SOLDIER—Free Book!

White Mesa Chronicles Book 1:

Fledgling militia officer Tommy Thaxton is used to scavenge missions in the ruined city. He’s not used to being in charge of his team of young men…but he can handle it. They all can handle it. It’s just a simple scavenge mission.

Until things go horribly wrong, and Tommy’s team finds themselves facing a full-scale gang attack – something their superiors never anticipated.

Now, getting home on schedule is the least of Tommy’s worries. Getting the entire team home alive is much more important.


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“Never Leave Me” by Priscilla J. Krahn

"Never Leave Me" by Priscilla J. Krahn — Kimia Wood I hadn’t recently read the description blurb before I opened Never Leave Me, so I jumped into this Christian indie novella without many pre-conceived notions.

On Page 1, Amy’s dad (sole custodial parent) sweeps her from in front of the TV, across state lines, and dumps her on the doorstep of some cousins she’s never heard of, let alone met (while he flees the police).

Within the next chapter or two, the large, farm-living, “homeschooler” family has shared Jesus with her, and Amy is “born again.”

Within a chapter or two of that, we have a kidnapping, threats of violence, and hints at Amy’s dad’s dark secrets.

So…of all the “indie Christian” books I’ve read, this one probably does the best job at equally balancing raging evangelism with melodramatic adventure.

Amy

I did know this was a series before diving in (the “Adventures of Amy”, in fact). So I was perfectly ready to study Amy as a main character…and also anticipated her adventures taking longer than a single book. (Well, sort of. See below.)

However, I did struggle with the character of Amy from time to time.

What’s well done:"Never Leave Me" by Priscilla J. Krahn — Kimia Wood

Amy is just thirteen. She’s not a superhero, or a detective, or even emotionally mature. When her dad (ahem – the man she’s called Dad all her life!) snatches her away from her predictable life, and reveals on the drive that he’s a criminal, she’s realistically shocked and skeptical.

As traumatic events continue to pile on, she shows relatable signs of stress, anger, panic, and fear. At the same time, her rational side fights with her emotions as she tries to please her new Heavenly Father, and figure out what’s going on around her.

What challenged my disbelief:

Some things are foreshadowed so heavily I saw them coming several chapters before Amy finally tumbles to them.

She also exhibits fanatical devotion to her dad (except when she persuades herself to cooperate with the police).

I understand that family loyalty is complicated (which is one reason domestic abuse situations are so messy). But as a third-party, observing the situation from the outside, I saw plenty of evidence and red flags that left me sighing heavily at Amy. It was obvious to me that the man who had raised her wasn’t all he claimed to be…and while it was realistic for Amy to struggle with this, I think it needed something more.

For instance: later in the book, she reminisces about the good times they had together…piggy back rides, movies, all the things he did to demonstrate his love for her. I realize flash-backs are hard to do well, but if I were writing the story, I would have sprinkled some of those good memories into the narrative early on to remind the audience Amy is adding Dad’s current illegal behavior to his previous loving behavior…and isn’t just blinded by her own love for him.

Another niggle:

Speaking of planting things earlier…

Amy dashes out of her home with a single suitcase of clothes. But it never states what those clothes are.

About three-fourths through the book, the author drops that Amy’s wearing a skirt.

This may seem like a really weird thing to bring up, but here’s why. Amy’s seven-sibling cousin family has family meals together, does family devotions, lives on a farm…you can practically smell the Christian homeschooler on them. Thus, it is totally legit for her female cousin to wear skirts.

But worldly, “city girl” Amy?

See, when Amy is (SPOILER) being placed in foster care by a social worker, she thinks about how she’s a different girl now…after her adventures, and after coming to Jesus. She thinks she wouldn’t like the same music as she once did. She’s wearing a different clothing style now…because she doesn’t care about style and popularity anymore, but about pleasing Jesus.

Bringing these pieces together: if the author had made a bigger deal about how Amy dressed in the beginning (being careful to pack her favorite jeans; feeling weird that she’s wearing make-up, but her girl-cousin isn’t) then the change at the end (her cousin was much older than she was, but her old skirt fit Amy perfectly…) would make the character change clear to the audience from the evidence. It wouldn’t just be something the author pulls out of nowhere.

