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Friday, February 26, 2010

A Ship Possessed Alton Gansky:
A Ship Possessed combines a military thriller and a spiritual mystery inside one cover. Chocolate and vanilla, mixed together to form---peach? This book was unlike anything I had ever read. The intensity rating would have to be extremely high for it, as would the ‘cause-you-to-think’ rating. Mr. Gansky definitely has a flair for the dramatic; wringing the story perfectly out to the end. Some readers might be bothered by a few of the unexplained facts in the book, however I believe it was the perfect balance of mystery and information sharing. Staying on a solid Biblical framework and using a writers’ imagination to produce one whale of a tale that I think will have readers shivering in their beds while they read the final pages. Enjoy this read!


Eternity Falls: By Kirk Outerbridge:
Rick Macey is a hardboiled detective for hire. He’s got brains, brawn, and—a cyborg body. Not to mention the ability to use his implant to search the web. He’s used to putting away the bad guys, the street snipers, and domestics. From his work at CDI he’s an expert on religious terrorism, but this next job may try him to his max. Sheila Dunn has a job for him, find who killed a client. She’s made billions off of the miracle treatment. Take a pill, live forever is the idea. The rich and famous love it, life forever in ease! Until…someone dies of natural causes. She wants Macey to find who did it, and nail them. Macey starts on the case with some trepidation, all the clues he has is that there was a Bible in her room. Face down too, no message there, no hint of foul play, except for the fact there was no residue of the treatment in her blood. Something negated it. And a name—Virgil. A name from the past, war buddies, brothers in more ways than one. Is Virgil connected to the death?

I really enjoyed the majority of the book, something that I didn’t like though, was that though society was really messed up, I felt like a few too many references were made to unwholesome things. I realize that the portrayal of society was important but...I think it went just a little too far. I wouldn’t read anything any more edgy.


Dragon Spell by Donita K. Paul:
  I thoroughly enjoyed my read of Dragon Spell! I always enjoy fantasy books, but this one had so many Biblical truths wrapped throughout the story that I loved it! I found myself reminded of truths and challenged to believe where faith had grown dim in my own life.

The story woven in Dragon Spell is about a young girl named Kale, drawn into a destiny far beyond anything she had imagined. After finding a dragon egg, her village leaders send her off to the Great City. There instead of a life in a palace with teachers and elders to instruct her, she is sent on a quest with a host of unusual characters already in the service of The Great Wulder. Along the way she learns that her gift, finding dragon eggs, has both advantages—and dangers. And, that there is also great risk in serving Wulder and fulfilling her mission, but overcoming that, there are many others who are in his service and they become the family she never had to love and value her.

I enjoyed the journey Kale took from a place of insecurity and un-sureness of her gifting, to believing there was something in Wulder’s plan she needed to be about. I also enjoyed the idea of mind speaking between herself and Paladin. I really enjoyed Darr’s sense of humor!! The ease of which he caught Kale off guard when everyone but Kale knew it was priceless!!

The writing style that was used made it so easy to be drawn into the book. The story instantly transported you into the plot and didn’t let you out. I found myself identifying with the characters quickly and not wanting to put the book down. Having finished the book I can wholeheartedly tell you, check out this book! It’s definitely worth reading for the truths it tells, and the story it weaves.


Beyond Opinion by Ravi Zacharias:
Beyond Opinion is a hardcore apologist book for the serious believer. Mr. Zacharias clearly and somewhat concisely, with the help of other co-authors, lays out a book designed to combat and reach beyond the thinking of popular religious ideas in the culture, ideas such as Atheism, Hinduism, New age philosophy, Islam, Youth culture Ideas, Eastern Religion. Beyond addressing the ideas in the above religions/and or ideas, the book contains an entire chapter on Conversational Apologetics, how to get to the heart of the issue and address the person.

As a teen reader that likes to dig into books like this, I was eager to crack it open and start digging! One thing that struck me as I read was that I definitely found some of the authors more interesting than others, to the extreme. Perhaps it was their topics and not the authors themselves, but it seemed the book would go through extremely dry sections. Something I did appreciate about the differing writing styles was that the stories that were sometimes shared were varied and quite interesting. I always found the point of them hammered home and usually convicting. Theologically and Biblically, I think this book was right on the proverbial money.

All in all the book was not an easy read, but it was a worthwhile one. I would recommend this to any teen or adult that is serious about being an earnest apologist.



Angel by Alton Gansky:
Angel is yet another spiritual thriller from Alton Gansky. As Pracilla Simmons, a newspaper woman by trade, is called to represent the human race to “Aster” a being from another world, her faith is challenged in more ways than one. Traditions old and new are tugging at her heart, and Aster must be right, right?

