Hell Spawn (Saint Tommy, NYPD #1) ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Hell Spawn
Series: Saint Tommy, NYPD #1
Author: Declan Finn
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 206
Words: 59K



Synopsis:

Tommy Nolan is a detective in New York City. With his wife and young son, Tommy lives within walking distance of his precinct offices. One day Tommy begins to experience some strange things, things he can’t really explain. But that all is washed away when a little girl is murdered right in Tommy’s neighborhood and the killer leaves a personal message for Tommy written in the girl’s blood. Then one of Tommy’s neighbors is murdered in the same fashion. The problem is, Tommy had talked to her on the phone, long after it was possible for her to be alive.

Turn’s out there’s a demon loose in New York City and it has teamed up with a psycho killer who is a discredited medical doctor. Discredited because he experimented on live victims without their consent. Tommy manages to put the perp in jail but the demon’s name is Legion and takes over many of the inmates and causes a riot that even the SWAT can’t put down. Possessed men aren’t too worried about a few paltry bullets or tear gas after all.

Tommy, after getting some backup from his local priest and all the surrounding priests, heads into the prison to confront the demon and exorcise it. He’s a man on a mission from God and begins to experience the powers that Saints throughout history have been recorded as having.

Exorcising the demon gets the prison under control, but Tommy’s life is forever changed as the demon reveals that Tommy has been chosen to be the Patron Saint of Detectives. While this situation has been dealt with, Tommy knows that a righteous man’s work isn’t finished while he has breath in his body.

My Thoughts:

First things first. On Amazon, right in the title, this bills itself as “A Catholic Action Horror Novel”. It certainly is. Considering how other urban fantasy series shove paganism down their readers’ throats without a second thought, I don’t see that being a problem though. Unless you’re a religious bigot that is.

Now, was that a great opening paragraph or what? I was aiming for abrasive and since I bristled at myself when I read it out loud to see how it sounded, I knew I had succeeded. But seriously folks, if you can deal with Dresden or the Iron Druid Chronicles or Jayne Yellowrock or that author Jim Hines, well, you should have zero problems with the views put forth here. Especially if you espouse tolerance as the mainstay of your beliefs.

I enjoyed this a lot. While I have my issues with specific doctrines of Catholicism and even with the whole “Saints” thing, thinking of this as a supernaturally powered cop worked just fine. And it helped that Tommy had to obey some really strict rules that had 1000’s of years of history behind them. Every ability exhibited was one that previous saints had shown, so Tommy isn’t simply pulling power out of his butt. The internal consistency was refreshing. Too many times the rules of urban fantasy seem to get made up as the author goes along, or to not really have any rules beyond “it’s supernatural, we just don’t understand”. While the rules are being revealed to us as readers, they have a deep and abiding history backing them up.

One word of caution however. This is graphic in terms of violence. Finn doesn’t shy away from describing in detail just how the demon possessed man kills his victims. It is really horrific. What is even more horrific is when it is revealed what those killings are based on in real life.

Another thing I did like was the whole family dynamic. Tommy and his wife aren’t having drama to ratchet up the tension. She’s the wife of a cop and knows what that entails. Tommy is teaching his son krav maga so he can defend himself and to help others who are being bullied. His son isn’t a psycho emo goth whatever who Tommy is trying to “connect” with. Tommy is being the dad that every dad should be. It was just great to see a main character being in a stable family. They helped each other instead of draining each other.

Overall, I was very pleased with this read and am looking forward to more in the series. I believe there are currently 7. I know that Finn has also authored several other series. One of them falls squarely into the paranormal romance category though, so even if it too gets the “A Catholic Action Horror Novel” I’ll be avoiding it like the plague.

★★★★☆

Passion and Purity ★★★★★


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Passion and Purity
Series: ———-
Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Counsel
Pages: 192
Words: 40K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Published in 1984 and written by Elisabeth Elliot, is an evangelical Protestant book, part manifesto and part autobiography, on the subject of romantic relationships. The book recounts Elliot’s friendship and romance with missionary Jim Elliot, beginning in the 1940s and ending with his death in 1956. Elliot uses anecdotes from her relationship with Jim to expound on her views concerning “pure, Christian relationships” and the practice of “waiting on God” for romantic timing and direction.

The late Ruth Bell Graham, wife of popular evangelist Billy Graham, wrote the preface.

My Thoughts:

I read this for the first time back in 2000 when I was single and desperately trying to not be single. That was a very different time in my life from now and I read this now to see how things had changed more than because I thought I needed to read this book.