Christian Transformation

Speaking of character changes, though – Amy’s Christian transformation is pretty deep. Her dad is an atheist (and apparently her mom converted mere weeks before dying in an accident)…but after Amy “gets born again” in the early chapters, she jumps into evangelism with both feet. Within a month of her conversion, she’s led a man to the Lord, and has shared the gospel repeatedly with her relatives (and a few strangers).

Maybe…Maybe coming to Christ at four years old is a drawback. I don’t want to bare my soul too much here, but let’s say that has not been my experience. Not only was I not challenged with evangelism from Day 1 (or even Day 2), but over a year after “getting serious” about sharing my faith with others, I have yet to see a single fruit (in the form of unbelievers showing an interest).

It makes sense that someone who came to faith later in life would be more inspired with the part of Christian discipline that directly led to their conversion (AKA evangelism), and I also recognize that we have different testimonies.

This is just one of those things that’s really hard to balance. Just like real life.

Balance

I’ve read stories that were almost horrifying in the way they shoved the gospel to the forefront, at the expense of the tale they were supposed to be telling.

I’ve read stories that wore their evangelism on their sleeve – and carried it with varying degrees of success, but with no misconceptions about what kind of story they were presenting.

And then there’s this story. I don’t think it’d be overestimating to say a full half of the book is devoted to religious/Christian themes. The cousin family is deeply religious…and the need for Amy to “trust God” with her traumatic situation and let Him “keep her in perfect peace” (and perfect King James’ English) is heavily leaned on.

But there’s a lot of action layered in there, with constant kidnappings, evil uncles jumping out of cupboards, guns, child abuse, threats of violence or use of deadly force…it’s like an adrenalin junkie’s playground.

Even the ending, which is stuffed with more religious theme-izing than the rest of the book, has actual story conflict issues to keep the tension and pacing brisk.

For all the book’s missteps, the juggling act between gospel-mission and Impossible-Mission is pretty well-handled.

Cliffhanger!

(I could make you all wait until the next review to see where I was going with this…but that would be really dumb! :D)

I knew this was a series. I fully understood that further adventures were in the wings. And yet…

I mentioned briefly how Amy was such a bad deducer (or the clues were laid on so thick) that the plot twists could be seen a mile off.

Thus, I felt a certain story element was so heavily hinted as to be a foregone conclusion…but the book ends before I could see if I was right!

Not only does the book have a kind of unhappy ending, but if I really wanted to see the resolution of that plot-thread, I have to get the other book(s)!

Blah! Don’t the foolish mortals realize I never pay for anything if I can help it? Why should an author want to eat off their earnings? In vengeance, I shall wreck havoc with their review rating –!

Anyway.

I know about the pitfalls of balancing a series-wide story arc with stand-alone installments. I wrestled with the same thing in the White Mesa Chronicles. In this instance, though, I felt disappointed that something had been so built up, just to have it unresolved at the end.

While I’m complaining…

The professionalism of the book was pretty good. Only towards the end (call it the last fourth of the book) did the copy-editing slip, and petty things like typos and word choice crept into the text.

The author does note at the end that this is the first book she wrote — and it’s pretty good for a first book! My own first publication is not mentioned on my online presence…

Incidentally, for some weird reason, the PDF copy I had went cray-cray on my Nook…and used two different fonts (and size of fonts) on the same page – usually within the same paragraph or sentence! Reading it in the programs on my computer, though, had no issues.

TL;DR

If this really was too long, and you didn’t read it, how did you get all the way down here?

The balance of pulse-pounding action and shameless evangelism was one of the best I’ve ever seen. The characters (especially the main character) were a little clueless. Even the villains had one-track minds…but who expects villains to be rational?

Pick it up, support a young, independent, Christian author, and form your own opinion!


"Never Leave Me" by Priscilla J. Krahn — Kimia WoodDISCLAIMER: I received a FREE copy of Never Leave Me for participating in the November 2017 Indie Christian Book Sale. I was not required to write a review of any kind, and all opinions are my own personal opinions.

