Book Review: Mordecai by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: Mordecai by Michael G. Manning
Mordecai
This cover for Mordecai was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Mordecai is the first book of The Riven Gates series, which is the fourth series in the Mageborn saga. My review for the first the last book in the previous series is here. My review for the earliest series (Embers of Illeniel) is here.  My review for the central series (Mageborn) is here.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Mordecai has seen the passing of the Dark Gods. He’s saved Lothion, placed kings on thrones. His children have done similar things. However, now his past, and the past of the She’Har, are coming together to put him in a position he’s never been in. Tyrion, the progenitor of human mages and Mordecai’s distant ancestor, has returned to the flesh. The ancient enemy of the She’Har has also set it’s sites on Mordecai’s home. The ensuing conflict will cost Mordecai more than ever.

Character:  Mordecai is as wonderful as ever in this story. To me, this book sort of put the series back on track. Any series this large and this old is going to have ebbs and flows. While this book wasn’t as good as some others, it was one of the better ones in my opinion, and Mordecai’s story is why. I loved seeing Tyrion again, and most of the cast get’s some good screen time. The thing that has always elevated the series to me has been its characters, and they remain the driving force behind this outstanding saga.

Exposition: Previous books gave us the background and context we needed, so now we can get right into the drama and the action. Sure, I remember some scenes that might have slowed down a bit, but I’d say this was some of the better exposition I’ve seen in the series in a while.

Dialogue: I’ll admit that this is probably Manning’s weakest area. A lot of the dialogue feels like exposition sometimes. We get told things rather than listening to other characters talk. It’s not honestly such a problem. A lot of writers (including myself) tend to lean on this. So you’ll read conversations that feel more like plot outlines here or there, but it’s still conversational and engaging.

Description:  Any Manning book feels like watching a 3D film in iMAX. This story is no different.

Overall:  This book takes everything you know about Mordecai and his world and flips it on its head. Everything that’s been building for more than ten books comes to a satisfying climax in what’s only the start to what I hope is the most amazing series yet. I’m not going to pretend this is the best book, that right is still reserved for Betrayer’s Bane. However, this book was a shot of adrenaline after a more youth-reader-centered trilogy from the younger heroes in the story. I already think this series is better than the last, and it has potential to evolve into one that rivals the first (chronologically).

Thanks for reading

Matt

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The Need For Pain: Why Happy Characters Are Boring

The Need For Pain: Why Happy Characters Are Boring

Greetings all,

First a few notes:  For starters, I have the files for the Sojourn in Captivity audio book. I’m reviewing them now. The (very early) results seem wonderful.

Next: My wife an I are officially trying to have a child. This required a surgery to reconnect her tubes (which had been done during her previous marriage). The surgery went well, and I’d just like to take a moment and thank God for that. She and I both truly wanted to have more children, and we’re grateful the door is open. Her recovery has us both growing (code word for frustrated, which is actually why I’m doing this topic today). She’s stir crazy, and my routine is shot. Her number one comfort is being outgoing and doing things, which she can’t. My number one comfort is routine and consistency, which is nonexistent when I’m working and running a house.

But I truly mean it when I say this helps us grow.  You see, I aspire to have a boring life. I love the idea that tomorrow will be just like today. (Not at all my wife’s idea of a good day, but in this case opposites attract).  It’s all fine and good for a person to like what he likes, but if we don’t experience pain, we don’t grow. No one wants to read about the guy who encountered no stress and overcame nothing.

When we encounter struggles, it changes us. Pain  helps us grow. No, I don’t look forward to it, but I’m better when it’s over. Our characters are the same way.

Rand
Image taken from A Wheel of Time Wiki for character study purposes under Fair Use Doctrine.

A lot of my favorite characters are characters who suffered plenty: Rand from Wheel of Time suffered a ton (as did my favorite character in that series, Perrin). I’d say these characters are the extremes in terms of my top three series ever. Still, all my favorite books (personally) feature characters who truly struggled.

Here’s the next part to why this is so important. The readers or viewers must believe the characters might fail. I often have playful (yet also serious) arguments with a friend of mine (Hi Terry!) regarding why I honestly don’t care for DC. The characters are too powerful.  They have near Olympian power. Sure, Marvel has some OP characters, but most DC characters are of a ridiculous power level. I’m not afraid for them. I’m not in the least bit worried they won’t win the fight or meet their goal. This makes the story boring. If you want readers interested in your story, you need to convince the reader that character might fail.  This is all the more difficult to do because most readers expect a happy ending. They anticipate that, so it’s such an art to instill an honest sense of fear of failure for the character.

The wife and I don’t hate Jodie Whittaker or her Doctor, but we really couldn’t get into her first season. Now, other than Matt Smith (who remains the greatest Doctor ever), I hated every first season of every doctor. I think the writers take time to figure out the new Doctor just like the new Doctor (in the story) takes a minute to figure him or herself out. But we couldn’t get into it. Then something occurred to me: She never lost. Yes, the grandma died (was it the first episode?), but there wasn’t a connection. In fact, I’m of the opinion that character was pretty expendable. Why? Guess:

She was happy.

Doctor
Image taken from BBC.com for character study purposes under Fair Use Doctrine.

The only good thing a happy character can do in a story is die. They have no struggle, and therefore they have no interest. The most interesting thing that could happen is to see this wonderful, happy character die, thus causing all the other characters to become even more interesting as they try to adjust to life after happy character.

Most of my readers who I talk to during conventions often ask me about the characters who die. We talk about this a little. The one character I get the most (playful) anger with killing (no spoilers) was the character who was happy. But that character’s death shook the readers and gave them an emotional jolt. This loss affected not only the readers, but the characters around the the dearly departed.

So I had some interest, but then life got consistent for the Doctor. Then things got easy. I can think of a few instances when there was great opportunity for this Doctor to face true loss on a couple different stages, and the writers didn’t take the plunge. But you can only put Lois Lane on the train tracks so many times before the readers don’t even care anymore.  Sooner or later, that engine needs to plow over Lois, or the “act” gets boring. That’s what I feel happened with this latest season of Doctor Who.

So I wanted to throw out those ideas when I had a moment. Hopefully things calm down for me. (I really do appreciate growth, but I miss my routine something fierce right now, and my wife is going to go out of her mind if I can’t take her out next week.)

What do you all think? Do you have a story you realize you didn’t like so much for this reason? Do you disagree?

Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Demonhome by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: Demonhome by Michael G. Manning

DomonhomeDemonhome is the final book of the Champions of the Dawning Dragons series, which is the third series in the Mageborn saga. My review for the first book in this series is here.  My review for book two is here.  My review for the earliest series (Embers of Illeniel) is here.  My review for the central series (Mageborn) is here. This book was also my 2018 October Book Cover of the Month. 

Spoiler Free Summary:  Matthew Illeniel is the first wizard in his family to possess the true genetic heritage of his namesake. Using his strange ability to travel between worlds, he goes to another world to seek out the strange new mechanical enemies who plague not only his time, but were the an ancient enemy of the alien race. (I can’t spell their name correctly, and I can’t find their name in the time I have). Matthew must survive in a world that’s been taught to fear and hate magic of any kind. And that fear will lead to a stronger enemy his world might not be able to beat.

Character:  I like Matthew. He’s not as great a character as Moria, but he is fun. I think he’s a far more effective supporting character than a main character. I feel this way because he doesn’t actually have a lot of conflict in his life. He’s accepting of his status and goals. He’s confident in his abilities. It’s awesome seeing him work, but he’s too powerful and content for me to really connect with him as a character. That said, he is still a great character (just not as great).  His impulsive nature gets him into some tense situations, and his intuitive creativity (an obvious trait from his father) is fun to watch. No, I’m not worried about him, but it is a lot of fun watching him get out of the situations he’s in. It feels a bit like watching an episode of Doctor Who. I know he’s gonna live, but I don’t know how.

Exposition: This probably had more exposition than a normal Manning book, but I attribute that to the fact that we’re introduced to an entirely new reality. He still does this masterfully, he just had to orient his readers to this new area. More often than not, he let’s Matthew’s ignorance give us the comedy and understanding the reader would need.