I will say, besides being saved by Jesus Christ, getting married was the best thing that ever happened to me. Books like this helped me stay the course during those tumultuous hormone years when all I wanted was to give way to my baser desires.

So this time around, it was like looking back down a mountain side. This book is written to single people who are dealing with keeping their purity and walk with God while navigating the world of courting/dating. It was a fantastic reminder that I have not always been where I currently am. That in turn gave me hope because it means that I am not always going to be where I currently am either. God has plans for each stage of our lives.

It has spurred me on to go look at some marriage counsel books by Dr. James Dobson to see what advice is given to married couples. While we’re doing just fine, heading off things before they happen is the best way to keep things going just fine.

★★★★★

The Great Divorce ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Great Divorce
Series: ———-
Author: C.S. Lewis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Allegory
Pages: 113
Words: 30K



Synopsis:

The narrator gets on a bus with a large group of people, many of whom end up never even making it onto the bus. The bus flies to another country which seems to be some sort of hinterlands of Heaven. The narrator overhears many conversations between the occupants of the bus and people come from the main land of Heaven to help them. Most of what he overhears are reasons why the bus occupants don’t want to really go to heaven and why it just makes more sense for them to get back on the bus and go back to the grey town, even though rumors of a final night time fast approaching keep cropping up.

The narrator awakes as C.S. Lewis and he makes it clear no one should use this story as a guide to the afterlife.

My Thoughts:

This is technically a re-read, as I read this in Bibleschool in the late 90’s. While I wasn’t writing reviews or even keeping track of what books I read back then (that didn’t start until April of 2000), this book stuck in my head, mainly because of the disagreement I had with Lewis about the subject matter. That was important because it was the first time I really had a disagreement with Lewis, before this I’d pretty much vacuumed up everything he said. So I knew going into this re-read that I was still going to have that disagreement. While that was the case, I was also able to better appreciate the many other points he made during this short little novel, hence the 4 stars.

So the disagreement mainly centers around 2 things. First, the immortality of the soul and soul sleep. While this wasn’t an issue back in the 90’s, my views have changed over the years and I’ve come into the 7th Day Adventist viewpoint, so that’s something Lewis (and Protestantism in general) and I disagree on. I don’t believe in the immortality of the soul and I believe that when you die you sleep, in some form or other, until the Final Judgement. Lewis believes differently, hence the very idea of the book. Secondly, Lewis seems to be proposing some sort of pseudo-purgatory with the Grey Town and the ability of the occupants of the bus to leave it and go to Heaven. He does directly address this issue and claims that isn’t what he’s doing, but it is really hard to accept any other interpretation. While God is outside of Time, humanity ONLY has its lifetime to make a choice of whether to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and go to heaven or to reject Jesus Christ and go to hell.

To put it plainly, once you die, that is it. You have run out of time to make a choice. While it sounds nice to talk about God being outside of time, blah, blah, blah, the Bible seems pretty clear on the issue of having to make your choice of whether to follow God or not in this life and having that choice in this life alone. Obviously, there are other interpretations and I’m not worried that someone who is a committed Christian is going to suddenly go off the rails and think they can somehow get right with God after they die. What I worry about with the purgatory style doctrine is that puts off the necessity of making a decision NOW. If they’re wrong, then it is too late and they’re going to hell. I’m playing super fast and loose here, but I don’t think this is the place to have a Scripture session about why I think so and backing everything up with specific chapter and verse from the Bible. That type of talk is for someone who is already interested in the issue and has questions, not for a bleeding book review, hahahahaa.

With those issues out of the way, which while I talked about them a bit, were much smaller in my mind this time around, I was really able to focus on the rest of the book. Lewis does a fantastic job of showing a wide variety of reasons why people CHOOSE to not go to Heaven. He makes a real push to show that people are not kept out of Heaven who are clamoring to get it, but that people voluntarily choose not to go in because of Reason A, B or C. God and sin cannot co-exist and hence Heaven must be a place where there is no sin. If people won’t give up their sin, they have in fact chosen their sin over heaven. While that sounds simplistic, it is that easy to spell out.

I didn’t take notes on the various conversations recorded, so I’m not going to go through and talk about each one, but Lewis does an admirable job of showing in layman’s terms, why people hold on to certain things even to their own detriment. He is also able to show the underlying narrative and self-deceptions that people twist themselves into to justify their rejection of God, Jesus and the inability of sin and God co-existing. It wasn’t new or “eye opening”, but it was a timely reminder to me.