You can find out more about the author on her website – PriscillaJKrahn.com – or in my interview with her here on the blog!

Never Leave Me is available on Amazon.

Subscribe to Kimia Wood’s mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing exploits.

Dear Diary…RIP Lefty

The others are fast asleep. The inn is quiet. I think I finally have the mental and emotional distance to write it down.

Lefty is dead.

It’s not like I knew him…he was a Fighter in Hochcoch, and volunteered to accompany us here to Orlane. I don’t know why. Maybe all he wanted was the loot.

You see, while we were exploring the Temple of Merikka (lots of stone hallways and little rooms), we passed through a corridor lined on one side with huge golden statues…of vegetables.

Potato and carrot are the ones I remember. I don’t know what religious significance they had — maybe they were used to worship Merikka…maybe they were past donations in gratitude for bountiful harvests.

They are beautiful, intricate, and must be worth more than their weight in gold. But I don’t exactly have the best appraiser’s eye.

Lefty must have figured it that way, though. I think we were on the way out, but I could be wrong…Anyway, he grabbed one and started to walk off with it.

The things some people will do. But it gets worse.

He hadn’t taken two steps when he staggered. The way he grabbed it, you could tell it wasn’t too heavy for him – but now, he was tripping over his own feet.

He grunted, and the carrot sagged in his arms.

One of us should have warned him. We should have shouted at him to put it back. I think  Ezekiel tried to, but he was at the wrong end of the group to do anything helpful.

Next thing we knew, Lefty was drooling out one side of his mouth. He tripped and bumped against the wall, clearly in trouble.

What he did next… He must have been brain-dead, or decided things couldn’t get worse.

He put the golden carrot on the floor and stomped on it.

I… Kelsier had to dodge to the side as Lefty fell.

Lancell and I got to his side at about the same time. He was dead. I don’t know how, but he was dead…instantly…boom.

Lancell was the first to think of something to do. He stepped forward – slowly and carefully – and picked up the carrot – muttering prayers to his patron, Pelor, the whole time.

Balancing the statue as far away from his body as possible, he set it back on its pedestal and stepped back.

We held a moment of silence…not by any organization on our parts, but just because we were all stunned.

When we finally moved on, we left Lefty’s body lying there. After all, to support the wounded Jill, and carry the treasure chest from the cellar, we couldn’t well take him with us.

And maybe we didn’t feel like touching a goddess’s victim…not yet.

I never thought of myself as particularly religious (I’m certainly not such a deep theological thinker as Ezekiel) but at least I know better than Lefty:

Leave a goddess’s stuff alone.

Especially given all the other stuff we found wrong in the temple (like, say, the evil priestess?!) these statues hadn’t been messed with at all.

And we should have done the same.

Still gives me goosebumps. I don’t know Merikka like I know Elohnna, and Elohnna my lady isn’t exactly the “rigid dictator” type, but I guess even the sweetest, generous-est deities have lines you don’t cross.

Lots of time while I’m on watch to do my rites to Elohnna. Maybe she’ll forward some apologies to Merikka.

Dear Diary…How did it all start?

In feels like ten years since we left our little village in the forest. By “we”, of course, I mean me (Elwyn), Ezekiel (the “Cleric”), and Mikael (the Druid). Though both Ezekiel and I both came there later in life, the people and the familiarity make it feel like home.

Which is why it made me so mad when goblins attacked! It’s more than the goblins, of course – my Ranger master discovered bugbears in the caves, and other nasties just waiting to burn our poor village to the ground.

We had no choice but to evacuate the people for their own safety. I had lived there only five years (since I was fourteen) but it felt like home. (More like home than the crowded-to-bursting family estate.)

Well, Mikael, Ezie, and I aren’t the types to take goblin invasions lying down. In the larger town of Hochoch, we heard rumors of a gnomish scholar who might throw some light on the goblins’ actions.

More than that: some of the locals agreed to accompany us to the gnome’s town (Orlane), and give us some direction along the way: Lancell the Paladin, Lefty the Fighter, Jill the Magic User, and Kelsier the (Halfling) Fighter.

If your head is spinning right now, I don’t blame you. Ranging in the woods for fun is one thing; following a road and trying to get somewhere is another.

Even Lancell, who assured us he knew how to get to Orlane, got us a little off-track…meaning we started out heading east, but somehow circled around and entered the town from the east side.

And then…well, then’s when things really started getting weird.

The first thing we saw was the local Temple of Merikka, goddess of harvest, set on the hill above the town. Judging from the amazing farmland around the town, she’d been generous to her faithful worshippers…and besides, Merikka is probably like a friend of my own patroness, Elohnna.

Long and the short of it, our whole party headed for the temple for information, direction, and encouragement.

What we found there…Look, my head is still ringing, so I might not have all the details right.

We talked to the priestess there. Everything seemed to be in order…some of us might have paid our respects briefly before the jade statue of Merikka in the main sanctuary.

Lancell decided to try out his “Detect Evil” ability or whatever paladins call it – and discovered an aura of evil emanating from the priestess. A “palpable stench of evil” he called it!

Evil or not, the priestess was ticked off. In here is where I don’t remember everything, because y’see, we had a big battle. Somehow or other, the monks of Merikka were attacking us, and so was the priestess. I think we would have been wiped out if some guy hadn’t shown up and thrown lightening around, but at any rate we escaped from the temple courtyard and headed for the nearest inn we could see – the Slumbering Serpent. (Inviting, huh?)

After healing our wounds there, we snuck back to the temple at night – only to be attacked by the gardener, some temple lay-men, and some wolves. (Not like you can blame them, of course.)

I know I was hit on the head at least once. Somehow or other, we were staggering along the road, heading back to the inn. Lancell the Paladin and Jill the Magic User were both badly hurt, but behind us was a pile of dead bodies. (Also, I was wearing the priestess’s chain mail, which we looted off her body.)

We didn’t come here to be typical looters. All we wanted was to find this gnome, and uncover what was happening.

Maybe after some rest, my head will stop pounding, and we’ll be able figure out what we should do next.

“Red vs. Blue” (Seasons 6 thru 13)

"Red vs. Blue" (Seasons 6 thru 13) — Kimia Wood The internet is a dark, mysterious place…full of dangerous things like web series. If you aren’t careful, you might find yourself…watching Red vs. Blue.

And if you have a little brother, you might find yourself compelled by those big brown eyes to watch it, despite your better judgement. #askhowIknow

In all honesty, though, is RvB really that bad? Well…it has some content “not for mothers-in-law“, but it also has a lot of powerful, heart-moving themes.

You gotta decide if you’re up to getting there.

Premise

This might sound weird, but RvB is a Halo-based Machinima where two teams of soldiers camp on opposite sides of a valley in color-coordinated teams (yes…Red and Blue). It streams free on YouTube (in five-minute episodes organized into seasons), but is also available in DVD format.

I gather that early on, it was basically an excuse for cheap skits and foul-mouthed jokes while these pathetic losers tried unsuccessfully to kill each other.

But I wasn’t brought in until Season 6…when they actually start telling a cohesive story. Continue reading

Unforeseen Consequences of “Economic Abuse”?

I just learned that Great Britain is working to include “economic abuse” in its anti-domestic abuse law (thanks to this article from Public Radio International).Unforeseen Consequences of "Economic Abuse" — Kimia Wood

Domestic abuse is nothing to joke about, or shrug off. But this new step concerns me on a number of levels.

For one thing, physical abuse against spouses is already illegal (at least here in the U.S. – I assume it would at least fall under assault and battery across the pond). Is adding this new category to the equation really worth it? What benefits will we gain…and what might we lose?

First, “financial abuse” is a nebulous term that’s hard to define. Second, focusing on these varied abuses seems to assume that women are victims – not masters of their own fate – and need protection from abuse. (I say “women” specifically because the example used in the article is a woman, and the main thrust of these abuse movements are to protect women. But we all know that men can be abused as well.) Lastly, if we admit that women are at risk and need protection, who should those protectors be? Their immediate family and friends, who know them, know their significant other, and know the emotional make-up that attracted them to each other? Or some third party, like a loan officer (whose business is money), who has no vested interest in the woman beyond being a “good neighbor” (and abiding by the law)?

