jump to navigation

Review: Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo June 29, 2011

Posted by kmcalear in Book Review, Inspiration, Life, Religious.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

I don’t tend to read “religious inspirational” novels all that often, as I prefer to stick to the bible and the homilies of my priest at church. Many of these type of novels tend to have a “preachy” or “conversional” aspect that I dislike. That, alone, is one of the strengths of this book. Todd Burpo never tries to convert anyone openly. There’s simply an aspect of ‘telling a life story’. In fact much of the story deals with the trials and tests of faith that the family goes through dealing with the illness of their son. It can be, at times, hard to read the raw honesty the pastor relates even knowing there’s a “happy ending” but seeing a Pastor go through the same “What are you doing to me God?” questions many people ask in his situation can be a source of comfort and camaraderie. One of the book’s messages, at its core is: Pastors and priests are human too, after all, and doubt and disbelief are a part of the human makeup as much as faith and trust.

That said, I found the book thouroughly enjoyable and I simply couldn’t put it down. I read it all night long. The prose is very readable and the human interest story holds your attention without becoming maudlin or weepy. As a practicing Catholic I found the child’s claims interesting and thought provoking as well as to what heaven may be like. You don’t necessarily have to believe what Colton says in order to have an interesting discussion about the child’s interpretation. After all, if his claims are true they are being mediated through the understanding of a child. If they’re not, it still leaves you with interesting idea to consider. I particularly liked the inclusion of the Akiane painting of Jesus, which is both a beautiful painting and another interesting point to consider. All together I think this novel is an interesting, and thought provoking Christian inspirational story. 

Genre:  Inspirational, Religious

Age: Adult, Teenager

Content:  Scary scenes of illness, Themes of death, resurrection, miscarriage, apocalypse

Overall:  4.5/5

Series loyalty or just insanity? June 28, 2011

Posted by kmcalear in Book Series, Critiquing, Musings, Rants, Urban Fantasy.
add a comment

I noticed, recently, that a new Anita Blake book had come out. This one was entitled Hit List. Anita Blake was one of my first “urban fantasy” series and can be argued as one of the first that created the genre. Therefore, those of us who enjoy reading and writing in the genre are indebted to her. As well, the first 5 or 6 books were very good, the characterization was intriguing and the mysteries were engaging. Before the werewolf/woman/vampire triangle of Edward – Bella – Jacob there was the Anita – Jean Claude – Richard triangle, which spurred just as many vehement book-lover’s debates!

But then Hamilton decided to change her novel from paranormal fantasy to pointless pornography. I’m not a puritan when it comes to book content, but if it’s in the book have a danged point! You can write a pointless scene about baking a cake or a drawn out pointless sex scene and I’ll snarl equally, because I feel scenes in a novel should always advance either characterization or plot.

Which leads me to my point, why are people still reading Anita Blake? The reviews I see on amazon are negative and decry the lack of plot, novels of pure filler information, the dreadful characterization, the incomprehensible scenes and yet… they KEEP BUYING THEM? Why? Every author can have 1 or 2 duds in a series, but when you have 6 or 7 duds it’s time to give up the series and find something new.

There are so many aspiring, and GOOD, authors out there, after all. Use the money you would spend on a series you dislike and buy something you’ve never read before. You can always keep following the previously good, now bad, series at the library  on the slim chance it gets better.

This does, of course, lead me to a final question. When is series loyalty just too far? Do books really manage to get better after a set of duds, like tv series can sometimes do? (Case and point –> Battlestar Season 3, Farscape season 3 and Star Trek: TNG, season’s 1 and 2, they got better later). But at least, for tv, it’s generally free. Not so with new “episodes” of books.

Movie Review: X-Men First Class June 7, 2011

Posted by Realitybypass in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Last night the hubby and I went with a big group of friends to see X-Men First Class.  I’ve been excited about this movie for a while, though I admit it was excited mixed with trepidation.  After X-Men III I was in a horrid mood and rather loudly reviewed the movie with a big “I hate you” both in the theater and in writing later.  The characters, the storyline, the plot hole you could drive a mac truck through were all just about enough to make me swear off X-Men movies forever.