I think I will end this by saying that God is Good, God is Great and in the end, every knee will bow to His Sovereignty and acknowledge His Very Rightness. That is really awkwardly phrased but it seems to properly convey the end of the matter.

★★★★☆

The Screwtape Letters ★★★★½

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Screwtape Letters
Series: ———-
Author: C.S. Lewis
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Non-fiction/Theology
Pages: 138
Words: 37K

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

In The Screwtape Letters, Lewis imagines a series of lessons in the importance of taking a deliberate role in Christian faith by portraying a typical human life, with all its temptations and failings, seen from devils’ viewpoints. Screwtape holds an administrative post in the bureaucracy (“Lowerarchy”) of Hell, and acts as a mentor to his nephew Wormwood, an inexperienced (and incompetent) tempter.

In the 31 letters which constitute the book, Screwtape gives Wormwood detailed advice on various methods of undermining God’s words and of promoting abandonment of God in “the Patient”, interspersed with observations on human nature and on the Bible. In Screwtape’s advice, selfish gain and power are seen as the only good, and neither demon can comprehend God’s love for man or acknowledge human virtue.

My Thoughts:

This is a very short book at only 138 pages. With there being 31 chapters, it is easy to read one here, read one there and go from there. I read this in one sitting, as I hadn’t read this since my teen or Bibleschool days, and I wanted to eat the thing in one go.

I found this easy to assimilate. The ideas behind what Screwtape was talking about are easy to reverse to get the correct message. Lewis does an admirable job of presenting the wrong view to showcase just what the right view should be. I don’t envy him though, trying to write a book by a demon.

One thing that did stick out to me was Screwtape saying how they wished all humans were either atheists or magicians (occultists in my terminology). To either not believe in the devil at all or to believe in him so much that one becomes entrapped. I wonder if Lewis put that in there so that anyone reading this wouldn’t be tempted to dig deeper into the occult to “learn” about demons and such. Lewis didn’t write this so people could learn about demons, but so that they could learn about Jesus. In that regards I simply disregarded everything whenever Screwtape started talking about hell and anything related to that subject. I differ enough from Lewis anyway in how we think of hell so it wasn’t a problem for me.

This would be a great study book, as each chapter is so short. Read one chapter, take notes and then discuss with others. Next time I read this, I certainly won’t be rushing through it in one sitting. As I’m sitting here, I’m actively considering reading it again next year and making it a Project.

★★★★½

War in Heaven ★★★☆½

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: War in Heaven
Author: Charles Williams
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 211
Words: 81K

Synopsis:

From Enotes.com

War in Heaven is a novel concerned with the struggle over possession of a chalice that the characters believe is the Holy Grail, the cup from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper. A cup that could be this holy relic turns up in England in the twentieth century. Julian Davenant, the archdeacon of the Fardles village church, tries to protect it and prevent it from falling in to the wrong hands. In contrast, Gregory Persimmons, a retired businessman, strives to possess it and uses its power for black magic. Ultimately, the forces of good prevail, and Gregory is punished.

Two possibly unrelated events begin the novel. First, an unidentified corpse is found at the publishing firm that Gregory owns. Second, the contents of a manuscript at the firm are revealed, suggesting that the Grail is in the Fardles church. Gregory begins to obsess over the Grail. Renting a house in the Fardles area, he tries to buy the chalice and then pays to have it stolen; during the theft, Julian is attacked. Gregory also lures the Rackstraw family to his new residence, with the plan to kidnap their four-year-old son, Adam, and use him in black magic.

Aided by the Duke of North Ridings and Kenneth Mornington, Julian locates the chalice in Gregory’s home and steals it. Taking it to London, Julian hides in the Duke’s home. His prayers protect it from the evil spells that Gregory’s accomplices, Manasseh and Lavrodopoulos, are putting on it to destroy it. Gregory injures Barbara, Adam’s mother; poisons her; and brings in a “doctor” Manasseh, who will worsen her ill health while pretending to cure her. Julian agrees to exchange the chalice for Barbara’s health, for which they pray all night. A mysterious stranger, John, arrives in Fardles just as she is cured; he is Prester John of Arthurian myth.

