Book Review: Sleepers by Stephen Landry

Book Review: Sleepers by Stephen Landry
Sleepers
The cover for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.  

Spoiler Free Summary:  Sleepers by Stephen Landry is the prequel story to the Convergence saga. When the demons arrived, two-thirds of Earth’s population remained asleep while others were changed. They had powers. The government formed them into a fighting force, and eventually, they headed for their ship, determined to take them down.

 

Character:  The super heroes were sympathetic characters. I remember a guy who collected some ninja swords. I remember the couple (one sleeping, one not). They were compelling characters with authentic motivation. The main character was just trying to assure the loved ones were safe while they slept. Now, it’s been quite some time since I’ve read this book, so I don’t hold it against the author that I can’t remember names (or even genders).  That’s just time taking it’s toll. For instance I can’t name every character on Wheel of Time. Sure, Rand and the gang, but they are characters from my favorite series. So please just trust me when I say these characters were fun to read about.

Exposition: This story was told in an odd sort of “love letter” first-person perspective. There are interludes of another character as well. This probably had more exposition than I wanted (and that’s accounting for first-person), but it wasn’t nightmarishly long. What did slow the book down (one of two major issues) is the location of that  exposition.  The first part of the book is a history lesson. It took a good bit of time to get into the meat of the story. I would have been much happier if the author had started me in with all the wonderful action and cool super hero stuff and then woven the background in a bit after I’d had a chance to enjoy the fun.

Landry
This image of Landry was taken from his Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Dialogue: This wasn’t the best, but Landry’s gift is in his creativeness and conceptualization. I’ve seen more wooden dialogue, but this had some pretty clunky, exposition-filled conversations that slowed things down.

 

Description:  This was good, particularly in the action scenes. Landry has a gift for fight sequences, and I think the fight scenes were second only to his idea for this series.

World Building: This is another area of strength for Landry. I could tell he put a lot of effort in the the outline and concept. This story would be an amazing comic book script. It’s very visual and well thought out. The design of the plot is good and the scope of the universe is interesting.

A Note on Proof Reading:  I don’t normally post about this. First, I’ve been called out on some pretty silly things, and I feel bad about those, but I must say this book had a great many grammatical and word-choice errors.  It was honestly quite distracting. Frankly, this is a wonderful idea with decent prose that is seriously brought down by the sheer number of issues per page. If Landry simply pays a good proofreader and copy-editor, this book will go from unfortunate to pretty darn good. The story really is interesting. The concept is fascinating, but I had a lot of trouble getting through it for this issue. Again, I’m not perfect, and if anyone were to call me out, I don’t know how well I’d hold up.  This is one reason why I don’t usually review this area of writing. However, given just how many issues there were, I’d be letting potential readers down if I spoke only of the things I liked (and like I said, there are a great many), and ignored something any reader would easily notice.

Overall: This was a great concept with fascinating world building and cool action sequences. It’s cinematic in its visuals, and the story is supported by reasonably sympathetic characters. The story was brought down by grammatical errors and some heavy exposition, but it has a lot of merit as a concept and story. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

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Book Review: Mud by E.J. Wenstrom

Book Review: Mud by E.J. Wenstrom
mud
This book cover was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Spoiler Free Summary:  Mud by E. J. Wenstrom is the first book in the first book in the Chronicles of the Third Realm War.  Adem is a gholam, a mud creature, who was created to protect a mysterious box.  Adem must kill Anyone who comes for it or too near it.  When a little boy is the frist not supernaturally drawn to the box, Adem begins to curiously follow the child until he and his sister are forced to flee the city.  At the same time, an angel offers Adem freedom in exchange for bringing back the angel’s long lost love from the dead.

Driven by his desire to be human and free of the box, Adem shatters the barrier between realms, unwittingly setting of a chain of events that only places the world in even more danger.

Character:  Adem felt like this well meaning giant to me. Imagine Wreck-It Ralph meets Ludo from Labyrinth. He does a lot of cool stuff, and he’s pretty sympathetic. It’s been some time since I’ve read this book, and I still clearly remember the character and the bulk of the plot. That’s a great sign.  Wenstrom does a great job letting Adem’s motivations drive the story.

Exposition: This was told through first-person narrative, but the story moved pretty quickly. I only vaguely remember one or two spots where the pace slowed down because of Exposition, and even then, the story moved along well.

