Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Review: Clement: Boy Knight of Normandy by Craig R. Hipkins

Clement: Boy Knight of Normandy 

by Craig R. Hipkins 

Clement is no ordinary thirteen year old boy. He lives in a castle in 12th century Normandy. After helping Adalbert on his quest to find a long lost treasure, Clement and his friend Dagena return for another adventure. This time, Clement must overcome the evil ambitions of his wicked uncle, Sven the Terrible! Prepare yourself for some medieval action and excitement that you will not soon forget. 

My Take:

Clement de la Haye is a recently orphaned in Normandy. The death of his father has made him the new Count de la Haye, and set in motion several plans to wrest his power, his castle, and his holdings from him. Visitors to the castle inform him that he is going to be forced by the king to wed a suitable wife of high station, within the year, though he is not yet thirteen. But his heart is set on his childhood companion Dagena, the daughter of a scullery maid. They ride out on an adventure to explore a local cave with his best friend Olaf, unknowingly escaping a deadly trap by his villainous uncle Sven the Terrible. With only their wits and a couple daggers, they must rally an army to rescue their castle under siege and rout the evil invader and his army of mercenaries and highwaymen.


Drug Content:
G – none
PG – There are a couple scenes with cadavers. There is a glossed-over chapter concerning a battle between armies. There is a discussion of killing prisoners. 
G – Squeaky clean
Adult Content:
G – There is a bit of preteen angst, but no kissing.
Christian content:
Clement is a Christian, and says as much multiple times, taking the high road frequently due to his faith. There is a discussion of salvation by faith, and some content appropriate for a visit to an abbey. Prayer is not a stranger to this work, and faith in Providence carries them through several tight squeezes. Class distinction is a powerful destructive theme here, and Clement's stalwart refusal to succumb to that mindset makes him endearing and sets him far above others. Self-sacrifice plays a pivotal role, and care for the poor, identification with the downtrodden, and rescue of the innocent are strong themes in this work. 
Final Analysis:
Clement: Boy Knight of Normandy by Craig R. Hipkins is an outstanding, fast-paced historical coming-of-age adventure. Significant research went into making the period clothing, buildings, daily life, and speech of the times accurate. The characters were believable and had their own transformations along the way. I especially liked the camaraderie between Clement and Dagena. The worldbuilding was immersive, and the white-knuckle action had me on the edge of my seat as Clement and his friends moved from one scrape to another in a constant barrage. This page-turner is perfect for fans of coming-of-age adventures in historical times. Five Stars!

About the Author:

Craig R. Hipkins was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. He currently lives in North Carolina.
Craig published his first book, “Fireballs: A History of Meteors and other Atmospheric Phenomena” in 2009. Adalbert is his first novel. It is the sequel to the novel Astrolabe written by his late twin brother Jay S. Hipkins (1968-2018)
He is an avid long distance runner. He also enjoys astronomy and reading history in his spare time. His website is https://hipkinstwins.com/

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Review: Scribes' Descent by Dylan West

People worship technology on Planet Daishon.

With inventions that prolong life and eradicate disease, it's little wonder. Death seems obsolete until an earthquake kills thousands, including Mallory's parents. They should have lived for a thousand years, not just fifty. Mallory scrambles for answers. Such a disaster shouldn't be possible.

Quakes have never happened on this world before.

Suspecting the top research center had triggered it, her best friend's father investigates. When he turns up missing, Mallory goes on site after him as a geology intern. She can't bear to lose anyone else.

An old mine sits at the epicenter of the recent quake, and an unbreakable alien barrier seals it off. But a door hidden in its surface opens for Mallory when she translates its engravings. Once inside, she evades underground predators while cut off from the tech that's always protected her.

Some graves run much deeper than six feet, and this place could be one of them.

Within this self-contained world lie the remnants of a universal war, revealing that Daishoni folklore is more than superstition. To survive, Mallory must trust in something more than science and logic. She must follow the voice of one she can't see down to the very bottom. Something deadlier than a quake is trapped there, and it is trying to escape.

 My Take:

Mallory Leighyan's family emigrated to Planet Daishon to escape the devastating quakes on their homeworld, earthquakes destroying the old planet's crust due to the terrible mistakes of their technologically advanced civilization. Planet Daishon was perfect for them, after all, because it was deemed impossible for this new planet to have quakes at all. Until it did. A devastating quake kills both Mallory's parents and propels her into a world-changing quest to seek answers. And this will take more than her brilliant intellect - it will require trusting a Voice of one she cannot see, in a descent deep into the crust of Daishon, where something far deadlier than a quake is waiting for release.


Drug Content:
G - squeaky clean

PG - There are a few scenes where horrific carnage occurs, but they are rather glossed over. A monster destroys a team of commandos. Most violence is committed by monsters or against them. There is a scene where a girl is kidnapped in order to be eaten, and she barely escapes. 

G - squeaky clean. 

Adult Content:
PG - There is a bit of late teen angst, but nothing physical. The only kiss I recall was on the hand.

Christian content:
Scribes' Descent has many oblique references to faith in multiple different deities, as the religions of the different worlds collide. The Protectors follow a mono-theistic religion which does a reasonable job of paralleling the God of the Bible. The Voice in one place askes the Scribes to 'Follow Me'. There is a species of light-emitting creatures that seem quite similar in some respects to the Seraphim. Faith and praying are commonplace, especially for those living deep underground. Forgiveness and mercy play pivotal roles in this adventure. Mallory must come to grips with death, with divine purpose, and the existence of something greater than intellect and more eternal than a 1000-year lifespan. 

Final analysis:
There is something refreshing in reading an adventure story of this magnitude, with an overarching plot that requires the faith of just taking the next step. The worldbuilding in this series is extraordinary, and the characters fully developed. Supporting characters have transformational arcs of their own, and it makes for a much more enjoyable journey. I especially appreciated the way the elements of faith were intertwined throughout the story, without distracting at all from the storyline. The action is intense in places, and the stakes could not be higher. The plot was riveting, and I found it impossible to put down. I'm looking forward to finding out what's at the bottom, and how it will affect the fate of worlds in book two. Five Stars!

 About the Author:

Dylan West is a Jesus lover, web programmer, video game developer, Navy veteran, foreign language nut, and a nut in general. While other people are busy thinking normal thoughts, he's crafting corny jokes. His novels are young adult, science fiction, and faith-based. Dylan lives in Chesapeake, VA, with his wife and daughter and two demanding tabby cats. Sign up for his newsletter here to receive updates and a behind-the-scenes look at the science research behind his stories: https://dylanwestauthor.com

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Review: Equinox - Raven's Record #2 by Debbie Hightower


Equinox - Raven's Record #2 

What sort of scar would smear across the face of history if the United States ceased to exist? Second in a thought-provoking science-fiction series, this installment takes place after a cataclysmic destruction of much of North America. Seeking to rise from the ashes, citizens of the Earth utilize new technology to send 21st-century pioneers across the universe to settle Planet Equinox in the Proxima Centauri system. In order to survive the terrors and challenges of this new world, the colonists must leave their Earth baggage behind and work together, hopefully without repeating the mistakes of the past.

My Take:

After a devastating alien attack that destroyed the United States, Earth sends out its first colony ships to Proxima Centauri. There, humans find Equinox, a habitable planet with a light side, and a dark side. In Equinox: Raven’s Record #2 by Debbie Hightower, Raven Munoz has been tasked with documenting the efforts of over 400 colonists to survive and build a new civilization on the new planet. And it won’t be easy. Giant predators and killer bugs threaten the existence of everyone. Fire and natural disasters make survival difficult. And there is evidence that somebody has already been here. Is it the aliens, involved in some unknown enterprise on the dark side of the planet, or could humans have somehow settled here already? And are these aliens the same race that destroyed the United States?


Equinox by Debbie Hightower is a high-stakes hard science fiction sequel to American Survivor, and a satisfying continuation of the story of Raven Munoz. The character development is realistic, and the pacing is quick and steady. Challenges face the colonists at every turn, and supporting characters add depth and realism to the adventure. Alien flora and fauna are well-described and believable. The actions of the crew to survive are plausible. I especially liked the antics of Freddie Ogunjobi, a construction engineer who got angry, stole a vehicle and took off for the dark side of the planet. Wild cards like that make for a lot of variation and spice. Each supporting character seems to have a significant backstory and part to play. Expansive, immersive, enthralling and gripping. Perfect for lovers of hard science fiction.

 About the Author:

Debbie Hightower is a lifelong North Carolina resident and newspaper reporter who recently made the transition to writing science fiction novels. She is an avid fan of science fiction as well as the emerging technologies that will one day take humans across the cosmos and allow them to explore the stars and planets beyond the solar system.

Review: American Survivor - Raven's Record #1 by Debbie Hightower

 American Survivor - Raven's Record #1 

by Debbie Hightower

Smoke and ashes cover most of the North American continent. While emergency responders race against the clock to rescue survivors, government officials scramble to obscure details of the event that claimed the lives of millions. Was the calamity a volcanic super eruption? Or an unprecedented weapon unleashed by an enemy with a vendetta against the United States? After losing everything, one of the survivors hurdles red tape and false flags in an attempt to uncover--and broadcast--the real story.