In London, occult forces kill Mornington and threaten Julian, who is captured and tied up to be ritually killed. The combined positive forces emanating from the Grail and the actions of Prester John, who arrives in the nick of time, save Julian. Moreover, Gregory is arrested after confessing to an unsolved murder that had set the novel in motion. Back in Fardles, Prester John celebrates mass at the church; both he and the Grail disappear, and Julian dies in peace on the altar.

My Thoughts:

Christian Mysticism. What C.S. Lewis is with his Narnia and Space Trilogy to Fantasy and Science Fiction, that is what Williams is to Mysticism. Not being an advocate for, a believer in, or even a fan of, mysticism, this was a hard book to get through.

I was discussing this with Pilgrim over at Librarything and ended up saying this about the book part way through:

I guess part of it is that the idea that God’s Power can imbue an object and then be used willy nilly, by anybody. While there are a few instances that spring to mind of that happening in the Bible (Elisha’s bones raising the dead man and Peter’s hankerchief healing people) most of the miracles were directly tied to a prophet on a mission. Gahazi couldn’t use Elisha’s staff to raise the dead woman’s son, the river didn’t heal all the lepers only Naaman, etc.

I guess I reject mysticism because I view it as a way to use God’s power through our own power (incantations, etc) instead of it being something that God’s does through us. I certainly do believe in miracles and I do believe in magic. I just don’t see how a Christian can think of miracles in the same vein as magic.

I reject with every fiber of my being the idea of there being White and Black Magic. God’s Power is not magic and the power of Satan and the fallen spirits is corrupted and its final goal is the damnation of the user and recipient.

While Williams makes it impossible for Persimmons to use the Grail himself, Persimmons manages to get around that by using the child Adrian. Of course, it backfires, but still, the idea that an evil person can use an object of Holiness for the “power” contained therein just rubs me completely the wrong way. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is a perfect example of this idea in our popular culture. The idea that Nazi’s could harness the power of the Ark, the very seat of God on Earth, for themselves is simply abhorrent to me. It also displays a shocking lack of understanding on the subject. Williams understands the theology behind what he’s writing, it is just that he and I disagree on the interpretation.

That led me into my other main issue. The boy Adrian. Persimmons makes it his mission to win the child so he can use him as a conduit for the Graal (everybody referred to it as the Graal instead of the Holy Grail. I have no idea why) and in the back of his mind is that Adrian would also either make a pefect Disciple of Satan or a fantastic sacrifice after being used by Persimmons. I had to stop reading and ask Pilgrim if Adrian was going to be ok before I could go on. Thankfully, everything WAS ok, but the leadup to that was very ominous and not something I enjoyed contemplating. Kids in danger, physical or spiritual, is something I don’t handle well.

At the same time, I thoroughly enjoyed reading a book about Christians and the working out of everything through a Christian world view. While I gave it the Fantasy tag, it is way closer to real life than I’d ever be truly comfortable with. I’ve got several more of Williams books available to me and I think I’ll add them to my tbr, just further down the line.

I realize my complaints got more time than the positives, but this books deserves those 3.5stars. The fact that I plan on reading more Williams cements in my mind that this WAS a good read.

★★★☆½

Blessed Resurrection Day!

death_defeated

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

Matthew 28:5-10

He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

Acts 1:3

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me….

….13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain….

….19 If in Christ we have hope[b] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep….

I Corinthians 15:3-8, 13-14, 19-20

This Resurrection Day is going to be quite different from ones in the past. No Easter Service AT church, just online. No shaking of hands and encouraging each other with the words “He is risen!”

So I decided to copy/paste the following from an Easter post I wrote back in 2007.

First, it would be easy to summarize it into something like this:
To me, Easter means that there is Hope in this world.

But it means so much more. It means I can get up every morning and go to work, knowing that I am accomplishing something for God. Whether I see that accomplishment or not, that’s not up to me.

It means that I’ll spend time and money on people and for people. And not just those who make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside either 🙂

It means that my feelings don’t have a final say in determining how things actually are. I can be happy. That statement alone is worth so much in my opinion.

It means that this world is not a forsaken hellhole populated by scum. Jesus rose for EVERYONE and it behooves me to act like it more often.

It means that being pessimistic is just a choice, not a reality. Even with that choice, it’s just for the short term. ‘Cause the good guys win in this story.

It means that God cares enough about me so that I don’t need to worry about the path my life is taking. As long as I’m trusting Him, He’ll see that I’m on the correct one and I don’t make any wrong turns.

Finally, it means that there is Hope, Peace and Love. That is no small thing!

