The Reichenbach Problem


I have always enjoyed Sherlock Holmes – one of my most prized books is The Complete Sherlock Holmes in facsimile of the original Strand publications given to me by my sister when I was a teenager.  I’ve also enjoyed the TV and movie adaptations, including the modern BBC rendition Sherlock starring Gavin Cutterbatch.  So when I saw this book appear in my blog tour listings I was intrigued to see what Martin Allison Booth could do.

Granted, the book is not about Holmes, and that was clear when I first signed-up to be a part of the tour.  Instead, The Reichenbach Problem tells a fictitious story of Homles’ creator Arthur Conan Doyle.  It begins while Conan Doyle is on vacation in Switzerland, trying to escape the fame of being a well-known author.  He is unable to find the rest or anonymity he craves, though, and soon gets thrown into a murder investigation himself. 

In addition to reading the book because of the mystery component and its connection with Holmes, I was also excited because it was the first of a three-part trilogy – and I love getting into things at the beginning.  Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed.  The book was slow to read (really slow) – to use the phrase “it was a yawner” is an understatement.  I do plenty of reading late at night and during the day time (being in school and all), but this one consistently put me to sleep (literally).  I just couldn’t get into it – and it seemed like the even though I would keep turning pages I never got anywhere (in the book or in the story).  Needless to say, I will not be reading the second two books in the series (assuming they even get published).  This is not a book I would recommend and I’m giving it only 1/5 stars.

17434564For the record, I did receive a free copy of the book from the publishers in exchange for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.

The Brotherhood Conspiracy


It’s rare that I struggle to read a book – even a “bad” book – but Terry Brennan’s The Brotherhood Conspiracy was, unfortunately, one of those books. 

At first the book sounds like an intriguing read – a story life after the destruction of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem?  Fascinating!  It promised a story intertwining the fates of Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood, and even the US (well, let’s not forget the entire world.  But even with the presence of a promising plot, I just couldn’t get into the book.  I found it confusing to follow (even though I’ve ready plenty of books in the “suspense” genre) and just plain awkward to read.  Perhaps it’s because I didn’t read the first book in this series and I felt like I was jumping in and was already lost, but, again, I’ve also read other authors who have written multiple books where the characters continue the plot line from previous stories and I am able to get over that fact.  With this book, however, I just couldn’t get into it or past that fact.

Overall, I’ll give this book a 1.5/5 stars.  If you’re looking for a good suspense read, even in the Christian genre, you need to look elsewhere.  For the record, yes, I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily favorable, review.

tbc

Angelguard


Okay, I admit, when I first saw the book trailer I was both intrigued and a little nervous.  Here was a book about the supernatural.  I’ll be honest and just say I grew up reading Frank Peretti’s Darkness novels, some of my favorite books when I was younger, and I was excited to read something about the supernatural and also somewhat hesitant because I wasn’t sure what to expect.

But I’m glad to say that I was not disappointed.  On the contrary, for whatever reason my expectations weren’t that high, but Ian Acheson’s Angelguard simply blew me away (no pun intended!)  The book , from the very first pages, grabbed my interest and it never let go.  I found myself able to identify with the characters, able to see the supernatural battles that Ian portrayed, and, all-in-all, I just had fun reading the book – I couldn’t put it down.  Most of my reading right now is for school, and the vast majority of my reviews are for non-fiction works.  Angelguard was the exception – and boy was it worth it!  It allowed me to escape into my imagination like no book has in a very long time, and simply enjoy a great story.

The story begins with three devastating explosions in cities across the globe (London, Sydney, and LA), and it never slows down.  Throughout the book we read basically two parallel stories – the story of the humans and the story of the angels and demons – and we see how the two intersect, observing both how the supernatural interacts (and interjects) into the natural, and how the natural interjects (and interacts) with the spiritual.  Granted, you have to remember you’re not reading a theological work on spiritual warfare but rather one author’s dramatization, but I don’t think it’s that difficult to draw that line.

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It’s always difficult to read a fictional account of something that is real like this; I remember when Peretti’s novels were all the rage there was also this tendency to see “demons around every corner”, and so I didn’t want that to happen to me when I read this book.  At the same time, I know that there are spiritual forces out there at work – we live in a world at war whether we acknowledge it or not, and, for those of us who are followers of Jesus, we are caught in the middle of it (though we are on the winning side).  We can’t see it, but it’s real.  We can’t necessarily feel it, but it’s real.  And we have a part to play.  Angelguard focuses in on this reality in a modern way.  Suffice it to say I can’t wait to read the next one in the series (whenever it comes out!).

Overall, I’m giving this book 4/5 stars.  If you want to have a good read, particularly this summer when you’re at the beach or in the mountains on vacation, put this one on your reading list – you won’t be disappointed.

Here’s the official book trailer, and if you’d like to read the first chapter, click this link.  I think you’ll find yourself wanting to get the book and read the rest!

