Category Archives: fiction

The Secret of Indigo Moon by GP Taylor

The Dopple Ganger Chronicles: The Secret of Indigo Moon

by GP Taylor

291 pages

Tyndale House Publishers, inc

The Secret of Indigo Moon might have been better if I had read the first volume in the series The First Escape. Nevertheless, volume 2 in The Dopple Ganger Chronicles series of books was a quick, delightful read. I enjoyed it first to last and I am looking forward to reading the other volumes in the series.

This was a quick read for me. I read it in one sitting on Saturday May 14, 2011. The pace was brisk and the pages full of art/comic pages really helped keep the pace at that brisk level. This book is a combination of typeset pages and graphic novel and picture book. The pages are nice and thick and the hardcover book is sturdy and has a nice gloss to it. I especially enjoyed how some pages were white ink on black background and other pages were the opposite.

I like reading children’s literature. I have read the entire Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events and the entire Harry Potter series (twice). I have also spent considerable time reading C.S. Lewis’s fiction (Narnia, Space Trilogy) so I’m no stranger to reading children’s fiction and enjoying it. The Dopple Ganger Chronicles is a fun idea and The Secret of Indigo Moon is a fun story.

In my opinion, this would be a good book to get into the hands of some junior high or advanced elementary school kids. Adults will find it predictable and will have very little difficulty figuring out what is going on from beginning to end, but that will not detract from the sheer enjoyment of getting lost in a story on a rainy Saturday afternoon. (And there is nothing wrong with adults reading children’s literature.)

The art is well done. It is not tacky and does not detract from the story but enhances it time and time again. There are some genuinely scary moments and even more genuinely funny moments. And there is a lot of action—from the first page to the last, the book is action packed. The characters hardly ever stop to breathe. There is suspense (is Miss Rimmer a ‘bad guy’? Who is the strange Lord Gervez?) All the elements that make a story compelling are contained within the pages and lead up to a satisfying, if incomplete, ending (there is already published a third installment The Great Mogul Diamond).

If I have a complaint it is this: Madame Raphael who is some sort of angelic being. It is very difficult to include angelic figures in literature (because we know so little about angels) and I am not, generally speaking, a fan of it. Frankly, we moderns (or postmoderns) know too little about angels who are, by biblical admission, ‘ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation’ (Hebrews 1:14). Is that enough information to cast them as characters in our fiction? From a strictly theological point of view, this (Hebrews 1:14) can mean one of two things. On the one hand, it could mean angels serve those who are already destined for salvation with no regard for those who are not ‘among the living’ just yet (that is, Christians). On the other hand, it could mean that angels serve even those who are not yet ‘in the camp’ but will be some day so that the angels are kind of leading them in that direction (that is, not yet Christians but soon or later will be).

I’m not a fan of angels being characters inside of fiction for this reason. It seems hopeful at best and misunderstanding at worst to pair them (angels) with characters who are not explicitly those who ‘will inherit salvation’. Yet maybe that is God’s prerogative.  Those who read books theologically (as I do) can sort of gloss over such things or re-interpret them through another lens. Children might not be so thoughtful. I might be over-sensitive on this part and perhaps I need to give the author a bit more poetic license; that much I will concede. For the sake of getting the book into people’s (children’s) hands, I suppose there has to be certain vagaries. My hope is that this ‘new C.S. Lewis’ will not always feel compelled to be so vague.

“Some people have a desire to search for the truth, and others do not. The Companion is all around us, yet many people go through life unaware of who he is” says Madame Raphael. That might be true, but I suppose as far as the Dopples and the Ganger are concerned, we will have to read other volumes to see how far they are willing to go in search of the truth—and what exactly the author perceives as the truth.

I recommend this book to advanced elementary students through adults.

****/5

Get the first chapter of The Secret of Indigo Moon

G P Taylor Official Website

The Dopple Ganger Chronicles

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**To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, please mention as part of every Web or Amazon review that Tyndale House Publishers has provided you with a complimentary copy of this book or ARC.

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Book Review: The Final Summit by Andy Andrews

The Final Summit

By Andy Andrews

243 Pages, including Reader’s Guide

Thomas-Nelson Publishers, Hardcover

The Final Summit is a different sort of book than I normally read. To be sure, I do not spend a great deal of time reading fiction so when I opened this book and began to read it, I was, indeed, surprised. This is no ordinary book of fiction; this is no ordinary book at all.

The Final Summit is the sequel to Andrews’ book The Traveler’s Gift which featured the character David Ponder (I believe my details are accurate, although I have not read The Traveler’s Gift). Fortunately for me, Andrews reviews the former story in chapter 1 as the main character, Ponder, rehearses for the reader his former journeys. On the former journey, Ponder, met several people from history and each one gave Ponder an important, pithy, saying by which he might rebuild his broken life.