~Ryusoma aka Ged aka Bookstooge aka Me

(I’ve had a lot of online monnikers through the years)

God bless you all.

bookstooge (Custom)

Acts of the Apostles ★★★☆☆

actsoftheapostles (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission 
Title: Acts of the Apostles
Series: ———-
Author: Ellen White
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 570
Words: 155K

 

Synopsis:

A commentary going over the book of Acts and the various Epistles by Peter, Paul and John.

 

My Thoughts:

Well, this is the final book of White’s that I’ll be reading. Not because of any real disagreement on Theology or anything important, but because I simply cannot stand her style of writing. It isn’t even near the level of having your foot cut off, but more of having that pebble in your shoe for the whole day. At some point I realized the irritation was outweighing the good I was getting. There isn’t a hard line of demarcation in the text between her thoughts and the Bible, as she incorporates Bibles verses into her text willy nilly. That doesn’t make studying very easy for me.

I’m including a quote that I felt was the best paragraph out of the whole book:

It is no part of Christ’s mission to compel men to receive Him. It is Satan, and men actuated by his spirit, who seek to compel the conscience. Under a pretense of zeal for righteousness, men who are confederated with evil angels sometimes bring suffering upon their fellow men in order to convert them to their ideas of religion; but Christ is ever showing mercy, ever seeking to win by the revealing of His love. He can admit no rival in the soul, nor accept of partial service; but He desires only voluntary service, the willing surrender of the heart under the constraint of love.

I do want to make clear, so that it can’t be taken out of context, that not being compelled is very different from not being judged. God gives us Choice and He also has told us the outcomes of that choice. When you face God Himself at the Day of Judgment, your eternal fate will hinge on whether you’ve accepted Jesus the Only Begotten Son of God as your savior or not.

On a note that isn’t directly related to a review, I started reading my non-fiction differently. I was inspired by Matt who has what he calls his “weekend exclusive” reads. Since non-fiction is a different beast, I wanted to try a different approach. Instead of reading this straight through, I simply read this on Sabbath. So starting each Friday night until Saturday night, I would read non-fiction. My goal was to read 25% of the book each Sabbath. That had the effect of breaking up the book into managable chunks and made me more aware of keeping Sabbath. It also has the positive side effect of getting me to read more non-fiction (12-13 a year instead of 6 or 7).

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Burning White (Lightbringer #5) ★★★★★

burningwhite (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Burning White
Series: Lightbringer #5
Author: Brent Weeks
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 1325
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

SPOILERS OBVIOUSLY

This book has several main Point of View characters. We follow Teia, Kip and the Mighty, Gavin Guile, Andross Guile and his daughter in law Karris the White and also Liv the Ferrilux. With each main viewpoint we also get stuff from minor characters.

Teia has been ordered by the Broken Eye to follow Gavin Guile (now a prisoner) onto a ship and kill him once he completes whatever task the Broken Eye has given him. The Order holds Teia’s father hostage and claims they will exchange his life for Gavin’s. Teia backs out at the last second and decides she will hunt the Order down. She contacts Karris but has a fit of the feelings because of something that Karris did so Teia goes it alone. This leads to her getting captured by her Order mentor, Murder Sharp, and being tortured for information. She tricks Murder into killing himself while he reveals just enough info for her to continue her hunt. She takes some poison and finds a wagon of wine that the entire Order is going to drink from and poisons every barrel, pretending to be the poison tester. Of course, she doesn’t know she is masquerading as the poison tester until after she poisons it all. Then she has to taste test the wine and take the poison herself. Which means when the sun rises the next day that the poison will interact with the light and kill her, along with every other Order member. She succeeds and in killing the Order foils a plot by them to open the city gates to the White King. She misses the Old Man of the Desert however. Kip does what he can to save her and succeeds. By the end of the book she is being re-integrated back into the Mighty.