My Take:

In American Survivor: Raven’s Record Book 1 by Debbie Hightower, Raven Munoz barely survives a devastating alien attack that destroys the United States in only a few minutes. The official story is that the supervolcano in Yellowstone is to blame. But Raven knows better. Her efforts are thwarted at every turn when she tries to uncover the truth. Any evidence pointing to an alien attack is removed, and those who try to speak up disappear. While Raven tries to document the truth, Rocket Lab engineers race to build a warp-capable fleet to settle a colony at Proxima Centauri. When their plans are stolen, a competitor, Space Corps, launches first. But their prototype, the Magellan, is lost with all hands. Will the ships Rocket Lab is building avoid the same fate before the aliens return to destroy the rest of mankind?

American Survivor by Debbie Hightower is a thought-provoking near-future apocalyptic thriller. The main character somehow survives an alien attack that destroys all of the continental United States, including the building she had just vacated. The official coverup story is predictably laughable. Her quest to learn the truth behind the attack makes for an interesting dive into forensic journalism. The resistance to her efforts to uncover and communicate that truth provides for a top-notch alien conspiracy yarn. I especially enjoyed the hard science overlaying references to Star Trek lore, and the seamless integration of futuristic interstellar travel with historic space exploration. Interwoven throughout is the question of whether this destruction was the vengeance of God, an alien species, or both. Perfect for lovers of hard science fiction and conspiracies.

About the Author:

Debbie Hightower is a lifelong North Carolina resident and newspaper reporter who recently made the transition to writing science fiction novels. She is an avid fan of science fiction as well as the emerging technologies that will one day take humans across the cosmos and allow them to explore the stars and planets beyond the solar system.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Review: Summer Blues: Norma Elliot's Secret Journal #3 by Victoria Simcox

Summer Blues: Norma Elliot's Secret Journal #3 

by Victoria Simcox

Book 3, "Summer Blues," takes you on a journey through my escapades from last summer. Like before, it's a blend of life lessons and chats with God in my secret journal.Nope, not a perfect kid. Actually, the more I write in my journal, the more I see that I'm not really good at being perfect.This time, you'll find me dashing through my sprinkler resembling a zebra from fake tanning cream, daydreaming about baked chicken in the sweltering heat, stressing over puberty stuff, entering a singing contest, and loads more fun stuff.If you liked my first and second stories, ‘'Tis the Season’ and ‘Spring Fever,’ I'm totally hoping ‘Summer Blues’ brings you the same joy.Bye for now.  

My Take:

Monday, March 25, 2024

Review: Now I See by Janet Perez Eckles


Now I See 
How God's Amazing Grace Turned Betrayal, Blindness, and Heartache to Shining Joy

by Janet Perez Eckles

What happens to your peace amid today’s chaos? When the headlines foretell gloom and doom and personal suffering threatens to break you, yet, God’s promises speak of hope and glorious victory?

Now I See will strengthen your resolve!

Tragedy cannot stop you. Janet’s transition from being a sighted mother to complete blindness at the pivotal age of 30 proves you can rise above pre-conceived limitations.

Grief cannot defeat you. Janet’s path to healing after the murder of her son proves that even loss is no match for God’s healing power.

Injustice cannot bring you down. When her son’s killer was acquitted, Janet proves freedom still lives in forgiveness.

Relationships cannot stifle you. Despite the end of her decades-long marriage, Janet proves life still holds promises of joy with fresh, new horizons!

Now I See stirs your heart as you’re reminded that God is alive, that He sees your tears, hears your sobs, knows your fears, and is ready to calm your storms.

My Take:

Monday, March 4, 2024

Review: Spring Fever: Norma Elliot's Secret Journal (Book 2) by Victoria Simcox

Spring Fever: Norma Elliot's Secret Journal (Book 2) 

by Victoria Simcox

It's me again, Norma Elliot. I’m still ten years old and sharper than a tack—what my dad says.‘Spring Fever’ is my second book, about what I did last Spring—mostly learning life lessons again and talking to God in my secret journal. The title is a great big hint of how I felt for at least part of the season.I’m still not a perfect angel kid—actually, the more I write in my journal, the more I realize I'm surely not perfect.Working at my first job, planting a garden, dealing with an annoying drunk slug, as well as annoying people, are some of the things you’ll read in this book.If you liked my first story, `Tis the Season,’ then I hope you’ll like ‘Spring Fever.’ I think, I mean, I hope you’ll like it just as much or maybe even more.Bye for now. 

 My Take: