Review: Nirvana

Nirvana Nirvana by J. R. Stewart
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(Advance copy via NetGalley... pub date Nov. 10. 2015.)

I do love science fiction and this promised to be good. Well, it has a great deal of potential to be really good, but the actual delivery is not quite there, yet.

This story is not very well organized. I was being jerked hither and yon, and I was constantly trying to figure out what was going on. I have a vivid imagination, and can keep up with a fast paced novel, but this was too disjointed and jumped between characters without any transitions so readers are left wondering where they are in the story.

The character development was great at first, then dwindles into two-dimensional versions that are moved about like chess pawns rather than driving the story themselves. I think it is supposed to be a series of scenes that tell the story, but it doesn't quite mesh correctly so it reads like grinding gears. The journal entries read better...

If this story had some really good editing, it would be excellent. Without the editing, it falls flat and does not fulfill all the description promises. It isn't typos, it is story flow that has a major problem.

I realize this story may have great impact on something that is very close to reality... virtual reality. It is scary what is being done and is being considered. This story shines a bright light into this rather dark industry. Kudos to the author for that!

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Review: The Arrival

The Arrival The Arrival by J.W. Brazier
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I really tried to get into this book. I thought the premise was very intriguing, yet the delivery fell a bit flat.

The story line just could not overcome the shortcomings. For one thing, the thought that the most evil character to ever come into this world could be genetically engineered is not biblical. When I realized that this is where the author was going, I couldn't finish it. The story was no longer plausible. Advice to that author -- either stay in the Christian genre by being more biblically plausible or shift over to true horror and gallop down that path. Don't try to mix the two.

Science definitely has its place, and can certainly be used for evil purposes. (More people in America have been murdered through abortion than what Stalin and Hitler did combined.) Science also has a definite place in the Bible...

This is not a very well organized story. Some thing happen that are actually in the back story and just take up space without moving the story along. The dialogue is strained and forced at times. Head hopping happens seemingly randomly; there are no transitions. Therefore the reader is jerked about willy-nilly.

I do not recommend this book.

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Review: The Cactus Creek Challenge

The Cactus Creek Challenge The Cactus Creek Challenge by Erica Vetsch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a fun book!

I loved the characters. Vetsch developed all with such fine skill and a delicate refining brush. Well done. No head jumping without skilled transitions. The story may be a tad improbable, but it is crafted in such a believable way.

I highly recommend this book! It is a keeper, and you'll probably want to read it again in a year or two. It is well worth your money!

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Review: The Lost Heiress

The Lost Heiress The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is quite an interesting novel, not the usual fare. It has a faint flavor of Gothic romance where the villain is most wicked and vile, and the hero and heroine are good and kind with imperfections. They are very believable characters, which makes this an excellent read.

The story line is very good. Beginning in Monaco and moving to early Edwardian England's high society with Earls and Dukes and Baronesses. These are treated accurately. Justin discovers who Brook's father is, and is delighted she is a baroness so he can marry her.

But life is full of wickedness and greed. There is one who is counting on wealth, but the sudden appearance of Brook changes the direction of this pursuit of wealth. It is a lively story, but there is a hint early in the story that not even Sherlock Holmes would be able to catch. From an editor's point of view, this hint should have been developed earlier rather than waiting until the middle of the book to find out what the wicked person is trying to steal. That part was rather annoying.

I quite admire her development of the wicked Pratt. White drew this character exquisitely so that any mention of his name made hairs stand up on my neck.

There are some historical flaws, though, in the book. The era is 1910's England and Monaco. Society had not quite shaken off the Victorian era, and hemlines had not risen above the ankles. British society was still gridlocked in societal norms such as straight backs, no slumping, no outward displays of emotions such as man-hugs or tight pants for women lest the person(s) be ostracized. Rigid etiquette was absolute.

The friendliness displayed between the servants and their employers is depicted with a bit of a heavy hand. Again, with so much attention to getting the details correct, this slight variation stands out starkly. Kindnesses shown to servants were not uncommon, but a Lady would not drive her servant to a train station. Perhaps after the War, but certainly not before.

To be fair, White did have someone read the novel to catch and delete any Americanisms. Unfortunately, her penchant for nicknames detracts from this elegant story. Nick names were not something the Brits were prone to bestow in Edwardian Great Britain. Last names were used between the men. No one ever addressed a person by their given name except in private. It was always My Lady, or My Lord, Lord So-n-So, and so forth. The use of nick names in this book is jolting. Especially the shortening of names was a faux pas in the extreme. Whitby would never have been shortened to Whit. In extreme emotional situations, a man might address a nobility equal with his last name, but never a shortened version. Etiquette was so stringent you could smell the vinegar in it.

The fact that a book follows so closely the etiquette, dress, and addresses of the day, but allow some of these errors makes the errors stand out all the more.

I particularly love the way White braids faith into the story. Each character has a different expression of faith, and it makes the story and characters all the more real.

Another good character development is that White highlights the Earl's emotional constraints with his daughter, Brook. It is so delicious when he finally gives her a fatherly hug. There are many other jewels in this novel that not only move the story along, but draw the tension so tight one could walk upon it. Story telling done very, very well.

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Review: The Bible Teacher's Guide: Theology Proper: Knowing God the Father

The Bible Teacher's Guide: Theology Proper: Knowing God the Father The Bible Teacher's Guide: Theology Proper: Knowing God the Father by Gregory Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gregory Brown has written a beautiful study on knowing God the Father. It is full of wonderful insights that are like sparkling jewels. The study is very well written, biblically grounded, and easy to absorb because it is very well organized.

He talks about knowing your self-value: "I have value because in some way or another, even though I sin, I bear the image of God. Having God as my maker and having been created in His likeness, give me innate value."

Too often we focus on how unworthy we sinners are. But when we study the big picture, we can see how valuable God created us.

When Brown talks about the first benefit of knowing God the Father, he says, "Life can never be what it was meant to be apart from the knowledge of God."

The study is packed with these kinds of jewels of wisdom. It is so true that people often think of prayer as pleading for good things. Brown points out this is very far from the truth, and that God pours out His blessings all over His children.

Brown also explores the other side of the coin in the chapter "God is Wrathful." He draws from Paul's letter to the Romans in the first chapter. Every day God hands people over to the sin that they pursue, and he allows them to reap the consequences.

The author tackles one of the hardest things to understand: The Trinity. I don't think I would have the courage to write about this. He discusses how God is truly one God, but in three persons.

These key factors for knowing God the Father are presented with plenty of biblical back-up. I highly recommend this study for groups and individuals, for youth to the older/mature Christians.

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Review: My Restoration Journey: The True Story of Erica Kramer

My Restoration Journey: The True Story of Erica Kramer My Restoration Journey: The True Story of Erica Kramer by Erica Kramer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an amazing journey to redemption of not only two souls, but redemption of a marriage.

I was delighted to read how one woman determined to restore her marriage following God's plan, and not her own. She did not give up even when it seemed the best thing to do. Amazing.

There were quite a number of typos, though. And it is completely narrative without dialogue. Since the book is full of conversation, the narrative gets a bit tedious at times. It would be much better to break the paragraphs up with dialogue.

The story is very well organized, and the fact that it is true gives it a wonderful testimony feel to it. The restoration story is powerful, uplifting, and filled with hope. I know that God allowed Erica to walk into that valley so that she could testify to how glorious He is toward His children.

If you are not an editor or an English teacher, you probably won't notice many typos. The book is worthy and is a keeper.

Engraved in His palm,
Gina Burgess

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