Book Review: The Burning White by Brent Weeks

Book Review: The Burning White by Brent Weeks
Cover
Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spolier Free Summary: (Note: Once more, it’s very hard to review a final book in a series. I’ll do my best.)  The Burning White is the final novel in the Lightbringer Saga by Brent Weeks. Gavin finally faces the truth about the existence Orholam, and the truth will set him free. Kip, accepting the role of Lightbringer, returns home for the final defense of his chosen home. Karris and Andross scheme. Tia walks down a dark path of death, hoping a light shines anywhere. Everything comes to a head, and all questions are answered in this final volume. I have to admit, I didn’t get the answer that frustrated me so much with The Blood Mirror. I think that’s just a whiff that Weeks will have to accept. Lucky for him the series as a whole is great.

 

Character:  Tisis stole the show in the last book, so I was mad she didn’t get that much attention in this book. That said, every one of these character arcs were amazing! I must give proper respect to Gavin, who’s growth was beautiful. I also must give a nod to Andross here. A lot of cool things happen that reveal motivations, and that amplifies the sympathy of all of these characters.

Exposition: We still have a few dumpy sections, but that’s going to happen in a series this deep. I’ll say that while there was some slow-down here and there, the general pace of the novel (and series) was just fine. The dumpy sections are portions I think most fans of epic fantasy have come to expect so long as the author doesn’t abuse the privilege. Weeks doesn’t.

Worldbuilding: The world only gets bigger, and we see a lot more of the religion in this world in this book. I don’t know if Weeks is Christian or not, but I can promise you he did his research. It was actually super fun for me to count off the sheer number of Bible Easter eggs as I saw it, particularly near the third act to the end. I don’t think people who haven’t read the Bible or aren’t that familiar with it would catch as much (or mind), but it’s hard to know given how much of the Bible I read. I found those ties to be satisfying, but I wonder how others might respond. I expect they wouldn’t notice.

three-book-covers
Other books in the Lightbringer saga.

Dialogue:  I’d still say the same that I’ve always said. I can’t argue the characters all have unique voices (though I do think so). Yeah, they’re all pretty much flippant, arrogant people with sly comments for every situation, but it’s fun to listen to. It’s witty and entertaining.

Description: Weeks is still a minimalist in this regard. There was more description in this book than others, but the necessity was there given the number of action scenes and new locations to account for.

Overall: This was a wonderful start to my 2020 year in reading. It’s going to take a strong book to take its spot at the top of my best-read stories of the year, and I can say that nothing so far has com anywhere close. I don’t know if I’ll finish the new Stormlight book before the new year, but that would be the competition I expect. Who knows though. I loved this book, and at the moment, it’s the best I’ve read so far in 2020. This book is a fantastic end to a satisfying conclusion. While I still enjoyed it, I’d have to say I liked Night Angel better, but I think that’s more of a compliment to Night Angel than a knock on Light Bringer. There’s a lot to love about this conclusion.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

A new 4-Star Review for The Journals of Bob Drifter!

A new 4-Star Review for The Journals of Bob Drifter!

Greetings all,

Bob CoverI’m always happy to announce reviews for my work, and it’s even cooler when it’s a good one. I found this review for The Journals of Bob Drifter on Goodreads. Writers typically have to challenge themselves. Original ideas are a debated myth in these days, so finding ways to stand out or be unique are important. I appreciated the reader calling Bob ” … different than any other book … ”

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Debt-Free Degree by Anthony Oneal

Book Review: Debt-Free Degree by Anthony Oneal
Cover
Image taken from the book’s Goodreads page for Review Purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

I’m a firm believe in the Dave Ramsey program, so when Debt-Free Degree by Anthony Oneal came out, I snatched it up. First, I have sons. Two of them will be in college in just five years. While we’re working our way through the baby steps, we’re no where near where we need to be yet to save for college.

This book is best for people who have younger kids, but what I like about it is it gives you steps to take at each grade level in each financial position. It talks a lot about planning and helping the mindset of your child.

What I don’t like so much about it is that while it talks about how “many scholarships” there are and how “we need to apply” for them, I found very little actionable information. Where do I go to apply? Where do I go to find all those scholarships. I imagine the organization’s website will have more resources, but I wish the book was more of a step by step, how to than it was a “here’s how to get your kid’s mindset ready.”

Oneal
Image of Mr. Oneal taken from his website’s bio for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

The book has value from a planning standpoint, especially in regard to preparing and working with a child to identify and move forward with a career path. I just wish it had more meat and potatoes in the scholarship department.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Musings on Christianity 24

Musings on Christianity 24

Why Read The Bible?

