My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Review: The Infinite

The Infinite The Infinite by Ada Hoffmann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the conclusion to The Outside trilogy after The Fallen. Returning to the Planet Jai and the Chaos Zone introduced with “The Seven” in the second book and where the story seemed to get lost and drift in confusion with a rebellion that goes nowhere (IMHO you can skip that book without losing that much). Here the story gets back on track and jumps into action with the pending attack of Keres … an apparent rogue AI god perpetually at war with humanity and the rule of their AI gods. The situation looks very dire for our Hero and her broken companions (aka The Seven).

The [lovecraftian] world building here was some of the best I have seen in SciFi, and the character development of her flawed protagonists was solid and interesting. The best part to me are the answers to the many questions left after book one (1): How did the AI gods evolve? Who/What is the Keres? Who are the Morlocks? Stir in a few aliens and the world just keeps getting more interesting as the story unfolds with a few unexpected twists toward a satisfying conclusion.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TheInfinite #TheOutside #NetGalley.

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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Review: The Transforming Word Series, Volume 1: The Pentateuch: From Genesis to Deuteronomy

The Transforming Word Series, Volume 1: The Pentateuch: From Genesis to Deuteronomy The Transforming Word Series, Volume 1: The Pentateuch: From Genesis to Deuteronomy by Mark W. Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Considering that I have a [large] 5 volume set of commentaries covering the same first five (5) books of the Bible, this single volume work is highly ambitious. And while the editor(s) and publishers did not impose any specific methodology on the contributing authors, from the Preface, it seems clear they all come from the Protestant “Restoration” tradition in which I was raised (as do most books from this publisher). While some readers may not completely agree with some of the exegesis, they should still benefit from getting a basic understanding of organization, historical context and theological implications (consensus POV, even when countered within the commentary).

Each chapter is well organized into Contexts, Commentary, Theological Reflections Further Study and Works Cited. Maps, Tables and Features are also called out after the Chapter Contents for easy reference. The Theological Reflections bring it all together nicely. The first essays were clear and provided good context on how the Bible became the canon. The commentaries themselves are fairly straightforward with little nuance referencing each chapter and verse without actually providing them (so BYOB).

The Genesis commentary for each verse was very short and seemed to frequently take exception with a lot of the more common interpretations, often stating a particular translation was adding words not in the Hebrew text as if the not recognizing the requirement to select terms and phases that provide a general sense of the original … before providing his own interpretative summary on the sense of the scripture. Over all, this section just didn’t come together as a coherent whole for me.

The Exodus commentary was closer to what I was looking for … a clearer, longer and more nuanced treatment of what was happening in each pericope being examined. This might be because this is where the scripture leaves myth and the author can more easily make references to a verifiable historical context supported by extra biblical sources. Regardless, I found a lot to noodle on within the story of Moses and greatly enjoyed learning more about this well known story.

The Leviticus commentary was just as good imo, covering in reasonably good detail aspects of the various sacrifices and additional laws and rules by which the people should live. The author was not afraid to engage is some helpful speculation and clearly called out where he did so. It addition, the call out boxes were especially helpful in providing additional context to understanding the various passages as a whole … specially concepts around holiness, atonement and grace. The chapter closes with a particularly relevant observation … “This is not a works-based righteousness; God calls his people to holiness as a response to grace, not to earn grace.”

The Numbers commentary was just awesome. This is a book that reads as a dry history text book for me and my eyes tend to glaze over when I attempt any significant understanding of what is happening. Although not as long as the other commentaries, i found the author’s identification of the “interspersed thematic summaries from between the mind numbing lists and laws exceptionally helpful to understanding which this is book is equally important within the canon. This was especially true in the reflection summary where the author points out that “After every major crisis the narrator inserts a bundle of laws based on fundamental principles designed to help Israel avoid similar conflicts in the future.” This is story provides the details on how God forged His elect into a people. Of course, my fun/trivia takeaway was the concept of cosmic nakedness and the shadow of God.

