Remembering Grandpa

Today we farewelled my grandfather. He passed quite suddenly and unexpectedly last Friday night. Grandpa had just celebrated his ninetieth birthday. He had been looking quite frail recently, but to me he will always be the strong able man I knew all my life. He and my nanna were married for almost 67 years. They loved each other very much.

When I told my son the next morning he looked up at me and said “Oh, but I really liked him.” I think that sums up Grandpa very well. He was a likeable and well-liked man.

Since his passing was so sudden I didn’t get to say goodbye to him, but as I thought about it I realised my last words to him were “Goodbye Grandpa.” You see we were all together on Christmas day. As I left to go home I said goodbye to him. I find this a blessing – that we had that happy day as my last memory of him.

But thinking further, it’s not so important what the last moment was, or what our last words were. What matters more are the memories that we build over a lifetime.

I remember visiting him at his workplace one afternoon as a young child. He must have been babysitting for my parents. He asked me to count cable ties for him. I remember playing in the yard which had a very steep slope at their old house where my mum grew up. I remember many holidays at Bicheno. They had a block of land with a couple of caravans. I remember going out fishing with Grandpa and my dad.

My other grandfather (who passed away in 2011) once told me that he never knew his grandparents. I have been blessed to have had all of my grandparents well into my thirties.

The memories like the ones above are what I will treasure. My heart aches for Nanna who must now continue without him, but I am glad that she has a lot of support and many loved ones around her.

Goodbye Grandpa. I miss you.

Nanna & Grandpa on Christmas Day 2014

Nanna & Grandpa on Christmas Day 2014

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The Hero’s Lot by Patrick W. Carr – Book Review

The Hero's Lot (The Staff and the Sword, #2)The Hero’s Lot by Patrick W. Carr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story picks up the stories of the characters shortly after book one and delves a lot deeper into the world in which they live. We gain a greater understanding of the spiritual and theological background. We also get glimpses into ancient history of the world.

This book brings back more of the characters from the first book than I expected, but it is done in ways that feels completely natural.

This all builds toward a conclusion that will lead us into what should be a thrilling book 3.

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Merry Christmas! 2014

And so another year draws close to its end. I have put together a special video Christmas card for you. It includes a quick look back on 2014. I hope you enjoy it.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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The Legend of the Winterking: The Crown of Nandur by J. Kent Holloway (Book Review)

The Legend of the Winterking: The Crown of NandurThe Legend of the Winterking: The Crown of Nandur by J. Kent Holloway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a refreshingly unique story. This book is an epic fantasy with elements of secret history. The story combines German legends of Kris Kringle with biblical accounts of the Magi, and rounding it all out with Elves, dwarves and goblins. This may sound like a soup that doesn’t mix, but nothing feels out of place or forced.

The book is populated with interesting and likable characters – even those who begin as non-sympathetic players.

This book is part of a trilogy, but rather then 3 books, it is three volumes of the one book (kinda like Lord of the Rings).

Every now and then there was a turn of phrase in this book that felt too contemporary for the historical setting, but it didn’t really bother me. The way I see it there is some translation taking place in the telling.

I think this is going to become something of a Christmas tradition for me – reading the next Winterking book as it comes out late November each year.

If you’re looking for something a bit new and daring in epic fantasy – something that feels both familiar but different, then I recommend this book to you.

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Retaliation by Liberty Speildel – Book Review

Retaliation (The Darby Shaw Chronicles, #2)Retaliation by Liberty Speidel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Detective Darby Shaw is back, and author Liberty Speidel pulls out all the stops to take her on a bigger, badder, more epic adventure. This book finds Darby settled well into her role – using her unique ability to bring murder victims back to life.

The discovery that the killer of the first victim that Darby raised to life has mysteriously died plunges her into a legal controversy, and a disturbing moral dilemma with terrible implications. This leaves her questioning everything about who she is and what she does. The thing that I think disturbed me the most however, is that the people around her didn’t seem too bothered by it. This dilemma is not fully resolved in the book and will likely continue to be a matter of story arc in the future.

At the heart of all of this though is the realisation that there are powerful people out there who have it in for Darby.

Retaliation is much edgier than the first book in the series, and adds a great deal more texture to the world. I continue to be enthusiastic about the possibilities these books offer.

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Apocalypse Weird – The Red King by Nick Cole (Book Review)

Apocalypse Weird: The Red King (WYRD,# 1)Apocalypse Weird: The Red King by Nick Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fun beginning to what promises to be a massive sprawling epic with multiple authors, stories and realities. I liked the idea of doing the zombie apocalypse as a ‘siege story’.

The protagonist, Holiday, had a very satisfying arc. While he started as a deeply flawed character I couldn’t help but root for him the entire way through the book. It was great to see his developing relationships with Frank and Ash. I almost felt like I was a part of the little community they were developing in their gated-community-turned-castle.

Half way through the book we switch to a different point of view and see a related story featuring military officers. This proceeded for several chapters. While this section was hardly un-interesting I was very eager to get back to the characters of Holiday, Frank and Ash. Perhaps if these scenes had been interspersed through earlier parts of the book it would not have felt so jarring.

This book definitely had the feeling of a ‘pilot episode’ and left me wanting to continue with the series as it progresses.

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Oath of the Brotherhood By C.E. Laureano – Book Review

Oath of the Brotherhood (Song of Seare, #1)Oath of the Brotherhood by C.E. Laureano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oath of the Brotherhood is the story of Conor Mac Nir – son of a king but raised by an adoptive father. He is highly educated and gifted at music, but possess little skill when it comes to the sword. Sent as a political hostage to cement a treaty his life looks to be going nowhere, but when tragedy strikes his homeland, he is forced onto a new path that will take him into the trust of a mysterious brotherhood.

The world of this book seems to be based on Scotland. The names of people and places sound Scottish. The action all takes place on Isle of Seare, but the map in the front shows another island – hinting at a bigger world to be explored in the series. The island has four distinct nations, which brings plenty of tension. The brotherhood Fascinated me – such a capable group of people – yet they hold strictly to a non-interference policy – hearkening to the prime directive of Star Trek.

Conor didn’t feel like an average fantasy hero. He was a very capable and gifted person – yet in the culture he lived his skills were seen as worthless. His transformation while with the brotherhood was extreme – but didn’t seem unnatural. I was drawn to the character of Aine. She served as a love interest for Conor, but she was much more than that. She had her own story, which continued after she and Conor were separated. Their relationship – one of immediate connection, followed by the building of a solid friendship that naturally developed into more was satisfying and believable. In fact, it reminded me of my early relationship with my wife.

The spiritual framework of this world was a mirror of Christianity. God and Jesus were present but with different names. This is common in Christian fantasy, but I don’t think I’ve seen it done quite like this. At one point, we hear a character tell a parable of Balus – very similar to one of Jesus’ parables recorded in the Bible. I thought that was cool.

The magic system in this book was interesting, though perhaps a tad under-utilised, but I’m sure we’ll see more as the series goes on. Magical powers were attributed to the “Christian” characters – essentially like giftings of the Holy Spirit – but on overdrive. Magic is often attributed to anti-christian characters these days, and even portrayed as evil, so it was fascinating to see magic portrayed as a specifically Christian attribute. There was also a druid who possessed different kinds of powers though he was villain. The use of music in the magic system was especially interesting. Certainly in the real world music has a power over us, but in the world of this book, that is meant in a literal rather than a figurative sense. Music has great power in the book’s world – and I am looking forward to seeing how this concept is developed.

C.E. Laureano has created the beginnings of a fascinating Christian fantasy with this book. It stands tall on its own but invites us to continue the journey.

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Video Book Review – Flight of the Angels by Allan and Aaron Reini

In today’s episode of Stories I talk about Flight of the Angels by Allan and Aaron Reini.

Since recording this review, a new short story in the Flight of the Angels universe has been included in the Crossover Alliance Anthology Vol 1. See more at http://www.thecrossoveralliance.com/#!anthology/c22ov

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Book Review – The Crossover Alliance Anthology Vol 1

The Crossover Alliance Anthology - Volume OneThe Crossover Alliance Anthology – Volume One by David N. Alderman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Crossover Alliance Anthology Vol 1 brings together a wide variety of different stories from six different authors. You get a historical, several space-bound sci-fi, action adventure crossing time and dimensions, phsychological horror and even a modern-day parable.

These are stories that you’d not find on the shelves of a Christian bookstore. Some (not all) contain a bit of swearing. You’ll experience violence and commentary on real-world issues such as alcoholism and marital infidelity.

Some of these stories tie in to other works by the authors. It was the story set in Allan and Aaron Reini’s Flight of the Angels universe that first led me to this anthology.

There are a wide variety of moods set by these stories. Some will leave you feeling triumphant. Others will leave you in chilled contemplation.

If you are interested in stories that explore issues from a Christian world-view, but dare to move outside the safe confines of the norm then you’ll enjoy this collection.

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Sanctuary by Pauline Creedon. Book Review

SanctuarySanctuary by Pauline Creeden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An alien invasion which brings about a zombie-like plague, all set against the biblical end-times prophecies in the book of Revelation. This is a fantastic premise with which to begin a novel.

I enjoyed the combined sense of looming dread and awe that opens the book. Aliens have landed. They’ve done something to the sun and they’ve poisoned our water, but beyond that nothing. They just sit in their ships day in day out. Will they ever come out and make contact? Will they try to exterminate us? The characters just don’t know.

I liked how the protagonist Jennie is suddenly thrust into a position of responsibility, having to be the parent figure for her little brother when things get desperate.

I wouldn’t really call this an end-times novel in the traditional sense. Biblical prophecy is barely mentioned in the book. The links mostly come from the occasional quote from Revelation in the section breaks. The way the author has interpreted these quotes in a sci-fi context is very clever. You probably wouldn’t want to base your end-times theology off the novel, but it’s sure is a heck of a lot of fun. This is one of the things that make Christian speculative fiction interesting – the unique what-if questions that can arise.

I felt that there were some structural weaknesses in this book – in terms of plot and character. There were three point-of-view characters – Jennie, Hugh and Brad. A lot of the early Hugh and Brad scenes could probably have been cut, and their backstory woven in as reveals after they meet up with Jennie. Brad felt a little under-utilised like a dangling thread that didn’t really go anywhere. Hugh’s arc was very sudden – with him undergoing a change right at the end that left me feeling a little confused.

I hope the author writes a sequel because I feel there is a lot of unmet potential. In some ways this book feels like the first act of a larger story. If this book becomes a series I would read more as I enjoyed spending time in this world and happily continue.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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