Then earlier this year I started doing some freelance article writing for the Deseret News and one of my assignments was to give a beginners guide to the X-Men for viewers who were new to the X-Men universe, but wanted to see the movie.  It was a fun article to write and required quite a bit of research into the new movie and reviewing things I’d known, or hadn’t, about the comics.  By the time I was finished with the article I was cautiously excited about the movie.  This version looked like someone had taken time to really explore the characters and to create a storyline that was consistent to itself and true enough to the comic book world that it would be fun.

Well…all of this was entirely right.  The movie was charming and satisfying to the array of people who came with us, from hard core comic book fans to those who has very little comic book background or interest.  I very much enjoyed the characterizations and the exploration of characters that we didn’t have much specific information about before.  Such as seeing Charles Xavier doing his thing as a Ladies Man.  Hysterical.  Also they did a good job at tying this into the existing movie continuity by using things like the recurring chess board motif and building powerful relationships which make the betrayals in future movies all the better.  I love the exploration of personal character motivations and how each personal story ties into the greater plot.

If I think about the film too hard there are things I can think of which didn’t totally work, but most of those are minor and in the end…  Best X-Men movie so far!

Jana

Book Review – Right Hand Magic by Nancy A Collins June 3, 2011

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Book Series, Romance, Urban Fantasy.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

I finished Right Hand Magic a couple of weeks ago, and I have to admit I found it charming.  It it the best, most dramatic urban fantasy I’ve ever read?  Nope.  But it was engaging and really fun, and sometimes fun is exactly what I’m in the mood for.

In Right Hand Magic we meet Tate, who is a trust fund baby defying her socialite parents by choosing the path of an artist, in her case an artist who builds sculptures out of metal.  When the book begins Tate has recently broken up with her boyfriend and is looking for someplace new to live, particularly if the rent price is right and she finds the right rent in the area of the city known as Golgatham.  We’re not given a LOT of background about how magic came into the world, but it’s enough to know that the supernatural exists and that it is untrusted and generally confined within Golgatham.  Usually humans aren’t welcome there, but Tate is desperate for change and at $750 a month she figures it’s worth trying something a little weird.

From this beginning Tate meets her witch born landlord, his obnoxious winged cat familiar, a cellar dwelling seer and a new housemate in the form of a were cougar escaped from the underground fighting pits.  The plot is fairly predictable, but I didn’t mind going on the journey to see just how it’d be achieved.  Tate is a really fun heroine with a spunky attitude, that never crossed over to being mean.  She is not a ‘kick ass’ heroine in the traditional UF sense of killing everything that gets in her way.  More she’s just confident in herself and works hard to achieve her goals and to take care of the people around her.  At one point she’s captured by the protagonist and even though she can’t do much, she does take the opportunity to stomp his foot and kick him in the shins, which is pretty much what I think most people would do.

Likewise the romance is cute and sweet.  You can tell it’s coming, but Tate and Hexe are cute together and it’s satisfying.   I appreciate Hexe’s characterization and his strength of person as well.  In fact the majority of the secondary characters are well done, which really rounds out the world and makes the bits that would be less believable something I’m willing to suspect disbelief for.

The magic system is fun consisting of natural abilities that come with race and then the witches, who practice Right Hand Magic, Left Hand Magic or some combination of the two.  Right Hand Magic is gentle magic, usually used for healing and blessing and undoing dark magic, where Left Hand Magic would be the a fore mentioned dark magic.  Most witches tend towards Left Hand Magic or the middle ground, but Hexe has chosen a path of only Right Hand Magic, no matter how hard it is to hold that road.

This book read fast and I’m looking forward to the next installment.

Genre:  Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

Age: Late Teen/Adult

Content:  Very mild Sexuality, violence, language

Overall:  4/5