, even though it spanned a few decades. I loved the first half of this book, and really wanted to like it as a whole, but just couldn't. Three Stars. (Really, three and a half, but I'm not given that option...)

About The Author:

Patrick McCusker is a published author, lecturer and nature conservationist.

My first book "Planet Dancing" is about conserving nature on large scale and was published by Open Gate Press, London in 2011.

My second book entitled "FEAR" is an American Medical thriller with a young Japanese-American doctor as the heroine. The story opens in China but then moves to the USA, Boston in particular. Something in a river that flows through Harbin, a city in NE China, is killing people: not just killing them but reducing them to dry husks.

My latest release, "The Extraordinary Temptation" is a science fiction medical thriller where a piece of mummified skin is discovered in a medieval monastic settlement in Ireland. A wealthy American attempts to clone a human from this flesh and unsettling things happen to all those who become involved in this work.

I have won a number of prizes for short stories and at the moment I am attempting to write a stage play. I expect it will be a complete disaster - but here's hoping!

When I was younger I lived in the USA and Canada. While in Canada I stayed for four months in a First Nation's village. I tasted real clam chowder on Vancouver Island and Florida introduced him to my first bowl of homily grits.

I now live in Wicklow, Ireland, with a lump of a cat that chases big rabbits without success. But she insists on prowling the one hectare garden that one day ...!

Contact me, or the cat to collaborate at: