Monday, March 26, 2012

Offspring-Scott Appleton

Offspring is the second book in The Sword of the Dragon series.  You can view my review of the first book, Swords of the Six,

"With Ilfedo's beloved wife buried, the Hemmed Land is destined to change, as is he.

The sea serpents have again invaded the land, and Ilfedo must discover the power behind the sword of the dragon, even as he accepts his people's call to become their Lord Warrior.  His daughter grows into a beautiful young woman whose wisdom and love endears her to the people, and sets her on a journey to find a race of unique and powerful creatures.

But far to the north an evil long ago stirred, and Letrias's workings soon threaten everything Ilfedo holds dear."
From back cover

Scott Appleton has improved in his craft.  Whereas Swords of the Six left me with a bad impression on the technicalities of some of his writing-much simply seeming unpolished-Offspring shows remarkable improvement.  While there is still room for improvement, it is leaps and bounds above his last entry.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Joel C. Rosenberg Interview

Note: This interview was not conducted by myself, this is a standardized-however, quite interesting-interview sent to all reviewers.

Momentarily you will notice my review of The Tehran Initiative will be up.  Most readers will read this later on, so by that point, both would be up.  But instead of making one long massive review with the interview, I've separated them.  The interview is quite fascinating and I would give it a solid read if the subject interests you.

1) This is the second book with CIA operative David Shirazi. Where does the story pick up from your previous bestseller
The Twelfth Imam?
A: The Tehran Initiative begins about sixty seconds after The Twelfth Imam leaves off. I’ve tried to create a near seamless connection between the two. And there’s another book coming, The Damascus Countdown.

Joel C. Rosenberg
Joel C. Rosenberg
2) You started writing
The Tehran Initiative when the Arab Spring began earlier this year. Did events impact your writing or the storyline? A: Actually, I was well into writing The Tehran Initiative when the "Arab Spring" began and it was a little eerie because the novel opens with the assassination of the President Egypt and Egypt descending into chaos after the leader’s fall. Fortunately, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak wasn’t killed, but he certainly fell quickly and somewhat unexpectedly and Egypt is still reeling from the aftermath. The novel really focuses a great deal on the intense desire amongst many Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa to build a global Islamic empire, or a "caliphate." And that’s certainly a growing theme among the Islamists in the region this year.
Perhaps what struck me most curious since the publication of The Twelfth Imam and while I was researching and writing The Tehran Initiative is that the so-called Supreme Leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has began speaking more publicly about the coming of the Twelfth Imam. He used to be silent, or nearly so, on this subject. He let President Ahmadinejad do all the public talking about Shia End Times theology. But Khamenei has become more bold over the past year or so. He has told people that he has met personally with the Twelfth Imam, though we don’t know what he meant. Did he meet with a flesh and blood person? Did he see a dream? Or a vision? We don’t know. But Khamenei has also asserted that he is the personal representative on earth of the Twelfth Imam, as well as the so-called Prophet Muhammad. These developments – along with his support for Iran’s aggressive nuclear development program – suggest Khamenei senses the time is very short before some claiming to be the Twelfth Imam emerges publicly. In part, that’s why the Iranian government released the pseudo-documentary film in early 2011 called, "The Coming Is Near," about all the geopolitical signs that they believe are indicators that the Mahdi’s arrival is increasingly close at hand. Whether it will really happen or not remains to be seen. But the Iranian leadership is certainly convinced. Most of them, anyway. And, of course, the Bible tells us in Matthew chapter twenty-four to expect false prophets and false messiahs in the last days. So we can’t rule out the possibility that we’ll actually as false messiah emerge from the Shia world.
3) You’ve earned a reputation of writing stories that seemed ripped from tomorrow’s headlines. What is going on in The Tehran Initiative that we can see unfolding in the news? A: I think the biggest parallel between The Tehran Initiative and current events is the growing sense amongst Shia Muslim leaders – particularly in Iran – that the Twelfth Imam is coming any moment, coupled with Iran’s feverish efforts to build nuclear weapons, and the Israelis’ growing isolation in the world and feeling that they may have to hit Iran all by themselves.
Did you see Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s apocalyptic address at the U.N. in September, or read the
Like Hitler’s speeches in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, Ahmadinejad isn’t hiding what he believes. He’s pretty clear. He denied the Holocaust. He blasted the U.S. for bringing Osama Bin Laden to justice. He blamed the terrorist attacks 9/11 on the U.S. government. He insisted that his so-called messiah known as "Imam al-Mahdi" or the Twelfth Imam is coming soon. He insisted Jesus Christ will come with the Mahdi to take over the world. He called for a one-world government when he called for "the shared and collective management of the world."
Consider these excerpts: "This movement is certainly on its rightful path of creation, ensuring a promising future for humanity. A future that will be built when humanity initiates to trend the path of the divine prophets and the righteous under the leadership of Imam al-Mahdi, the Ultimate Savior of mankind and the inheritor to all divine messengers and leaders and to the pure generation of our great Prophet. The creation of a supreme and ideal society with the arrival of a perfect human being who is a true and sincere lover of all human beings, is the guaranteed promise of Allah. He will come alongside with Jesus Christ to lead the freedom and justice lovers to eradicate tyranny and discrimination, and promote knowledge, peace, justice freedom and love across the world. He will present to every single individual all the beauties of the world and all good things which bring happiness for humankind."
Though most world leaders do not appear to understand what Ahmadinejad is really saying, students of Shia Islamic eschatology or End Times theology do. The Iranian leader believes the end of the world as we have known it is increasingly close at hand. He believes the time for establishing an Islamic caliphate or global government ruled by the Mahdi is rapidly approaching. What’s more, he believes that the way to hasten the coming of the Twelfth Imam is to acquire nuclear weapons and use them to annihilate the United States, which he calls the "Great Satan" and Israel, which he calls the "Little Satan."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands what Ahmadinejad means. So do some of his top military advisors. That’s why they believe Iran is in the eye of a gathering storm in the Middle East, and that the chance of a major war is growing.
"Iran has not abandoned its nuclear program. The opposite is true; it continues full steam ahead," warned Israeli Defense Forces Home Front Command Chief Major General Eyal Eisenberg in a speech earlier this month. Also noting recent uprisings in the Arab world and growing tensions with Turkey, Eisenberg said, "This leads us to the conclusion that…the likelihood of an all-out war is increasingly growing."
To me, all this feels ripped from the pages of The Tehran Initiative. Unfortunately, it’s all true.
full text? You should. It’s instructive. Ahmadinejad is not a world leader worthy of the world stage. He is the evil leader of an Iranian death cult. A recent U.N. report indicates he is making progress in building nuclear weapons. He is calling for the arrival of the Twelfth Imam and wiping Israel "off the map." He aspires to be a mass murderer beyond the scale of Adolf Hitler. He deserves to be in prison, or an insane asylum. His U.N. speech was further proof, if more was needed. 4) Readers seem to get very attached to your characters. What goes into creating the characters in your novels? A: It’s the Colonel’s secret recipe of seven herbs and spices. I could tell you, but then I’d have to….well, never mind….no comment to that one. 5) What experiences in your real life do you draw from to piece together these novels that incorporate geo-politics, espionage, romance, and Bible prophecy? A: Someone once told me, "Write where you live in your head." For some reason, that advice resonated with me and stuck. I’m fascinated with politics, prophecy and the Middle East. Living in Washington, D.C. and working in and around the political world for the past two decades has certainly helped provide context for me to write political thrillers. I think traveling extensively throughout the Middle East and North Africa has been helpful, too. Somehow, it’s all worked together in a way some people find as interesting as I do. 6) You often incorporate Old Testament prophecy in your books. What scriptures do you draw from for this book and why? A: There’s no question that I am absolutely intrigued by Bible prophecy, and I like to start with an End Times prophecy – or a group of last days prophecies – and ask, "What if these were to happen in my lifetime? What would it look like? What would it feel like? How might such prophecies realistically be set into motion, and what might be the implications of their fulfillment?" That’s how I approach writing these books. But I don’t think of it like writing a fantasy novel or science fiction. I’m genuinely trying to imagine how it could really play out? I’m not saying these prophecies will necessarily come to pass the way I envision them, but they are interest to war game and see what happens. And given what’s happening in the real world today, I think readers are as curious as I am, and somehow my plots don’t feel that far-fetched. 7) You’ve been successful with your non-fiction books Epicenter and Inside the Revolution and you have a large following reading your analysis of Middle East events on your blog and e-newsletter "Flash Traffic." Why do you continue to choose writing novels about the Middle East? A: What could be more interesting? Presidents and presidential candidates constantly focus on the Middle East. Prime Ministers do. Kings do. Generals do. The media does. The economists do. The fact is, the eyes of the nations are riveted on Israel and her neighbors, the epicenter of the momentous events that are shaking our world and shaping our future. The stakes are very high. There is lots of uncertainty. It’s mysterious and dangerous and complex – it has all the elements of riveting political thrillers. And the Bible says the Middle East will become even more dramatic until the very return of Jesus Christ. Why write about anything else?

The Tehran Initiative-Joel C. Rosenberg

The Tehran Initiative is the sequel to the New York Times bestseller The Twelfth Imam, which I reviewed when it came out.  My review is veiwable hereThis book excelled in every possible way.  I could, theoretically copy and paste my review of The Twelfth Imam and simply change a few instances that were negative in the past book.  In this book there were no instances, and I can comfortably give this book a... Wait, you didn't expect me to ruin the suprise would you?

The world is on the brink of disaster and the clock is ticking. Iran has just conducted its first atomic weapons test. Millions of Muslims around the world are convinced their messiah—known as “the Twelfth Imam”—has just arrived on earth. Israeli leaders fear Tehran, under the Twelfth Imam’s spell, will soon launch a nuclear attack that could bring about a second holocaust and the annihilation of Israel. The White House fears Jerusalem will strike first, launching a preemptive attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities that could cause the entire Middle East to go up in flames, oil prices to skyrocket, and the global economy to collapse. With the stakes high and few viable options left, the president of the United States orders CIA operative David Shirazi and his team to track down and sabotage Iran’s nuclear warheads before Iran or Israel can launch a devastating first strike.
The book goes even deeper into Islamic history and background than its predecessor.  I found that aspect of the novel quite appealing as the author, Joel C. Rosenberg is one of the foremost leaders in the Judeo-Christian fight against Islam and a very reliable, Christian source for news and issues in the Middle-East regions. 
David Shirazi, the protagonist comes to grips with whether he is willing to put his life on the line to gain intelligence that the president (a man that I disagree quite strongly with on policy-even though he may not exist) is so strongly opposed to acting on at all.  Even when eight nukes are on the line.  David also struggles with what happens when he's died.  While being tortured to see if his CIA cover story could hold up he wonders what would happen after he died.  He had previously prided himself on his agnostic view, coming from a Middle-Eastern background, so he knew he wasn't going to be saved by Allah.  But he also knew that at no point in his life had he given his life to Christ.  So what would happen?  It's quite interesting the internal discussions he has which leads him to a conclusion of a sort.  Something I won't spoil.
Israel, on the other hand, is being backed into a corner.  With the U.S. President so opposed to another war in the Middle-East, the Israeli president has no backing from the U.S., and has to decide how to continue alone, without their single greatest ally.  With the Twelfth Imam's Middle-Eastern coalition (the Caliphate) rising and him gaining eight nuclear warheads attached to ballistic missles, plus every Islamic nation's military, Israel is in a tight spot.  I personally agree with what was ultimately decided to do, and the way it comes about is intriguing, but I can't spoil the story, so this is as far as I'll go with that.
All in all, Mr. Rosenberg blends expert writing craft (notice I didn't touch on that. It wasn't necessary), a very well researched setting, and deep, layered characters for a novel that I would recommend to anyone that enjoyed the first book or is interested in the Islamic world from a Christian worldview.
Five stars.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Final Summit-Andy Andrews

I had trouble categorizing The Final Summit.  It's not non-fiction, because the events contained in the book are obviously not true.  However, it contains many figures from history who were real and true.  It has a small and incomplex plot, but no real conflict.  It has a protagonist, but it doesn't focus much on him.  Some of these may sound like critiques, and they in some ways are-however, they are mostly just my attempts to categorize it.  Which I've decided you can't.  At least, not an any of my usual reading categories.

They story, I said, was simple.  Rather than giving a plot description found on the back cover or online somewhere, I'll just summarize-as you'll find much more about the actual plot from a summary than you will from a description.

To paraphrase the main question the book puts to you, "Find the one principle that will save humanity from the doom it is headed towards and put it back on the path to success."  Vaguely, that is the question that it presented at this 'Summit' of past historical, meaningful, characters that have come together to discuss and decide on said principle.  All these figures have died, except for one.  The leader of the summit who is actually still alive at the present time-David Ponder.  They have an hourglass set to them and they must find this principle in the contained time or suffer the doom of mankind.

I had many problems with the book.  None of which hindered me from enjoying the book, however.  On the purely techincal side of the spectrum, the author made frequent use of italics.  I'm not a fan of italics.  They serve their purpose on rare occasion, but typically it just shows the authors inability to convey emphasis properly and so they resort to a cheaper route.  That was true here, the author using italics nearly every page when it should hardly be once each chapter. But the author one-uped his strange fondess of italics.  Mr. Andrews would place the italics opposite where the italics should be placed.  I found it quite peculair.

Also, the historical characters were all hinted at to be in heaven.  No problem, right?  The problem came when the characters were revealed to be figures that were leaders of historically non-Christian society.  Then, tell me, Mr. Andrews, how is it that Cleopatra was a Christian or a Jew or any kind of follower of the True God?  I'm baffled too.  Nothing wrong with Cleopatra-she was a great leader of her people, but Egypt was a secular society and I don't believe that to be historically or biblically accurate at all.

Now to leave that there, I would be inclined to give this book a two, but as I said earlier, these aren't problems which hinder the reader from actually enjoying the book-however, some, it may hinder them from gaining anything beneficial from the book.

On the front of the book there is a quote from Dave Ramsey that says "Andy Andrews is a life whisperer."  While I'm not completely certain what Mr. Ramsey intends to mean by 'life whisperer' I can honestly say that there are some definite themes in this book.  The Summit goes through several tries to obtain the principle to save humanity, each resulting in great other principles that taken alone, and taken seriously, could make a huge difference in someones life.

It's apparent that the author has done his research on the many characters in this Summit, and there is even a character involved heavily in World War II whose importance in the war was stressed thoroghly.  However, I've never heard of him, and I would venture to guess most others would not recognize him either-however, if you look at the authors note in the back, the author is very clear in that this character does exist.  Phenomenal research went on to bring this character to life from the ashes of history that hardly tells his tale.

Overall, it's personal preference.  If the first things I've mentioned are things that will keep you from enjoying the book, then by no means do not buy the book.  However, if you can get past those issues then you're in for a lovely book.  I give it 4 stars.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Spearhead Books and General News

Things have been crazy lately.  I've been volunteering up at my local YMCA pool, but slightly more importantly, have tons of books to review.  Among those being books such as The Bone House (Advance Review Copy-review publishing time undecided), The Wolf of Tebron, The Final Summit, and Precisely Terminated(Advance Review Copy-review publishing time also undecided).  I'm really excited to bring my readers some reviews which you likely won't find in much other places.  While they're a while down the road, I also have The House of Dark Shadows, Sword int he Stars, By Darkness Hid, The Book of Names and it's sequel, and a few other books I haven't gotten to read yet that I own myself.  So those will be reviewed at some point in time, unless I die, which I'm kinda hoping won't happen too soon, cause it'd be kinda a bummer, but also kinda not... Anyway!  In other news... (that means scroll down, like, one click-or click the read more button)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Making of the Review (Part Two)

If you have not already done so, read the post The Making of the Review (Part One), it'll give you some context for the rest of this post.

