Category Archives: Book Reviews

In the Hands of Yahweh: Dahveed

dahveed-yahwehs-chosen-terri-l-fivash-paperback-cover-artRaging giants!  Mentally handicapped monarchs!  Berserker shepherds!  Not to mention fiery vortexes of demonic darkness!  Sound familiar?

Probably not.  This is the story of David.  Oops, I should probably say “Dahveed”.

Dahveed is a series of six books (four published, two still to come) by Terri Fivash, which details and expands upon the Biblical account of David.  It starts out when Dahveed is still a boy, describing with gusto the atmosphere of ancient Bethlehem and Israel, and continues until presumably his death. (At least that’s my guess, because it’s not finished yet.)

As this is a series, I will only briefly touch upon aspects of it instead of doing a full out review.

The adherence to the source material (a.k.a. the Bible) is exemplary, as the author never changes and deviates from what happened. (Something the Hobbit films could learn from!) However, the books do differ from other widely held opinions such as Jonathan and Dahveed being the same age, and Goliath being actually nine fee tall.

The main theme of the first three books is all about how Yahweh is preparing His Mashiah, or anointed one, to become king over a currently disjointed and shattered people.  Dahveed must go from being an unclaimed son and lowest among his clan, ignorant and despairing of value in himself, to being a man who trusts wholly in his God.  Only then can he lead the people of Israel.

But the journey is difficult.  King Shaul is possessed by demons, Philistines are constantly raiding and the inner turmoil which has plagued him all his life does not stop instantly.  But Yahweh knows what he is doing.  Jonathan is a man willing to sacrifice his family, his throne and his life for Him, and Dahveed will need such a friend.

The turmoil of Jonathan presented through these books is one of the most interesting and gut wrenching parts.  You can feel his shame for his father’s actions burning inside him, alongside a fierce love and desire for approval.

But Jonathan will not hesitate to do what is right, even if it means betraying his father, an action that pains his soul like no other.

But this being the Old Testament, what is right is not always clear.  Is it right to kill a man for showing disrespect? Or sell a man and his family to pay off his debts? What about harvesting two hundred Philistine foreskins as a bride price? Multiple wives and concubines?!

Yes.  Back then in the covenant between God and the Israelites, it was, and the author does not shy away from such things.

Battle is an integral part of the story, and Dahveed transforms from a shepherd training  with Habiru, to general of Shaul’s armies.   Hundreds are kill in pitched battles, more in ambushes, duels, and raids.  Despite the violence, this book does not feel violent or gory, but merely shows events back then as closely as possible as to what would have actually happened.

Which brings me to a different type of darkness.  Demons.

As it is said in I Samuel, King Shaul is in fact possessed by an evil spirit.  This series does indexnot shy away from that fact, and more than once has the power of Yahweh stretched to battle that demon through Dahveed.  Obviously no real match, but still terrifying for Dahveed and Jonathan.  Additionally, the Moabite god Kemosh is shown to be another demon, one that a character worships and makes sacrifices to.

Nothing offensive is shown, although Jonathan does take a concubine and later a wife, while Dahveed, shy, humble, bashful Dahveed, marries several women.  Ugh.  As can be expected, no swear words of any kind make it into this story.

From a literary standpoint, Fivash has an enticing and easy reading style, making for an enjoyable book.  However, like many good and enjoyable authors, her books take too long to get where they need to be, and especially in the first two books, seem to repeat themselves to often.

Character, not plot, is her strongest asset, but occasionally the responses of characters (usually during happy times or events) seem forced, not earned.

Another problem is the names.  They’re all Biblical names, and sometimes one name is assigned to multiple characters.  (Not her fault, that’s how it is in the Bible.)  Once Dahveed starts assembling his outlaws, the names come flying too fast and thick to believe.  Remember, this is coming from a guy who can read The Silmarillion without batting an eyelid.

Enjoyable and overall enlightening was the conclusion that rose in my mind after completing book three, which, by the way, is my favorite of them.  At times different from what i had imagined, but so true to what it should be.  But the ultimate end of it is to show how ordinary people, lowly, hurt people when resting in the hands of the Lord can acheive marvelous, spectacular things.  Honor that comes from man may be stripped away, but honor from Yahweh is eternal.

As an aside, Terri Fivash has another book, Joseph, that I will be reviewing later this summer.

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Patrick McManus: What in the…Outdoors?

Most books of good report tend to be novel length, with a stirring message or theme, deep, three-dimensional characters, and a devilishly exciting or clever plot.  This author has none of that.

“But wait,” you say, “how can a book be enjoyable if it has none of the above in it?” Well, at least that’s what I ask myself every time I see someone reading Twilight. (The mere thought gives me shivers.)  In any case, that’s what’s special about this guy.

Although he does write novel length detective stories, Patrick McManus’s forte is his book-length collections of short stories.  With a sense of humor that borders on the ridiculous (and sometimes obliterates it) McManus’s stories focus on outdoor hunting and fishing, and everything that can go wrong with those two.

In nearly every story, McManus features himself in some degenerating, comical way, spoofing the outdoor’s man in each and every way he can think of! But often the most enjoyable stories are the ones of his childhood as a dirt poor boy in Idaho, hanging out with semi-fictional friend Crazy Eddie and an old, curmudgeonly (if you choose to read these books, you’ll hear that word a lot) mountain man named Rancid Crabtree.  The name says it all.

As far as content goes, McManus seems to fully enjoy hinting at baser desires, (one story with Crazy Eddie and Rancid Crabtree has Rancid attempting to mold a nude woman out of clay, which fails because none of them knows what a nude woman looks like) any actual bad content seems to be missing.

Swear words nearly always appear as dashes, (“You don’t have to use dashes, I know that one,” one character might say to another) and inappropriate humor definitely takes a backseat.  Smoking is prevalent to an extent, as McManus’s stinky old pipe is credited with his success on a few occasions.

Overall, I continually find these books on the top of my must-take-on-road-trip list.  His humor isn’t appreciable by all, but those who get it will laugh out loud more than once.  And most ages who will find him funny will be fully able to handle the slight content there is.

A quick note about those detective stories.  I tried reading one, but not only did it seem to me pushing the bounds of inappropriateness, but it also didn’t seem that funny.  Those I cannot recommend.

Eragon: The Modern Pizza of Literature

It was 2002 and here was this nineteen year old guy having a gigantic success story in front of the nation’s eyes.  In fact, I can honestly say that Christopher Paolini’s remarkable success at such an early age was one of the reasons I decided to start on my book so young.  Eragon_book_cover

Everybody knows that story of Eragon, or if they don’t they aren’t interested so I won’t dwell on that.  Suffice to say, it’s a pretty entertaining book.  Cliches abound, fresh adjectives are oftentimes sorely wanting, but it’s still a good read.  But what most families should be asking is, is it a wholesome one?

Eragon can and should be compared to a Pizza Hut pizza.  It’s high quality junk food that, while not having anything in it that’s dangerous to your health, still has nothing that nurtures.

The title character is a likable, rebellious young man who, although sure of himself, seems willing to learn.  He is also respectful of others privacy, a honest bloke, fiercely loyal to his friends, and adamantly set against the evil forces that seek to crush the world.  Honestly, he’s a pretty nice guy.  As a role model (something younger readers will definitely see him as) you could do worse.

In fact, most of those qualities are shared across the good guys. The main exception is Eragon’s mentor Brom, the man whom it is clear Eragon should look up to.  This guy has absolutely no problem in cheating, lying or invading others minds (something he warns Eragon not to do, and then conversely does himself.)  The fact that Brom is definitely portrayed as the insight into the author’s mind, that’s somewhat disturbing.

Violence here isn’t excessive, or even necessarily often.  Nowhere are graphically descriptive wordsEragon-and-saphira-eragon-397789-1 that will cause younger readers to cringe.  However, a female elf character is badly beaten and torture, and even has her guards ordered to sexually molest her (something she is able to avoid) in order to wring information out of her.

Which brings us to the next topic.  Frankly, the book is clean.  Slight romance is hinted at between Eragon and the elf, but besides that, it’s pretty decent.

I can’t remember any language in the entire book either.  This doesn’t mean it’s not there…it just means it’s probably not an issue.

Overall, it’s a fun, light read.  No moral lessons to bring  the reader up, and no real inappropriate content. In fact, for ages ten and up, this book will definitely be one that you can confidently trust nothing bad will come of. (The writer of this blog cannot be held responsible for situations that contradict that last statement.  Or the previous statement.  Or any other statements he made in the post.  Or on this blog.  Or in life.  Or death.)

Now here’s the tricky part.  As everyone knows, this book is a part of a series, and while the first one is fine, the rest?  Not so much.  Every complimentary thing I said in this post is torn out, chewed up, and thrown away.  Every…last…positive…thing.  And bad content isn’t only present, it’s prevalent.  Anything from nude elves, to hurtful rebellious behavior that’s ‘cool’, to an out-and-out declaration of atheism.

So that’s where the danger lies.  Know that although this book is fine, the readers will want more.  And more is where everything isn’t fine.  Your choice.

By the way, the movie stinks.  So much for the movie review.

Book Review: Harry Potter

Way back when, before the all powerful book 7 had been released, a problem faced Christian families throughout America and even the world.  This problem was so severe that women locked themselves in their homes, while children fled in terror.  Nukes were nearly launched, the national guard was called out, and America was in such a state of stupidity, due to panic, it elected Obama.

The problem I’m talking about is the dilemma of whether or not parents would allow their children to read Harry Potter.  Some didn’t, and found themselves regretting it at the moment (“Why can’t I, everybody else does!)  Others did and found themselves regretting it later.  It may not be as pressing of question right now, since all the books are already out, but it should still be asked.

Basically, the problem most people faced was whether or not Harry Potter glorified witchcraft.  The series had been nigh shunned in the Christian community for it blatant naming of Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  So parents naturally asked, should their sweet innocent children be exposed to such wickedness?

Let me set your mind at ease about that point.  “Witchcraft” in the series is treated squarely as magic you might find in any other fantasy setting, albeit with many more rules. Potion brewing is treated more like high end cooking classes, the mixtures produced simply having magical qualities.

Undoubtedly, there are the share of violent spells.  Wizards battle it out with myriads of strange magics, while thousands are said to be killed throughout the series.  Still, the violence when it comes is not so hard hitting as you might have been led to believe.

So far, so good right?

Unfortunately, witchcraft and violence aren’t the problems you should be worried about in this series.  Language may range on the American scale from mild to bad, but on the British scale it’s indubitably worse.

Not quite as prevalent in he first three books as the last four is the inclusion of practically all teenage dream lovey stuff.  For some odd reason, it’s considered perfectly normal for fifteen or sixteen year-old’s to be lounging about and “snogging” with alarming frequency.  Students seem to be constantly egging each other on to “do it” with the opposite sex.  For all of us upright (and somewhat lonely) bloggers let me say, “Ugh!”

But frankly, that’s not the worst of it.  The worst part is Harry Potter himself.

Putting in simply, Harry Potter is a brat.  He breaks rules without caring, makes fun of others without though to their feelings, and basically goes about doing whatever he likes with the admiration of his peers and the blessings of his mentors.  And he’s considered the nice guy.  True, he does have some redeeming qualities, but not half enough to make up for the near worship of his faults.

His behavior is so encouraged that it literally will begin to affect the reader, especially if the reader happens to be a ten through sixteen year-old boy.  This isn’t an exaggeration, but what actually happened in several families I know, including my own.

As a consolation, let me say that if you choose not to read the popular series, you’re actually not missing all that much.   J. R. Rowling is a horrible writer.  Some of her ideas may be fresh, and occasionally her dialogue is pretty fun, but beyond that it”s very low quality.

And now the consolation prize goes to…the Geek community!

Also, if you feel the desperate urge to get involved in Harry Potter in spite of this life changing review, I heartily recommend the movie series instead.  Swearing is dumbed down, as well as the majority of innuendos (movie six being the exception should best be viewed as a comedy soap opera) while the violence is upped.  Awesome!index

Additionally, the character of Harry seems o have been given an upgrade.  The glorifying of his shortcomings seems to have disappeared mostly, while a distinctly noble side is added on.  Besides, they are very well made films (always a plus). For a full rundown of most of the movies, visit PluggedIn, and no, I am not getting paid for saying that.  I wish I was, but let’s not go there.

My final word of advice.  When it comes to reading the harry Potter books: don’t…it’s a waste of time.  When it comes to watching the movies: do, but viewer maturity should be taken into account.  And if America goes into crisis once more, and people start screaming bloody murder, well then, that’s just proof that more people need to read this blog!

Ender’s Game: Manipulation and Perseverance

Every time I finish reading this book, one word echoes through my head. WOW! This is a story, now almost forgotten by book lovers, that at one time captivated all audiences that happened across it. Frankly, I can’t understand why it hasn’t been rediscovered yet, although a less-than-adequate film adaption isn’t doesn’t help at all.

enders_game_poster_leadStill, for all those who are wise enough to discern truth from falsehoods, and are smart enough to be wiling to learn more, all I can say is READ THIS BOOK! Parents looking for a summer reading job for their highschoolers should look no further. However, before pledging yourself to read such a profoundly thought provoking and exciting narrative, read through this review, told with a Christian perspective, to be sure it’s appropriate for you.

First, the positive stuff…

Ender’s older sister, Valentine, and Ender himself seem at times to be the only nice people in the book. Both look on lying as disgraceful and wrong, and they’re love for each other is the only thing able to motivate Ender to sacrifice himself for the human race. Cheating and bullying is consistently shown as wrong, and violence as a solution to problems is always a last resort. Also, Ender’s response to much of the hardship he is put through is to use it to become better. A better person and a better strategist.

Now for the not-so-positive-but-for-the-most-part-decidedly-necessary stuff…

The higher ups in the system, notably Colonel Graff, never cease in their lies and manipulation of Ender’s life and surroundings. It’s in reportedly a good cause, that being saving the human race, but the extent they take it to, is recognized as wrong even by the perpetrators. Certain examples standout amongst the multitude, such as deliberately allowing a certain rival a chance to kill Ender, without interfering, and using the one person Ender loves against him.

As far as sexual content (I feel dirty just writing those words) goes, practically none. However, one exception is the ‘acceptable’ practice in the Battle School of walking around naked, even in co-ed barracks (a practice that isn’t dwelt on, and doesn’t go anywhere. Remember, all the inmates are under the age of twelve.) Also, a raunchy older boy has a simulation of bouncing male genitals on his computer. Disgusting.

Swearing isn’t prevalent, but it isn’t rare either. Nothing strong, but it’s in there, often performed by small children, including Ender himself.

Ender is constantly bullied and sometimes even attacked by jealous, narrow-minded classmates. Surprisingly and somewhat realistically, this petty jealousy is assumed to be the base human condition, with love and compassion written almost completely out of the factor. Friends often turn into enemies, and the hardship and loneliness of leading is clearly represented.

However, for a book famous for military strategy, very little violence is actually present, although was does appear is brutal and hard to forget. Twice Ender is physically attacked, (spoilers) resulting in the other boy’s deaths each time, and once not only Ender bears the brunt of jealousy, but several others do as well. In a strange ‘video game’ graphically violent and ridiculously gory deaths are described.

The most disturbing incidence relating to violence, and frankly in the entire book, is when Peter, Ender’s older brother, beats Ender up and threatens to kill him, over and over again. Remember, this is a ten-year old talking to a six-year old.

Heavy Spoilers!

Enders-Game-VFX-8Easily the most violent occurrence is when Ender, who is being manipulated into thinking it is all a training exercise, destroys an entire civilization of alien, bug-like creatures, ordering several of his own pilots into a suicide bombing run in order to destroy their home planet. Yeah. It’s in there.

Speaking of manipulation, (a prevalent and soul searching theme) Peter uses Valentine, who is consciously obeying, to help him start a war, which is said to claim at the least several thousand lives, and then take over the world. All by writing on the internet. (THE POWER I WIELD!)

This may seem like a lot of negative things for a book, and it is. But there is so much more! This is a book that excites in a story for survival, one that intrigues with political coups, that inspires with military strategy and at the heart of all this, it is the story of one boy’s path to find himself. Deep philosophical questions abound, such as the right to sacrifice the individual for the people, the fickleness of humanity, and redemption of evil so seemingly great, it could never be cured.

This book may have its problems, but for mature teens and older, these shouldn’t be a cause for concern. Read it! You will not regret your choice. Because Ender’s Game is easily the greatest science fiction novel of all time.

Just a side note: The last chapter is mostly devoted to setting up this books sequel, basically creating a ‘religion’ of sorts. Not that it necessarily tries to discount Christianity at any time…it’s just very strange. P.S. Don’t read the sequel unless you want to have your mind bent and boggled. It’s not at all as good.

Disturbed: Chocolate Pizza and Christian Book Reviews

A friend of mine, Sven Hurtalots, and I were driving home from a church event when he said, “You know what this country needs; cheeseburger tacos.”country-road2560

Mind…blown. Frantically, I struggled to think of something that could possibly match the sheer brilliance just displayed by a definitely not-so-brilliant guy.

“Yeah, well, you know what else we need?” I asked.

“Chocolate pizza,” he said, unfazed.

Darn! He did it again! From a guy who’s based his life philosophy on the shapes of gum he finds under car seats, he came up with not one, but two genius ideas in one car ride! I had never been so outmatched.

Sweat began forming on my elbows, a hormone disorder I have never gotten used to. This was getting serious.

“What about Christian book reviews?” I blurted out.

books[1]Bingo. Once again I came from behind and felled my opponent. But seriously, has anyone else noticed the startling lack of Christian based book reviews? I know I have. As a youngster, I spent as much of my time as I could reading, no DEVOURING any and all books that came my way. Out of the Silent at five years old, The Lord of the Rings at eight, and far too many others to mention.

However, whenever I wanted to start a new book or series, my mother would always have to read through them for me. Considering that I read an estimated three thousand different books during my first ten years of life, imagine how much of her time was spent on that.

Why hasn’t there been a website devoted to Christian reviews of books before? We have PluggedIn (an excellent site, and no, I am not getting paid to say that) for movies and video games, not that reviews of either are hard to find, but none for books.

With this in mind, I am going to do my best to fill the vacancy via this blog. Having already a wide experience with reading thousands of mainstream books that youngsters will be wanting to read, I could pretty much tell you in person anything you might want to know, but since we can’t meet in person (alas, love lost before tis even found) this might be the next best thing.

Just to clarify, humor, life lessons and other things will still find they’re way here, so no need to worry about that, not that anyone was. However, in time, if traffic to this site picks up and most of that traffic seems centered on book reviews, I could see purposing the entire blog towards that one goal.

So go on, comment below and let me know what books you want to have reviewed. No guarantee on response time, but it should be less than two weeks (in the case I haven’t read it) and less than a week in the case that I have.