Kip and the Mighty start out still in Blood Forest, where they have to decide whether to save the town they are currently in or to save another larger town that is a lynchpin in holding the current Satrapy together. If the White King gains either town, the entire Satrapy will fall to him. Tisis, his wife, figures out that Kip is being hemmed in not to prevent him from saving either town but from heading back to the Chromeria, where the White King is going to attack with all his forces and all 7 of the Banes. Kip takes on the mantle of the Lightbringer and takes the best of his forces back to the island of Jasper to fulfill a prophecy about the Lightbringer being on the Island to prevent a world wide disaster. He has also discovered, through a message from Liv, that the mirrors on Jasper are part of a network that are capable of killing the Banes. Kip and the Mighty get to the Island, delay the initial attack by the White King and bring some needed news to Andross Guile, who as the Promachos, is the military leader. Andross is still playing games with his grandson and Kip lets the title of Lightbringer go because he realizes he needs to focus on his people instead of his grandfather. Kip begins killing off the Bane by using the Mirror System but Zyman Guile, his insane half-brother, kills him and proclaims himself the Lightbringer and Prism and Emperor of the Chromeria. Kip’s last actions are to send a stream of White Luxin to some point in space. A wave of Black Luxin returns and turns everything darker than night and then Kip is brought back to life by Orholom’s intervention. He is out of the battle but has done enough to allow others to finish things up. At the end of the book he publicly proclaims Andross as the Lightbringer and he and Tisis will head back to Blood Forest to reign as Satraps, while still investigating more about what Orholom actually meant all the various luxins to do.

Gavin, who is really Dazen, is taken to an mythical Island where Orholam Himself supposedly used to meet with mortals. Grinwoody, the Old Man of the Desert and leader of the Broken Eye, tasks Gavin with ascending the tower on the island and destroying whatever he finds on top with a dagger of black luxin. Grinwoody holds the life of Karas and Kip in his hands as leverage. Gavin, now blind in one eye, crippled in one hand and completely color blind and unable to draft, does as he is bid. He meets up with a former rowing slave, coincidentally nicknamed Orholam for his self-righteous preaching. Gavin makes the journey to the top of the Tower, where he expects to find a nexus of magic (Grinwoody doesn’t believe that Orholam is real) and that by slicing it with the Blinding Knife that he will destroy all magic in the world. What he finds is Lucidonious, the First Lightbringer, who is now immortal and apparently evil. He fights Lucidonious and somehow banishes him back into the mirror world from which he came. The Orholam Himself appears. He is Real. He and Gavin have a long conversation and Gavin gets a lot off of his chest but also realizes just how bad a life he has led to that point. He pledges his life to Orholam and sends a wave of Black Luxin to the Chromeria to stop the White King and his Banes. It isn’t enough however and with his wounds he can’t do any more. Until a massive wave of White Luxin hits him and regenerates him. He then uses all the Black Luxin from the Tower and turns it into White Luxin. He then hitches a ride with Orholam and gets to the Island of Jasper in time to take part in the battle. By the end of the book he and Karris are re-united and Dazen (having given up all false pretenses) decides he is going to go into the color dungeon and kill some immortal Fallens.

Andross’s point of view begins with a split timeline. It starts many years ago when he is trying to court his wife. Even back then he thought he was the prophesied Lightbringer and he married his wife because of her scholarly knowledge and ability to read and interpret so many foreign prophecies. Each new chapter brings the timeline closer to the present and we see all the terrible things that Andross does to fulfill what he thinks the prophecy means, all the way up to killing his youngest son. We see how his obsession drives his wife away, his family away and how despicable a person he becomes. By the end of the book he begins to redeem himself and both Kip and Dazen are reaching out to him to prevent him from going down that path again. Of course, he proclaims himself the Lightbringer and the new Emperor of the Chromaeia and the new Prism. He is still a jackass.

Liv, Kip’s friend from the first book, now a godling herself, is under the thrall of one of the Fallen and doesn’t even realize it. She provides insight into what the White King is doing and his eventual goal to proclaim himself the God of gods and to become one of the Immortals himself. He obviously fails and is obliterated.

 

My Thoughts:

First off, just a warning. As you can tell by the synopsis, this is going to be a long review. I don’t know how long this section will be, but it will definitely NOT be my typical 3-5 paragraphs.

This final book in the Lightbringer series was released at the end of October and I was desperately hoping someone else would have written up a synopsis by now over at the wiki page. No such luck so I had to do it myself. I left out a lot of detail, even major detail because this book was just that big. My kindle page count was just over 1300 pages. That number comes from a character count (letters, not words) with X characters per page, not how many page clicks I had to do on my Oasis (which would change if I changed the font size). I sped through it though. I’d read 25% at one go and then go read another book just so I didn’t over do it. That formula worked out perfectly for keeping me interested but not burning out.