I felt like Pricilla’s character development was superb. The suspense built up as she went back and forth on what she believed causing me as a reader lots of stress! I cared what happened to her! The mystical appearances and unknowns about Aster only heightened my focus on his words, actions, and even thoughts when he did show up, causing almost a fun “discovery” mood, if not for his dastardly self. If this book was a fishing hook, I was just plain stuck there waiting for it to let me go. Besides superb character arcs though, I feel like Lizzy, her solid and encouraging friend, should have received more spotlight time especially once I reached the ending---which was stunning. In a good way ;) The UFO hunter angle wasn’t surprising but I also don’t feel like it was completely fleshed out either. All in all, this was an excellent character based book and with just a few plot tweaks it could have been a masterpiece in it’s genre.

Max Lucado Outlive your life:
Max Lucado’s most recent book, Out Live Your Life-You were made to make a difference, is another great titled rolled out by this Christian author. He examines the early church, the book of Acts, and who was in the early church making a difference for God. It’s the modern truck driver as Peter, the grocery store clerk as John-Mark. All average Joe’s, making a non-average impact for God. The difference between them and the average man is the power of God working in their life.

Even with one glance it’s clear that the book has fun stories, interesting writing, and an impacting message. As you dig deeper the fun stories become meaningful, the interesting writing, just a byproduct of the Christ centered book; and the impacting message? A mainstream theme in the book, as it examines the idea of outliving your life.

Overall, on a scale of one to ten(ten being the best), I would give this book an eight point five. It was an interesting book with a deeper side that went beyond the writing, and turned my thoughts to “Outliving my life”. Thank you Mr. Lucado, keep writing!




Hunter Brown and the eye of Ends by The Miller bros:
Hunter’s father makes an intro in this book, but—not the warm fuzzy one you might have been hoping for. But a world shifting introduction, literally. Hunter is off to find his father with Desi, is she really what she appears to be? Hope is back almost from the dead, as is Hunter’s friend Trista! But… Hunter’s memory of his last adventure—is gone. Is his father who Hunter believes him to be? Will Hunter realize that some sheep are wolves in disguise? Read the book to find out!

Man! I really enjoyed this last Hunter Brown book by the Miller Bros! It had been awhile since I read the previous two, so it took a few minutes to settle into this newest installment. But once I did, Woh! It was great! Again they’ve managed to portray important spiritual truths in ways that are easily identified with. Such as , the truth blocking parasite, which also ties us into the end of the last book.


In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson:
In Constant Prayer was something new for me to read. I enjoy non-fiction but read primarily fiction. This book basically turns the clock back to early A.D. and makes the case that “The Daily Office of Prayer” may well be worth incorporating into your daily life. The Office was not something I was acquainted with previously so I got out my pencil and paper and started to pay attention. The case Mr. Benson weaves for his belief in the power of the Daily Office is if nothing else, intellectually interesting. He cites the New Testament believers as well as the more liturgical denominations and groups, such as Episcopalians or Catholics. He believes that their more formal and rote operations may indeed not be a bad thing. But be something to emulate in prayer.

The Daily Office of prayer requires praying certain prayers at certain times of the day. Example prayers were included at the end of the book and they were indeed useful for a personal reference on what was being discussed. Overall, I didn’t find the books’ message very compelling, but an interesting read. If you are interested in the idea of The Daily Office then I’d say read the book if only to learn. If not, it probably won’t convince you otherwise.

The Last thing I remember by Andrew Klavan:
The Last Thing I remember by Andrew Klavan is an adrenaline pumping YA  fiction book that leaves you with the craving for book #2 in the series. Charlie West is our point of view character. From practicing karate, to loving his country and it’s freedoms, Charlie is the model of what a young man should be: Honest, even keeled, fun loving, says his prayers, all around likeable. He even has the perfect life:  a good home, good parents, and an annoying sister. Until—he wakes up morning strapped to a metal chair bruised, beaten and burned. Oh yeah, and he wakes up to men in another room talking about killing him. His memory isn’t any help either, all he knows is he went to bed with a pretty girls’ phone number on his arm and he woke in the hands of killers.

The premise of the story was so good I shivered in delight preparing to read it. And frankly, overall I wasn’t disappointed. It was exciting, humorous, touching, and even at times, deep. Charlie was an excellent protagonist, someone you can have your kids emulate without fear and an absolute thrill to read about. His unique view of the world and attitude added depth to the story and drew me closer to him throughout the monumental struggles he faced. My only detracting note I would mention, this is definitely an action driven plot plain and simple. If you want long literary prose, this is not the book for you.


Tarnished Image by Alton Gansky:
Tarnished Image was a mixed basket for me. I wanted to get into the story I just couldn’t. I got to know the characters reasonably but they seemed just a bit cliché and nothing in the story once the beginning unwound really surprised me. I’m disappointed in the way the story trekked to the end of itself. Maybe others will enjoy it more than I did.




The Truth of the Matter by Andrew Klavan:
The Truth Of The Matter is the Third book in the Homelanders series for YA written by Andrew Klavan. The plot was spell binding, tear jerking, as well as riveting; as you follow Charlie West, a fugitive without a memory of his past. The law wants him for murder, the Homelanders, an Islamic extremist group based in, and recruiting in the states, wants him for betrayal.