EJWenstrom2
Image taken from Wenstrom’s website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Dialogue: This was probably my least favorite part. There were parts where I felt I was being spoken to rather than listening to conversation. I don’t mean that the writer broke the fourth wall; I just mean there were some long verbal explanations that slowed the story a touch.

Description:  I was happy with this. I was able to visualize the scenes and characters pretty well. I got the mental pictures I needed without being forced to slog through bulky paragraphs of description.

World Building: This story is right out of Greek mythology. It’s a journey to the underworld, complete with all the common trials. Some may feel that sort of storytelling is a bit old, but I felt the right mix of nostalgia and interest. I was particularly interested in the broader lore of the series.

Overall: This was a pretty interesting twist on classic Greek myth storylines. Interesting setup. It has some artistically stylistic things I think people will find hit or miss (you’ll either like the style or not), but if you like Greek myths, you’ll probably enjoy this. If I didn’t have a couple handfuls of books to get through, I’d probably read the second book just to see how things develop. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

Book Review: The (NIV) Bible

Book Review: The (NIV) Bible

NIVGreetings all,

This review has been long in coming. It was easily my favorite book of 2018 (for a number of reasons)So a real in-depth review of this book is simply not possible. There are numerous versions with commentaries for each book. So I took some time to think about what I could offer that I haven’t already said.  So here’s what I came up with:

Why the Bible? As I’ve said, this book changed my life. I see and think differently.  My coworkers have noticed. People who hang out with my family notice. The more I try to read and understand how to live Biblically, the better I feel, and the more blessed I feel. Despite some low lows in 2018, I had a source of comfort, support, and wisdom.

Favorite Books:  My favorite book of the Bible is actually Job. Why? Because that guy suffered. That guy had everything, lost everything, and gained even more. His story gives me context to my life. His behavior during his trial gives me perspective on how I’m supposed to act during my trials. It’s not a “fun” book of the Bible or even very comforting. But it is edifying. It gives me perspective that I don’t think I would see the Bible, Christ, salvation, or suffering the same way without it. A close second is Romans.  I’m not sure which of my old blog posts I went into detail on that, but I did. I’m sure if you search Romans, M.L.S. Weech, you could see an in-depth perspective on why that book means so much to me. The short version is that I find that book to be the most comforting book in the Bible. That’s probably different for anyone (my wife seeks the Psalms for comfort for instance), but that’s my vote.

Leviticus
Image taken from the Covenant Community Church website. This image is not an endorsement or condemnation of CCC or its doctrine. I simply wanted an image for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Books I Struggled With the Most: I’m currently reading 1 Chronicles. I’m starting to put together what it’s doing. But I’m at a complete loss in this book. Yes, that makes it harder to enjoy. Also, it’s repetitive. Now, I’m certain there is a wisdom and there are many secrets to glean from this book and many others. One idea I’m playing with is a study of Christ through his genealogy. 1 Chronicles makes that sort of study possible. Some may argue Matthew or Luke, and they’re not wrong per say, but Matthew skipped a number of  generations to simplify memorization. 1 Chronicles lets me fill in the blanks. I also struggled with Leviticus. I understood what it was setting up a bit more, but it was a lot of direct information.

Bible StudySo I close this with another attempt to explain why I think reading the Bible is such a worthy endeavor. First it is my personal opinion (I’m unaware what my church thinks on the subject), that simply reading the Bible with an open mind is honestly one of the best things one can do if they are interested in salvation. Now, let’s assume you’re not saved and have no interest in being saved. Very well.

This book is still the richest single collection of narratives, poems, and historical information one can hope to find. Let’s get the tangental comment of historical out of the way. First, not even a scientific atheist would argue the existence of a historical Jesus. Debate the other aspects if you wish, but no one denies it. Even still, that’s not actually what I mean. I’m referring to the Epistles, which are actual letters written by actual, historical people to actual, historical readers in archeologically verified locations. Letters from Paul, James, Peter, and John are like finding an old World War I person’s journal or letters to home. This is my basis for the term historical information. Sure, one can read a thousand books on a thousand locations, but the Bible provides one book about dozens of locations.

So whether for spiritual purposes or educational, reading the Bible is a pursuit most worthy.

