Saturday, 29 August 2015

Book Review: 'Til We Meet Again by Ray & Betty Whipps

Til We Meet Again: A Memoir of Love and War

War is something that few talk about, at least in terms of the intimate details. The family members I've had in wars never spoke about it other than little details here and there. Never enough to paint a picture of what it was like. That's why I'm so grateful for a book like 'Til We Meet Again' by the Whipps because it not only shows one soldier's time in the war (and a brief gaze into that of a nurse) but how God was with him the whole time. The novel is a wonderful love story, and while it's amazing that Ray and Betty fell in love and had their life together it was really their love of God that spoke through the pages. Their plans didn't turn out the way they has thought but both knew without a doubt that God had a better plan for them. It's a true testimony to God's presence and the power of a relationship with Him.

What truly spoke to me was Ray's comfort in the fact that even when he was physically alone, he knew he wasn't. God was with him the entire time. The comfort he felt from scripture was inspiring, and has made my relationship with God that much more precious. No, not everyone came back from the war. Plenty of Christians died, as well. That didn't mean that God wasn't with them. Ray talks about this, wondering about the Germans praying as well.

One day while I was waiting for a friend, I was sitting and reading this book. We had picked a central meeting place in downtown, and I looked up and realized I was sitting at the city's cenotaph. Everything hit me then, how God places people and situations into your life at an appointed time. It is clearly the case with Ray and Betty.

'Til We Meet Again is a moving story about God's presence, and His Will, and how far our faith can take us. I think even non-believers would appreciate this novel as a true account of the second world war. As the saying goes, there's no atheist in a foxhole.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Book Review: Two Sons by Stewart Owen

Two Sons is a compelling story about two families, and the titular two sons lost during the Great War. One English. One German.

After adjusting to the style of writing, I really rather enjoyed this book. It spoke to me on a deeply personal level. Growing up in a German family living in Canada made November 11th confusing, and this confusion and difficulty is seen within Two Sons. As John Williams, the father of the English son, said "they're the enemy." But then, so were the Allies to the Germans. In the end, we see the reconciliation between the two families as they understand that they are each two families, from two countries, two armies, and two sons. But one shared grief.

The lovely part of the book was knowing that it was based on the author's family. It made me even more invested in the story. At times I found it difficult to understand the dialect of the characters but I soon grew accustomed to it.

Overall I found this to be a wonderful story and I look forward to reading the sequel.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Book Review: The Forgotten Knight - A Chinese Warrior in King Arthur's Court by Christopher Vale

The Forgotten Knight: A Chinese Warrior in King Arthur's Court

There aren't many Arthurian stories out now, most coming from the 90s, yet Christopher Vale has created a fascinating tale in "The Forgotten Knight." Since studying Arthurian legends, I feel a have a bit of an advantage over the average reader with this novel. To call "The Forgotten Knight" a new legend would be unfair. In truth, it would be a modern re-telling if anything. It follows little of the traditional characteristics of the legends, but uses many of the characters from various legend sources.

This novel, however, does feature the medieval period the same way popular media portrays it: dirty, unhygienic, and bloody. This fits in with what I would consider modern legends as earlier legends tend to romanticize the period. And this cannot be called historically accurate in regards to medieval Britain (Arthurian characters aside) although it's clear Vale did research early medieval China in order to incorporate the title character. I would have liked to see more references to the culture, and the differences between the Chinese and British culture and how the characters deal with it.

While it may not have been intentional, I noticed similarities with the famous novel and later movie "The Princess Bride" mostly later in the book. The Queen uses Buttercup's line "you mock my pain" and later a character is tortured while insisting their inevitable escape similar ti Wesley. Most readers may not make the connections, unless they're fans of medieval stories.

One part of the novel which reminded me of the flow of earlier legends is when Lancelot, Galahad, and Sheng try to rescue the Queen. Their interaction with the Lady of the Lake is similar to how it would read in earlier manuscripts, particularly with the repetition.

The only part that made me uneasy was near the beginning, when Merlin and Sheng make their journey from China to only several months' time. In truth it would take close to a year, as Merlin was not able to use his magic to get them back quicker. Otherwise, I rather enjoyed this book. Lovers of the medieval period and Arthurian legends will find this book fascinating, and modern. Sheng's character is wonderfully sympathetic, and the ending is appreciated to be the only one possible.