The Deuteronomy commentary is a great summaries of related sermons and exhortations that can be difficult to get through on your own (especially since it seems to primarily rehash a lot of what came in the previous four books … making this something like a commentary on a commentary). This is especially helpful where the commentary contrasts these stories and laws with stories. The greatest benefit for me was the organization of the commentary into topical headings:

~ Introductory Sermon
~ Sermon About Life in the Promised Land
~ Laws for Relating to God [One Center of Worship]
~ Laws on Proper Leadership
~ Laws on Interpersonal Relationships
~ Ceremony of Renewing the Covenant [Thanksgiving for the Harvest]
~ Final Sermon Appealing for Loyalty
~ Moses' Final Exhortation
~ The Song of Moses
~ Moses’ Blessing of Israel [Blessing Upon the Tribes]
~ The Death of Moses

Over all this was a fantastic start to a series that walks through the scripture in such as accessible way that I believe everyone can get something significant out of it and I am looking forward to the next installment.

- Reading the Pentateuch
- The Pentateuch
- The Biblical Canons
- Israel in the Ancient Near East
- Old Testament Theology
- Genesis [1]
- Exodus [2]
- Leviticus [3]
- Numbers [4]
- Deuteronomy [5]

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TheTransformingWordSeriesVolume1ThePentateuch #NetGalley.

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Thursday, January 26, 2023

Review: Exodus Earth [Trilogy]

Survey Ship Survey Ship by Andrew Beery
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Story: ****
Performance: ***

I read this one twice … and yes it was good enough to do that. The narration was decent, but not great. Female voices in particular were an obvious struggle so I would rate the performance just above Alexa. Fortunately the story itself was good enough to carry it (which is not typical in my experience) and the whole is good enough to grab the next two books in the series (that and the mild cliffhanger ending).

The primary protagonist is a tough as nails xeno-archaeologist cut in the image of an Indiana Jones motif with all the expected brass and snark, making this a fun adventure. Said hero is recruited to find a missing “survey ship” aka colony ship. The bad guys are fairy standard evil empire corporations (standard trope). There is a bit of intrigue and espionage, but the focus tilts more toward military sci-fi where the tech details are pretty solid (a pleasant surprise after becoming used to BFM masquerading as science). To make it work, the author needs to engage in info-dumps … however, these are very short and seamlessly working into the narrative at decision points in enough humor to make these appear as an important part of the entertainment and world building. Regardless, the author has obvious done the homework and I was extremely happy with the result; however, the detail might not work as well for everybody.

Over all ... the standard tropes are so well executed that you barely notice that you have heard them before. It's just fun entertainment that is worth the investment.

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#SurveyShip #ExodusEarth #FreeAudiobookCodes #KindleUnlimited

Lost Ship

Lost Ship
 by Andrew Beery
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Performance: ***
Story: ***

This the second of a military sci-fi where the main characters trade up their starship to a colony ship and everybody gets promoted; except they are pretty much the same (with little to no character growth) … and now we get a perfunctory romance/love triangle that seemed awkward and out of place. The basic plot has the newly acquired colony ship running away from the bad guys while trying to keep flying while fighting off internal saboteurs (I don’t know about anybody else, but for me it was hard to avoid a comparison with Battlestar Galactica here). The sarcastic humor is still fun, but does start to wear thin by the end as it is typically used to hide exposition and brief data dumps within the story. The world-building within the military trope was very well done and makes the whole series a solid example of the genre.

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#LostShip #ExodusEarth #FreeAudiobookCodes #KindleUnlimited

Battleship by Andrew Beery
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Story: **
Performance: ***

This is the 3rd of a Military Sci-Fi trilogy that started off very good and then failed to grow.  If you get this far, it is worth finishing, but don’t expect it to be as good. The snark that was so much fun in the first installment descended into an avalanche of pop culture references (Star Trek, Dune, Aliens, et al) and testosterone laden witticisms that eventually irritated more than entertained.  In fact, the entire Hollingsworth arc was just plain stupid and actually highlights a lot of the crude innuendo that was actually pretty cringe worthy.

The basic story was less military and more an attempt humorous alien first contact that didn’t work at all for me.  Add to that a main character that is eventually revealed as a mary sue that has a hand full of doctoral degrees along with significant space fighter experience and decades of large space ship experience that allows her to pretty much dominate an alien scourge that was previously unstoppable in a a fairly predictable (and somewhat sudden and unsatisfactory) conclusion.  In fact, the whole galaxy hates me trope was way over done here and only served to allow the MC to strut her stuff.

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#Battleship #ExodusEarth  #FreeAudiobookCodes #KindleUnlimited

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Review: The Laran Gambit

The Laran Gambit The Laran Gambit by Marion Zimmer Bradley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a return to the world of Cottman IV (aka Darkover) … the series that hooked me on reading (under a different author). As such, I took a particular pleasure in the “Easter Eggs” or references to canon found throughout the book that played well with my nostalgia. More than a generation has passed since Darkover had any connection to the Off World Terrans when Bryn lands on Darkover seeking refuge from a despotic ruler and help for her mentally compromised father. Personally it took longer to get there than I would have liked, but that is mostly because of how fascinated I am with he world of Darkover itself.

The story doesn’t really add much that is new, but it was well written and easy to read. The one element of a powerful and corrupt Terran leader as the “Big Bad” made for a decent plot hook, but was otherwise not all that unique … so the book was fairly average unless you are a fan … which I am. It is also a quick read that can stand alone to introduce you to the series, so I still would recommend it.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TheLaranGambit #Darkover #NetGalley.

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Sunday, January 22, 2023

Review: Armageddon: What the Bible Really Says about the End

Armageddon: What the Bible Really Says about the End Armageddon: What the Bible Really Says about the End by Bart D. Ehrman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Apocalypse of John (Revelation) is often interpreted as the herald of Armageddon and the second coming of the Christ. As such, it’s extensive symbolism has been plumbed and twisted into prophetic visions that The End is Coming and the Final Judgement is at hand … again. If only we could all agree on exactly what John is talking about, maybe we can get it right this time. So when I found a book by noted New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman that attempts to explain it all, I was very intrigued … and I was not disappointed. Ehrman was concise and clear in his well organized and very accessible study of the Book of Revelation. I should probably confess at this point that I am an avowed a-millennialist so Ehrman’s scholastic refutation of millennialism was pretty easy for me to accept.

What was new for me … and it probably should not have been … was the now obvious dichotomy between the Jesus of the Gospel and the Christ of the Final Judgement that was a lot starker than I was expecting. More over, I did not connect real-life consequences of a perpetual belief that the end was coming or even the psychological impact of the extremely materialistic and violent imagery in John’s vision. Thankfully Ehrman does an excellent job arguing that John was projecting many of his own hopes and dreams of his eternal reward for the great suffering he and his community endured at the hands of a very brutal Roman Empire when the “wrathful Lamb of the Apocalypse” sweeps it all away. I believe that I now have a much better understanding of this difficult scripture and as well as how to read it in the light of the Gospel.

1. The End is Near
2. The Most Mystifying Book of the Bible
3. A History of False Predictions
4. Real-Life Consequences of the Imminent Apocalypse
5. How to Read the Books of Revelation
6. The Lamb Becomes a Lion: Violence in the Book of Revelation
7. The Ideology of Dominance: Wealth and Power in Revelation
8. The Apocalypse of John and the Gospel of Jesus

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#Armageddon #NetGalley.

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Thursday, January 19, 2023

Review: Deadlock

Deadlock Deadlock by Melissa Koberlein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An Okay Cyberpunk'ish Story 
Story: **
Performance: ***

A typical YA drama set in a world reminiscent of ready player one/tron and a little matrix (since the virtual is supposed to follow the same rules as the real for some reason).  You got the basic G rated good guy vs bad boy teen drama amidst an I was framed trope to give you a decent mystery to solve (somebody is killing people by using a virus to “unlink” them from their ALT avatars so they (or their mind) can’’t get back to their bodies … presumably leaving them to wander the virtual world as vulnerable echoes of who they used to be.  Honestly … that was not explained very well so I might have that wrong.  Add a Sword of Damocles trope over the heroine to jack a little tension to the plot conflict and things "suddenly get real.” Just go with it …

Outside of the drama, the techie facade is actually pretty shallow, frequently stretching “hacker” terms a tad too far, although you can still get the gist from the context … kinda of like many of the standard TV shows these days trying to be cool with their own white hat hacker that can literally compromise an air gapped system in the Cheyenne Mountain bunker.  So to restate the obvious … Just go with it.

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#Deadlock #FreeAudiobookCodes

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Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Review: The White Wolf

The White Wolf The White Wolf by Michael Moorcock
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The latest trilogy of the Elric Saga … of which I am definitely a fan from childhood. Unfortunately the slow pace and the “Alice in Wonderland” style head trip didn’t work that well for me this time. The chaotic prose was so confusing it was difficult to follow that it was hard to tell what the plot actually was apart from an apparent never ending quest …

Book 1: The Dreamthief’s Daughter ***
I generally have difficulty with dreamscape stories and the Nazi trope was a little over done (if it were not for the publication date of 2001, I would have thought it a satire of our current political state in the US); however, it was still a fairly classic story albeit with Elric playing more of a supporting role (PoV was Ulric of Bek … a dream twin to Elric with his own rune sword and familial/cousin antagonist. Aside from the dream motif, the pace was on the slow side and a bit disappointing, especially the build up highlighting the evil Nazis (it was a decent historical commentary though). Things don’t go weird until Elrik shows up. The broad strokes will be familiar even if the details very from the classic story of the eternal champion.

Book 2: The Skrayling Tree **
Although the ending from The Dreamthief’s Daughter wrapped up and seemed to conclude the story of Ulric Von Bek, this book reopens that saga amongst a Native Americans Mythos that collides in a time warp with Viking explorers and retcons of few details across the entire corpus (justified by the 1,000 year dream). In that, I find it somewhat disappointing. Beyond that, the eternal conflict continues and Cousin Gaynor is apparently back with a vengeance. The story is told in three (3) acts/pov(s), starting with Oona, then Elric (still my fave) and finally back to Ulric to wrap it up one more time. Unfortunately the surreal dreamscape seems to provide the author with an opportunity pontificate and otherwise preach on a wide variety of social issues that really don’t add much to the story. In short … I found the story very slow and somewhat repetitive.

Book 3: The White Wolf’s Son ***
This story opens with Oonagh, the granddaughter of Ulric Von Bek and Oona (Part One) with the perennial companions and villains searching once again for the Holy Grail (or Staff because … you know, it’s an artifact that can take many forms). So I am going to come right out as say it … the names and foreign terms used throughout this trilogy are a bit too weird for my taste these days and serious detracted from my overall enjoyment of the story (especially when combined with the continuing dreamscape theme which by definition is even weirder). This all made the book a tough slog where I could only read 1 or 2 chapters at a time where I am used to reading nearly half or more at a sitting with my favorites. As usual, Elrik himself is introduced into the “dream” in part two … it is nominally his [dream] story after all … still trying to regain the legendary Stormbringer before his thousand year dream ends. Strange that the title character is barely in the story here.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TheWhiteWolf #NetGalley.

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Sunday, January 15, 2023

Review: Letters to Exodus Christians

Letters to Exodus Christians Letters to Exodus Christians by Edward Hays
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We know them as the unchurched … the "nones" and "dones” who have deconstructed their faith to exclude the institutional church and it is an accelerating trend.  This book is all about ministering to those “lost sheep” without first requiring them to come “home.”  It is something which I have thought about a lot now that I am in my third year of formation to be ordained as a deacon … so when I found this book on the table at the Museum of Family Prayer while on retreat in Easton MA, I was initially intrigued.

Like St Paul, Fr Hays (a retired priest) organized the book into letters to cohorts struggling with specific issues of faith and deals with them in an amazingly loving and non-judgmental way … first by very deliberately referring to them as “Exodus Christians.”  In other words, they are in the wilderness where the Spirit of God works to polish their faith and beliefs.  In fact, I was completely surprised on how I personally connected to each letter (probably not too surprising given his passing reference to his mother’s conversion from the Disciple of Christ … which is also the tradition where I was raised).

Letter to Beverly, Whose Son Is a Gay Exodus Christian: “As a parent you are a living image, a sacrament of God’s paternal loving care."

Letter to the Faithful of Lake Street House, Who Gather in Friendship, Reflection on Scripture, and Celebrations of the Lord’s Supper: “One of the dangers of small household communities is that they can easily become gatherings of the like-minded instead of those, who as Paul said, ’take on the mind of Christ,’"

Letter to Joseph, Tempted to Become as Exodus Christian“Each time you enter church, you unconsciously bring with you the deep rich experiences of intimacy from your morning’s meditation prayer, and this power of your prayer engird radiates out from you far beyond where you can imagine."

1.  Letters to Individual Exodus Christians
2. Letters to the Christian Churches of the Exodus
3. Letters to Christians Questioning Their Faith Attendance *
4. Letters to the Appointed Members of the Priesthood of the Baptized
5. The Apostolic Exodus Letters
6. A Closing Letter


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Thursday, January 12, 2023

Review: The Impossible [Trilogy]

The Impossible Book 2

A short (just under 4 hrs) audiobook that introduces the space pirate crew of the Impossible and its captain (St Rita of impossible causes). This is the first part of a trilogy that probably should all be combined into a 12 hr omnibus. While the narration is decent, the story is a fairly formulaic, character driven story about childhood friends now on opposites sides (pirate vs government). From that perspective, it was also a decent story and the main characters were fairly sympathetic; however, the details are poorly researched and tend to rub against the grain a lot (aka poor world building) … for example … in a “dog fight” between a “battleship” and a two person “speeder” the battleship pilot is able to read the uniform patch of the speeder pilot? Once or twice you can sorta just let it go, but there were so many occasions of WTF that it was difficult to stay in the story. There are a few surprises that keep the story interesting enough to stay the course as casual entertainment.

The is the second [very short] installment of The Impossible Trilogy in what really should have been a single story; and this installment was a great example of why. It picks up where the story ends (not really a cliff hanger so much as a change of venue) and continues a little ways to the next cliff (where the story just ends because … there is another change of location). That is irritating on its own, but this part of the story didn’t really do much outside of introducing the protagonists family while continuing the love hate relationship of the MC besties. With no discernible plot, the cons for this story are a lot more noticeable … there is a complete lack of any male characters outside of bit parts for obvious set pieces. There is a complete lack of any understanding of scale where the only difference between a camp, a city, a planet, a star and a galaxy are really just words. All in all, even if you don’t really care much about realism, this was still a tough slog and only worth a read if you head on to the final book of the trilogy.

The Impossible Book 2 by Alexandria Clarke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The final installment of The Impossible trilogy where our dynamic duo of besties make their way to the rebel camp/high school where we finally get to the big reveal of the entire point of the 3 books. All previously noted problems with the series remain; however, if you are here for the drama, you are in the right place. The story unfolds in a fairly predictable manner ... until you finally get to the hero's end (after completely ignoring the rebel context in favor of an obstructionist element to just pass the time). Ultimately I am sure this series will work for some, but the lack of any realistic world building and/or consistant context was definitely an issue for me, so despite the descent narration, the overall score for this and the entire series remains at a 3 (rounded up) and therefore recommended for casual entertainment when you find yourself bored and looking for a distraction.

#TheImpossibile #FreeAudiobookCodes

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Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Review: The Citadel of Forgotten Myths

The Citadel of Forgotten Myths The Citadel of Forgotten Myths by Michael Moorcock
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This installment of Elric the Eternal Champion is divided into three (3) parts, beginning with two previously published short novellas and a fairly short novel for the second half of the book for a total of just over 300 pages. I must admit the author does much better in short form that when he has the space to draw out the story … so the beginning was a lot more fun than the last part, which was much slower, but still much better than what I encountered in the White Wolf Saga).

As stated in the blurb, these stories are set during Elric’s “early wandering” years, so the style is very much as familiar as I remembered when I started this series several decades past (points for nostalgia). The best part here is, by far, the continued world building as Elric seeks clues from the past in the “World Below” that would help him (and the reader) better understand the rise of the Melnibon√© Empire and the dragons that made her great. The main story sets up an interesting dichotomy between the Servants of Chaos (Elric and his kin) and the related Servants of Law (distant “ amazonian” — aka all women — cousins in the World Below). There are a few obvious masculine fantasy tropes here that may not play well to all audiences, but I found it amusing enough to roll with it. 

The main story was on track for a solid 4; but it falls back at the end into a rather confused morass of over the top pretty prose (taking pages to describe what should have been a paragraph). This might be because the story was actually written earlier in pieces and stitched together in a novel later (and it does show) or it might be the tendency of an author late in his career who becomes enamored with his own voice and tends to repeat himself ... a lot. Regardless, I just can’t quite leave this one at a 4.

Book 1: How Elric Pursued His Weird into the Far World
Book 2: How Elric Discovered an Unpleasant Kinship
Book 3: In Which Our Heroes Discover a Lost Past

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TheCitadelOfForgottenMyths #NetGalley.

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Sunday, January 8, 2023

Review: Calling Out the Called: Discipling Those Called to Ministry Leadership

Calling Out the Called: Discipling Those Called to Ministry Leadership Calling Out the Called: Discipling Those Called to Ministry Leadership by Scott Pace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A helpful guide to those who feel called to service in the [Christian] Church. I would be included in that category as I am currently in formation to be a deacon with a strong desire to properly discern that calling. With that said, this was not entirely what I was expecting or wanted, but it was still very helpful to my discernment process. The authors start the discussion by looking at “The Call” or 1) The concept of calling, 2) the current state of ministry and 3) practical ways to cultivate an environment for discernment … most of which I found relatively intuitive, but it was good to have them down in writing. 

I was particularly interested in the steps prescribed to “confirm your calling” that looks at your desire, gifts. external affirmation, check your motivations and clarify your understanding of the call … I would submit that overwhelming desire (which to me sounds very self centered) could be related with an inexorable pull to serve in a manner consistent with your gifts … because as a PK, I was painfully aware of what service means and would frankly desire a different path if possible.

The second part looks at how the Spirit works as Our Companion, Counselor, Comforter and Conqueror (that later being something of a stretch IMHO) before getting into some very practical advise on how to survive the call to ministry … and balancing family with ministry. In general I think it was all good advice. So … if you think that you have a calling, this book will pretty a solid foundation.

Introduction: Calling Out The Callers

Chapter 1: Wrestling with the Call
Chapter 2: Abiding in Christ
Chapter 3: Loving the Scriptures
Chapter 4: Being Men and Women of Prayer
Chapter 5: Being Should Winners
Chapter 6: Loving the Church
Chapter 7: Relying on the Spirit
Chapter 8: Serving Others
Chapter 9: Balancing Family and Ministry
Chapter 10: Persevering Ministry
Chapter 11: Preparing for entry

Conclusion: How to Give an Invitation for Calling Out the Called

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#CallingOuttheCalled #NetGalley.

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Thursday, January 5, 2023

Review: The Challenge of Smoke Wade: The Smoke Wade Trilogy

The Challenge of Smoke Wade: The Smoke Wade Trilogy The Challenge of Smoke Wade: The Smoke Wade Trilogy by Robert J. Hogan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A decent narration of an old (circa 1950’s) Western that seems to provide a little background for a pulp action character (Smoke Wade) who left the AZ Range to become an Ace in WW1.  The story itself is a pretty simple range war trope with nearly all of the characters shallow stereotypes (and at times extremely irritating) and while the character voices of the narration were very good, the thick idealects make the dialog somewhat cringey.  The MC (Smoke) seems a tad more careless than his presumped reputation hints at (mostly getting out of stupid situations by shear luck instead of wits or skill) and gun play is actually pretty rare for a western. The story does pick up toward the end where you sorta get the expected conclusion, so ultimately this was a decent [western] story if you already like the genre.

I was given this free advance listener copy (ALC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TheChallengeOfSmokeWade  #FreeAudiobooksAudibleGiveways

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Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Review: City of Last Chances

City of Last Chances City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second book by Tchaikovsky that I have read (the first being a SciFi story) and this author is quickly becoming a favorite that I will buy on sight. To start with, being a logophile, the story here was a veritable playground of obscure english vocabulary within a context that often used the 4th or 5th definition to give the reader an exotic feel within just inventing new words. This all facilitates some of the best world-building that has ever come my way, creating a dark, gritty foundation that was extremely easy to visualize and enter into. The only downside here was that the rich prose was so complex that it slowed down my reading speed quite a bit, although that also enabled me to better enjoy the beauty of it all. Definitely a fan here. For those having trouble keeping track of everything, there is a gloss in the front.

The world is an interesting dystopia with an occupying force dedicated to the rational perfection of their world, by force if necessary (aka an authoritarian society). The City is a crossroads of sorts, with the soldiers of the perfect trying to control a diverse population previously under the thrall of magic and miracles while expanding through a mystical forest to dimensions unknown (although the beasts within are very dangerous and should not be taken for granted). Close by is the Reproach, a ruined part of the old city barely contained by sigils and wards to keep ghosts of long dead nobles from driving men mad. Wondering amongst all of this are priests and forgotten gods, sorcerers and demons (who power the factories of the Hammer districts), prideful academics keeping the flame of resistance alive, and typical street toughs (who rule the Gutter districts) and a rather eclectic collection of immigrants and refugees .. giving the world a feeling of depth rarely encountered in a single book and left me wanting more.

There are a lot of POV characters in this story; and that is usually a bad thing, but the author makes this work better than most. Each character seemed to be fairly unique with something that actually added to the story when they were appropriately introduced … weaving in and out of the main plot so skillfully that each switch felt natural … and I enjoyed most of them … even the bad guys. All of the motivations seemed reasonable and even somewhat predictable within the evolving chaos of the story (most of the action are the characters reacting to what just happened prior). The interactions between them all kept me guessing on where the story was headed all the way to the end with several notable mysteries and surprises. This works well with all of the political intrigue that is front loaded, but the action does pick up with some character weeding towards the end (not a big deal as you don’t really spend enough time with any of them to get attached).

I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#CityOfLastChances #NetGalley.

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Sunday, January 1, 2023

Review: The Book of Enoch for Beginners: A Guide to Expand Your Understanding of the Biblical World

The Book of Enoch for Beginners: A Guide to Expand Your Understanding of the Biblical World The Book of Enoch for Beginners: A Guide to Expand Your Understanding of the Biblical World by Phillip J. Long
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As mentioned in the Intro, this is not a full translation of 1 Enoch, but is a guided summary into the history, content and context of this very interesting pseudepigrapha that helps to also set the milieu of the second temple period of Jesus. The author starts with a summary of each book (includes a Facts at a Glance bulleted call out) before reviewing the specific book in sections. These sections are further broken down into an historical and contextual review, followed by a “Key Verse” and commentary and often an added boxes digging a little more deeply into terms and concepts … such as “Who ARE the Watchers?” or “Demons in Early Judaism.”

Over all, this was an accessible academic work that I found absolutely fascinating from an historical and theological context that definitely can contribute to canonical biblical exegesis … or simply as a history buff interested in that time period. The only downside I had was that it apparently doesn’t include the complete text, so this is really more of a companion piece .. albeit one that you should definitely use with a complete copy if you care to read it. As an added bonus, it is currently available on Kindle Unlimited making it super easy to take for a test drive.

Part One: An Introduction

Part Two: Uncovering the Five Books
- Book I: The Book of the Watchers
- Book II: The Book of Parables
- Book III: The Book of Astronomical Writings (aka The Book of Luminaries)
- Book IV: The Book of Dream Visions
- Book V: The Epistle of Enoch

I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#Enoch #NetGalley #KindleUnlimited

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.