Author: Keven Newsome
Genre: Spiritual Warfare, Supernatural
Publisher: Darkwater (an imprint of Splashdown Books)
Pages: 322

My Thoughts: I'd been wanting to read this book for a long time, so I was very excited when I finally got a chance to make that happen. The unique premise of a new Christian (who's also goth) discovering that she has the gift of prophecy intrigued me. Actually reading the book kept me on the edge of my seat from cover to cover.
Winter is a new Believer whose faith is helping her put her life back together after a childhood that was more than a little rough. It's slow going, but she's making progress bit by bit.
Her progress gets a pretty major shaking-up, though, when she begins having premonitions, seeing things that haven't happened or knowing things she has no logical way of knowing. When her friend Kaci talks to her about spiritual gifts to Believers, Winter begins to suspect that hers is the gift of prophecy.
And when hideous, violent crimes and an anti-religious power grab rock the campus of the university, Winter's gift might be the only way to save the lives of her friends and bring the college back to its Christian foundation.

This book had me hooked from the first page. The author, Keven Newsome, is absolutely an artist with the written word. He has the ability to present an image or setting in complete, vivid detail in the reader's mind with just a single turn of phrase or a word or two (literally) of description. His ability at scene-crafting is incredible. There were multiple scenes throughout the book that just amazed me with their vividness and the way they came to life, making me feel like I was watching a movie instead of reading a book. If nothing else, writers, read this book to learn how to create scenes and settings like Keven Newsome does it!
As for the content itself, be forewarned that it is very, very dark throughout the book, which just sort of comes with the territory. Between the spiritual warfare and brutal crime (and by brutal I mean very brutal) that make up the plot, and the frequent flashbacks to Winter's early teenage years, following her path into the Goth sub-culture and her eventual experimentation with witchcraft prior to her conversion, darkness is a necessary element. What I loved about it was the way that Winter's own experience with the dark elements of the book was part of what enabled her to figure out what was going on and fight against it, and in several instances it was what kept her from being shocked and freaked out to the point of not being able to function. I thought that was a skillful use on the author's part of the fact that what we intend for harm, God uses for good.
One element that seriously bothered me about this book was when Winter was first realizing that she had the gift of prophecy, but was doubting her own suitability for the calling. During one of her doubt-filled, questioning prayers, she hears the voice of God saying "I, the Lord, believe in you." Which is totally not a Biblical concept in any way, shape, or form. God makes it abundantly clear over and over in His word that our ability is not ours, but His. He pulls no punches making sure we know that we don't have the ability in ourselves to do what He wants of us, that the ability all comes from Him. So that really got under my skin.
Another thing that puzzled and perplexed me was the lack of parental involvement in the plot. At one point a few of the main characters even show up at parents' house seeking medical help after one of them has been kidnapped and beaten, tell the parents what's going on in full, and ask their advice. The parents offer them advice, prayer, and encouragement to face the situation as God would have them to... and make no attempt whatsoever to get involved. Their children are facing sadistic Satanic maniacs, and they don't make an effort to get involved. Really, now? I understand that, as a writer, if your main character is a child you sometimes have to marginalize the parents to an extent, since a parent's job is to protect the child from the kind of things that usually go on in fictional stories. But this was just a little extreme for my tastes.
There was some lack or realism, too, in how quickly Winter seems to recover from the various injuries she receives over the course of the story. For instance, at one point she gets a few broken ribs; after looking her over a nurse sends her upstairs to take a shower before she wraps the ribs. Having had a little bit of experience with rib injuries, let me tell you that with broken ribs, you're not going to be interested in undertaking anything more ambitious than just breathing - and even that becomes a chore. No way are you going to walk upstairs and take a shower.
But, if I forced myself to ignore the "I, the Lord, believe in you" thing, and overlooked the other few things, like I said I really enjoyed this book. Dark, yes. Brutal at times, yes. I definitely wouldn't recommend it for anyone under 18. But a very unique story with a unique cast of characters, and stellar writing and scene-craft.
Let me know when the movie comes out - I'll have my ticket reserved!