His life was normal, he loved his family, his friends, his girlfriend--then Waterman contacted him. Charlie had a mission for his country, he had to be framed for murder, his best friends' murder. His history teacher was a Homelander recruiter, and now a killer, but can he really spring Charlie out of prison?

With a starting plot like that to roll with, I was instantly intrigued!! The book was a wonderful read with many attributes to be lauded. I had a suspicion that his memory flash backs would normally be backed in perhaps another book--but I was horrified to finish it and realize it was a book three! The characters were crafted so exquisitely I was able to easily follow them and identify their personalities with ease!

Bottom line: Great read, encouragement for never giving up, or as the author put it, 'fortitude'.









 

The Chasm by Randy Alcorn:
I had read Pilgrim’s Progress in the past and so when I heard that The Chasm was going to be highly allegorical, I was instantly intrigued. I was also not disappointed when I finished it.

 Now, to the book: The first thing I would say is, I do not recommend this book for those under 16. For one reason only, there was aptly a section dealing with lust and the sins that follow it’s path. Besides that section however, I believe the book would be quite appropriate for most mid teen audiences. The book itself was not an easy read. It definitely seemed to read at a strange gate. Not quite with long strides and flowing streams of reading,  but neither was it constantly halting.  Instead it fit somewhere in the middle with smoother streams of reading punctuated by proverbial rapids of deep thinking and what I found to be somewhat chunky narration. All that to say I found the read to be insightful and thought provoking, while simultaneously holding my attention especially at the point when the “Woodsman” is getting nails pounded into him. The scene was violently depicted in my mind by Mr. Alcorn’s writing style and his warriors’ responses resonated in my heart.

The book covered tough topics well and I believe will leave the reader looking to their our journey on the “red road”. God speed as you travel, and even perhaps, lead others to the ‘Chasm’.


The Charlatan's boy by Jonathan Rogers:
The Charlatan’s Boy by Jonathan Rogers will definitely rank high on my bookshelf hierarchy. It contains the story of a he-feechie that pretends to be—a feechie to put on shows and make money with “Perfesser Floyd”. Grady is an orphaned feechie that doesn’t know who he is, and the story from the perfesser changes weekly. But he does know he’s uglier than most, and likes to do the feechie act. He also knows that the “perfesser” isn’t much to love, but as he puts it: You have to love someone.

The finding out of who Grady was in The Charlatan’s Boy added a fun dimension to the story even if it was reasonably predictable.  Sometimes as a reviewer you  say characters live and breath. This time they hooted and “Ollie Ollie Ollie-ed” with their feechie war cry while wheeling and dealing the crowds.  Something that Mr. Rogers did in this books far better than most writers would have, was his character voice. Not once was I left in a lurch at how they talked after an unexpected vernacular choice. The character voices stayed constant and always just what they really would have said.

The writing quality was excellent and I have no complaints that way. The book moved along at a reasonable pace without pulling you along, but I wouldn’t have minded a faster paced read. One of my only bones to pick with the book is the ending! I didn’t get a good feeling of closure. Sure—I mean there is going to be another book, but the reader deserves a satisfying ending. I felt like it was almost rushed, still at least we had a partial conclusion.

All in all, would I recommend this book? Yup!

The Prodigy by Alton Gansky:
The Prodigy is, in my opinion, one of Alton Gansky’s finest books. His plot is very solid giving an excellent framework on which to stretch his  variety of spiritual tales: A boy with the ability to heal, to sense and to see, a  brilliant college student who seeks the miraculous, and those who wish to exploit the boy and his abilities.

Now I said before the plot was solid, and it was..But it also was not unexpected with the characters we had in play. However, besides in some ways being predictable, the entire plot wasn’t that way and as always the characters had surprises up their sleeves. Overall I feel like this book  did an amazing job at delving into some deep issues and different situations due to Toby’s unusual gifts. A refreshing plunge into something new. The ending of the book was one of the strangest I’d ever read. I did a double take and read it twice to make sure I had it right. Wonderful way to end it!




Vanished by Alton Gansky:
Vanished is a military mystery that deals with an experimental project that seemingly went bad and now an entire base in the middle of a desert is missing. Vanished---without a trace. But no one who is anyone is saying anything about the problem which happened weeks ago and Admiral Stanton is not happy. He wants answers and facts, for them to proverbially un-handcuff him so he can do what he does best, get to the bottom of the problem. Instead, a crack team of commandos comes raining down on the base one dark night while their investigation is on with orders to shoot everyone there. The attack team is told that the base has been taken over by a copycat enemy who will look like them.  With not so ‘friendly’ fire raining down, can they survive long enough to solve the mystery, and will it even matter then?

I think this book played a bit too much on the cliché idea of an experimental project going awry and people disappearing.  Also, the plot left a little something to be desired and this “other” dimension was a bit of a disappointment. Still Mr. Gansky salvages the story at least partially with his again exceptional characters. My hat is off to him there.