Along the way, he met Harry Truman, King Solomon, Joshua Chamberlain, Christopher Columbus, Anne Frank, Abraham Lincoln, and an arch-angel named Gabriel (whom I presume to be the same angel named Gabriel  we find in the Bible). Each of these historical persons gave Ponder a bit of wisdom that he refers to as the Seven Decisions for Success. The Final Summit follows much the same pattern that The Traveler’s Gift followed: Ponder is at the end of his ropes again, the archangel Gabriel makes another appearance, and various people from history show up to guide Ponder on his way.

The gist of the story is that the world is on the edge of destruction and Ponder, guided by a Virgil like Gabriel, convenes a meeting of the (dead, historical) minds and they begin to talk about how they are going to save this fragile world—as if the world needs any more saving; as if we have the capability to talk ourselves into a solution. We are also reminded of how quickly the world is slipping away by the most conspicuously placed hourglass.

Winston Churchill serves as a startling doppelganger to Ponder and, frankly, is rather annoying. Given that this is my first introduction to Andrews’ writing, the Churchill character greatly disappointed me.

I also found Gabriel’s manner of speech to be inane. He refers to everyone he speak to by their first and last names. This might be a clever literary device, but it was sort of lost on me. So Ponder is not Mr Ponder or David, but David Ponder; Churchill is Winston Churchill. It’s a small thing, and maybe it is explained in the other book. I still would find it annoying.

My third complaint is the utter lack of diversity in the book. Well, utter, is a bit strong. There is one black man who gets a voice in the book and that is George Washington Carver. There is only one woman, Joan of Arc—seriously? (Other characters include Abraham Lincoln, Eric Erickson, King David, and Joshua Chamberlain.) In two books, drawing on nearly 2000 years of history and the entire world, it is absolutely amazing to me that only one black man and two women made the cut. It is also rather amazing that a certain man from Nazareth failed to make the cut.

It’s kind of hard to imagine a narrower world than the one created in this book. To be sure, the ‘audience’ participating in the story includes a great many women and people of minority status. Still, the plot turns on those who are chosen to share their wisdom with Ponder in the hopes of saving the nearly dead world. The ideas shared by the ones chosen are great ideas and there is nothing wrong with the ideas. (I do have a slight problem with the notion that everyone included in the story has somehow or other been ‘saved’, but that’s a theological argument I’m not prepared to defend in this review.) The problem is that I’m just not so sure this is good fiction.

Each chapter was well written. I especially enjoyed chapter 9 and the discussion of depression, Churchill’s ‘black-dog,’ and self-discipline. This was probably the best chapter in the book and it is a fair representation of the style of the rest of the book. Great discussions take place and much of what is said is wise and beautiful—well worth the read.  The conversations, placed in the mouths of historical persons, make great fodder for conversation and combined with the reader’s guide could be useful even in a small group setting or a reading circle. Readers are also provided with some great background information—in particular I found the story of Eric Erickson fascinating.

“And success in any endeavor where self-discipline is involved boils down to this question: can you make yourself do something you don’t particularly want to do in order to get a result you would like to have?” (156).

This is wonderful, sermon-worthy stuff: “Unless you change how you think and how you act, you will always be who you are” (161). The book gave me a lot to think about and it will for anyone who reads it. In this regard, the book reads like a fictionalized Tony Robbins or Stephen Covey and maybe it is supposed to. Those who find motivational speaking or writing enjoyable will be wowed by this book.

This is a short, easy read. It was fun and entertaining. I have grave doubts as to the solution and as I was waiting for the end, even anxiously awaiting the end, I found it profoundly disappointing and anticlimactic. I tried really hard to like this book. I tried really hard to like the premise. I tried rally hard to find the conclusion satisfying and rewarding. I was left wanting. This is not the type of fiction all readers of fiction will enjoy.

The book is not a total loss though. There is much to enjoy and there is much to ponder. There is even something to be said about the conclusion of the book: It’s not an entirely bad idea, I just don’t know if it will save the world. It may be helpful. It may be a super idea. And it may be that in its simplicity there is  a great deal more truth than I am giving credit for, but none us of can wait to see if it is true. We have to get busy testing it. Then we will know.

****/5

Buy The Final Summit @ amazon.com

The Final Summit Homepage

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I was provided with a free copy of The Final Summit for review purposes. I was in no way compensated for this unbiased review.