So lets start with the negative and potential negative. The only truly negative for me was that it had been long enough between books that I was lost at sea a couple of times. Weeks does provide a short synopsis of each of the previous books at the beginning and I read them. I’d have been even more lost without them. 5 books over nine years is just a lot to deal with. There were a couple of times that something was referred to that I had NO idea about simply because I’d forgotten about it from a previous book. The “potential” negative is the very long talk between Dazen and Orholom at the tower. I say “potential” because it wasn’t a negative for me at all (it probably was the best part) but I don’t know how other readers are going to react to a theological talk between an Omniscient God and a powerful but broken and hurting man.

I liked the almost continual revelations about the history of the Chromeria and the Lightbringers and the 1000 Worlds and the Immortals, etc. Just when I felt like I was getting my feet under me Weeks would bring in another wave and knock me right over. The revelations about Lucidonious was enough to really rock me.

The action was top-notch and was just as good, if not better, than anything that came before in the series. From the Mighty fighting against the corrupt Light Guard, to civilians fighting against the White King’s forces to Cruxer fighting against Ironfist to Teia and Murder Sharp’s fight, even down to the card game between Kip and Andross, it all had the proper amount of tension. All the scenes were what I wanted in my action. I was satisfied with them, completely.

The ending is a pretty happing ending too. The bad guys are defeated, the good guys win and even the despicable scum get a shot at redemption. I didn’t find it sappy or over the top or too much. I have to admit that I wished that Andross Guile had been killed. He was one of the major despicable scum and while it was in keeping with what Weeks was writing, I wanted to see Andross get some Justice from Orholam instead of mercy.

Speaking of Orholam, the reason this got a full 5 stars from me is because of the conversation between Orholam and Dazen. Weeks doesn’t shy away from having Dazen ask some of the hard questions, questions that I struggle with in real life. There were a couple of times during this part of the book where I just cried. I cried with relief knowing that other people ask the same questions and feel the same way I do, I cried because of the pain that causes such questions to even be asked and I cried because I’m sure that Weeks himself struggles with these issues. He couldn’t have written like he did if he hadn’t fought these things out. Weeks is obviously a Christian but much like CS Lewis and Narnia, he doesn’t shy away from exploring the “What If” in regards to theology and fantasy. He’s not quite as explicit as Lewis, as there is no Aslan/Christ figure, but Dazen and Kip definitely play out the Father/ Son role of God the Father and God the Son at the crucifixion. All of these reasons are also why I am giving this the “Best Book of the Year” tag. It has some stiff competition from the other books I gave this tag to this year, so we’ll see what book actually wins at Year’s End.

Overall, I enjoyed the series enough that I wasn’t crying “foul” over the 2 year wait between books. It did show me though that my semi-recent plan to only read completed series is the right way to go. Whatever Brent Weeks writes next I’ll be reading, but I won’t be reading it as it comes out. If you read the first book, I think whatever you feel about that will guide how you feel about the rest of the series.

★★★★★

 

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Honour Guard (Warhammer 40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #4) ★★★☆½

honourguard (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Honour Guard
Series: Warhammer 40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #4
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 416
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

From the Wiki and Me

The Ghosts are sent to the Shrineworld Hagia, religious capital of the Sabbat worlds and homeworld of the revered Saint Sabbat herself, to reclaim the holy world from the clutches of Pater Sin and his so-called Infardi. During their campaign to reclaim the Doctrinopolis – the planet’s central city – Gaunt, who has command of the ground forces, is forced into a trap set in one of the most holy structures in the city. A warp-beacon is activated in the process, and a Chaos fleet advances on Hagia to obliterate the Imperial forces.

With just eighteen days until the fleet (large enough to wipe out the liberation force even if the fleet were a quarter its current size) arrives, Gaunt is given one last chance to redeem himself by the arrogant and pompous Lord-General Lugo: recover the Saint’s remains and holy relics from the Shrinehold in the Sacred Hills for evacuation. The Ghosts are appointed as the honour guard of these relics, and together with units from the Pardus armoured regiments they form a convoy and journey into the mountains. However, much of Sin’s Infardi horde has pulled back into the hills; leaving the Ghosts with no choice but to fight the heretics while at the same time fighting the elements and navigating the unfamiliar terrain.

Several of the wounded, left back in the city, start hearing a voice telling them “Sabbat Martyr” in their heads. They band together and meet Gaunt at the shrine. Turns out they are all needed to activate a secret weapon left by Sabbat to protect her homeworld. The Psychic Weapon is activated and destroys every creature on the planet with the taint of Chaos. It also destroys the chaos beacon and scatters the approaching chaos fleet.

