George and the Dragon

51DdvicWWeL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_George and the Dragon

Phil Tolhurst

George is a thirteen year old in London during World War Two. His mother decides that they will be safer in the country at his Uncle’s manor. They aren’t there long before the house is turned to flaming rubble by an attack by dragons flying for the Luftwaffe. George is out of the house by pure chance and when he runs through the wreckage to try to find his mother, a dragon pushes his way out of the basement and tells George that he must name the dragon. George names him Spitfire and the adventure begins. In spite of his mother’s reservations George and Spitfire train and fly with the 505 Squadron against the dragons sent by the enemy. They are the only two who can stand between Britain and the Luftwaffe’s dragons.

The story is fast paced as you might expect and while Phil doesn’t shy away from the realities of war, he doesn’t glorify them either. George is accompanied by a cast of characters who take their place in the fight. George and Spitfire are well drawn, but most of the supporting cast remain interesting sketches. This isn’t a drawback for this story which is an old fashioned boy’s adventure story.

I would like to have seen a few places filled out a little more, but I doubt that a young reader would be concerned about the odd thin spot in the story. It is a fun, easy read. I recommend it for readers who like fast paced adventure.

Buy it here.

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Johnny Fracture

Johnny Fracture

Waheed Ibne Musa

Johnny Fracture is a novel by Pakistan Waheed Ibne Musa. It starts with nameless old man in New York City (though a New York which has a mountain road leading away from it). The language rhythm is a bit strange at first, but one gets used to it as the book progresses. The old man falls a foul of a gangster who wants the room he lives in, and another rival gang when he rescues a girl. The best way to enjoy the book is to put aside any assumptions about thrillers and go along for the ride. It is a ride, from the streets of New York to a slave mine in Africa the action never lets up.

The characters are not drawn in the way most readers would be used to, but they nonetheless reveal themselves in some depth throughout the story. Everyone has secrets.

Let me say up front that this is no polished work, but it is no less enjoyable for the rough edges. What it lacks in polish it makes up for in energy. The descriptions are vivid and the reader is pulled into the story. I can safely say you have likely never read a mobster book written by a Pakistan Muslim before, but this story is worth giving a chance.

I would recommend the book to those who aren’t afraid of a book that is a little different. I expect by the end you will find yourself as charmed as I was.

Buy it here.

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The Jagged Man

51zCzse7tUL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_The Jagged Man

Michael Sirois

Put an eight thousand year old man, Hurricane Katrina and an ancient papyrus together and you have Michael Sirois’ novel The Jagged Man. The premise is an immortal man who hates humanity and has spent his long life gleefully causing as much trouble as possible. At the beginning of the story we watch him planting bombs in the levees in New Orleans. We do get to see a little of Otha’s origins, but not enough to distract from present day activity.

Sarah Brown is asked to build a website around an invaluable papyrus by John Rodriguez,  they quickly become a couple and the target of Otha’s anger as the document contains a description of him. Throw in a socially inept young man with a thing for Sarah and the set up for a solid thriller is there.

I liked the characters of all the people in the book. They are well drawn and believable. The book takes a bit of time to get set up, but tidbits about other stunts Otha has pulled through the ages keep the flow. The action is well choreographed and there is no ‘helpless’ female to be found. The sole challenge for me is the exhaustive description of minor details that have nothing to do with the plot. I don’t really need a mini tutorial in photoshop especially as the version and operating system is already out of date. Aside from that relatively minor complaint The Jagged Man is a fun read that I would recommend to any who don’t mind a premise that involves an immortal troublemaker.

Buy it here.

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Saving Angels

51YksWFqhSL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Jeff Davis

Saving Angels 

The bodies of two women are found in two different churches nailed to the cross. Retired FBI profiler Billy Jackson is leading a workshop in the area and offers to help. He notices a disturbing resemblance to Special Agent Gabby Sinclaire.  Soon she and Michael Thomas are pulled into the case even as Billy and Michael think it’s a trap aimed at Gabby.

Jeff Davis has written a fun roller coaster ride of a book. This is the second book featuring Michael and Gabby, we learn a little more of their history as they race to find a third missing woman.  I like the characters and chemistry of the pair. They work well together, complementing each other’s skill. The people around them are also sketched out enough to be interesting,

 

There are a couple of places where we are given more information than we need. We don’t quite get the complete recipe for poor man’s crab boil, but it is very close. Yet they don’t derail the action and aren’t that many in number. A bigger concern is that all the villains are gay, use drugs and are bad people.  The heroes are straight, and are good, if not rule abiding people. There are no good gays or bad straights. It is easy for an author to get caught in stereotyping, and doesn’t appear to be an issue in the first book, but it is something to be aware of.

Still, I would recommend this book to people who enjoy technological thrillers.

 

Buy it here.