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Dragons of the Valley-Donita K Paul

I consider myself a fairly wide read fantasy fan. I enjoy many different styles of fantasy writers and books. This book simply did not do it for me. I am not sure if it is because this is book two in a story. If I had not received this through a book review program, I would have stopped half way through, maybe a quarter of the way through. I was never able to bring myself to care about the characters. For me, characters make the story and these characters were boring. Perhaps, if I had the back-story from the first book, it would have helped. Maybe I personally just didn’t connect with the characters and you will. The best I can give this book is two stars. I don’t agree with some reviewers that I’ve read who say the sentence structures are all the same. There is some variance in the cadence and structure, and the storyline has promise. In the end, the characters just did not seem to be all that interesting.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook publishers in exchange for an honest review.

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Shield of Thunder and Fall of Kings: Troy Triology books 2 and 3

I am fascinated with a good story. I love it when I encounter one. I especially appreciate the books that have characters that I come to view as something akin to friends.  When I finished the last book of this trilogy, I was actually sad.   I felt a sense of loss that the story had come to an end.

The characters are deep. They are believable. The choices they make feel real, painful, and alive. The pace of the story is nearly perfect. I bought the first book of this series based on a recommendation unsure of what I would find when I cracked the cover.  The complication of life is found on each page, with each character.  Our choices move us to make other choices. It is often not the intended consequences of our actions that move us but the unintended consequences. The results that we didn’t think about, or that we were not able to consider. Heroes and rarely as glorious as we perceive them and most villains are not nearly as banal as we would like to make them—although they are occasionally every bit as evil as we imagine.

In short, life is a lot of soupy gray, with some clear black and white thrown in.

I found this series to be phenomenal. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story.   It is a classic retelling of the story of Troy, but more than that, it is a retelling of real life.

5 Stars

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Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell

This is one of the finest books I have ever had the pleasure to read. Indeed, I loved the entire series. For people who are hung up on the story as it has been passed down this book will not suffice, but for anyone who is interested in a vast, and sweeping story that sucks the reader in from word one this is the book.

The characters are deep and you can feel what they are feelings. They are complicated and live in the grey messiness that is our world between the black and the white that we would like for it to be.

The story is well crafted and the plot is compelling. Gemmell shows you what is happening to the point where you feel as if you are standing on the ship with the characters. When they are crying, you are feeling their pain. You can see the sun reflecting off the golden rooftops of Troy. The heroes are normal, flawed people. They make good choices and bad choices.

This book is well worth your time and money. Be warned, you will want to buy the rest of the trilogy immediately.

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I do not understand the hype surrounding this book at all! I’m not sure if the book is bad because of the translation or because it’s just bad. The main character is a borderline sex addict sleeping with anything that moves. The author seems to want to make the case that casual sex doesn’t have an effect on people. I guess, he’s just deciding to ignore the science on that one. The guy has a long time lover who stays married and just sort of floats between Mike and her husband. In the meantime, he’s getting some from the mature and immature alike. In short, the guy seems to have impulse control problems.

Then there’s the plot. It’s not terribly innovative, or ingenious. It is rather superfluous in it’s structure and wording. In a 600-page book, there is about 200 pages of interesting happenings.

Salender is a sympathetic character caught somewhere on the Autism spectrum but other than that, the characters are rather flat and predictable. The plot is also rather predictable. There were exactly two places where I was caught off guard. One was a big caught off guard; the other was rather minor movement that probably happened because I dropped into hyper skim mode.

I kept thinking to myself how happy I was that I borrowed the book from the library on a whim.

And yet…

…I’ll probably borrow the second book and read it, maybe. I’m not sure what that says about the book or me.

3 Stars because it was good enough for me to want to give the second one a chance, even though it left more than a bitter taste in my mouth.

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Change of Heart By Jodi Picoult

I wanted to like this book. I really did. All of my friends love this author and I want to be on the inside. I want to be able to have conversations where we talk lovingly of characters and my lips creep up into a sneer when a bad guy is mentioned.

I saw this book on a Bargain rack and figured that it would be a good segue into the Picoult’s world.  The premise of the book is something I can get behind. I’m not a big fan of the Death Penalty as it currently stands in America. I already know that she tells the story from different perspectives of the different characters in her book. Some of my favorite author’s do that so I figure we’re good to go. She and I will get along like Peanut Butter and Jelly at the very worst and at the best we’ll be more like Peanut Butter and Chocolate.

But the book never did it for me. She never was able to scratch me where I itched. The only character I remotely cared about was the little girl. Her characters never seemed fully committed to me. They just didn’t seem real or all that sympathetic.

Her “surprise, twist ending” can be seen a mile off.

Contrived is the best word for the plot.  Did the convict actually do the killing or was he protecting the child as he claims 11 years later from an abusive stepfather? I came to the point where I just didn’t care. A lot of reviews I have read say that this isn’t the author’s best work. Many of my friends say I need to give her another opportunity. I probably will but this book has brought me to the point where the next Picoult book I read will be a library one so that my investment is minimal.

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