Public Reading

Unfortunately, I just have an announcement as a blog post this week. On August 8, at the Midwest Writers’ Center in Davenport, there will be a public party celebrating the release of The Atlas Volume 7 which is a collection of short stories and poems written by young writers, and I was fortunate to get a few of my own pieces in there. I will be publicly reading one of my pieces to everybody during the party. It’s on August 8 at 7 P.M. Hope you can come!

Messages from Entertainment

What are reasons why you like to go to the movies? Is it because you love seeing action and adventure? Are you interested in familiarizing yourself with fresh, new characters, and you’re interested in seeing where they end up? For you romance fans, is it your desire to see the boy and the girl lose each other and then find each other again later on? Or, do you desire to LEARN something new, to find what the film might be trying to teach you?

To tell you the truth, I look for it all. I want action, adventure, suspense, engaging characters, and a message in ALL of the movies I go to see, and if I don’t get a lot of that, it disappoints me (the latest Avengers movie was a very good film, but something was lacking in there). In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you get to see characters display courage, bravery, loyalty, love, and honor. It’s these characteristics that allows the characters to push on and finish their quest to save Middle-Earth. In Star Wars, it’s a son’s love for his lost father (Darth Vader) that saves his father from the dark side. And as one more example, in Thor, our thunder god hero must overcome his arrogance and selfish behavior in order to be worthy of wielding the Hammer and possess the power of Thor.

So, with all that in mind, I’m going to display a message from one of the most unusual entertainment sources, and that is the web series Red vs Blue. Without spoiling too much, the series has a lot of little messages that has to do with negative traits such as revenge and betrayal, but also containing little, positive messages such as teamwork, and laying down your for someone else. But one of the biggest messages is letting go of something that you have been holding on to for too long, and it’s keeping you from finding peace. In this case, one of the characters loses someone he loved. The loved one becomes a personification of his memory of that person, and he pursues that memory so that he doesn’t lose it. But he realized that the longer he held onto the memory of someone who was really dead, the more it seemed to make him uptight, and irritated. Once he found the personification of the memory, he realized that trying to stick with someone who was dead wasn’t worth it, and he took action by letting go of that memory, finally finding peace in the process.

In conclusion, my question to you is: what things are you holding onto that you feel convicted by? Do you feel like God is telling you that it’s time to let go and move on? Is the thing you’re holding onto giving you peace, or is it always upsetting you, and never leaving you alone? Focusing on something all the time that’s not worth it can shift your focus away from what’s most important.

Star Wars: Death Troopers

 

When I think about Star Wars, I think about Jedi and Sith with their awesome lightsabers. I think about X-wings and TIE fighters in space battling each other. When I think about Star Wars, I’ve never thought about zombies.

And yet, here it is. A Star Wars book about Imperial zombies. This book creates a very intriguing setting and storyline, but does it live up to its potential? For me, the answer is yes and no.

This book takes place between the movies Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. An army from the Galactic Empire is taking a prison ship called Purge to a prison planet. The barge is a prison for the most dangerous criminals in the galaxy. Unexpectedly, the barge breaks down, and it just so happens that there’s a derelict Star Destroyer nearby that is seemingly abandoned. A crew of ten boards the ship to scavenge for parts, but only five of the scavengers come back, returning with them a disastrous disease that infects everybody, save a handful of survivors, on board. The disease eventually kills everybody, and the survivors board the Star Destroyer, only to find out that’s not a very good idea. Everybody that died from the disease rises as an army of the undead.

First of all, if the book was trying to scare me, it failed. I found Joe Schrieber’s other Star Wars book Red Harvest giving me more chills than this one. The build-up was clever, but not exciting. One thing you need to know is that even though this book LOOKS like it’s supposed to be about zombies, they don’t come in at least until a little after the halfway point of this book. Even then, I found the events BEFORE the zombies to be a little more thrilling.

The characters are either decently written to very poorly written. Kale and Trig Longo are two brothers imprisoned on the prison barge. Kale, being the older brother, has a love for his little brother Trig, but these feelings are rubbed in your face a little too much. I admire a character’s trait being revealed through the character’s actions rather than his words. The words outweigh the actions here in a way that’s almost embarrassing, and makes the character feel like he’s fibbing.

Despite the horror, does this book still feel like Star Wars? Probably less so than Red Harvest. The only things in this book that earns it the title Star Wars is that the Empire is involved, there’s a Star Destroyer, and there are two familiar characters in this book that doesn’t do much anyway. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant twist since I wasn’t really caring for the other characters anyway.

5.9/10 stars

Deception Book Review

Quick note: For any of you who have read the three D books by Randy Alcorn, and you are wondering why haven’t posted a book review for Dominion, well that’s because I haven’t read it yet. I started on it at one point but never finished it and I had proceeded to Deception instead. I couldn’t tell ya if I will try reading Dominion again, we’ll see what happens.

Anyway, Deception by Randy Alcorn was an intriguing, mysterious, fun novel that was better than Deadline. One thing that made me weary about the previous novels is that Randy was trying too hard to make us know the journalism system centered around Jake Woods and Clarence Abernathy. Here, we finally get a break and get into something a little more exciting (at least in my own opinion). Here, we focus on Detective Ollie Chandler who’s not a journalist but a homicide detective, and we get to see more of Ollie’s personal thoughts, feelings, and beliefs more than the police system.

I loved the mystery where it was possible that Ollie could’ve been the murderer (to see if he was, you’ll have to find out yourself those of you who haven’t read it!). The twists are great too. There’s a lot of constant page-turning in this one, and I’m glad this one concentrated on the plot as much as it concentrated on the characters while in Deadline I felt that they didn’t concentrate on the plot near enough which made the suspense of the mystery die down for me a little bit. I love those ‘turncoat in our midst’ stories because you know that it could be ANYONE that we’ve been introduced to. Another problem in Deadline. The murderer turned out to be a character that we had barely been able to see a lot, but in this one, we know the person a lot (or do we?) 🙂

Anyway, the book was great. I’m dismayed that Randy didn’t make a fourth book, or will he? I’m not sure. This book was published in 2007, ten years after Dominion, so for all we know, maybe a fourth book will come out in 2017!

4/5 stars.

Who’s Your Myagi?

Hey everybody! Long time, no talk! Besides the book reviews that would come in once in a while, I haven’t posted a real blog post. So, recently at my youth group we talked about who our life leaders are. My youth pastor Ron asked the questions, who is your leader that supports you in your spiritual growth? Who is the one that you approach when things aren’t going well (God yes, but we’re talking about people), and who is the one that approaches YOU and asks you how things are going? These were good questions and I could actually name a few that I’m not ashamed of revealing. There are pretty much three. My youth pastor Ron, my Dad, and my Mom’s Dad. They have tutored and encouraged me so well that I will always have a place in my heart for them and I will always think of them.

Guys, I want to tell you that I’ve become so connected and so in love with the Quad Cities and their people and the people I know. I think my friends are great, the launch team members that come to my parents’ launch team meetings on Wednesdays are such wonderful people and if any of you guys are reading this now, I’m telling it to you now.

I wanted to slip that in here, but let me ask you a question that you don’t have to answer via comment if you don’t want to, but the question is this. Who is your physical “Myagi” (taken from the tutor’s name in the 80s Karate Kid)? Who supports and encourages you when you’re stumbling?

Star Wars Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter Book Review

WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

Star Wars Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter by Michael Reeves delivers a fun chase book that puts you at the edge of your seat screaming in your head about whether or not this extraordinary set of characters will live.  This is only my opinion though, because not everybody believed it was that way.

Okay, so we know that Darth Maul wasn’t going to die, that the plans for invading Naboo wouldn’t make it to the Jedi, and we knew that the Jedi wasn’t supposed to know about this mysterious Sith assassin yet, BUT, when I was reading this book, I became very engaged with the characters.  Michael really knows how to bring them to life in my opinion.  Unfortunately, Michael has a way of creating ineffective characters.  The only new character that made any effect to the story was the droid I-Five (he’s so remarkably effective that it makes C3-PO look like an idiot), I-Five is a protocal droid after all and he seems to have everything when the other characters do not.  Not to mention (spoiler following) he’s pretty much the only new character that didn’t die in the end but got its memory wiped.

I have to admit, Darth Maul was a pretty effective villain in this book and you could probably understand his frustration in the end when he just couldn’t kill the Corellian (Han Solo right?) Lorn Pavan who was probably my favorite character in the book.  Despite some brief annoyances, I thought Darsha Assant was a great character although I thought it was real weird that Lorn was falling for Darsha when she’s, oh I don’t know, maybe a LITTLE older than Ahsoka Tano?  Anyway, the romance wouldn’t have worked out anyway because she’s a Jedi and she’s supposed to avoid attachment.

Now on to some negative elements.  First of all, I thought some of the products mentioned in this book was stupid and weird.  First of all, Darth Maul is searching for the Neimodian Hath Monchar who started the whole chase in the first place and he attempts to track him down through debit card use.  You heard me, DEBIT card use!  What the heck?  What was Michael thinking when he leaked real modern elements in this book.  He should’ve whipped up something a little more unique.

Everybody complained about how the new characters died in this book, so what was the point?  Well, I liked Michael’s attempt at squeezing a story in with characters that aren’t quite so stale like they are in other Star Wars novels.  This one is definitely one I’m putting on my shelf along with my #1 favorite: The Clone Wars Wild Space.  I don’t know why I like books where the endings are pretty much predictable, but maybe it’s because I loved traveling with these characters even though they died at the end, but the thing is, it’s the character development that grabs me and pulls me into a very interesting ride.  It doesn’t hurt sometimes, it really doesn’t.

4.6/5 stars.

Deadline Book Review

This was one of the longest books I have ever read, and I actually didn’t think I would make it through the whole thing at first. This was a good book, but it wasn’t spectacular.

I actually have different opinions for each section of the book, the beginning, the middle, and the end.  The beginning was good but not great, boring at times but had some really good moments (ex. Finney’s entrance into heaven is a very memorable scene), the middle was only okay for the most part, and the end was great (starting with Jake giving a school teacher a piece of his mind).  This book means it when it was made for adults.  This book deals very heavily on premarital sex, abortion, and even has some pretty intense violence.  This is a Christian book so it had some great character development throughout but still had a few loose ends Randy didn’t bother to tie up and seemed like he tried rushing through a few bits.

For instance, Jake’s daughter ends up getting HIV and Randy keeps hovering the fact that she may die over our heads.  At the end of the book, Randy rushes the fact by saying “the doctor said the HIV had not made any effects at the time”, AT THE TIME he said.  Okay…does she eventually die?  This weird ending kinda thrust us into a guessing game.  I could be wrong, there ARE sequels to this book but they’re all centered around different characters that had very minor roles in this one.

Anyway, I think this book went to into Jake’s job at the Trib, though part of the plot is there, they spent too much time centered around that part of the character’s life that could’ve really been shorter.  As a matter of fact, the whole book could’ve been shorter but chose not to.

Besides the HIV thing, the book did wrap up real well.  I’m not one to reveal a lot of spoilers here so I won’t say much of what happens, but it IS a worthy read if you’ve got time.  It’s a book that IS hard to put down I’ll tell you that, and I’ve running into those a lot (and jeopardizing a lot of school tests here).  Still, it is a good book, not great, but good.  I noticed that when Finney is in heaven there’s not one description that says the streets were made of gold, and isn’t that what the Bible said?

Anyway, 3.5/5 stars.