My Thoughts:

As long as you turn off your brain about the super psychic weapon (as in, why aren’t those things being studied and recreated now, instead of lying around for 6000 years), this was a lot of fun to read.

Abnett mixed things up by introducing a whole host of armoured tanks to complement the Ghosts and their being strictly infantry. Not a big mechanized tank fan though, so it didn’t do much for me. I did like that Abnett addresses how taking on new “Ghosts” affects them as a unit.

Gaunt is revealed to be a very religious man, with him venerating, if not worshipping, Saint Sabbat. Since there hasn’t been any of that to date, I wonder if I’ll see any more of it in later books. I highly doubt it however. It came across as more superstition than devotion though. I suspect most of that is because the religious side of Warhammer 40K is some paint on it, not something integral to it like a load bearing beam.

Gaunt gets in trouble with the over-General and while he succeeds at the end of the book, what happens politically wasn’t written about. I suspect that will play a big part in the beginning of the next book.

★★★☆½

 

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The Ministry of Healing (Non-Fiction) ★★★☆☆

ministryofhealing (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Ministry of Healing
Series: ———
Author: Ellen White
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 355
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

White reiterates how Jesus’ ministry was as much physical healing as it was a forgiving of sins. She then talks to physicians and nurses about how they should ministering to both soul and body in their duties. Finally, she goes over various healthful habits that the laity can do on their own to help keep themselves healthy, thus ensuring that they are able to reach out to non-Christians.

 

My Thoughts:

Most of my issues with this book are the same exact ones that I had with The Great Controversy. So no need to re-hash them all. With just a couple of exceptions. Those I will add right now.

White claims that cheese is completely unfit for human consumption. My guess is because the process of creating cheese is pretty much letting milk rot. Be that as it may, I vehemently disagree. I’ll agree that cheese can be unhealthy in terms of fat and cholesterol, but completely unfit for consumption? I don’t think so! I would give up beef before I give up cheese (and to be honest, I really don’t eat red meat any more. Turkeys and chickens for me). The second issue is her saying that pickles aren’t to be eaten either. I’m not nearly as big a proponent of pickles as I am cheese, but I regularly eat a small jar of Vlasic kosher dill spears every week. For me, they are a great way to get salt back into my system from the physical labor I do all day and get some yummy crunch. They serve a purpose and I am not just eating them for the taste (even though I do like the taste of dill pickles a lot).

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With that out of the way, I’ll talk some about what I do agree with. Just like in my Quote Post earlier this month, White directly addresses Appetite. All aspects of a Christian’s life is to be under the control of the Holy Spirit. A loss of self-control, which is one of the Fruits of the Spirit, shows that you aren’t as mature as God wants you to be in your Christian Growth. And a deliberate loss of control is a spurning of what God offers you. Overeating is a small thing in and of itself, but the consequences of a life of overeating lead to what we see in America today (obesity numbers ballooning up and causing all sorts of health issues) AND it shows that Christ is not in control of your life, your Appetite is. Gluttony isn’t something we hear preached about from the pulpit any more, but considering the typical American lifestyle, I think it should be. White wrote this back in 1905 and it is just as appropriate today as then, if not more so.

Alcohol. I am a teetotaler, someone who abstains from alcohol completely. I was brought up this way and nothing I’ve seen in in other’s lives, even Christians, makes me think that another option is open to me. White was part of the Temperance Movement of her times, which had a big hand in passing Prohibition back in the 20’s. Where White and I part ways is that she categorically condemns alcohol. That goes beyond what the Bible says. The Bibles tells Christians to NEVER get drunk but it does not forbid alcohol. However, the amount of people who can walk that line is small and from my own anecdotal evidence, should not be used to justify drinking at all. I don’t think Christians should drink. The negatives of alcohol far outweigh the positives and I have seen too many lives destroyed, or seen the collateral damage from such a self-destruction. It is like having a lion on the end of a chain attached to your wrist.

Finally, White goes over the importance of proper dress (both for modesty and health), fresh air, exercise and proper ventilation in any living quarters. A lot of the specifics are kind of like “well yeah…” to anyone who lives today, but it just goes to show how far ahead of her time White was. I also found that most of these things I was already doing, as I work outdoors at a physically laborious job.

To end this, I would re-title this something along the lines of “Aunt Ellen’s Big Book of Homilies”. Bits and pieces of wisdom but not something you should create any theology from.

★★★☆☆

 

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