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Alouette’s Song

31-CDK3hDXLAlouette’s Song

Andrew Fine

The cover of this book is very misleading. The book is more space opera than Jewish love story, though there is plenty of love too. The main characters are a math prodigy, a teen violin star and two average boys who love the girls. Well average if you don’t count one of them being super-wealthy and the other a kind of cosmic light of goodness.
What brings them together is an accident that launches a candlestick holder into space. With the math genius’ help it is as easy to build an entire space ship as another candlestick holder, so they do it. The bad guy, who wants to suppress the technology the human race isn’t read for yet, takes over the first space ship. The final remaining of the four teens on earth is given the second to go rescue them. She is made an agent of the U.S. Marshall’s Service by the President of the United States and told to go stop a guy who has long experience of black ops.

This is in the first third of the book. This is where I need to phrase things carefully. Everyone in the book talks about everything exhaustively. The conversations are exactly what they are, no sub-text, no keeping things back or beating around the bush. It gets tiring to read. There is a good reason for this, as Andrew states in his dedication, he is autistic, the math prodigy in the book is autistic. This is not a bad thing. It just is. People on the autistic spectrum have trouble with the rough and tumble of everyday conversation. Marg talks about it in the book. The problem is that there is too much information for us non-autistic people to manage. I ended up skimming much of the dialogue, hoping I wouldn’t miss anything essential.

I would love to see Andrew team up with an editor to manage the dialogue issue. It makes sense for the autistic character to be autistic, but the whole world talking that way is overwhelming.

Still, I suggest you read the book. It is not just about the dialogue. There are great characters and a fun story in there.

Buy the book here.

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Life on a Mission

LifeOnMission_Book_TransparentLife on a Mission

Dustin Willis/Aaron Coe

Moody Publishers

I need to state my bias at the beginning of the review. I am a pastor in a congregation of one of the most liberal denominations on the planet.  That doesn’t stop me from seeing the value of what Dustin and Aaron talk about in their book Life on a Mission. In this easily readable book filled with anecdotes and challenging question they lay out the truth that in order for us to be part of God’s mission, we need God. We find God through the person of Jesus Christ.

The mission in Life on a Mission is the work of evangelism – telling the world of the Good News that they are loved and forgiven by God.  Already, right now, without needing to do anything about it. They get evangelism right too. Narry a single comment about Hell or lost souls, instead they talk about spreading grace and joy, building relationships respecting the culture and the people they meet. It is a work many people in my denomination need to hear. Not that we aren’t believers, but we forget that we must nurture the soul to nurture the person.  To follow Jesus is to see people in an entirely different way, not as objects of pity or usefulness, but as the created and beloved children of God – our brothers and sisters, even our enemies (perhaps especially our enemies).

Yet I found a few things made me uncomfortable. The first was the statistics that talk about evangelicals in a way that implies that other denominations are not doing God’s mission too.  Some statistics were also misleading. Talking about the number of churches per population of a particular denomination gives a skewed view. For one it ignores that there are other denominations with churches, sometimes too many if we are honest. A more honest way of speaking of churches in respect to population would be to talk about church per claimed membership. In the United Church of Canada that means about 3000 churches for 600,000 members (I’m using very much rounded numbers here.) Meaning we have a church for every 200 members. If you look at the number of people who claim association with the UCC that number might be a church for every 1000.  These numbers reflect that we have Anglican, Salvation Army, Pentecostal and more churches in our communities. The reality is that even with all those churches, probably less than twenty percent of the population attends worship on any given Sunday morning. A smaller percentage sees themselves a part of God’s mission to the world.

God’s mission to the world. For Dustin and Aaron it is clearly the mission to make believers in all nations. I have the same problem I always have when I’m presented with this as God’s mission.  I want to ask ‘why?’. What are believers for? If creating believers is the only purpose of God’s mission,  why did Jesus talk and act in a way that challenged unjust assumptions of the society he lived in? His mission statement in Luke 4:18-19 is

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

He is quoting Isaiah 61 and pointing to something the prophets spend a lot of time saying. Our love for God is shown by how we treat the poor, the lonely, the unwanted. The proof they held up that Israel had wandered far from God was not that attendance at Temple worship decreased. It was that the people on the margins were being pushed further away. News about God wasn’t enough, justice is necessary in this world. Not once did Jesus tell someone that they could wait until they got to the next world to receive either the spiritual blessing of the Gospel or justice in this world.

It isn’t that Life on a Mission is wrong, It isn’t. It is just that they’ve only written half the book. The reason for us to help shape disciples for God is not that God wants more people on his team. It is because those disciples can then pick up on Jesus’ mission statement (we are the body of Christ in this world after all) and challenge the things in this world that stop the poor from hearing good news, the blind from seeing, and the prisoners from being freed. The year of the Lord’s favour was the Jubilee, the Sabbaths of Sabbaths when all debts were forgiven (literal debts!) and land was returned to the family that had relationship with that land. The call is not just to bring people into a spiritual kingdom, but to move that kingdom into the world. That means fighting against principalities and powers for the lives and souls of our neighbours.