Buy the book on Amazon

Character Interview: John Charming from Fearless

When I was first approached to participate in the 'Fearless' blog tour, I wasn't too sure. I knew I wasn't able to get a review out in time (have you seen my review queue? Seriously.) but it still sounded interesting. I wanted to be involved. So I asked if one of the characters would be willing to have a chat with me.

Here's my interview with the main character, John Charming.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is John Charming, but that’s really not my fault. I’m a Leo. I like long walks on the beach, sunsets, hot fudge sundaes, and jazz. Well, okay, I don’t really like jazz. I do love big band music though. Oh, and I come from a long line of witch hunters, dragon slayers, and enchantment breakers, which is where my family name comes from. On the one hand, villagers were saying “These guys ward against evil” and on the other they were saying “Lock up your daughters, these wandering knights with short life expectancies and stories of far-off lands are coming through town.”

What is your relationship like with your parents?
Both of my parents died when I was an infant, so I honestly don’t know if my relationship with them is better or worse than average. My father was a monster hunter, and it came back and bit him on the ass. And the throat. And the shoulder. And the elbow. In any case, I grew up in an orphanage that was really a front for the secret order of knights that my father belonged to. I’m still connected to my parents in odd ways though. I have some werewolf tendencies because my mother was bitten by a werewolf when she was pregnant with me, and I inherited a geas - a kind of magical blood oath - from my father. It compels me to hunt down any monsters who are violating the Pax Arcana, a magical truce between man and monsterkind.

How would you describe the path your life is on right now?
Dangerous curves ahead. No, seriously, I’m in a relationship and it’s weird. The person I’m with is a Valkyrie. She speaks to the dead fairly regularly…well, irregularly, but she does it a lot. And she’s also a monster hunter, and caring about a lover who gets in danger a lot was supposed to be my mate’s job. Also, there’s a very real chance she can kick my ass. So I guess what I’m saying is, I’m having to explore personal growth in ways I never anticipated.

What is the most unique, or unexplainable, thing that has happened to you?
I travel a lot, and everywhere I go, someone has gotten there before me and put a Bible in an end table drawer. I can’t make up my mind whether this freaks me out or whether I find it comforting.

Without going into too much detail (we don’t want spoilers!) can you tell us a little bit about your thoughts on this Kevin guy?
Kevin is kind of what Harry Potter would be if Harry Potter was Asian American and psychic and never went to Hogwarts. Kevin has a supernatural and homicidal family history that he has spent most of his life completely unaware of.

Do you have any idiosyncrasies, or quirks?
I have a sarcasm problem.  I would love to go to an anonymous help group for it, but for some reason nobody wants to host one.  I can’t sing, but I do anyway, and when I start to forget lyrics I just keep going. So I’ll be hunting a monster and start singing that Sting song “I’ll Be Watching You” in the car.  “Every breath you take, every clam you bake, every milk you shake, every claw you rake, I’ll be watching you.  Every single day, and every shade you grey, every will you sway, every town you prey, I’ll be watching you…”

Last question: what is your favourite season?
I’d have to say winter. I actually kind of get that whole argument about how we would never truly appreciate good things without bad things, because one of my favorite things in the world is to get cold and then go inside and get warm. Just like with the good/bad thing though, you have to be very careful about the emphasis. I’m currently reading this book called “Into the Wild” about this kid who went off into the Alaskan wilderness and froze to death. And I really like the kid the author describes, which I didn’t expect, and I can’t help thinking how different the book would be if it was called “Into the Hot Bath.”