The Floating Island

Author: Elizabeth Haydon
Series: The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Starscape
Pages: 351

I stumbled across this book in the library last week and, in spite of the fact that I had never heard of it or its author before, I was intrigued so I picked it up.
The Floating Island is the story of Ven Polypheme, a young Nain (similar to a dwarf) boy who finds himself thrown into a 'series of unfortunate events', as it were. Being attacked by pirates, nearly drowned, threatened by unintentionally-made enemies, and forced to seek shelter in a haunted inn, are just a few of the mishaps that befall him along the way as he seeks to find his way home and, at the same time, satisfy his own insatiable curiosity and desire for adventure.
I really enjoyed reading this book. I must admit, I have absolutely no idea what the dragon on the cover has to do with anything in the story - a talking cat, or a mermaid, or even a ghost wolf would have been much more appropriate and applicable - but it was still a very fun story.
My one complaint was the part of the story that hinged on the cursed spirit of someone who was buried at a crossroads, and the characters' quest to bring the spirit rest in order to restore the magic of the land surrounding the crossroads. The magic itself didn't bother me that much in and of itself, because of the author's explanation that magic was a force or energy built into creation when the Creator (and yes, she capitalized Creator) made it. I was more bothered by the ghost character who came into the story, and by some of the ghost-related circumstances that arose, however. I won't say I would never let my kids read this book, but I would definitely wait to let them read it until they were mature enough to understand the true nature of ghosts and spirits and not be confused. I would let my 18-year-old brother read it without a second thought, but I wouldn't give it to my much more impressionable 13-year-old sister.
So on the whole, a very fun, lighthearted fantasy read, but one I wouldn't necessarily recommend for the young audience it was intended for.


Rules of Engagement: Preparing for Your Role in the Spiritual Battle

Author: Derek Prince
Genre: Theology, Christian Life and Thought
Publisher: Chosen - a division of Baker Publishing Group
Pages: 266

While I have to say I absolutely love the amazing cover art of this book, I have rather mixed feelings on the book itself. A lot of it was great, very thought-provoking, convicting, encouraging, and inspiring. It made me think about several parts of God's Word in ways I hadn't considered before, and brought issues and struggles in my own life that I hadn't noticed or paid much attention to, to the forefront of my mind. That's always a good thing.
However, there were several instances throughout the book when I thought the author might be reading a little too much into a particular passage of the Bible, basing a little too much on speculation. None of the thoughts he put forth in those instances seemed wildly off the reservation or anything, but there were multiple instances in which I would have like a lot more scripture to back things up. Things like that make me very nervous. I'm not opposed to ideas and imaginative thought, I just like it to have a solid, irrefutable base in Scripture.
There were a few instances where the book seemed a little touchy-feely - a suggested 'Faith Response' with a model prayer placed at the end of each chapter, for example. It wasn't just thick with it, but touchy-feely-ness in any amount turns me off very quickly.
So on the whole: not all bad, but not all great, either. Read it, but do so with a grain of salt.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for my review.



Author: Richard Harland
Genre: Steampunk
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 388

I was very unsure when I first picked up this book at the library. A book I'd never heard of, from an author I knew nothing about, in a genre that's still considered cutting-edge and somewhat experimental... but, I figured, it's just the library. I can always bring it back if I don't like it.
To my delighted relief, however, I loved this book!

At 16 years old, the main character Colbert Porpentine knows nothing about anything outside of his highly sheltered and controlled Victorian life on the upper decks of the massive juggernaut Worldshaker. When he's told that the 'Filthies' who live in the bottom decks, 'Below', are mindless, animal-like creatures with no emotions, no capacity for intelligent thought, no ability even to speak or understand speech, he believes it. When he's told that the 'Menials' - slow, speechless creatures who serve the upper classes - are Filthies who have been improved with intense training, he believes it. His whole life consists of social functions, and training to succeed his grandfather as Supreme Commander of the Worldshaker.
Until a Filthy escapes and accidentally finds her way into his life. Amazingly, she can speak and think and learn, and she seems completely human. What else has Col been told that isn't true?

Honestly, I couldn't put this book down. From beginning to end, it kept me eagerly turning pages and didn't get boring a single time. The action and character development are great, and the story has a thrilling plot as well as a great message, all in an amazing steampunk setting the likes of which you've never seen before. But on top of that, there is the added delight of a story that contains absolutely no language, and no inappropriate scenes. There was one scene that was the slightest bit suggestive, but the suggestiveness lasted for maybe two sentences, literally, and as I said, it was very slight.
The only thing I can say that would come close to a complaint would be the dark, brutal violence of the story. The darkness itself, I don't have so much a problem with because of the message of the story. You have to have darkness to show light, after all. But the violence towards the end of the book, as things started coming to a head, was very brutal and bloody in places, which I didn't like. I understand that realistic violence is bloody and brutal, but we all know that. We don't need to see it in technicolor.
The only other thing was the few instances in which some of the non-central characters seemed to make choices for which there was no prior suggestion in their character. The readers are left with a little bit of the where-did-that-come-from? feeling, since we were given no reason to think a particular character had it in them to make that particular decision. (I can't give specifics lest I give something away.) But it wasn't an overpowering thing, and I was able to enjoy the story in spite of it.
I would definitely say that Worldshaker is a book for older readers, simply because of the violence factor. Otherwise, a great read that I really, really loved!