In my time growing as a Christian, one of the things that took me longer than most to understand was the value of reading the Bible. I’m not even sure why when I consider my personality. In the Navy, I hated the idea of people telling me what they thought. I had several people say, “That’s not the way to do it,” or “That’s against policy!” I always wondered, “Where are they getting all these rules?”

I don’t know that every person who ever corrected me or yelled at me (not that it happened a metric ton in the Navy) or even talked to me about policy was ignorant about it or not, but one day someone sat me down to show me what I’d done wrong. Instead of yelling or barking about ephemeral concepts, he printed the actual Navy policy in question. He let me read it. There wasn’t a debate. There was no yelling. There was no overly-long lecture or self-elevating speech. It was policy, and allowing me to read it made it about what the regulation said. I loved it. It was simple and true with no bias toward emotion or personal preference.

From that day, I always wanted to look at the policy. At my current job, I periodically read my unit’s information guide because I really do want to do what is right. That’s always been a guiding principle of mine, and so I grew to love the law. Why then, did I never read the Bible?

Please don’t misunderstand. There were several times and periods of my life where I read the Bible. What I didn’t do was read and study it daily or read it all the way through even once.

One day, while talking to one of my protégées in the Navy, I told her how important it was for one to always read the policy. For some reason, that was the moment I realized I was avoiding the source. I was angry at “organized religion.” I was angry at “Bible thumpers.” Now I realize a great deal of those “Bible thumpers” hadn’t read the Bible (at least not all the way through). They’d shout at people whatever scripture they thought was relevant, but they did it from the mindset of convincing others to do what they want rather than focus on what God wants.

We see this all the time. We see it in people who falsely claim that people of color are cursed (they’re not). We see it in people who falsely claim that people of different nationalities are lesser (they’re not). Those people love picking one verse out of context and running with it.

But the Bible is one book with sixty-six parts. If you don’t study and see how they go together and interact, your doctrine will be wrong. That doesn’t mean a person can’t study for certain things. This very book is a Biblical research project, and that’s what led to this particular chapter. You see, those who would degrade the word of the Bible probably do so because they encountered several of the people who abused it (like those above).

It was hard for me to believe the Bible was the word of God. (Wasn’t it written by men?) It was hard for me to believe the historicity of the Bible. (How could the things in the Bible be true?) What convinced me? Sure enough, I actually decided to sit down and read the whole thing. I had questions, but I didn’t declare those questions inconsistency and put it down. Rather than let my questions become reasons to stop reading and growing, I let my questions drive me to seek answers. Rather than check history, archeology, and science (real science driven by fact and not “commonly believed” bias), I checked those things against the Bible, and thus far, the Bible has won every time.

Even in the most easily recognized areas of dispute (you’re saying the world was created in six days? What about … ) the very things people use to dispute the word of God are not provable by the very science they claim debunk the Bible. The theories of the universe and evolution (and other long-held beliefs called “science”) are at-best theories that scientists are seeking to prove. The best of those scientists are objectively seeking truth based on that hypotheses, understanding that a hypotheses is just that. The worst of them have the same dogmatic rigidness they accuse a Christians of having, believing without real evidence or even the scientific desire to seek consistent evidence on the subject.

While I believe I have a scientific mind, I don’t have the scientific knowledge to prove anything, nor will I try. What I will say though is even a casual investigation into man’s biggest questions from the Bible are only (at-best) as challenging as the same “proofs” scientists have been striving to find.

If I were more scientific, the remainder of this chapter would be used to help secure one’s faith by using scientific evidence to prove the validity of the Biblical record. (Or even prove the truth of it. Truth and validity aren’t the same thing.)

That science is being conducted, and the information is out there. I’m studying it as we speak. I’m just not as versed as I’d like to be, and any effort I make in that vein will only cause more skepticism. 

Instead, I want to use my time in this chapter to tell you what reading the Bible has done for me.

Reading the Bible keeps me centered. I’m a passionate man. I’m a man of high emotion and drive. I’m also one who believes in doing what is right. I’m not without error by any means. I get distracted at work. I can be argumentative. But when I see someone doing something I know is wrong, I can be pretty unloving about how I point it out. I hope I’ve grown in this, and the people who know me have said this is true. But I was pretty thunderous in my rebuke of people who “weren’t doing it right.” I was also pretty hypocritical, pointing out the wrongs of others without any regard to my own transgressions. 

Reading the Bible puts my mind on God and his commands and how a person should live. It gives me balance between love and truth. It gives me humility when I want to be prideful. It gives me patience when I want to be hasty. It gives me discipline when I want to be wrong.

Reading the Bible gives me knowledge. A few years ago when I had so many questions, I could use those questions to excuse what I wanted to do or avoid things I knew I should be doing.  A good portion of the Bible (the epistles), are all about guiding young believers in their walk and helping them grow. The answers are there if you read and seek. Reading the Bible (go figure, in the same way you’d read any book) gives me scope. I see how things come together. I better understand doctrines that used to elude me.

Reading the Bible gives me confidence in my faith. That same period I had questions, I also used those questions to feed my doubt about Christianity. Reading the Bible removes that doubt. Do you worry that there are inconsistencies in the Bible? Don’t, while there are parts that don’t match exactly, the Bible is amazingly consistent from Old to New Testament.  Most of the reasons things don’t line up exactly have more to do with the intended audience of the work than errors in factual reporting.

This is something I teach my students. A journalist writing a story for Navy News Stand is going to format a story very differently than if he were writing it for the Yuma Daily Sun. The facts are in there. Some are left out because they matter less to one reader than another. Some are emphasized because they’re more important to one audience than another. But there is no one verse of the Bible that directly contradicts another. Only a passive scan of the Bible with the intent to find discrepancies (rather than a thorough reading with the intent to find truth, in this case to learn what it really says and why) would find evidence. However, that evidence of discrepancies never holds up against a careful reading of all the context and other accounts.

I’ve come to learn this by reading the Bible carefully. I had doubts. I may have even started my first full read through of the Bible expecting to find discrepancies and inconsistencies. They just aren’t there.

Reading the Bible fills my spirit. My human heart is prideful, arrogant, resentful, and unkind. Do I reflect those qualities more than say … a maniac? No, but just because I’m not as evil as one man doesn’t remove those characteristics from my flesh. My flesh is weak, but my spirit is so very willing to grow, and it is the overcoming of those fleshly desires that glorifies God. Reading the Bible strengthens my spirit. It arms me with the tools I need to be loving in my rebuke and humble in my mindset. I need this so much. The more I read, the easier it is to recognize when I’m thinking with a self-centered mind. (I think. I want. I believe.) The more I read, the more readily I think with a god-centered mind. (What does God say? What does God want me to do? How are my actions glorifying Him? How am I bearing Him fruit?)

There are other books that speak about the historicity, validity, and truth of the Bible, and the panel is more than welcome to contribute to those subjects. But a communication teacher who has only read the Bible all the way through one time probably isn’t going to convince anyone of those things. But a guy who reads twenty-thirty five books a year talking about what reading this book does for him? That’s probably a bit more effective. If you haven’t tried it, try it. Even if you just read it for the sake of reading anything, you’ll see how the whole story comes together in a beautiful and comforting way.

For our panel: What are some other reasons to read the Bible? Did you have any doubts in your walk in the faith? How did reading the Bible remove those doubts? Was there a particular portion of the Bible that was harder for you to believe or help others believe? How did you use the Bible to learn the truth, or how did you find certainty?

Soundtracks for My Books!

Soundtracks for My Books!

Greetings all,

I’m still plugging away on Discovered’s outline while I’m saving up money to get Betrayed edited. Since I’m such a fan of music, I thought I’d do a little exercise where I picked out title soundtracks all of my books.

The Journals of Bob Drifter: “Off He Goes” by Pearl Jam.

 

So one thing that I don’t do very much is pay attention to lyrics, at least not where soundtracks are concerned. I think it could be a bit boring to narrate a novel to music anyway. What I listen for is for a song to match the feel and tone of one of my projects.  I love this song, and I think the tone is perfect. I like the sound. I like the tempo. I’d be thrilled if Bob were to be made a series (not a movie!), and this song were selected as a title soundtrack.

Caught: “This is Our War” by Halocene

 

So this is a band I’ve been meaning to endorse for a while. Honestly, in my dream scenario, Halocene does an original song for Oneiros, but this song is pretty close to what I’d want. I honestly think the lyrics match up okay too (but don’t hold me to that). This song has the change-up in tone and emotion that any soundtrack song for Caught would have to have.