I hope you’ll choose to try it. If you have questions on where to read or why, I’d be happy to offer you my thoughts.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt

 

 

 

 

A Bad News and Good News Post

A Bad News and Good News Post

Greetings all,

The Journals of Bob Drifter Front CoverI’m a bad news (sort of) up front kind of guy. When I woke up today, I saw a one-star review for The Journals of Bob Drifter.  You can see that here.  You can’t please them all. Still, I’m truly grateful the reviewer took the time to offer not just a rating, but a line of review. Any review is a good review. This reader 1) purchased my book, which supported me; 2) rated my books, which helped my visibility; and 3) left a review, which also helped with my visibility.

To any who might feel compelled to defend me, please don’t. I truly mean that. I ask every reader to offer a review, even if they hate it. It is helpful, and it is kind to leave a review, even if that review doesn’t sing my praises.

Sojourn_Ebook_CoverSo not only is that news not really bad at all, but there is good news. I’m happy to announce that the audiobook for Sojourn in Despair is pretty much undergoing editing as we speak.  Courtney Sanello was selected to narrate the book, and I’m eager to see how she takes her fantastic audition and converts it into a full audiobook. She’s already submitted the first fifteen minutes, and I honestly think she’s about wrapped up with the rest pending my notes on the first fifteen.

Since I’m just posting some updates, AwesomeCon is next week, and I’ll be there with Steven D’Adamo and Jessie Gutierrez from Red String Paper Cuts. I’m stoked to see how the new titles (two new books from their point of view), do. I’m also thrilled to market alongside two friends. I’ve read Steven’s book, and I’m hoping it does well at the convention too.

Those are some bits of news from my neck of the woods. I’m always happy to share with readers. You all really do make this dream of mine possible.

Thank you, always, for reading,

V/R
Matt

Book Review: Knock and You Will See Me by Andrew Cull

Book Review: Knock and You Will See Me by Andrew Cull

This book was my 2018 December Book Cover of the Month.

KnockSpoiler Free Summary: In  Knock and You Will See Me by Andrew Cull Ellie Ray is still morning the death of her father when he delivers her a note. The crumpled, hand-written letter just asks, “Why?” This classic style ghost story gives chills in all the right places as creepy escalates to flat-out scary. Will Ellie find whatever it is that’s terrorizing her family? When she does, will she be able to stop it?

Character:  In too many horror stories (regardless of medium), the character always has some sort of moment of stupid. It’s a flaw of the genre that, thankfully, Cull doesn’t exploit. Ellie isn’t a genius or even particularly clever. What she is, is a realistic, thoughtful woman at her wits’ end. Some of the choices she makes have negative consequences, but they’re never just idiotic decisions just to move the plot forward or prompt a boringly telegraphed jump scare.

Exposition: First-person narrative sort of emphasizes the exposition in this story. There is some info-dump here and there, but I’d say it’s better than the average first-person story. The plot moves pretty quickly, and that is key in a good page-turning horror story.

Cull
Image of Mr. Cull taken from his Amazon page for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

Dialogue: The good news is, I don’t remember it being bad. The bad news is, I don’t remember it at all. It didn’t bug me. There are a few conversations with the local sheriff (or law person) that provided some solid tension and sympathy, but I wouldn’t call it snappy or anything.

Description:  This was perfect, especially for the genre. It was creepy in all the right places. I was prevented detail when it built tension, but when that tension peaked, the description was vivid. I’d like to put a special note to the description that implied emotions. This is an area of weakness for me, and reading this book helped me add a few “show don’t tell” tricks to my bag. Cull does a great job evoking emotion without paragraphs of information or ham-handed descriptors.

Overall:  This story was fantastic and pretty hard to put down. I tore through it in about a week. I’d recommend it to any thriller or horror fans. This was just a great, classic horror story that I think would make Hitchcock proud. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

Cover Reveal! Smoke and Mirrors by C.L. Schneider

Cover Reveal! Smoke and Mirrors by C.L. Schneider

Greetings all,

C. L. SchneiderIf you’ve been following my blog for long, you’ll know that Cindy (C.L. Schneider) is a dear friend of mine who has been incredibly supportive. Today I have the distinct privilege to offer her my support.

Her Nite Fire series has a new edition, and I get to show you all the cover!  I read Flash Point, and you can see my review for that here. As I usually do, I’ll wait for the saga to end before I jump on any other books in that series (unless the audio books come out when I have a credit or two). But I am excited to see where the series goes.