Dialogue: Maybe not Manning’s best skill, but the dialogue is still far better than other stories. The thing that impressed me is that in a book like this, I’d have expected a lot of the dialogue to be thinly-veiled exposition, and there was a lot of that, but the bulk of the dialogue drives into character and personality. Part of the struggle is that these characters are young, so a lot of the topics are melodramatic.

Description:  As always, Manning’s work is visceral.  Description played more of a role in this story, and Manning upped his game accordingly. There are some cool things that happen here, and his style and timing really allowed this part of the story to sing.

Overall:  I think this story started of slow. I fought through the first ten percent of the book because of how much I love the series. However, once I hit the fifteen-percent mark, I was excited to see where it was going. This is amplified by how much I like the series, but it was a satisfying conclusion to this trilogy. It also set up the next series well. Fans of the whole series will like it much more than newcomers.  This book got me excited for the next set of books.

Thanks for reading

Matt

A 5-Star Review for Repressed!

A 5-Star Review for Repressed!

Greetings all,

CoverLayoutRepressed just got a five-star review! I’m always stoked when I get to share reviews, and the fact that the reader liked the book is an added bonus!

I’ve mentioned a few times that I don’t see myself doing a lot of YA. There are book sin that genre I really love, but some of the tropes I just don’t like much. So when I set out to write Repressed (and Sojourn in Captivity), I wanted to make an effort to stay true to the challenges a young adult (or teenager) faces without falling into some of the routines I didn’t appreciate in other stories.

This review is particularly fulfilling because it mentions and appreciates that I pulled away from some of the more-common plot threads in YA today.

I’m thrilled to see the first review for Repressed is positive, and I hope more keep coming. If you’ve read it, please consider leaving a review. Even if you hated it, I’d appreciate the honest criticism.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt

Book Review: Being a Dad Who Leads by John MacArthur

Book Review: Being a Dad Who Leads by John MacArthur

Greetings all,

DadWhoLeads
Image taken from Amazon for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Being a Dad Who Leads by John MacArthur was something I picked up when I knew I was about to meet my sons for the first time. My wife and I had waited until matters of her previous marriage were resolved, and I also met with the children’s counselor. Still, I wanted a Biblical perspective on how to do right by the boys.

Having already read several of MacArthur’s books, I picked up this book on parenting. This book exposits upon Ephesians 6:4. It also touches on a man’s relationship with his wife.

Because I think any parent should read this book, I’m not going to go too deeply into the content. It starts with loving one’s wife with a true, sacrificial, Christ-like love.  Then it details ways in which parents sometimes provoke their children to anger. It concludes with the idea of discipline and instruction of the Lord.

For the record, this isn’t a reference to punishment, but rather the idea of an athlete’s discipline. Paul often uses athletic metaphors in his epistles.

John-MacArthur-Primary-2
Image of John MacArthur taken from his website for review purposes under Fair Use Doctrine.

I’ve actually read this book twice, and it might be time to do so again. What I found was encouragement and a mindset that immediately resonated with me. It’s not a process book. To me, this a book focused on where a Dad’s heart should be as a parent. There are other books and lectures on raising children, but I’m glad I started here as it’s a foundational book that doesn’t get lost in the minutia of what ifs and how-tos. I won’t deny I like actionable information, but the value of this book was that it gave me a filter with which to view my actions.

I wouldn’t say one should stop at this book. Indeed, the Bible and those who exposit on it well can provide so much more insight. I would, however, say this is where I wanted to start, and I’m glad I did. As I read and study more, as I watch lectures on parenting, I feel like this book created the foundation on which I can build my habits as a parent.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Caught by MLS Weech

Steve was kind enough to read Caught, and I’m so happy he did. My review for his book is in the works! I can’t thank him enough for the support and friendship he’s offered me. Here’s his review!

Red String PaperCuts

I picked up Caught directly from MLS Weech at his book launch in Glen Burnie, MD. I think that was back in early 2017, so I’m sorry to say it took me a while to get to this one.

So, yeah, in case it’s not clear enough, here’s my disclosure: Weech is a friend. He’s also an imaginative and vivid writer. Spoiler-free review follows.

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