The River

Author: Michael Neale
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Pages: 287

I have to admit, when I first picked up this book I was more than a little skeptical. I've read enough books that were backed by countless rave reviews to know that great reviews don't always mean a great book. Having read dozens of 5-star reviews about how The River changed the reader's life, I was just a bit doubtful.
I was very pleasantly surprised with the book, though, I'm pleased to say. Though I'm not sure I would call it life-changing, it was most definitely meaningful and impacting - and I don't just say that about any old book.
I've recently been reading quite a few books that follow themes similar to The River's - namely, don't live life on the sidelines, get in and embrace it, take risks and follow your destiny. And although that trend has been unintentional on my part, I've been enjoying the ideas it has encouraged me to explore. The River is definitely the best book of that nature that I've read so far. Who knows? Maybe God is trying to tell me something.
My only complaint - and it's so small and trivial that it doesn't really even qualify as a complaint - is that throughout the book, every time anything was said about the river (which was a lot - it's about whitewater rafting), the words 'the river' were capitalized. I get what the author or editor or whoever was trying to do with that, but when you're reading along at a good speed and all of a sudden The River is capitalized in the middle of a sentence it can be jolting. More than once my rhythm got derailed because I saw the capital letters and thought I was starting a new sentence, which didn't make sense with the words themselves. And then it wasn't even done every time the words 'the river' were written. I caught several instances in which they were all lowercase, with no detectable pattern to the difference. That whole issue got on my nerves quite a few times throughout the book.
But other than that tiny annoyance, as I said before this book was great. What makes it even more impressive is that it is apparently the author's first work. As a fellow writer, I take my hat off to Mr. Neale. Well done on an outstanding first novel! The rest of you out there, take note. This is an author to watch.
On the whole, a really enjoyable and thought-provoking read. This one will be staying on my shelves for a good long while, and I'm already thinking about reading it again.

I received a copy of this book free of charge for the publisher in exchange for my review. A favorable review was not required, and my opinions are my own.


Two Ends of a Rope

Author: David Kyles
Genre: History/Biography
Publisher: Lamplighter Publishing
Pages: 121

Two Ends of a Rope is a self-proclaimed biography of William Carey, the pioneer missionary to India. And while it does focus largely on him, personally I think it would be more accurately categorized as a light history of the beginnings of the Baptist missionary movement in India. It delved into the lives of many different people involved with the beginnings of that work, not just the life of William Carey. That's not a bad thing at all. I quite enjoyed it, actually.
As I said, it is a light history - at 121 pages, it couldn't really afford to go into any kind of deep detail. But the information delivered was straightforward and helpful. This book would make a wonderful introductory read for anyone wanting to learn about the events and people involved in the founding of the Baptist Missionary Society and the beginnings of the efforts to evangelize India. It's definitely helped me figure out how and where to channel my continued research.
The only thing I can say that approaches a complaint is that the author's writing style got rather annoying from time to time. It wasn't a serious or constant thing, but every so often the wording gave off the impression that it was written by a great and wise sage addressing an audience of small and saintly but none-too-bright children. I'm sure it wasn't intentional on the author's part, and it certainly didn't hinder my enjoyment of the book, but it did just strike me every now and then as a little odd.
Regardless, this was a great read that I plan on adding to my personal library at the earliest opportunity.


The Girl in the Glass

Author: Susan Meissner
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Waterbrook
Pages: 328

Having only read one of Susan Meissner's books before this (A Sound Among the Trees, Click Here to read my review), I was already familiar with her writing style, but wasn't sure what to expect from the story itself.
As before, Meissner drew me into her story world completely with descriptions and settings and details so vivid and sensory that it felt like I was actually there. Reading writing that skillful is always refreshing, and I totally want to take a trip to Italy now.
The story itself was somewhat... how shall I put it?... foggy. I don't mean the plot. The plot was very easy to follow. The message of the story, however, not so much. Basically it comes down to some of the characters being people who see the world as black and white with no in-between, and the rest of the characters being people who see the world as a blend of hundreds of shades of gray, and different people making decisions based on their different perceptions. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Personally I tend to lean more towards being a black and white person, but I can still allow room for gray areas where needed. Unfortunately, the theme of this story seemed like it was so gray that there was nothing solid, nothing that you could grab hold of and take away from the story other than a vague, hazy notion.
Definitely a feel-good story, but not one that offers a solid moral to take away, in my opinion. Nothing wrong with that, but if you're looking for a book with a strong, clear message, this might not be the best choice.