Without further delay, I present to you the cover for Smoke and Mirrors, the third book in the Nite Fire saga.

Smoke Mirrors FINAL

 

I love the color of this image. Backs of heads are usually a no-no in the image business, but given the cool dragon in the mirror, it works. The warm of Dahlia’s hair (the fire is so well done) contrasts perfectly with the cooler surrounding colors.

Here’s the cover blurb:

Secrets are a dragon’s best friend. Deception is a close second. Both provide a sturdy armor, allowing half-dragon shapeshifter, Dahlia Nite, to live undetected among the humans. Walking in two worlds, belonging in neither, she wraps herself in a shroud of lies to hide in plain sight. But nothing stays hidden forever.

When dismembered bodies of multiple species are dumped on the riverbank, the case falls to Dahlia and Detective Alex Creed. Backed by Sentinel City’s new task force, the pair find themselves urged along by clues that seem too good to be true. Bouncing from one crime scene to the next, they hunt for a clear motive in a murky sea of conflicting evidence. Already on edge from the recent string of unexplained crimes, the city begins to unravel.

Drowning in missing creatures, slaughtered remains, masked men—and the search for her sidekick’s missing sister—Dahlia burns the candle at both ends. Seeking answers, she employs her empathic abilities, and uncovers something deeper and more sinister than a simple serial killer’s web. As the dots connect, and worlds collide, she struggles to shields her friends from the truth. But secrets can be deadly. And Dahlia’s not the only one who keeps them.

Smoke and Mirrors is scheduled to be released in May of 2019. So if you’re interested, and you want to catch up, you have plenty of time (especially since book one is on Audible).

Cindy truly is an amazing author, and I’d recommend her book to just about any fan of fantasy, but her books are best suited for fans of dark fantasy with some steam (if you catch my meaning).  She doesn’t get graphic though.

Please check out her work; you’ll be glad you did.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong by John MacArthur

Book Review: Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong by John MacArthur

Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong: A Biblical Response to Today’s Most Controversial Issues by John MacArthur is a book that offers Biblical perspective on a great number of issues. It was compiled by MacArthur and the leadership team at Grace Community Church, according to the book’s Goodreads page. I read this because I truly desire to have a Biblical mindset in all I do.

This book was honestly hard to read. This has nothing to do with grammar or structure. It’s hard to read in some places because of the blunt nature of the story. It doesn’t belittle or demean in any way (at least not from my perspective), but it doesn’t leave any room for doubt on what the Bible says about a great number of things.

John-MacArthur-Primary-2
Image of John MacArthur taken from his website for review purposes.

I honestly intend to read this again not that I’ve had some time to do more Bible study and prayer. There’s a natural instinct people have when they hear any religious leader speak on what might be earthly sensitivities. Some of the information on this book challenged me. 

To be clear, while I have a great amount of respect for Dr. MacArthur, his books are not a replacement for Scripture or doctrine.  I don’t think he’d ever want them to be. As hard as it may have been to face some of the subjects this book covered, I think any person should at the very least search his or her own heart and question the motives for their beliefs. I’d take it one step further and say that I’d like to read this book and then reference the associated (or attributed) Scripture for further understanding.

I find myself bucking at some of the stances, but that might be a result of the hardness that’s in my heart. Some of these stances are ones with which I agree fully, but that might only be out of self validation.  I feel another read-through with intense study on the associated Scripture is the best way to seek truth.

This book isn’t for people who are only curious or passingly interested in Christianity. A stance this strong on issues this hotly contested is a mirror that challenged my reflection. My perspective is that faith is something people grow in. I’m in a different place in my walk than others. The problem is, this is an argument commonly given by self-proclaimed believers who say words but don’t grow in the faith and aren’t becoming more sanctified.

As I type this, I think about the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23). Hardened hearts aren’t going read this story and find anything but frustration. Hearts enamored by the things of this world will be choked off from any wisdom one might glean from these words.

Truthfully, the only singular authority in the Bible is God. Men study it to learn His meaning for His word. A book like this for me forces a person to seek that Word and let it change his heart for the better.

What I know this book does is provide information, a stance, and a Biblical platform to guide these. I don’t have any metrics, but I would hypothesize this book has to be among Dr. MacArthur’s most contested. The truth is in the Bible, and I hope to reflect on those passages and pray on their wisdom.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt