Review of “Ashes” by Linda Laforge
Wow, I like the premise of this story. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s definitely a point of revelation that made me go, “Oh, THAT’s what’s going on. Cool.” The sci-fi/paranormal element here is really well done and interesting, and I can’t think of anything exactly like it. I really enjoyed how the story unfolds so that there’s a bit of mystery involved too. And the spiritual/religious significance of what’s going on here is really unique (creepy, but unique and fun).
The plot rolls along and keeps you interested as Emily becomes more and more caught up in the oddities surrounding Dr. Norrell’s research. It feels like a familiar, “everyday” world and setting until the weirdness kicks in, and it’s easy to relate to Emily and her companions as they try to make sense of what’s happening with her pregnancy and the weird things she starts seeing and can’t quite explain. Emily herself is very much an average woman, but by the end she is definitely the one with an insider’s view into what’s really going on. Dr. Norrell is an interesting character who’s quite mysterious in his true methods and motives, and I’m sure there’s more to be known about him than what we’re told here. Once you learn what’s really going on, the deeper significance of events becomes really, really interesting and spins the story in a new direction.
It’s a small cast of characters, and we don’t get to know them really well, but that’s partly due to the shortness of the story. The book could benefit from some quick proofreading/editing, but it’s pretty well done and a quick read. (I plowed through this in two sittings.)
I’m definitely curious where the story will go next. The ending suggests that this is only the beginning, and – now that the world and its peoples have very much changed – I’m sure the next step forward will be even more interesting.
See it on Amazon!
Review of “Immortal Reborn: Arianna’s Choice” by Natalie D. Wilson
First, the big picture: The mythology of angels, fallen angels, and their Nephilim offspring used in this book is incredibly interesting and yet not overly complicated. You quickly understand (especially if you have a Christian background, although I wouldn’t say that that’s necessary to enjoy this book) the history of this age-old struggle and get a feel for what’s at stake. The way the author brings historical places, objects, events, and people into the story adds a real depth to these immortals’ lives. I also really enjoyed that the Nephilim were shown to be from many, many different cultures and ethnicities.
As for the main character, Alexandria learns about herself right along with the reader. This was a really great way to maintain a sense of mystery to the story, and her back-flashes move the story along without being just distracting little bits of character development. So much of the story is about WHO she is, and it’s pretty easily to feel invested in her character’s well-being.
The story is slowly paced but punctuated by a few terrifying encounters with the enemy, and there are some fun bits of action as Alex trains with the Nephilim. (The whole middle section felt like what would happen if “This Present Darkness” had a spin-off set at Hogwarts for adults. Really imaginative and great.)
I was also glad that the typical love triangle element actually has VERY great significance behind it, but I won’t spoil anything.
My only nit-picky complaint: The characters feel overly perfect. I loved how good and close and loving Alexandria’s family is, and of course it makes sense that the Nephilim born of angels are especially good. However, none of the good guys do anything wrong – ever. Everyone is ALWAYS sweet and loving and perfect, even Jack, who is completely mortal and human. At every turn, Alex does exactly the right thing – even after a workout when her clothes are dirty and she realizes she needs to sign up for a chore chart, if they have one. I think I just would have liked to see a little more relatable anger, annoyance, messing up, etc.
Anyway, I’m definitely interested to see where the next book goes. SOMETHING is still going on that we don’t know about as far as the conflict is concerned (avoiding spoilers here), and I’m interested to see how it all turns out.
See it on Amazon!
The Kota Series Q&A – Round 1
As promised, here are my A’s to your Q’s.
Thanks, everyone who submitted questions! Keep ’em coming for future podcasts!
I tried to remain spoiler-free. These questions/answers deal with Book 1 mostly, with some hint of what is to come in the rest of the series (Books 2-4).
In what way is Trok immortal?
What is Trok’s role going forward?
Why does Trok become like a narrator?
Who’s my favorite character?
Most important question no one asks?
Why do Bullseye and Tigris have greater powers than Rave and Whitewolf?
Does Abduction possession = a death sentence?
Have we seen all the Kota prophecies?
How do I come up with world-building?
What is the dark Christian Sci-Fi in the Kota?
Do you have to read the books in order?
Wild prediction about Malice.
Show Kota tattoo?
Muppet Christmas Lessons
[This is from a few years ago, but it’s still appropriate. And still a lesson I struggle with…although I hope I’m better. Anyway, ’tis the season.]
I am proud of Jason Segel. I don’t know him. Never met him. I know being proud of someone you’ve never met is odd, but it’s true. He brought the Muppets back to life. The Muppets were essentially dead for over a decade, and now my whole generation has back this wonderful element of our childhood. Better yet, as one of my friends pointed out, we are free to love the Muppets without irony (the culturally acceptable attitude painted over long-forlorn objects of childhood affection).
After watching the new Muppet Movie, which happened to release around my birthday, my friends went on a Muppet binge for over a month. It helped that this was around Christmas, and the Muppets’ several Christmas specials fit with perfect timing. Chief amongst these was, of course, A Muppet Christmas Carol. Admittedly, I’ve always been partial to Muppet Treasure Island and hadn’t watched their Christmas Carol in several years, but it’s still one of my favorite adaptations.
This time, however, I for the first time noticed something about the general story of the Christmas Carol that got to me – Scrooge. I’m sure several people who know me would say that I should always have identified with Scrooge, but that’s not exactly what hit me. The thing about the story that I noticed this time was this: After his midnight ordeal, Scrooge wakes up in the morning a changed man, and though we only see his first morning after, the projection implied is that Scrooge was a changed man ever after. That made me think, as many a jaded adult should probably admit to thinking, “Yeah, but how long did it last?”
Then I watched Young Adult, where Charlize Theron plays a woman so self-important and miserable that she honestly thinks it’s not only a good idea but a possible one that she can steal back her now-married ex-boyfriend. As I watched this movie, I couldn’t help make the connection – she’s a scrooge. She’s entirely focused on meeting her own needs; she sees the world only from her own viewpoint. However, unlike Scrooge, when her climactic moment of decision arrives and she realizes that she must change or else be miserable the rest of her life…she doesn’t. She reverts. She not only doesn’t learn her lesson but she believes that there was no lesson necessary to learn. It’s a disturbingly accurate portrayal of our contemporary approach to choosing to be better people, I think. (I never thought I would accuse Dickens of being optimistic, but by comparison to Diablo Cody, I guess he was.) In Young Adult, this scrooge thinks there’s nothing really wrong with her, and it’s deeply disturbing because you come to want so badly for this person to grow up and be better.
So. When/if we repent, change, heal, whatever, how long does it last? At least for me, the answer is usually “not very.” I have all the gusto in the world and have every honest intention of being a better person once I’ve been slapped in the face with my own idiocy, and I might even make a really good go of it for a week or two. But pretty soon, old nature sneaks back in and my enthusiastic decency-revival fades. Or, worse yet, like Young Adult, I talk myself out of needing to change because I’m so comfortable wallowing in my own mess that I can’t see how to do anything else. I’m not really that bad, right? Maybe it’s everyone else who’s wrong. Maybe I just need to focus more on myself.
Example: Lately (I use that liberally but feel free to replace with “for quite some time”), I’ve been a pretty sulky, victimized, snippy, unpleasant brat. I can easily admit that my biggest problem is that I quickly find flaws in people and expect too much from them, and I was living from the position that all my problems were caused by everybody else. (Let’s face it, this is an easy road to go down.) The stupid thing is that I’m horribly self-aware and knew I was being an ass, but I have always been able to rationalize my behavior and thoughts – okay, maybe that’s my worst quality. Anyway, I was definitely being a scrooge, pre-ghostly visitations. Fortunately, what finally got to me was not as traumatizing-ly supernatural. While reading Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman, I realized that I was being completely, self-righteously ridiculous. The problem was me. Yes, everyone else has problems and nobody’s perfect, but I CAN change ME. For starters, I needed to at least realize I had a plank in my eye. If I can rationalize my flaws, why can’t I do the same in others? I needed to be more forgiving of other people’s flaws. It’s only fair. What right do I have to think I’m better than everyone I’m upset with when I know I’m being a jerk? Why can’t I be as forgiving of other people as I am of myself?
As a Christian, I believe that the great, great thing about God is that he’s just waiting for us to realize we’re idiots. I always imagine a spiritual finger poking me when I need to realize I’m being stupid. The scary thing about us humans (or maybe just me…but I doubt it) is that we get really good at ignoring the poking. Sometimes it takes something to get our attention, and in my case is was Not A Fan (I’m really happy it wasn’t the Ghost of Christmas Future, because that guy always freaks me out, even in Muppet form). As I finished reading a chapter, I felt a weight lifted, and I knew it was my own stupidity. I acknowledged for the first time in way too long that I was being a self-righteous, judgmental idiot. And just like that, I felt God going, “Ah-ha, there ya go. Welcome back.” I realized at once that this was yet another time when I had to decide where to go and how to be better.
- Be fair – treat people at least as kindly as I treat myself. If I don’t like something about someone, first ask myself if that’s because it’s something I don’t like about me.
- Be a more invested friend – show up when people ask, because they might stop caring if I don’t.
- Get out of my own head. Empathize more.
- Let things go. People aren’t perfect.
Of course, in this approaching time of New Year’s resolutions, there is always the question of “How long will it last?” There will be slips. I’m not perfect, and no one ever completely changes. Within a short time, I’m sure I’ll catch myself saying something or doing something that will make me feel that finger-poking rebuke again. But I intend to remain aware and try to fix my behavior and thoughts as often as possible.
NOT THIS: THIS:
NOT THIS: THIS: