“The Book of Were-Wolves” by Sabine Baring-Gould

It’s easy to “poo-poo” were-wolves as superstitious just-so stories, invented by our ignorant ancestors.

Baring-Gould, while not convince human beings physically transform into wolf bodies, nevertheless has taken a scholarly, detailed, and anecdote-filled look at this phenomenon. Along with his scientific, 18th-century respect for facts, he brings the Christian insight into human nature to his subject (he’s more famous for writing Onward Christian Soldiers).

The resulting book is fascinating, profound, and sometimes disturbing…both by what it says about were-wolves, and by what it says about ourselves. Continue reading

“Ten Thousand Thorns” by Suzannah Rowntree

"Ten Thousand Thorns" by Suzannah Rowntree Some books just “sing”.

Others…don’t work for some people.

What if Sleeping Beauty was a martial artist?

For a hundred years, Princess Morning Light has meditated in a hidden temple surrounded by ten thousand thorns. Could her long-lost sword skill be the key to stopping the Vastly Martial Emperor?

Rebel leader Clouded Sky doesn’t believe in the old legends of Ten Thousand Thorns Temple. But as bounty hunters and imperial guards close in, the martial princess may be Clouded Sky’s last hope.

Who can he trust – and who is planning to betray him?

If you liked the martial arts and fierce female characters of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, you’ll love this action-packed retelling of Sleeping Beauty!

Continue reading

“Chronicles of Amber” by Roger Zelazny

 The “Chronicles of Amber” have long been my dad’s example of what inspired him to write. He told us that Zelazny’s writing was so bad, he figured, “If he can get published, so can I.” And, at the same time, the story Zelazny was telling was so gripping he had no choice but continue.

Now, I’ve had an opportunity to form my own opinion. I agree about the story part…but the writing wasn’t that bad. If Zelazny had gotten an editor who could actually read, we’d have nothing to complain about.

But let’s talk about the story.

Who Is “I”?

Our first-person protagonist starts the story in a private medical institution, with no memory. As he makes his escape and tracks down his past, we’re eased into a fantasy world unlike any other.

Corwin is a good traveling companion. While he has to grow in several areas, he’s got enough deprecating humor, goodwill, and smarts to make us root for him.

Book 1 is Nine Princes in Amber…and that’s not even counting their sisters. So there’s a big cast of characters to get a handle on. However, many of them are scattered, letting us meet them a little at a time.

Trust Him Like a Brother…That Is To Say, Not At All

You like learning about the Romanovs? Fancy meeting a broad, sprawling family of princes, with their own cliches, personalities, and alliances…a family constantly trying to kill one another across an infinite spectrum of worlds, but who nevertheless are eager for the latest gossip about all their varied relations.

They’re as immoral as any other royal family. Casual sex intrudes on the story a couple times…but Zelazny does a decent job showing us the serious consequences such flippancy can have.

Brothers can go from trading comments to crossing swords at a moment’s notice…and at their next meeting, they might have returned to civility.

Ready to wrap your head around the tangled strands of alliances, plots, and deceits? The mystery might lead deeper than you think…

The World is Amber

In fact, Amber is the reality. Corwin and all his brothers are princes of Amber, while an infinite number of Shadows stream away from Amber, casting “realities” from the similar to the bizarre across creation.

And beyond all the Shadow worlds? Chaos. And the creatures of Chaos aren’t all too pleased to have Amber and its Shadows cutting in on their game.

But to say more might say too much.

It’s a Wild Hell-Ride

My dad has long told us about how the idea of Amber and Shadows captured his imagination. The description can be very evocative, indeed, as Corwin and the others travel between shadings from one distinct landscape to the next.

And as for the mystery they unravel? The deep plot that threatens to shatter Amber itself – that overshadows their struggle for the vacant throne? It is indeed a fascinating onion to unpeel. The royal machinations and reversals are gripping. And the final book, The Courts of Chaos, is nearly psychedelic as Corwin rides through bleak, philosophical landscapes, racing the surging storm of Chaos.

It’ll make sense once you read the book. (Well, most of it will, anyway.)

Caveats?

Is this story “mother-in-law safe“? Mostly. There’s a smattering of profanities, some violence, and (as I said) a few mild hook-ups.

It should be no surprise that long-living, powerful royalty who can do pretty much what they want aren’t super moral. Part of the satisfaction of the story, though, is to see them shift, discover new goals, change their focus outward, and transform.

Who is the ultimate king of Amber? I’m not telling…but it made me cheer.

The other thing to note is that the series is one continuous story arc. I’ve ranted before about cliff-hangers, so for the sake of intellectual integrity, be aware that each individual book (while containing a mini-arc) is much more about its place within the whole, than it is about the plot contained within each volume.

I’ve been pushing my brother to read it, but he still hasn’t.

Tell Your Sister. Dad Was Right.

Even if you’re not usually a fantasy person…or if the slew of generic “quest” fantasy has you jaded…pick it up. Tired of “chosen one heir-apparent” tropes? Pick it up.

Tired of vague medieval-era worlds? Discover worlds that are different from ours for a reason…and characters who are smart enough to work with those differences!

Was the writing a little clunky at times? At times…but like I said: if the editor had actually done his job, he would have caught the few places a word was missing, would have corrected a spelling or two, and the book would be that much more a cut above the rest.

How you phrase something is style. (Says the girl who frequently confuses her beta readers with “poetic” turns of phrase.)

Anyway…Why don’t you read it and find out for yourself?


The first book, Nine Princes in Amber, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and the Book Depository (as an audiobook).