Repressed: “Eighteen” by First to Eleven

 

 

So yeah, I’m double-tapping this, but the song works, and I really do like it. The tone shift from Caught to Repressed is something I went into with open eyes, and I wouldn’t change it. This song has that coming of age feel, and Repressed is more or less a coming of age story. Kaitlyn has some ways to grow, but the woman she becomes at the end of this saga is one I’ll love for as long as I’m alive. So this little Y-A, female-lead story has a song that’s more or less an anthem for such a mindset. It’s not where Kaitlyn ends, but it is where she was at that time in her life.

Sojourn in Captivity: John Williams, please compose the soundtrack!

 

Perception of War is my Space Opera, and I can’t imagine a space saga ever happening without John Williams composing the soundtrack. Perception of War isn’t as romantic as Star Wars, but I’d trust Mr. Williams to apply the proper mood to each scene and nail a great opening credits song.

 

Stealing Freedom: The Pretender by Foo Fighters

 

So this is probably the one I’ve thought the least about. I’m not even sure why. But when I thought about what I would want if Stealing Freedom were made into a movie, I thought, “What band do I like no matter what mood I’m in?” Answer: “The Foo Fighters.” They always rock out, and this song fits wonderfully.

What are your thoughts? Are there any songs that you think would go well with one of my books?

Thanks for reading (and listening),

Matt

Book Review: The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo

Book Review: The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo
Cover
Cover for the book taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo is a Biblical perspective on raising children who are troubled by anger.

The thing that stuck with me the most about this book was the distinction between righteous and unholy anger. It also provided a means to put God front-and-center in any interaction with another person (not just a child).

The book also gives tools and procedures for corrective action. Oddly, it doesn’t have any information on punishment. It speaks a lot about discipline, but only in the context of its original meaning (to place one’s self under control). I would have liked some perspective on the topic of punishment.

One reason may be that this book focus most on discipline in terms of teaching, which should always be the priority in any interaction between a parent and his (in my case) children.

I found this book taught me far more about my anger and my perspective than it did about my son (who I read this book hoping to help). Don’t get me wrong; this book helped me find alternative ways to reach my son. However, I found this book helped me personally (if in a convicting way).

Lou
Image of Mr. Priolo taken from his website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

I don’t just recommend this for believing parents; I recommend this book for any believers who feel they might struggle with frustration and anger.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Musings on Christianity 23

Musings on Christianity 23

What Are Other Ways to Rebuke?

A Few chapters ago, I mentioned rebuke. I took a brief detour at anger, to establish that anger is not in and of itself sinful. Now we can look at rebuke and see how it was done in the Bible. A quick search of the Bible online shows 89 instances of the word “rebuke.” That would be translations of ga’ar (most commonly), yakhach, and ribh in the Old Testament. We will also see the translation of the word “epitimao” in the New Testament. We’ll also see the word “elegcho.” 

This list probably isn’t extensive. Also, I don’t know Aramaic, Hebrew, or Greek. All of this research is done online looking as closely as I can in the time I give myself to write these words.

Some of the times the word “rebuke” appears is more about rebuke than a demonstration of it. They are warnings or requests that one be rebuked or rebuke someone. One example of this is in 1 Chronicles 12:17, where some mighty warriors came to pledge themselves to David. David basically says, “If you’re here to help, great, but if you’re trying to trick me, I pray God rebukes you for it.” 

Because scenes like that are more warnings or requests, we’ll set those aside and only look for actual demonstrations of rebuke.

My studies of the Bible (small and brief though they are), have revealed in my opinion four types of rebuke.

The most common type of rebuke I’ve found is a conviction or an announcement of grievance. Just tell a person what they have done wrong and/or how that wrong made you feel. We see men do this in several instances of the Bible, but God himself does this also.

“After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has.’”  (Job 42:7)

This is a great example of this type of rebuke because it both states the wrong (“You have not spoken of Me what is right … “) and expresses how that made God feel (“My anger burns against you … “) 

It is loving to rebuke. Convicting a person of what they’ve done to you and expressing your feelings (in love and truth) is not wrong, but a valid, Biblical course of action only a fool would scoff (Proverbs 9:8)

The next style of rebuke is slower. I actually recall several other examples of this throughout Christ’s ministry, but a lot of those examples aren’t stated overtly as rebukes. This style of rebuke is to allow the wrong doer to expose himself. The one overtly stated example of this is in 2 Samuel 12:1-15. David had just arranged the death of Uriah to cover up adultery. Here Nathan comes and tells David about two men, and how one man who had many sheep stole from a poor man who had only one.

Sure enough, David lashed out in anger and condemned that man. It was only then that Nathan revealed that David himself was the man. That rebuke came with a stern punishment, another form of rebuke in itself. However, there are several examples of Christ Himself placing people in position to convict themselves. That rebuke can often bring people to repentance. I find it interesting that there is only the one overt expression of the word, and even that is in a header, not actual scripture. (Headers, chapters, and verses weren’t any part of original manuscripts.) Still, this is a powerful tool to one who uses it wisely.

I know I’ve just hinted at punishment, but stick with me for a minute while I discuss the third type of rebuke. Punishment is a slippery slope, and I want to give that a bit more context. I also want people to see the other forms first (and there’s a reason for that, too).

The third form of rebuke is to hold back or deny action. You see, we don’t have to wait for someone to do wrong. We can prevent that wrong if it is in our power. It took some study, but I found this method to be true because there were times when people were denied or tried to deny one from taking action.

“I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 3:11)

“The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” (Matthew 20:31)

It bears mentioning that I’ve only seen one instance of someone holding another back and it not being overridden, Malachi 3:11. This is because man often tries to hold back one doing what is right. It is possible to hold one back from sin (2 Timothy 4:2), but you must be working to prevent sin. The example in Malachi is a promise from God.  Still, if you see someone about to sin, you don’t have to wait for them or watch them do it, nor do you have to wait for someone to harm you.

In each of these examples, the rebuke was verbal. The characters are telling other characters to stop or be silent. None of the examples I’ve seen that fall under this form of rebuke are physical or violent. That may be coincidence, but I don’t think that should be taken lightly. A stern warning against action can go a long way to helping a person resist temptation.

So, now we come to the final, most extreme form of rebuke. I mentioned punishment in the last chapter, and I still see that pattern holding true. The right of rebuke in the form of punishment is reserved for God Himself and those he places in authority.

Each time punishment is used to rebuke people in the Bible, it is God acting as sovereign ruler. In 2 Samuel 22:16, in a prayer to God, David states (and later quotes himself in Psalm 18:15) that things are laid bare at His (God’s) rebuke.

Hezekiah describes a time of pain and disgrace as a day of rebuke. (2 Kings 19:3)

A more overt example may be Psalm 9:5, “You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish; you have blotted out their name forever and ever.”

I can’t stress enough how firmly I believe that punishment is reserved to specific people God places above us to enact his chosen punishment. It is His right to rebuke us in this way, and His alone. This is something someone more experienced and trained than I am may be able to help me understand differently, but in the time I’ve been studying, I’ve only ever seen the right of vengeance, punishment, and wrath belonging to God, and the Bible overtly says as much in passages like Romans 12:19.

That leaves us mortals who aren’t in positions of authority (to one degree or another) three other ways to rebuke, and we should. If we rebuke those who wrong us (and more importantly, God), we have an opportunity to gain our brother. More importantly, we have the opportunity to turn this person away before God evokes his right as sovereign judge to punish the wrong doer more sternly.

For those who are interested in my notes, I left a number of them below. They all have Biblical examples where the word “rebuke” is used. I imagine some may want to study this themselves. The references are there for your review if you wish.

 


 

Convict. Speak of wrong and how it made you feel

(Genesis 31:42)

(Genesis 37:10)

(1 Samuel 2:22)

(2 Samuel 19:1)

(Job 42:7)

Allow the wrong doer to expose himself (and punish)

(2 Samuel 12: 1-15)

Hold back (prevent action)

(Malachi 3:11)

(Ruth 2:16)

(Matthew 20:31)

(Mark 4:39)

(Mark 10:48)

(Luke 4:41)

(Luke 19:39)

(1 Timothy 5:20)

Punishment (All of these were from God. Rebuke as a punishment is from God, and it’s usually Biblically bad.)

(2 Samuel 22:16) Poem. States that things are laid bare at his rebuke

(2 Kings 19:3) (punishment is a rebuke)

(1 Chronicles 16:21)

(Psalm 9:5)

(Psalm 18:15) (a quote of 2 Samuel 22:16)

(Psalm 39:11)

 


 

For our panel: Are there other ways to rebuke I haven’t been able to find examples of? What can we do if the one we rebuke refuses? Are we obligated to remain near one who grieves us constantly? Do you have story about a time you’ve had to rebuke someone and how it went you’d like to share? How many times are we obligated to rebuke someone? Yes, we’re taught to forgive as God forgave, but does that also mean we must constantly rebuke a person for the same transgression over and over?