If you’d like to read an interview with Ian Acheson, the author of Angelguard, please click here (for Part I) and here (for Part II) of an interview he agreed to do just for my blog.

And, yes, for the record, I did receive a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.

An Interview with Ian Acheson (Part II)


Today is the second part of my interview with Ian Acheson, author of the book Angelguard.  To read the first part of the interview please visit yesterday’s post.  And don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for my review of his book Angelguard.  

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TF:  Welcome back, Ian!  Yesterday we focused more on getting to know you a little bit as a writer, so today I want to look specifically at your new book, Angelguard….What was the hardest part of writing Angelguard?

IA: Creating multi-layered characters.  I’ve still got lots to learn in this area and it continues to be a challenge as I work through the follow-up to Angelguard.

TF: Speaking of your characters, where did you find your inspiration for your characters?

IA: No single source. My reading obviously helps. I think most authors are great observers. Having my moleskin ever handy is vital as I go about my day.

I find the gaming world (Playstation, etc) a great place for good demons. I’m not a gamer at all but posters and such for new games are great for stirring my imagination.

TF: Do you have a favorite character in Angelguard?  Least favorite?

IA: Jack would be my favourite. He has a lot of qualities I admire. I don’t think I have a least favourite. Sure I wouldn’t choose to spend time with some of those demons, but it’s hard not to appreciate characters that one’s brought to life on paper.

TF: Let’s talk a little about the process of writing… How has the research for and the writing of this Angelguard affected you in any way?

IA: What became clear to me quite late in the piece was that Angelguard is God’s story and He asked me to write it.  Why? I’m not exactly sure but as you’ll see on my blog, Angelguard took 10+ years to evolve. That journey (sorry for the cliché) mirrored my return to a deeper relationship with the Lord. For that, I’m forever grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to write Angelguard.

TF: You mentioned you’ve been working on this book for over a decade – what did you learn from writing Angelguard?

IA: Plenty, including the above aspect about characters. It was through the process of writing Angelguard that I learnt to write. I was fortunate to have the services of two wonderful editors, both of whom taught me how to write and self-edit. In the 10 years it took to produce Angelguard, there’s been a lot of editing and re-writing.

TF: So what can we expect from you in the future?  Any new projects?

IA: I’m presently working on book 2 in the series. The series is “The Chronicles of the Angelguard” and book 2 is titled “Wrestling with Shadows”. In this novel I explore the battleground for where spiritual warfare is conducted: the human heart. Some of the key human and supernatural characters will return. But it will introduce a few new ones including a particularly well-connected couple who have revenge on their minds.

I also try to write blog posts twice a week. I’m new to blogging so these take me a reasonable about of time to produce as I seek to establish my blogging voice.

I do want to give a special thanks again to Ian for agreeing to participate in this interview – especially since it took place over email and I’m trying to edit the wording and arrangement of the questions here to make it seem a little more natural!  If you want to check out his blog, it can be found at http://ianacheson.com

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for my review!

An Interview with Ian Acheson (Part I)


I can not tell you how excited I am about the blog posts over the next few days!  On Friday I’ll be posting my review of Angelguard, the first book in the Angelguard Trilogy by Ian Acheson.  Ian and I have been emailing back and forth over the past week and he has agreed to be interviewed on the blog, so today’s post is part one of that interview.  Check back tomorrow for part two, and then on Friday I’ll post my review of the book!

To prep for the interview, I’ll start by sharing some information about the book.  Taken directly from Ian’s blog, the sneak peak of the the book says, “Within a period of weeks, three horrific bomb blasts devastate areas of London, Los Angeles and Sydney. No explanation is offered, no victory claimed for these acts of terror. Yet behind the scenes a Machiavellian European businessman is planning to bring the G8 nations to their knees for his own larcenous purposes, aided by the dark forces to whom he has sold his soul. Jack Haines, an Australian academic, is grieving the loss of wife and children in the Sydney blast. Against his will he finds himself thrown into a war that transcends the physical world, a conflict in which angelic guards have a special mission for him. This is a gripping novel of the unseen forces that throng our world.”  And here’s book trailer for Angelguard:

Part one of the interview will focus on helping us get to know Ian as a writer a little bit before venturing into the specifics of the book.  So here we go!

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TF: First, thanks so much for agreeing to do this – I’m very excited to be participating in this blog tour.  Can you tell us a little about yourself, like what do you like to do when you’re not writing?

IA: I’m a self-employed strategy consultant so I am seeking new opportunities, clients, etc most weeks whilst completing engagements.

I read a lot and a lot and even some more. I read widely besides what I mentioned above on business, faith and writing.

Fiona, my wife and I spend a lot of our down time together hanging out. We enjoy movies, theatre and food. Fi’s a great cook, which is a blessing.

TF: So what books have most influenced you?

IA: Wow, Thomas where do I start? Fast action based novels have been a key influence. The Left Behind series, Joel Rosenberg’s “Last Days” series, to Ted Dekker’s early thrillers like Blink and Three. Obviously Peretti’s novels. Many other great Christian authors like Mike Dellosso, Tom Pawlik, Mark Andrew Olsen, Tosca Lee, Erin Healy. Probably like most of us there’s a long list. We really are spoilt with the depth of quality authors.

 Further, I read a lot of secular suspense thrillers from Daniel Silva’s “Gabriel Allon” series, I’m an old Clive Cussler fan, to Australia’s Matthew Reilly. I read a lot of Biblical commentaries and what I call Christian self-development books too.

TF: Alright, well if you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

IA: I grew up reading the classics: Dickens, Austen, Eliott, Shelley, etc. If there was one novelist I’d like most to write like its Australia’s Tim Winton. His mastery of the English language and ability to create evocative scenes are extraordinary.

TF: You mentioned that you like to “read a lot”.  What book(s) are you reading now?

IA: Fiction: Mike Dellosso’s soon to be released “Fearless” and Danielle Trussoni’s “Angelolopis”

Non-Fiction: Henri Nouwen’s “The Way of the Heart”, Judith MacNutt’s “Angels are for Real”,  Sol Stein’s “Stein on Writing”

TF: You go into some detail on your blog about your inspiration for the book, but can you tell us what inspired you to write Angelguard?

IA: We live in a world where so much evil occurs. It fascinates me that the Bible talks a lot about spiritual warfare but we as a Christian community tend not to.  In writing Angelguard I hoped to highlight this battle.

All my life I’ve loved stories of good and evil. Super heroes, to Tolkien, CS Lewis, Ted Dekker and on. Frank Peretti’s  “Darkness” books had a big impact on me 20 or so years ago when they came out.  Since I was a kid, I’d always visualized angels and demons in the common way I think most people do, that is, human-like with wings. Other than Lewis’ work, the “Darkness” novels were the first Christian novels I’d read that provided a visual picture of this spiritual battle.

Come back tomorrow for some specific questions about the book and characters, and don’t forget to check out my review on Friday (and if you’ve got questions you want me to ask or you want to ask post a reply to this post and maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll find out – no promises, but it can’t hurt to ask :))

Book Review: Our Choice by Steven Atwood


Our Choice: A Journey of Life and Faith by Steven Atwood is the story of a teenager in a Christian home confronted with the decision of what to do with an unplanned pregnancy – keep the baby?  Give the baby up for adoption?  Abort?  There are so many choices.

Overall the message of the book is a powerful one – it’s a message of hope, grace,  and redemption – a message we all need to hear.  But overall I found the book lacking in several areas. First, there was the over-use of stereotyping of characters.  The extreme leftist teaches who offer counsel to this teenager, while I know they exist (because I work in the public school system), are an exception rather than the rule.  The book would have you believe, however, that not a single teacher at the school held a genuine concern for either the student or her unborn child.  Then there were the teenagers that jumped from one sexual encounter to the next.  Are teenagers sexually active?  Yes.  Are some as active as the ones described in the book?  Yes.  Are all of them?  No, yet, again, the book would lead you to believe that every teenager is sleeping with multiple partners in a week.   Second, the whole issue of Christians dating non-Christians bothered me.  Believe me, I’m not by any sense suggesting that Christian teens don’t have sex before marriage and suffer serious consequences, but I didn’t understand why the parents of these girls, who seemed to take such an interest in their daughters’ lives, weren’t insisting that they date only Christian boys.  Third, and perhaps the biggest struggle I have with the book in terms of the story, is that the it doesn’t describe life after the baby is born.  Not to minimize the struggles the young girl and her boyfriend experience during the pregnancy, but as difficult as that time was it would have been nothing compared to the impact of what life was like after the baby was born.  Yet it glosses over that part of the story and almost leaves the impression of “happily ever after”.

Finally, there are some major theological misconceptions in the book regarding salvation.  In the chapter “Saved” the book states that one discussion focused on “how Jesus saved everyone from their sins.”  Yet the simple fact, Biblically speaking anyway, is that Jesus did not save everyone from their sins.  Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, but the state the he saved everyone implies a universalism that just isn’t true.  Similarly, the story at one point also states that one character “led the prayer that saved the souls” of another character, yet scripture teaches we are “by grace through faith” not that we are saved by a prayer.  Perhaps this is all semantics, but I believe it’s important semantics because one who doesn’t understand the nature of sin, death, salvation, and live could walk away from reading this story with an incorrect understanding (which could have eternal significance).  Just a couple of sentences after the previous quote one person actually asks the question of herself “How can she save him, too?”  Again, people don’t save people, Jesus saves people.

I honestly can’t imagine that this book would dissuade a young person from becoming sexually active, and neither do I believe it would change one’s beliefs regarding abortion.  As such, and because of all the reasons mentioned above, I can only give this book 1.5/5 stars.