What Does “Economic Abuse” Even Mean?

Just how do we define “financial abuse”? Do we really want the government inserting itself into the intimate give-and-take of married life?

Spouses are supposed to communicate, argue, cooperate, and work through the struggles of life as a unified team. Some couples do better at it than others do, but that’s just life.

Can the government really understand (let alone referee) this complex relationship?

In the original article referenced above, an interviewed woman (called “Anna”) describes her own experiences of so-called “economic abuse”:

She says her husband forced her to co-sign a loan to cover the bank fees, against her will. That loan left her saddled with debt after their marriage ended. He never paid any of it.

(By the way, why was she still responsible for the debt after the divorce? Couldn’t she – or her attorney – has said that the loan was made on behalf of her husband, and that the husband should be responsible for paying it back? We already have systems in place to help situations like this…do we really need another law on top of it?)

Anyway, we agree that abusing shared credit cards, or abandoning co-loans with your spouse, is mean and bad. But it doesn’t always look the same to different people. Continue reading

“Incredibles 2”

 The Incredibles was practically perfect. Gorgeous animation blended with a deft plot; escalating tension melded with heart-warming family dynamics; an adorable yet realistically high-stakes romance between a husband and wife strode alongside the every-man struggle of a middle-aged father to find his place in life again; and weaving through it all was a truly diabolical yet savory villain.

Well, perfect is understandably hard to top…even for a writer and director of Brad Bird’s impressive story skills.

So……did the sequel pull it off?

That’s a question each viewer must answer for themselves—but here is my take. Continue reading

Books I Meant to Read In 2018 but Didn’t Get To

Stop me if you’ve heard this before…Last year, my mother set each of us a goal to read fifty book within the year. So, I started scheming for titles to scratch off.

As these things happen, though, I hadn’t gotten to everything on the list before I reached my goal – and the year ended. For Top Ten Tuesday, here are some of them:

The Crown and Covenant series, Douglas Bond

This is a favorite of my brother’s, and I figured it’d be a good way to fill up my list of books read.

As it turns out, I did sample Mr. Bond’s work for the first time last year — but with Hand of Vengeance, which is a cool, stand-alone Saxon/Viking-themed mystery/romance.

Never Leave Me, Priscilla J. Krahn

This is one of several stories I received for participating in the Indie Author e-Convention (May 2018). I figured they’d be a good way to sample fellow authors’ work, while racking up some short reads for my list.

I’ve currently read about three out of five, I want to say — but this is one that I didn’t get to.

Monster Hunter Legion, Larry Correia

This is Book 4 in the Monster Hunter series (y’know, the series my brother chewed through like a machine gun chews through zombies).

I intended to read it, after reading some shorter, fluffier things to clear my head and palate…but the long and the short is I never bothered to load it onto my phone before I had hit my book goal, and December was over.

Next time.

October, J. Grace Pennington

I’ve consistently enjoyed Mrs. J. Grace’s work, and appreciated the spiritual themes she weaves into them.

From the description of October, I wasn’t so sure about it, but hey! she was giving it away for free!

As with so many other things, though, this one didn’t make it onto the list before December had run out.

(It is currently available free through Kindle Unlimited.)

Prize of War, Carole Towriss

This one I actually paid money for (during an indie author sale). It sounds like a cool story about Caleb’s daughter and nephew/son-in-law during the conquering of Canaan — but I didn’t get to it before the year ran out.

(It is currently available to read free through Kindle Unlimited.)

Time and Again, Richard E. Elkins, PhD, and Agnes Lawless Elkins

My grandparents gave me this book. It’s some kind of missionary book. It’s really skinny. I should really read it one day.

Jesus On Trial, David Limbaugh

My grandpa gave me this one, too (actually, he gave every family member one. That’s what he does when he likes a new book).

It sounds really cool (a lawyer’s analysis of the four gospel accounts and his journey to saving faith in Jesus) but once again, I didn’t make the time to get through it.

I did start reading the intro, but got bogged down with all the quotes I wanted to Tweet. Oh, well.

The Shattered Helmet, Franklin W. Dixon

I borrowed two Hardy boys mysteries from my grandma (as well as a boatload of Robert Ludlum, Alistair McLean, etc.). I only read one of them: The Sinister Signpost.

As a long-standing Nancy Drew aficionado, it was interesting to see the masculine side of things. (Nancy never got in that many fisticuffs.)

That’s what YA used to be like, kids 😉

The Nine Tailors, Dorothy Sayers

Wow, a Sayers book I haven’t read yet!

I started reading this one…it must have been 2017, because I would have had to start over to make it count for the reading challenge.

I faded out a few chapters after Peter fell asleep reading about bell-ringing sequences. I’ll try again one day – depend on it.

Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen

I should read this. I really should. I have it in a big, thick, hardback three-novel collection.

It’s a New Year

This year, I’ve set myself the goal to read thirty books; because fifty was so stressful, that I didn’t like committing to reading long books.

Also I have other things to do…like bake cookies, write novels, play video games, and talk theology with my family.

Perhaps I can pick up some of the books I missed last year!


Kimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a free e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also get periodic updates on her latest reading and writing exploits (currently sent out every other month).

Authors I Read for the First Time in 2018

This past year, my mother gave the entire family a reading challenge of fifty books – that we hadn’t read before! This gave me the opportunity to read several new authors, which I will share with you for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday post!

Independent Authors

Since I read fifty books this past year – and kept track of them all! – I’m able to split this list into “indie” authors and more “traditional” or classic authors.

So, for authors I read for the first time in 2018, and who publish their books independently:

1—E.B. DawsonAuthors I Read for the First Time in 2018 — Kimia Wood
(Nomad of the Emirates)

A good writer with a fresh, interesting perspective on things.

She also has a third-culture heritage. Check her out!

Author’s site

2—Sarah Holman
(Kate’s Innocence)

Her mystery was actually a mystery!! but oh, she needed a competent editor!

Author’s site

3—Morgan Elizabeth Huneke
(Twisted Dreams)Authors I Read for the First Time in 2018 — Kimia Wood

She took a story I’m not that crazy about (Sleeping Beauty) and a setting I wasn’t sure about (cross-genre dream-worlds) and wrote a tale that sucked me in.

Probably because of the feisty younger brother.

Author’s site

4—Allison Tebo
(The Reluctant Godfather)

A competent author with a bright future before her…though if it were me writing the story, I wouldn’t have let romance solve the world’s problems.

That’s me. Grumpykinz.

Author’s site

5—Amanda Tero
(Coffee Cake Days)

Her short story really nailed what it’s like to grow up in a large, homeschooling, Christian family.

Author’s site

Other Indie Authors from this year:

Julie C. Gilbert (The Collins Case)— I’m glad I read her story, as I’ve referred to it several times in my own work…as something not to do. I feel bad, but really…gotta be honest, or how will we grow?

Ruth O’Neil (Come Eat At My Table)— A really slow-simmering story joined up with an uninspired writing style to…sneak up on my emotions when I wasn’t looking!

Traditional/Classic Authors:

Authors I Read for the First Time in 2018 — Kimia Wood1—Robert Ludlum
(The Bourne Identity; The Janson Directive)

His suspense is AMAZINGLY SUSPENSEFUL; his mysteries are deep and twisty; and his plot “onions” have layers upon layers of juicy, edge-of-your-seat intrigue.

But you gotta have a strong constitution and conscience.

(Read my full reviews for content cautions.)

Author’s Goodreads page

2–Roger Zelazny
(The Chronicles of Amber)

Authors I Read for the First Time in 2018 — Kimia WoodThis is a fantasy series with world-ending stakes, told through the eyes of the very relatable Corwin — who doesn’t trust his eight brothers farther than he can throw them, but will drop everything to hear to latest gossip about what they’re up to.