You can also find all five books in one volume on Amazon (hardcover), or as a ten-book paperback from Barnes & Noble or the Book Depository (Note: I have only read the first series: Nine Princes in Amber, The Guns of Avalon, The Sign of the Unicorn, The Hand of Oberon, and The Courts of Chaos).

Cover image is from this five-book collection, via the Book Depository.

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“Purple Fish” by Mark O. Wilson

 TL;DR: If you need another kick in your Jesus-sharing pants, or if you’d like to read some examples of evangelism from the “more Pentecostal” side of the church-spectrum, it’s worth a look.

As the third book on evangelism I’ve read this year, Purple Fish seemed to depend more on pithy quotes from other writers than the previous books. The outline for the book was also less clear than what I’d read previously.

Fisherman’s Guide to Sharing the TRUTH

The title comes from the idea of hunting for purple shell-fish — the ingredient used in the ancient world for purple dye, an expensive commodity for emperors and senators.

Pastor Wilson urges us to view lost people as “purple fish” — just like Jesus came all the way to earth to hunt after his treasured children, we should go “fishing for men” with the same passion. Continue reading

“Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder

"Save the Cat" by Blake Snyder — Kimia Wood As Mr. Snyder says in his prologue, “Why do we need another book about writing?” Apparently even in 2005 when he first published Save the Cat, you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting an eager, helpful guru determined to instruct young writer hopefuls in his way to plot, write, and sell.

So what makes Save the Cat any different, and why has it taken the industry by storm to be required reading for newbies and professionals alike?

I decided it was time to buy it and find out. Continue reading

“Good News for a Change” by Matt Mikalatos

"Good News for a Change" by Matt Mikalatos — Kimia Wood Who doesn’t like good news? That’s the premise of Mr. Mikalatos’ new book, which is all about improving our conversations so that when we tell people about Jesus, it actually sounds like good news to them!

This book was challenging, encouraging, and convicting all in one, and I hope to use its principles in all my interactions, not just those times where I’m talking about God. Continue reading

“Coffee Cake Days” by Amanda Tero

"Coffee Cake Days" by Amanda Tero — Kimia Wood This story is short enough to read in less than an hour. It feels very much like a personal anecdote that just got written down.

Perhaps this is especially true because I could easily picture the homeschooling, Bible reading, five-children family where it took place. How well I remember those days doing school at the dining room table while toddlers played underfoot!

That’s Meg’s problem, too. Although she’s graduated, she wants to spend time in God’s word…but her chores and her siblings keep getting in the way.

Ever had something you wanted to do “for” God, but it seemed things kept not working out? Maybe you were working up to sharing the gospel with a coworker, who ended up being off that day? Maybe you were studying to be a missionary, but then your mother got sick and you had to take care of her? You might even wish you could give more money to charity, but the sickness of a child drains all your spare funds.

Meg has the same problem. She wants to be like Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus! Then why does life keep turning her into Martha, swallowed by cooking, cleaning, and serving? Desperate to read through and memorize more passages of Scripture, she steals moments here and there, and snaps at her family when they intrude on her devotional time.

Might her problem relate to our own?

My singular quibble is about the shortness of the story. Not that I think it needs to be longer; no, I loved being able to zip right through it, and all necessary details are included. But as a stand-alone file, many readers might be expecting more than this…especially if they’ve paid actual money for it. If I were the author, I might bundle this with some other, similar stories and charge for the collection…possibly even making this lone story perma-free to tempt people to plunge into the larger volume. That’s a marketing decision, and I can’t exactly claim expert knowledge of marketing principles.

To avoid making my review longer than the story itself, I’ll just say one more thing. The struggle between reading what God wants and practicing what God wants is real…in the same way that reading twenty Bible chapters and learning what those chapters have to teach you are two different things.

This story is an exploration of that…another little picture along the journey of life to prove we’re not alone in our struggles. Jesus taught in stories — well, here’s another one.

Read. Learn. Then apply. ‘Cause that last one is the part that always gets us…and is most important.


Disclaimer: I received a free ebook copy of the book during a promotion. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise.

You can read my interview with the author here, or find more on her website here.

Coffee Cake Days is available on Amazon, and as of this reading was available to read free via Kindle Unlimited. The book includes a recipe for the coffee cake on the cover.

“The Reluctant Godfather” by Allison Tebo

 Cinderella doesn’t have a fairy godmother – but a fairy godfather. And he’s not old, frumpy, and cheerful…he’s young, grumpy, and prone to losing his temper.

For this fairy godfather, who only has two wards – the prince and a girl named Ella – it seems the perfect solution for them to fall in love and make each other happy, thus freeing him to devote himself to cake-baking for the rest of his life. But can he pull it off in just one ball?

This story caught my eye during one of the Indie Christian Author sales, and when I got the chance to pick up a review copy as part of the re-launch blog tour, I jumped on it.

TL;DR— I recommend this cute little story for anyone into romance, and anyone who’s been wishing someone would turn this classic fairy tale on its head. Continue reading

“The Janson Directive” by Robert Ludlum

"The Janson Directive" by Robert Ludlum — Kimia Wood What is the cost of peace?

Robert Ludlum is most famous for The Bourne Identity, a spy thriller that inspired several sequels and movie adaptations. But in The Janson Directive, he has recaptured the magical combination of pulse-pounding thriller mixed with deeper psychological themes.

If you’ve got the stomach to get through it, of course. Sometimes the cost of peace is high. Continue reading

“Come Eat at My Table” by Ruth O’Neil

 Karin Miller has a loving, Christian husband, beautiful twin daughters, and a reputation for feeding everyone who crosses her path.

She also has baggage from her unhappy childhood – baggage she’s resistant to unload.

This book unwinds slowly, but surely – so much so that I didn’t realize how deeply I’d been drawn until the very end. Continue reading