This is the second part of a two-part series in which I'm going to try to explain to you guys how to start out a book blog.  Where I get the books you get books to review, what you should consider when reviewing, and in general, what happens to become a book review blogger.  Today I'm gonna focus on how you define your style.

There's many ways you can review a book, mostly based on your style, but if I could at least give one definitive tip, DON'T write a book report, or a recap.  You can make your own description to put at the beginning of the review, you can take one off the back cover, but make sure your post is a book review, not a book report.  We want to hear what you thought of the book, not a longer or shorter version of what we can find on any bookseller website or the back cover.

The rest mostly depends on your personal style.  When I write a review I focus on a few main parts of the book.  I focus on the plot, characters/character development, settings, themes, and the author's level of ability in writing.  There may be other parts of a book that you notice more often, and want to point them out in a book.  That's part of your style.  You have to develop your own style.  If your reviews are bland then no one's going to care too much for them.  They can get a bland review anywhere.  You gotta stand out.

I'll be back next time with my process of reading and writing a review.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Candid Room Tag

So this is actually a tag I was wanting to do a long time ago but never got around to it.  Everyone who follows Chris's blog was tagged, so well here it is.  I actually had to track down that post, being that he changed sites and I didn't actually know the new one.  I eventually found it after some Googling and scrolling and more Googling.
Since my room is so tight I took multiple pictures.

My bed/desk area.  You can barely make out the Curse of the Spider King poster I won from the ARG a while back at the very left area.

A portion of my bookshelf.  Below that there's about one more full shelf.  Above the shelf is a poster of the capitol which actually looks quite cool.  I picked it up in D.C..  To the right is a Dawn Treader poster and below that is a bunch of papers that I should probably look at again some day.

Here's a closer up picture of my desk.  Got an extra monitor hooked up to my laptop and next to that all of my to-read books minus one.  I'm not sure if anyone will guess that background image on the laptop.  We'll see ;).  In the back is a drawing of a Slade-a weapon from a book I was writing a while back.  To the right of that is a family tree.  To the right of those are two drawings, one of a castle and one of a landscape.  Neither one very good haha.

And so that's my room.  My work area as well.  And I tag everyone that reads this/dare everyone that reads this to post an image of your room/work/reading area.  Then link back from here!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Max on Life-Max Lucado

We have questions. Child-like inquiries. And deep, heavy ones.
In more than twenty-five years of writing and ministry, Max Lucado has been the receiving line for thousands of such questions. The questions come in letters, e-mails, even on Dunkin Donuts napkins. In Max on Life he offers thoughtful answers to more than 150 of the most pressing questions on topics ranging from hope to hurt, from home to the hereafter.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Making of the Review (Part One)

This is the beginning of a two-part series in which I'm going to try to explain to you guys how to start out a book blog.  Where I get the books you get books to review, what you should consider when reviewing, and in general, what happens to become a book review blogger.  Today I'm gonna focus on how you guys can get books to review, should you want to.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Song of the Ovulum-Bryan Davis

Song of the Ovulum is the first book in Bryan Davis' new series, Children of the Bard, which builds upon two past series, Dragons in our Midst, and Eye of the Oracle.  While it is helpful to read the other two series to get the maximum enjoyment out of this, I believe anyone can enjoy it nonetheless.

Song of the Ovulum follows two main sub-plots that work together to the conclusion.  Matt and Lauren are two sixteen-year-olds who begin to realize they have abilities that are unlike those of the normal human as they both find themselves in a strange prison that holds mysterious prisoners.  The second plot follows the story of Joran and Selah,  the children of Methuselah and grandchildren of Enoch as they travel through fascinating and dangerous lands in hopes to sometime escape the expansive prison they live in.