When your last name is Charming, rescuing virgins comes with the territory -- even when the virgin in question is a nineteen-year-old college boy.
Someone, somewhere, has declared war on Kevin Kichida, and that someone has a long list of magical predators on their rolodex. The good news is that Kevin lives in a town where Ted Cahill is the new sheriff and old ally of John Charming.
The attacks on Kevin seem to be a pattern, and the more John and his new team follow that thread, the deeper they find themselves in a maze of supernatural threats, family secrets, and age-old betrayals. The more John learns, the more convinced he becomes that Kevin Kichida isn't just a victim, he's a sacrifice waiting to happen. And that thread John's following? It's really a fuse...
FEARLESS is the third novel in an urban fantasy series which gives a new twist to the Prince Charming tale. The first two novels are Charming & Daring.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Book tour spotlight: The Alpha Plague by Michael Robertson

Book Spotlight

The Alpha Plague

Rhys is an average guy who works an average job in Summit City—a purpose built government complex on the outskirts of London.

The Alpha Tower stands in the centre of the city. An enigma, nobody knows what happens behind its dark glass.

Rhys is about to find out.

At ground zero and with chaos spilling out into the street, Rhys has the slightest of head starts. If he can remain ahead of the pandemonium, then maybe he can get to his loved ones before the plague does.

The Alpha Plague is a post-apocalyptic survival thriller.

About the author

Michael Robertson is a writer of dark post apocalyptic fiction, horror, and science fiction. He's been writing for over fifteen years and has been published in several anthologies and magazines, as well as being published by HarperCollins.

His most poplar series is his Crash series. It's a dark look at the apocalypse, brought about by financial collapse rather than a zombie plague. Although his next book The Alpha Plague, is a much more traditional post apocalyptic story inspired by 28 Days Later.

He has plans for several science fiction books and is currently writing the first draft of New Reality 3: Fear, which will finish off his New Reality series.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Book Review: The Set Apart Woman by Leslie Ludy

The Set-Apart Woman: God's Invitation to Sacred Living

Leslie Ludy's book is one of few that has moved me. She is bluntly honest, which is a rare feature in Christian non-fiction/lifestyle books currently and much appreciated. Her chapters are well-written with relevant anecdotes which show her to be a regular woman, although set-apart. She has had struggles, and doubts, and admits to be continuing her journey past them. Her honesty is humbling and allows the reader to connect not only with her, but with a reachable relationship with God. Too many times have I heard Christian women say it's not reasonable to expect a high level of set-apartness, but Ludy makes it clear that it is.

I will admit that at times I found myself disagreeing with certain points. But after contemplation, and prayer, I realized my disagreement was based on the points challenging my faith. That is never a bad thing. Since accepting the challenge, I have already begun to change my habits. I fear not every woman will rise to the occasion, but I know the Holy Spirit will move them to do so at the right time.

The group discussion questions at the end of each chapter were wonderful as well. While I would have liked the scriptural references to be slightly longer than a mere verse (as context can be lost in such situations) it spurred me to read more than what was recommended.

Overall, 'The Set-Apart Woman' is a wonderful novel for women of all ages and in all stages of their relationship with Christ. It is a reminder of our calling, Who has called us, and that we have been given everything we need to truly be set-apart.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Book review - Heart of Stone by H. Lynn Keith

Heart of Stone

While my own series is sci-fi, I've found that I'm quite picky about the sci-fi that I read. That being said, I've found that I'm not a fan of techno sci-fi. Heart of Stone is an interesting book. It goes into extreme details about nearly everything (from sailing to computer systems) but most of it was just way too much for me. Someone who enjoys details will really enjoy the novel, but after roughly 62 pages there was enough information and detail about Stone sailing that I feel as though I can get on a sailboat and do a decent job. 

There's a good story deep down, looking at AI as a person and the inherent consequences that come along with that. I loved seeing Joyce develop, and the relationship between her and Stone. But the rest of it seemed too much. He'd been under the radar for years, and now suddenly all at once everyone is after him. There were some characters who simply didn't need to be included at all and only further complicated the story.

Other characters were there for convenience, but could still be written out, like Skip's son Craig. That was probably the worst scene, between Craig, Sandy, and a bunch of people blackmailing them. Including Skip. On the other hand, there was some great relationships with some of the minor characters, such as the dock master in Singapore. It was the little things like that which made those parts of the book realistic and endearing.

Overall, for what it is (a techno-thriller/spy book) I think it's pretty good. It's definitely not my cup of tea, though. Anyone with an understanding of programming, hacking, and sailing, would thoroughly enjoy this book.