It’s super fun. My brother has yet to yield and read it.

(Also: Zelazny could have used a competent editor. But that’s the way it goes.)

Author’s Goodreads page

3—Larry Correia
(Monster Hunter International; Monster Hunter Vendetta; and Monster Hunter Alpha)

Fulfills the genre. So if you’re into splatting monsters with jacked-up firearms…full steam ahead!Authors I Read for the First Time in 2018 — Kimia Wood

My brother (who gave up on the reading challenge when he got a job in March) has read through to Book 6 and is eagerly awaiting the next one.

Another fun fact: Mr. Correia self-published MHI, but then signed with a publisher — Baen Books. Proof of what can happen to you if you know your audience, get them to trust you, and write a gripping, solid, entertaining story!

(Read my full review for content cautions.)

Author’s site

4—Sabine Baring-Gould
(The Book of Were-Wolves)

This book was profound, interesting, and somewhat disturbing. If you want to know about the actual history of were-wolves and their legends, this is a good, readable book.

Author’s Wikipedia page

5—Tom Clancy
(The Hunt for Red October)

Red October was good, honest fun. It’s dubbed the father of the “techno-thriller” genre, and I can see why. While it wasn’t as pulse-pounding as Ludlum’s stuff, it did manage to make the science of submarines sound exciting (or at least interesting).

Author’s Goodreads page

Other “classic” authors I read this year:Authors I Read for the First Time in 2018 — Kimia Wood

Blake Snider (Save the Cat)— A must-read in writers’ circles…for good reason. I’ve gotten a little bored with the glut of writing gurus on the internet—so if you’re only going to buy one writing book, Save the Cat is a good, all-bases-covered source-text.

Ian Fleming (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)— This is the first James Bond story I’d ever read…and frankly, Robert Ludlum is better. Sure, Ludlum has sex – and more violence – but I don’t come away from his stories feeling so empty.

John Grisham (The Racketeer; The Testament)— I know John Grisham is a really big name (at least in the circles I’ve touched) but my first impression was…bleh. Mom convinced me to try another of his books, and it was…okay…? I guess I didn’t loathe the main character of The Testament—so that’s a plus.

Authors I Read for the First Time in 2018 — Kimia WoodSir Walter Scott (Ivanhoe)— This is a classic, a treatment of Robin Hood and King Richard, a treatise on racism and classism in 12th century Britain, and well worth reading. Even if you’re not into historicals, it might teach you something!

Virginia Myers (Vessels of Honor)— As a Christian, this book was an amazing example of showing grace and love to people we don’t see eye-to-eye with!

Mike Mikalatos (Good News for a Change)— This book is about talking to others about Jesus, but it would be useful for so many other situations because it’s about actually listening to people while conversing with them and is AWESOME.

What Will I Read in 2019?

I had a lot of fun with this reading challenge, and met a lot of new “author” friends!

Let’s see what cool new books I read in 2019.


Authors I Read for the First Time in 2018 — Kimia WoodKimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by baking, knitting, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier, plus occasional updates on her latest reading and writing exploits.

What a WoW Player Must Know When Playing AD&D

What a WoW Player Must Know When Playing AD&D

So you’re an experienced hero of World of Warcraft, but now you want to go back to the roots. Old school. Really old school.

Dungeons and Dragons, Advanced Edition.

Well…brace yourself for culture shock.

There are a couple…minor…elements that you should be aware of before diving in, sword blazing. In fact, before you even settle on what class of character to roll, you should check out these five crucial differences between WoW and D’n’D. Continue reading

“A Newbery Christmas”

"A Newbery Christmas" — Kimia Wood — Christmas story Christmas is…an interesting topic.

What do you think about when you hear the word? What does a “Christmas story” mean? It forms an entire genre of fiction…but defining that genre is in the eye of the beholder.

Besides which, for some of us Christmas has the deeper purpose of celebrating Christ – the Anointed One – the Eternal God taking on flesh and walking the earth in the form of a human.

This collection of “Christmas” stories, penned by fourteen different Newbery Award-winning authors, was interesting on a number of different levels. Not only did the tone and style change depending on the attitude of the author, but also their view of Christmas (and what it means) was remarkably varying.