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for my review.



Author: David E. Stevens
Genre: Action/Thriller
Publisher: Monarch Books
Pages: 374

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from this book when I requested it, since I don't have a lot of experience with this genre. But I have to say, it kept me engaged and intent from the first to the last page. The author doesn't waste a minute getting to life-and-death action, and rarely stops for a minute for the rest of the book.
In all honesty, were it left to me I wouldn't categorize this as a 'Christian' book. Sure, one of the central characters claims to be an 'Evangelical Christian' (though she doesn't exactly behave like one), there are a few references to faith and spiritual issues throughout, and I expect that the author is probably working towards some kind of faith-based conclusion over the course of the trilogy as a whole, but by itself Resurrect comes across more as just a good action/thriller. Not that I have a problem with that, per se, it's just something that I think readers ought to be aware of.
This book was very frank and no-nonsense in presenting the facts, which makes for a very clear and vivid read... though at times it got a little overly frank for my personal tastes. Some parts of it were also a tiny bit over-technical, leaving me feeling a little like a deer in the headlights, but I was always able to follow the important facts of what was happening. (I do have to mention, though, that I was greatly disappointed when the author - who should know better - called a magazine a 'clip'. Ach!)
But on the whole, this book was a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat adventure from start to finish. Let me know when they decide to make the movie! Seriously, in spite of the few overly-frank moments, there was nothing that I considered unclean or indecent - even when one of the characters takes off on a profanity-laced tirade, the author simply says that he 'let loose a string of expletives' without reproducing any of them. You have to admire an author with that kind of taste. And the humor sprinkled throughout the book was absolutely delightful.
I wouldn't recommend the book for young readers; it was definitely intended for an adult audience. But personally, I loved it and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series!


I received a copy of this book free of charge in exchange for my review. A favorable review was not required, and my opinions are entirely my own.


10 Christians Everyone Should Know

Various Authors
Edited and Compiled by John Perry
Genre: Biography
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

I really loved this book. It's a compilation of excerpts from the Christian Encounters series, basically condensing and hitting the highlights from 10 of the Christians featured in that series. If you're curious about some of these historical figures but aren't sure you're curious enough to buy a complete biography of them, this book would be perfect for you! Or, if you just want to have a few quick and basic facts about these people on hand for reference, this book would also be perfect.
Personally, I've had my interest and curiosity aroused by reading this book, and I'm now eager to get the complete biographies of several of these people so I can learn more. The time spent reading this book was time well-spent, that's for sure!

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for my review. A favorable review was not required. My views are my own.



Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic
Series: The Hunger Games
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 496

Okay, since my last review consisted almost entirely of incoherent blather, I shall do my best to make this one more sensible, objective, and useful to the general readership.
Well, I finally finished The Hunger Games trilogy. And, much as it galls me to say it, I'm a fan.
The series tells a story that is very dark, violent, and brutal - not exactly light reading. But in the process it also tells a story of human resilience, and the incredible feats that can be accomplished by just a few good people who take the initiative to stand up against evil and tyranny.
I love the realism of the characters - they make mistakes, they struggle, they make foolish decisions, they hurt each other. But they also help each other, pay for their mistakes, apologize to each other.
Before reading The Hunger Games I'd only read one book that was in first-person present tense, but I really liked the sense of immediacy it created. Well... most of the time I liked it. When a swarm of grotesque mutts is chasing you through the sewers, immediacy is not exactly a pleasant sensation. : )
I was extremely worried for the last half of the book or so, wondering how on Earth the author was going to take all the disaster in the story and bring it to a satisfying ending. I won't spoil it with details, but I will say that I was satisfied and happy. It was intriguing to me, though, to look at how scarred and damaged the surviving characters were. They will never be 'normal' after the trauma of all they've been through... and yet they're surviving, making their way through life and dealing with the scars of the past as best they can. It makes me think of Frodo after he destroys the Ring - only these characters don't have the Gray Havens to sail off to. They just have to hang onto each other and make the best they can of it. To me, that speaks volumes. Yes, those characters will never be the same, they can never go back to the way they were. But their sacrifice wasn't in vain. They did it for a cause, and in the end, in spite of all they'll have to suffer and all the scars they'll have to live with, it's worth it. As a writer, that's a message I would love to communicate through my own stories.
I doubt I'll get it done as clearly or powerfully as The Hunger Games trilogy did, though.