Thursday, October 21, 2010

I'm not your everyday superhero...

I am THE superhero.  Wondering what I mean?  Yeah, me too.

Actually, the title and that little phrase above where your reading now has nothing to do with this post.  Unless you think I'm a superhero, in which case you can email me at

No, what this post is about is well, only one small thing really.  I've been doing consistent reviews now for a month or two and I've noticed things about various blogs and book review sites.  Their reviews are much shorter.  And they're not broken down into sections as mine are.  My question to you, the non-superhero everyday Iron Man/Batman (no superpowers) is do you prefer my reviews continue as are, or would you rather I shorten them to like, 100-200 words and a small description?  Or a combination of both?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Interview with Wayne Thomas Batson

Wayne Thomas Batson is the author of seven novels and will very soon be releasing his eighth, Sword in the Stars.  He is the author of the The Door Within Trilogy, The Isle of Swords and The Isle of Fire, and The Berinfell Prophecies.  I'm happy to welcome Mr. Batson to The Narrowing Road to answer some questions on his writing life.

Seth-You have now published seven novels, and will be publishing your eighth novel very soon.  How did you get into the chaotic world of publishing and writing?
Wayne Thomas Batson-It was 2004, and I'd been working on a novel for over 10 years at that point, but never gotten a contract. My agent wanted me to come to a publishing convention (now called ICRS), so I went. He arranged for me to meet about a dozen acquisition editors and one of them, Thomas Nelson, liked the concept I had for The Door Within. Months later, I had my first contract.

Seth-Your newest book, Sword in the Stars, is set to release shortly, what can you tell us about that?
Wayne Thomas Batson-I can't wait--that's one thing. lol Seriously, this story has been itching my brain for 8 years. It is a HUGE tale that will be told over 7 books in the series. Sword in the Stars kicks off the epic journey by introducing Alastair Coldhollow, a former assassin who, while battling an addiction to witchdrale and fighting off the attention of a beautiful village girl, is also soul searching and searching for the Halfainin, the fabled Pathwalker who can purge Alastair's haunting conscience. Add to that twin brother kings who take sibling rivalry to a whole new level, a hilarious tournament talent search, a monstrous army perhaps planning world takeover...and you've got yourself a story.

Seth-With teaching, writing and everything in between, how often do you actually get to sit down and read for fun? 
Wayne Thomas Batson-Between deadlines and in the summer is when I catch up on reading. I'm also reading The Lord of the Rings for about the 15-16th time. lol

Seth-There is some controversy over the topic of Seat-Of-The-Pants writing and Outlining in the world of writing.  What is your opinion on the topic?  
Wayne Thomas Batson-I'm not sure it's a controversy, really. It's more of a style of writing that works for you. I'm an outliner because I found that SotP writing took me WAY too long and forced far too many rewrites. But there are many successful writers who use either style. For younger writers, I always advocate outlining b/c it virtually eliminates writer's block.

Seth-What is your favorite part about the process of writing a book?  From the spark of inspiration in your mind to the novel in your hand. 
Wayne Thomas Batson-Definitely the invention stage. This is where the initial kernel concept of the story explodes into a wild and rangy beast, and it's all I can do to keep up with the events of the story as they pop into sequence.

Seth-In your opinion, what is the single most important thing an author, published or aspiring can do?
Wayne Thomas Batson-Keep writing. If you really love storytelling and you have ideas, you just have to be disciplined and get your butt in the chair.

Seth-Rumors have been buzzing around a fourth installment in the Door Within Trilogy for a few years now-is there anything you can confirm or anything you would like to comment on regarding this topic?  
Wayne Thomas Batson-Well, if there is going to be another DW book, it might be a while. My current publisher seems content with the series as is. I may look elsewhere or even consider publishing it as an eBook. We'll see. There is a deep part of me that wants to explore the Realm Beyond the Sun, to give readers a "glimpse" of just what kind of adventures await us there.

Seth-What’s your favorite food or drink?
Wayne Thomas Batson-I am shamefully addicted to nachos. Cheese, peppers, onions, cheese, chili--bring it!

Seth-Is there anything else you would like to say?
Wayne Thomas Batson-Thanks for the opportunity to say one thing more. I guess I just want my readers to know that, while there is an element of discipline and effort that goes into writing, all credit and glory goes to God. What do I have that He has not given me? If it weren't for Him, I might not have been the last born child in my family; I might not have been born to parents who read voraciously; I might not have been captivated by Star Wars and the Hobbit; and I might not have been encouraged every step of the way to try.

Thanks again for taking the time to answer some questions, Mr. Batson.  If you'd like to purchase any of his books they are available at as well as most christian and mainstream bookstores.  You can see what he's up to in the crazy world of writing at his blog, Enter the Door Within.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Grace of God-Andy Stanley

Grace.  It's what we crave most when our guilt is exposed.  It's the very thing we are hesitant to extend when we are confronted with the guilt of others-especially when their guilt has robbed us of something we consider valuable.
Therein is the struggle, the struggle for grace.  It's this struggle that makes grace more story than doctrine.  It's the struggle that reminds us that grace is bigger than compassion or forgiveness.  That struggle is the context for both.  When we are on the receiving end, grace is refreshing.  When it is required of us, it is often disturbing.  But when correctly applied, it seems to solve just about everything.  This struggle is not new; it has been going on since the beginning.

My Take:
Never before reading this book have I thought of the story that has taken place from the beginning of Genesis to the unwritten ending as a story of Grace.  But in many aspects, that is just what it is.  God has shown grace through every event I can think of.  Unending, loving, compassionate grace.  It's always there.
The story of grace is clean and plainly spoken in this book.  The author does not spare details to better communicate understanding of culture and to get across the ideas of the book.  That being said, it was not an easy read.  This is not a light book.  It is often dry and dull and I found myself forcing my way through it.  However, it was very interesting and engaging a good amount of the time.  The book is an excellent book for newborn and experienced Christians alike.  Highly recommended.

My Rating:  4 Pens
Purchase this book here.

The Twelfth Imam-Joel C Rosenberg

For those that are more conservative with their reading, this book does contain one or two instances of mature suggestions.  Nothing actually happens, but the suggestion and implication is there.

As the apocalyptic leaders of Iran call for annihilation of Israel and the U.S., CIA operative David Shirazi is sent to Tehran with one objective; use all means necessary to disrupt Iran's nuclear weapons program, without leaving American fingerprints and without triggering a regional war.  At extreme personal risk, Shirazi executes his plan.  A native Farsi speaker whose family escaped from Iran in 1979, he couldn't be better prepared for the mission.  But none of his training has prepared Shirazi for what will happen next.  An obscure religious cleric is suddenly hailed throughout the region as the Islamic messiah known as the Mahdi or the Twelfth Imam.  News of his miracles, healings, signs, and wonders spread like wildfire, as do rumors of a new and horrific war.
With the prophecy of the Twelfth Imam seemingly fulfilled, Iran's military prepares to strike Israel and bring about the End of days.  Shirazi must take action to save his country and the world, but the clock is ticking.

While the description deals mostly with the problems surrounding Iran and Iraq, I find that I was actually most drawn to the more domestic issues, so to speak.  I found the protagonist relationship with a girl that seems to have dropped off the grid more intriguing than when the CIA operative is fighting to prevent the utter destruction of two nations.  I think that's more of my personal draw than the author's fault, if it's even a fault at all.
The plot as a whole is fascinating.  It takes place all over the Middle East to various parts of North America.  It really delves deep into the culture of Iran and Iraq and the differences and the beautiful and also disastrous culture that the Iranian and Iraqi culture harbors.

The author of this book could not have done much better with the characters.  The main character is clearly defined, yet I also felt my passion in some of the side-characters who are fighting as hard as the protagonist, just for different things.
The transformation of several characters was utterly beautiful and I loved watching them grow.
All this said however, I felt my heart was more with one character that does not even appear for most of the book then any other character, save possibly the protagonist.  Perhaps this was because of the protagonist's deep feelings for her, or maybe it was just me.  You be the judge.

Writing Quality:
Nope.  Nothing to say here.  Writing was excellent and polished except for minor incidences with my copy which was an ARC but that is to be expected.

I learned more in this book then any other fictional book I've ever read.  Yet, it didn't feel like I was reading some boring attempt to intertwine fact and fiction.  It felt smooth and natural.  It flowed-and I loved the outcome.  While this book was fantastic, I cannot give it a full five stars(pens).  I think it was great, but I just don't think it will be one that resonates with me for the rest of my life.  But don't take that as a negative for this book-go and get the book, you won't regret it.

My Rating:  4.5 Pens
Purchase here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Outlive Your Life-Max Lucado

As a foreword to this review I'd like to say that this book truly changed me.  In essence, my ideals have changed.  Whereas before I was dreaming to become successful, and still impact the Kingdom, but that was almost a tie between my personal dreams.  It's really put things in perspective for me.

It's a story of hillbillies and simple folk, net casters and tax collectors.  A story of movement that exploded like a just-opened fire hydrant out of Jerusalem and spilled into the ends of the earth: into the streets of Paris, the districts of Rome, and the ports of Athens, Instanbul, Shanghai, and the Buenos Aires.  A story so mighty, controversial, head spinning, and life changing that two millenia later we wonder:

Heaven knows we hope so.  These are devastating times: 1.75 billion people are desperately poor; one billion are hungry.  Lonely hearts indwell our neighborhoods and attend our schools.  In the midst of it all, here we stand: youk, me, and our one-of--a-kind lives.  We are given a opportunity to make a big difference during a difficult time.  What if we did?  What if we rocked the world with hope?
Worth a try, don't you think?

My Take:
The theme in this book is quite simple in theory.  Make your life a life that make a difference.  How many times have you heard that in the church arena?  Don't wave this book off, though.
I don't know if it's the authors 25 years of writing or if it's simply a gift, but he portrayed this idea in a way that really moved me.  It speaks of really changing the world for God, but it also makes it seem so practical.  That Christians just need to get up and do something.  Which is exactly true.
As you can probably tell by my review listing, I'm not one for writing reviews of non-fiction titles-so you understand when I say I don't really have much else to say.  But please don't skip over this book.  It is thirteen dollars on Amazon.  If you don't have the money go to your local library or if they don't have it, suggest they buy it.  You won't want to miss this book.

My rating:  5 Pens

This book was provided by Thomas Nelson Publishers.  The opinion expressed here is my own.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Starlighter WINNER

Well, the time has come.  Tonight, many will lose, and one will win.  (Don't feel so down-I'm a mind reader, in case you didn't know)
And that one winner is... RIGHT AFTER THE BREAK!

Break over.  I'm going on the honesty policy-you all should have gone and taken a five minute break and watched some of your local news channel's commercials.  Anyway, here's the winner...


The winner has 48 hours to send me his snail-mail address and any extra information needed else another winner will be chosen.  For all those that did not win the giveaway-don't worry!  You can find the book in your local bookstore or online at the authors site (signed) or any other online retailer.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hell & Back: The First Death-SC Sherman

Notice:  This is not a YA novel.  It has one scene that was not appropriate for younger audiences-though I think some older audiences could handle it.  It also had a few uses of cuss words and after the novel there is a ‘sneak peek’ at the second book in which there is a couple uses of illegal drugs.

Do people who commit suicide go to hell?

That’s the question Joe Rellik has been asking himself for years and he’s convinced they do.  His daughter killed herself.  He didn’t even know she was upset.  If he’d been around maybe things would’ve been different.  Ever since that day it’s all he’s thought about.
His memory of her was sweet and lovely but while he was fighting deep in the jungles of Vietnam, she did it.  He’s been a warrior all his long life-it’s the only thing he was ever any good at.  Now old age is promising to do what his enemies couldn’t.  It will all be over soon, but he is haunted by the one rescue he can’t pull off.
Bad dreams… if he could just stay awake.  Tormenting visions of her…lost…in that place…tortured, forgotten, discarded, and destroyed.  His love for her is eating him from the inside out.  He can’t leave her like that, all alone.  He might be the only man in the world who actually wants to go to hell.  His madness is driving him to think the unthinkable, but will he actually do it?  Will he pull the trigger and send himself to hell, for her?
Hell and back is a supernatural thriller ripped from the last pages of the Bible.  God and the devil, angels and demons… they all get a chance to influence Joe as he charges into his last great battle, the battle for all things that truly matter.  Joe knows it may cost him his very own soul.

Plot:  Slow.  Intriguing.  Gains momentum.  Fierce. 
This is a rough outline of how the book went for me.  It started slow, and then got intriguing, but still somewhat slow.  It started gaining momentum and then it hit me like a brick and got fiercely intense.
I would have preferred it if it was ‘fiercely intense’ the whole book, but sadly, it was not.  The beginning started out with some engaging action, but after that phase, apart from some interesting realizations about the protagonist, it doesn’t get very interesting until about page 54.
While these things certainly don’t help the book, there was a give and take going on for some of the book.  A good 100 pages are spent in ‘heaven’-literally-and I think if the author would have attempted to do a shortcut in this section it wouldn’t have been quite as interesting.
The plot as a whole has to be one of the most original plots I’ve heard.  While I don’t think anyone can even attempt to predict what Heaven or hell will look like, I enjoyed reading about the possibilities and speculations.  It also caused me to speculate myself, which is always an enjoyable thing.

I think the characters could have been done better.  They could have been worse, though.  When one of the supporting characters was killed I didn’t struggle with it.  I moved right along.  On the other hand, I had to read and re-read several times when another character was lost.  I identified with the latter character completely, but didn’t identify hardly at all with the other characters.  The characters were done well, but not great.

Writing Quality:
Throughout the novel I noticed recurring problems in the writing quality.  While the initial P.O.V. seemed to be 3rd person limited the author wrote it as if it was 3rd person omniscient, switching between characters frequently without an interjection to signal it.  Other problems included occasional contrived and unrealistic dialogue, and as I said, seemed to drag more then a healthy book should.

Conclusion:  I enjoyed the book.  I really did, but I had trouble getting past many of the problems I’ve listed.  I can usually ignore problems pretty well, and I did in this novel, but I cannot in good conscious give this book four or five pens (stars).  However, because of the books fantastic originality and unique feel to it, I cannot give it three pens either.  So I give it three and a half pens.

Get in contact or buy the books at the authors website, here.