Thursday, January 24, 2013


Book: Inkspell by Cornelia Funke

Description: The captivating sequel to INKHEART, the critically acclaimed, international bestseller by Cornelia Funke--available for the first time in a beautifully designed trade paperback!

Although a year has passed, not a day goes by without Meggie thinking of INKHEART, the book whose characters became real. But for Dustfinger, the fire-eater brought into being from words, the need to return to the tale has become desperate. When he finds a crooked storyteller with the ability to read him back, Dustfinger leaves behind his young apprentice Farid and plunges into the medieval world of his past. Distraught, Farid goes in search of Meggie, and before long, both are caught inside the book, too. But the story is threatening to evolve in ways neither of them could ever have imagined. (from

I must admit, I wasn't nearly as impressed with this book as I was the first, Inkheart. It was really long, and I found most of the characters to be stupid--repeatedly. I just couldn't get into it, although I did finish it and do intend to read the third book just because the first one was so good.

As mentioned above, my biggest problem with this book was the characters. I just didn't like them! They were very realistic, in that had a lot of fear, and didn't ever want to risk their lives, as well as having desires that weren't that smart but made sense for the character. The one exception was Dustfinger--he developed into a pretty awesome, caring character who worked to save others from injustice and made incredible sacrifices. It was a complete change from his character in Inkheart, a change that I didn't find particularly convincing but still appreciated. He was really the only one who by the end of the book was doing the right thing for the right reasons, or really the right thing at all.

For everyone else, the story really just showed the futility of trying to control your own story, your own life. Meggie and Fenoglio kept trying to make the story better by writing and reading new stories, but each one went horribly wrong. There are no easy fixes to injustice and the brokenness of this world. 
It was also a good reminder that the world of a book may seem wonderful, but actually living out a story is something else entirely. 

As per usual with Funke, the book was full of beautiful, wonderful descriptions.

Monday, January 21, 2013

This Present Darkness

Book: This Present Darkness by Frank E. Peretti

Location: USA

Description: Ashton is just a typical small town. But when a skeptical reporter and a pastor begin to compare notes, they suddenly find themselves fighting a hideous plot to subjugate the townspeople—and eventually the entire human race. A riveting thriller, This Present Darkness offers a fascinating glimpse into the unseen world of spiritual warfare. (from

My thoughts: Wow! 

This was an amazing book. It describes the spiritual warfare going on Ashton, partly from a spiritual point of view (i.e. angels' and demons' perspective) and partly a human point of view. I found it fascinating. Spiritual warfare is never something I'd thought about before reading this book. It was a cool wake-up call and portrayal of the situation. The aspects of it that stood out the most to me were that humans actually had very little power to control what was going on around them--a lot of things were controlled by either angels or demons, including (or perhaps especially) overcoming temptation--and the power of prayer. How awesome is that, that God gave us this power that can change the tide of the battle?? 

The other thing I really liked about this book was how it handled anything vulgar. There was a fair amount, actually, but Peretti would always say something like, "There was something extremely vulgar painted on the side of his house", rather than actually saying what was painted there. Didn't really how nice that was until Peretti did it here.

One thing I disliked was the fact that it seemed like God actually had almost no part in people's day-to-day lives or in spiritual warfare; rather, it was all controlled by angels and demons, and angels got their strength from prayer (man did this book make me want to pray!). It is true that the power of prayer comes from God, and it was God that determined the timing of certain battles (telling the angels not to fight until a certain point and whatnot). Another was the fact that there was this understood, unspoken idea that people aren't responsible for what they do while possessed. Maybe he was just trying to show forgiveness in that no one ever asked or mentioned it... not sure. It's a bit like Paul's attitude in 2 Corinthians 12, but it is pretty clear throughout the Bible that God will hold us accountable for our sins.

The one thing that I most disliked was the association throughout the story between liberalist and nature (or nature-loving) people and the demons/evil. However, loving nature is a perfectly Biblical attitude, as long as nature doesn't come first. God created nature and loves it (Genesis 1, for instance), and He is in nature (see Job 37-39, Psalm 8, Psalm 104, and Romans 1:18-20, to name a few). I don't think it's pagan of me to think that. Along with this association came the association of anything "Eastern" with demons (meditation as a way to communicate with demons, for instance). That aspect of the book was not well-done.

However, that was probably the only aspect of the book that I truly disagreed with. Overall this was a wonderfully well-written and thought-provoking book. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dark Apprentice and Champions of the Force

There will be two book reviews today, finishing up Kevin J. Anderson's Jedi Academy Trilogy.

Book: Dark Apprentice by Kevin J. Anderson
Book II of the Jedi Academy Trilogy

Description: As the New Republic takes devastating losses in  the ongoingwar with the scattered remnants of the  Empire, the galaxy's future depends on three small  children -- among them the Jedi twins -- born to  incredible powers and perils, as an extraordinary new saga unfolds...

While the New  Republic struggles to decide what to do with the deadly  Sun Crusher -- a new doomsday weapon stolen from  the Empire by Han Solo -- the renegade Imperial  Admiral Daala uses her fleet of Star Destroyers to  conduct guerrilla warfare on peaceful planets.  And now she threatens the watery homeworld of  Admiral Ackbar. But as the battle for a planet rages,  an even greater danger emerges at Luke  Skywalker's Jedi academy. A brilliant student delves  dangerously into the dark side of the Force and  unleashes the spirit of an ancient master of the evil  order that warped Darth Vader himself. Working  together, they may become an enemy greater than the  New Republic has ever fought... more powerful than  even a Jedi Master can face. (from

This book was much better than the first book in the series, Jedi Search. The plot was much more together and felt much more focused. There is a strong theme of good vs. evil, with the Jedi as good and the Sith as evil. There is no ultimate reasoning, however, for why Jedi are good and Sith are evil. Jedi philosophy leads to inner peace and a "better" galaxy? One of the weaknesses of more secular books featuring good and evil.

Book: Champions of the Force by Kevin J. Anderson
Book III of the Jedi Academy Trilogy

Description: Suspended helplessly between life and death, Luke Skywalker lies in state at the Jedi academy. But on the spirit plane, Luke fights desperately for survival, reaching out physically to the Jedi twins. At the same time, Leia is on a life-and-death mission of her own, a race against Imperial agents hoping to destroy a third Jedi child -- Leia and Han's baby Anakin -- hidden on the planet Anoth. Meanwhile, Luke's former protÚgÚ Kyp Durron has pirated the deadly Sun Crusher on an apocalyptic mission of mass destruction, convinced he is fighting for a just cause. Hunting down the rogue warrior, Han must persuade Kyp to renounce his dark crusade and regain his lost honor. To do it, Kyp must take the Sun Crusher on a suicide mission against the awesome Death Star prototype -- a battle Han knows they may be unable to win... even with Luke Skywalker at their side! (From

This was by far the best book of the trilogy. The plot was again much better than that of Jedi Search, and the ending was very good.  

The strongest aspect of this book, and the trilogy in general (although I noticed it most in this book), was all the minor characters that were portrayed. They were described in such a way that I grew attached to many of them, especially Qwi Xux, Winter, Terafen, and Cilghal. There was a downside to this--especially at the Jedi Academy, there were so many people being described that I found it hard to become attached to any single character. 

My favorite single scene was when a bunch of scientists were put in charge of a smaller, less functional Death-Star-like ship and then forced to go into battle. Anderson has obviously known some scientists in his time--the portrayal was spot-on and hilarious.

This book has a strong element of repentance throughout, a theme that I enjoyed. Some characters' turn-arounds felt a bit forced, however.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Well-Read Christian Life

OK, no book review today. Instead, here's a link to a great article about why Christians should read:

"The Well-Read Christian Life: Why Bible-Lovers Should be Bibliophiles"

It was posted on Oldsolar (an online Christian magazine) and written by Rick Ritchie. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Star Wars!!

I think first I'll start off with an explanation. I think there are plenty of Christians out there who would hesitate to read any Star Wars novels because of the clear element of mysticism in the books, and that is definitely a valid concern. However, I think there are some equally good reasons to read them, as well. I find them acceptable for several reasons:

1) Most Star Wars books include characters that have a strong sense of right and wrong. In my reading of non-Christian fiction, I've found that this can be difficult to find. Characters will do things knowing full well that even though it's the right thing to do, they will probably get in serious trouble and/or die because of it. And then they do it anyway. This is a valuable thing to read about, even if the motivation isn't a desire to please God.
2) Star Wars books often grapple with questions that any Christian or human being needs to think about, including friendship and love, power, evil and good, and humanity (in a broad sense--there's a lot of aliens).
3) Most Star Wars books do not include description of violence, blood, intimate moments, or anything else that a reader could object to. As someone who does object to most of those things, I really appreciate it. There is also no swearing (although they do use swear phrases of the Star Wars universe).

Qualifier: The Star Wars universe, and the books, comic books, movies, and video games that describe it, have been written and created by a wide variety of people. Almost all of the books I've read were completely unobjectionable (with the exception of Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover. However, this book was based on Heart of Darkness, so it wasn't particularly surprising). However, I have almost only read books set after the fall of the Empire but before Han and Leia's children begin to train to become Jedi, and these were some of the earliest books written about the Star Wars universe. Later books may have changed. I also have no experience with any of the video games, which are probably less unobjectionable.

And now, without further ado... a book review!

Book: Jedi Search by Kevin J. Anderson
Book 1 of the Jedi Academy Trilogy

Description: While Luke Skywalker takes the first step toward setting up an academy to train a new order of Jedi KnightsHan Solo and Chewbacca are taken prisoner on the planet Kessel and forced to work in the fathomless depths of a spice mine. After Solo and Chewbacca escape, they flee desperately to a secret Imperial research laboratory surrounded by a cluster of black holes-and go from one danger to a far greater one. (from

OK, this probably wasn't the best book to choose for my first Star Wars book review. I wasn't particularly impressed. I must say, the plot felt to me like a string of basically unconnected events. Most of the events were pretty improbable and slightly silly, even taking place in the Star Wars universe, and felt as if Anderson thought something like, "I've always wanted Luke Skywalker to use the Force to walk across a pit of boiling lava while almost being eaten by a cool worm-dragon that lives in lava. How can I make that happen?" 

OK, the lava-living worm-dragon (officially known as a Fireworm) was pretty cool: 
Photo source
But still. 

I would recommend this book only to get to the next book in the series, because the series does get a lot better.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Problem of Pain

Book: The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis

Description: Why must humanity suffer? In this elegant and thoughtful work, C. S. Lewis questions the pain and suffering that occur everyday and how this contrasts with the notion of a God that is both omnipotent and good. An answer to this critical theological problem is found within these pages. (from

I know this book isn't one of Lewis's better known books, but I felt God telling me to pick it up one day when I was feeling down. The timing was pretty perfect, too; about two weeks after I began reading The Problem of Pain, three of my acquaintances were in a train accident and two of them ultimately died. I found this book helpful as I was working through my questions and grief.

I actually ended up reading it twice, to give myself more of a chance to think about and reflect on what Lewis said. This was a very small book, not much over 100 pages, but there was a lot in there and a lot to think about. I found it very comforting, helpful, and insightful, even if I didn't agree with everything Lewis said (mostly about animal pain, which is admittedly something that's not discussed in the Bible very much). Lewis is so good at explaining thing with good, real-life examples.

I would highly recommend this book, especially to anyone struggling with this question.