It is the split in the Church that is causing us to fail. We put all our efforts into winning souls, or we put all our efforts into fighting for justice. What God wants is both. We win souls so more people may seek justice in this world. We strive for justice for all so that people might ask “Why are you doing this?” and we can answer with confidence that it is the Gospel that calls us.

So read this book. It will get you thinking and give you hope that evangelism is possible; in fact it is the inevitable result of faith. But don’t stop there, wonder how God can use you and the people around you to shape more just society. It isn’t enough  (to pick on example from the book) to reach out to young single mothers by helping them with childcare and care for their homes, if we don’t also seek out the reason why all these women are struggling single mothers and try to address that root cause.

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Take Back the Memory

51btJm4wk8L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Take Back The Memory
Augustine Sam
Melange Books LLC
Paige is a successful psychotherapist, but the recent death of her husband has sent her into a tailspin. Her daughter convinces her to seek therapy which she reluctantly does.
Her story starts in Kenya where she’s fallen in love with a boy named Bill. His is whisked away by his father to join the priesthood leaving Paige heartbroken. This heartbreak stays with her and becomes the driving force in her life.
At eighteen she returns to Africa and loses her virginity to the son of the ranch’s owner. When they return home her newly released sexuality becomes a weapon for her to destroy the priests around her in revenge for the priesthood claiming Bill.
There is a lot of sex, I will leave it to the reader to decide if that is a good thing or not. There is a little bit of plot to hold the sex scenes together. As is not uncommon in romances the point of view moves around a lot, and we aren’t always clear whose head we are watching from. In spite of the sex, there is not a lot of evocative emotion in the book, and I found it challenging to empathize with the main character.
If you like plenty of graphic sex, I can recommend this book for you. If you don’t, you won’t enjoy it.
Posted in Adult Only, General Fiction | Leave a comment

Distant Suns

41i1Xc0VIwL._SS300_Distant Suns

Patricia Smith

Distant Suns begins with the discovery of a massive cloud of hydrogen headed toward Earth.  The cloud is hijacked by Jupiter and for a brief time those who knew of the world’s potential death heaved a sigh of relief. Then Jupiter begins to heat up. The extra mass kicked started its fusion furnace and the massive planet becomes a second sun in the solar system. Even the much smaller amount of energy from Jupiter is enough to push global warming into high gear.

Like another John Wyndham, Patricia Smith weaves a story of the Earth’s demise caused by some random unfortunate occurrence. As in any murder story, the manner of the death is carefully constructed. The science is plausible enough to make it possible to let go and enjoy the ride. Patricia’s cast of characters are two astronomers and the beautiful young Lauren, who is a recent astrophysics grad. They follow the ups and downs of the story and provide a continuous thread that is interwoven with the stories of a wide range of characters.

While Distant Suns is a disaster novel, Patricia stays away from the gruesome and the people of her world are oddly orderly. Nonetheless she creates an evocative story, and hints at what might still be our fate, with or without wandering gas clouds.

I recommend Distant Suns to sci fi readers and any who enjoy a good disaster.

You can buy it here.

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Down the Wormhole

51ONJxd317L._AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-40,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Down the Wormhole

Ana Franco

Kitty is an orphan, and the story begins with her walking into an orphanage and demanding that they take care of her for the next year until she is eighteen. She is assigned a room with Natalie and Anna. Before she knows it Kitty is caught up in an ancient battle between four gods who look and act like normal teenagers and the goddess of chaos.

In spite of some technical issues in the writing Ana creates a gripping world that is a mash up of Celtic, Norse, Greek and even Egyptian mythology. The mix of teens and mythological gods works well and the characters, especially Kitty’s are well drawn. I would have liked to have seen a little stronger ending, but it works as it is.

If you can see past the technicalities,  this is a fun read. I recommend it to readers who like to mix their fantasy with teen novels.

You can buy it here. It is being released March 17, 2015

 

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The Liar Charms

The Liar Charms

Lorain O’Neil

Lorain introduces us to Remy who wakes up in a room with seven other young woman. They quickly discover that they are to be sold to the highest bidder, all except Remy who way pre-purchased by the creep she met in a corner store years ago. What they have is the ability to detect deception, an ability which has made their owners rich and powerful.

Remy isn’t interested in making Isaiah Grommet richer and more powerful. She’s only interested in freedom and revenge, and not necessarily in that order. Events at Pakken, the company that bred and sold her change the rules and Remy becomes a pawn in a larger game than she imagined.

Remy is a gritty young woman who isn’t going to take being sold lightly. From the moment she meets Isaiah she challenges his patience, but even among Charms she is unusual. I enjoyed the way Lorain shows Remy as foul-mouthed without making the reader wade through her language. What does show on the page is edgy, but not offensive.

The Liar Charms is urban fantasy the way it should be done. She has a clearly defined system of abilities with a believable reason behind it. Remy is fully drawn and the people around her show their own complexity. This is not the book I expected at the start, it is much better. I recommend it for lovers of urban fantasy and strong female characters.

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