So, what is a “Christmas story”?

The “Just So” Fable

Some of them recalled the roots of Christmas. Theses stories have the flavor of a “fairytale retelling” as they relate the basic story elements – Mary giving birth to a special baby in a stable – and sprinkle it with their own twists.

For instance: Mary giving birth without making a sound…animals being given the gift of speech so as to relate the events from a thousand years ago…and Catholic saints traveling through time and space to get a peek at the manger scene.

For some people, this is what makes a “Christmas story” — Saturday Evening Post-type nostalgia mixed with church traditions.

The “Santa” Paradigm

The Newbery Award is for children’s literature, so the stories in this anthology are naturally geared toward children.

Some children view Christmas solely in the context of the presents they get. Older children are usually concerned about the presents they give away, also.

A good author captures the attitudes and thoughts of her viewpoint character.

But there is a line between accurately portraying a child’s limited worldview, and structuring your narrative with only these materialistic elements that reenforce the limited worldview. Sometimes, that line is very hard to find.

Is a “Christmas story” about giving gifts? Is it about discovering that what you really, really want is not as important as what you need?

Perhaps. For some people, that’s what they mean by a “Christmas story”.

My Personal Favorite

My favorite story is the selection by Madeleine L’Engle (ironically enough).

While not an “orthodox” Christian, she does a good job giving readers a sense of the “true meaning of Christmas” (as the clichés call it). Not only does her story follow a family celebrating the holiday with church, food, and snow – it gives a realistic portrayal of Christians acting in a way consistent with the character of God: with love, grace, and peace in the face of unexpected stress.

What is a “Christmas Story”?

To borrow Andrew Klavan’s explanation, a “Christmas story” is the tale of a character exchanging their value set. As in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, when Ebenezer Scrooge exchanges his own value set (selfishness and money) for a more “heavenly” value set (generosity, legacy, and community) his motivation, actions, and lifestyle change.

He is transformed. He is a “man who learns better” because of the new values that descend on his life (and once he accepts them, his behavior changes).

This mirrors the original “Christmas” story, where our paradigms of self-centeredness, self-righteousness, and selfishness are confronted by God’s system.

That system being that we could do nothing to rescue ourselves, but God in His grace came down to earth (wearing human flesh and bone) and gave Himself to us…not only showing us the example for perfect love and kindness, but also making it possible for us to live in a way that pleases Him (through His Holy Spirit setting up shop without our own hearts and changing us from the inside out).

This strikes me as a good, understandable explanation of what makes a “Christmas story”.

Does something count as a “Christmas story” if it’s a peppermint-flavored romance set in December? According to this paradigm, only if they focus on the protagonist’s value set being exchanged for a “higher” one.

How about all the stories that wrap around a child getting exactly what they want for Christmas? Well…is the point that they don’t get what they want, but rather what they need? That focus on receiving a fresh values set would make it a Christmas story under this definition.

(For what it’s worth, Mr. Klavan says that Holly in Die Hard is in a Christmas movie, because the system she uses to evaluate and measure the world is challenged and replaced…but John from Die Hard is in an action movie, instead. Having never seen the movie, I can’t appraise his appraisal.)

But This is Actually a Review

What do you expect from a “Christmas anthology”? What are you looking to get out of it?

A couple of these stories are thought-provoking or emotionally resonant. A few of them are short and quippy, or more geared toward kids.

So…to resolve your itch for “Christmas genre” stories, or to give your kids something short and easy to read, it would work. Also works as a Christmas-themed coffee-table gift.

These stories probably won’t change your life. But it’s all a matter of expectations.

So, what does “Christmas” mean to you?


A Newberry Christmas features fourteen stories, by fourteen different Newberry-winning authors from Ruth Sawyer and Rachel Field to Lois Lenski, Eleanor Estes, and Madeleine L’Engle. It is edited/compiled by Martin H. Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh.

It is available on Amazon.

Subscribe to Kimia Wood’s mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic novella Soldier, plus periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.