Friday, 5 August 2016
Okay, so this is obviously a first for me. I normally wouldn't have reviewed a movie but I was given the opportunity so I thought "hey, why not?"
When Calls the Heart is a Hallmark tv series, but I was given one of the movies to review. It's set in a small Canadian frontier town (I had to look up the date it's set, and it looks to be around 1910). The series is inspired by a novel series written by Janette Oke.
First of all, Hallmark movies are cheesy, but they're faithful in making you smile. When Calls the Heart is no different. Is the script profound? No. But it's sweet, and simple, and you don't regret sitting down to watch it. I definitely felt a bit out of the loop, though. I've never watched the tv series, and this movie takes place at the beginning of season 3 (the rest of When Calls the Heart Season 3 DVDs are also available). I was able to pick up enough throughout the movie, but I know I missed quite a few of the subtleties within the dialogue and even the side glances. Someone who has watched and enjoyed the tv series will definitely appreciate this movie much more than I could at this point.
One thing that kept bothering me was the landscape in the movie. Don't get me wrong: it was beautiful. But this is set in late December...in Canada. I did more digging and found it's set in a fictional town in British Columbia. And there's no snow. Okay, I know...here in Ontario we had a green December and part of January. But I'm a bit of a nut when it comes to being as close to historically accurate as possible. Yeah, it was in the negatives in December of 1910 (and for the next few years). They definitely either would have had snow, or would look much colder than anyone in the movie did. That bothered me the entire way through.
BUT! In general, I thought this was a sweet movie, and definitely makes me wish I had heard of this series earlier. I'm sure if I had been more involved with the characters before this I would have overlooked the lack of snow. I thought it was lovely to see a depiction of Canadian frontier life, the pride of their town, and the hardships that come with being on the frontier. It wasn't easy back then, especially if you had to leave your family to start a new way of life.
So you don't end up watching the movie the way I did, you can find When Calls the Heart series on DVD.
Wednesday, 20 July 2016
As most of you know, I don't typically review non-fiction but something about this one stood out to me. Not only did it sound exciting and adventurous, how could I turn down a paperback copy with photos from the trip!
Tim and Debbie tell their love story in this wonderful book, showing how their faith in God allowed them to stay (mostly) patient in waiting for their spouse. It really is a great story, and it really shows how trusting in God and His promises can help you through anything. The two decide to take an extended honeymoon and cycle across the United States. That sounds daunting enough to me, and I'm in my late 20s! I absolutely love the reality the newlyweds share in their travel book/journal. They shared their fights, and their laughter, which is something often missing. There's no way a couple can go without fighting at least a little. It's all about how it's done, and in the end (as was said before) they relied on the fact that God had brought the two together and that would strengthen them as a couple. They used their own personal strengths and determination to continue going, even when the body was crying for rest. They understood that each of them were half of one person, stronger as one than two, because two truly are better.
Wednesday, 6 July 2016
For the first time in a while, I found a book I couldn't put down...and I only got part 1 of 3! What a tease. This novel is written in the style of letters and an interrogation transcription. One is set in presumably present day. The other set in the distant future. The details and explanations given about the future were so natural and intriguing, I have to give the McKechnie credit. It was so well done and left me wanting more.
At first I didn't see how Thomas' writings had anything to do with Atia in the future, but it slowly appeared and we recognize the start of the development into Atia's present, our distant future, through the missing character of Fran. I can see how that transition intrigued Atia, as it intrigued me.
Something that stood out is how, with both Thomas and Atia, their words and discussions with their children deeply affected who they grew up to be and how they act. Thomas claimed that no one ever died. So Fern, his missing daughter, goes to see if that can be made possible. Presumably. We haven't found out yet, but we have a pretty good idea. (That's another thing! McKechnie didn't give me all the information, but I didn't feel the need for it. Of course, I want it. But I'm fine going along for the ride, and if you've read any of my other reviews, you know that's not often the case with me.) Atia went the opposite way, trying to show the benefits of ningen life, but the other half of her infant's...DNA?...leaned toward merging with all life forces. Prolonging life.
The rest of the novel has been added to my "must read now!!" list. It was a great read, with superb writing (only a few blips here and there) and a fascinating story. There's so much more I could say about this novel, about how it made me think about humanity, our sense of community and the global village, how the fear of death and even loneliness can presumably spur technological advances and research....but I won't. Even though I only touched the surface of the themes McKechnie wrote about. I highly recommend this novel, to basically anyone who enjoys reading.
Tuesday, 21 June 2016
Infringement by Benjamin Westbrook follows Declan, a special agent who finds himself in the midst of corruption and a divine plan designed at the foundation of the universe.
This isn't the first time I've read a novel depicting the end times, or the beginning of the end as this seems to be. What was different (for me at least, although I'm sure other novels have this as well) was that it played off the fears of most Americans now. The fear of "big brother" and how that will lead into the end times. How the government is corrupt and bringing in the Antichrist. It felt more like reading a conspiracy theory than a novel giving its take on the end times. I admit that I likely am not the right audience for this plot, but I'm nervous that there is an audience who actually believes that the ends times begins this way. "Oh no, our debit and credit cards have a chip! It's the mark of the beast!" I've literally heard that multiple times at my church. They refuse to use those cards.
The novel also felt quite dragged out. It could have been condensed quite a bit, especially as this is the beginning of a series. I'm hoping that all of the extra scenes and back stories will be important, but unfortunately reading this novel didn't compel me to complete the series.
The characters were okay. I found the relationship between Declan and Megan forced and rushed. I get that they had a history just before the book began, but it seemed too forced, as though the author needed a romantic thread and threw that together. I did like the way Declan came to Christ, however. I felt that it was very relatable, and is usually the story of most people: grew up being taught about God, something bad happens so they fall away, but then are re-introduced to Scripture and make their way back to Him. It's not a bad story at all, while predictable it's comfortable and as I said, many people have gone through that or are in some stage of it.
Overall, the novel plays into current events which can make it relatable to most readers. Even the God aspects of it weren't pushy and I think even non-Christians may enjoy it. But if they read it I'm afraid they'll think, from Evan and his mom's example, that all Christians subscribe to conspiracy theories. It's a hard thing to do, walking that line of prophecy and conspiracy, but I have to commend Westbrook on his attempt.
Wednesday, 8 June 2016
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Andrew Joyce, and I live on a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with my dog, Danny. I left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico for a number of years. I’ve written four books, including my latest, Resolution, and a collection of one hundred and forty short stories comprised of my hitching adventures called Bedtime Stories for Grown-ups (as yet unpublished).
What do you do when you're not writing?
I read books. Steinbeck, London, Baldacci, and Child are among my favorite authors.
When did your first start writing?
One morning, about six years ago, I went crazy. I got out of bed, went downstairs, and threw my TV out the window. Then I sat down at the computer and wrote my first short story. It was soon published in a print magazine (remember them?). I’ve been writing ever since.
What inspired you to write this particular book?
I was not inspired to write Resolution . . . I was cajoled into writing it.
This is the backstory to Resolution:
My first book was a 164,000-word historical novel. And in the publishing world, anything over 80,000 words for a first-time author is heresy. Or so I was told time and time again when I approached an agent for representation. After two years of research and writing, and a year of trying to secure the services of an agent, I got angry. To be told that my efforts were meaningless was somewhat demoralizing to say the least. I mean, those rejections were coming from people who had never even read my book.
“So you want an 80,000-word novel?” I said to no one in particular, unless you count my dog, because he was the only one around at the time. Consequently, I decided to show them City Slickers that I could write an 80,000-word novel!
I had just finished reading Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn for the third time, and I started thinking about what ever happened to those boys, Tom and Huck. They must have grown up, but then what? So I sat down at my computer and banged out REDEMPTION: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in two months, then sent out query letters to agents.
Less than a month later, the chairman of one of the biggest agencies in New York City emailed me that he loved the story. We signed a contract and it was off to the races, or so I thought. But then the real fun began: the serious editing. Seven months later, I gave birth to Huck and Tom as adults in the Old West. And just for the record, the final word count is 79,914. The book went on to reach #1 status in its category on Amazon—twice. And it won the Editors’ Choice Award for best Western of 2013. The rest, as they say, is history.
But not quite.
My agent then wanted me to write a sequel, but I had other plans. I was in the middle of editing down my first novel (that had been rejected by 1,876,324 agents . . . or so it seemed) from 164,000 words to the present 142,000. However, he was insistent about a sequel, so I started to think about it. Now, one thing you have to understand is that I tied up all the loose ends at the end of REDEMPTION, so there was no way that I could write a sequel. And that is when Molly asked me to tell her story. Molly was a minor character that we met briefly in the first chapter of REDEMPTION, and then she is not heard from again.
So I started to think about what ever happened to her. After a bit of time—and 100,000 words—we find out what did happen to Molly. It is an adventure tale where Huck Finn weaves through the periphery of a story driven by a feisty female lead. Molly Lee was my second book, which achieved #2 status on Amazon.
Now I was finished with Huck Finn for good. Now I could go back to my first novel and resume the editing process.
But not quite.
It was then that Huck and Molly ganged up on me and demanded that I resolve their lives once and for all. It seems that I had left them hanging—so to speak. Hence, RESOLUTION: Huck Finn’s Greatest Adventure.
The three books are standalones and are not part of a series. They can be read in any order. RESOLUTION is available as an eBook and in print.
There you have it. Perhaps now Huck and Molly will leave me alone long enough so that I can get some editing done on my first novel.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
That is a very good question. It’s also a hard question to answer, but I reckon the passage below should suffice as one of my favorites. As to why, I would have to say because it defines what I was trying to convey in the novel—the struggle of my protagonist with nefarious men, nature, and wild animals to name just a few of his adversaries.
• • • • •
The alpha wonders why the two-legs have now bunched together. No matter, they will watch, they will be ready, and when the time is right, they will feed on the meat from their bones.
It is time to move closer to the two-legs, though it is not yet time for the attack. They must be cautious. He remembers—from long ago—the sticks the two-legs use to kill. His mother was killed by one. The sticks bark loudly and blood spouts from a wolf-brother or a wolf-sister, then they are no more. He will keep his family safe. They will not strike until the two-legs are struggling in the snow or separated from one another, making themselves easy for the kill.
No matter the wolves’ hunger, they will wait . . . it is their way.
The two-legs have their ways and the wolves have theirs. Before very long, they will tear at the flesh of the two-legs; their warm blood will drip from the wolves’ jaws—before very long, their hunger will have fled their wolf-bodies and they will lie in the snow with full bellies.
• • • • •
Huck went back to the fire, bringing Bright with him, and sat down on his heels. With one hand, he held onto his Winchester, the stock resting in the snow, the barrel pointing to the sky. With the other, he held onto Bright’s collar. He did not want the dog to start anything that he could not finish. He did not say anything. He was thinking. Jass stopped stirring the mush and Molly looked up from what she was doing. They looked at each other, then back at Huck.
Molly asked, “Did you change your mind about hunting?”
Slowly, Huck came out of his reverie and looked at Molly and then at Jass. Turning back to Molly, he said, “Get John fed and get ready to move out.” To Jass, he said, “Hurry up with that mush. We gotta be going.”
“What’s the matter, Huck?” asked Jass.
“We have company. There are four or five wolves up there, back on the rise, that seem to have an extraordinary interest in us. Don’t worry, we’ll be all right. We just have to keep moving, but from now on, we stay together. If they don’t follow us, we’ll be fine.”
Both Molly and Jass looked up to the rise and saw nothing. “I don’t see any wolves,” said Molly.
“Me either,” interjected Jass.
Huck hurriedly stood up and turned to where they were looking. They were right, the wolves were gone. He was about to sigh in relief when Bright growled again and he saw a dark speck moving in the snow, then another, and another. The wolves had come down off the rise and were coming their way.
“Feed John,” ordered Huck. “It may be a while before we can stop again.” He did not have to explain. Molly and Jass had also seen the wolves.
• • • • •
They move to within a hundred yards of the two-legs and spread out in a half circle. If they had been a larger family, they would have completely surrounded their prey. Now is the time to observe their weaknesses and look for opportunities to mount an attack.
The pup knows his place, but being young, he wants to show off some. He’s behind the adults, running back and forth, when all of a sudden he darts past the line the adults have set. He’ll show them what a great hunter he is. As he runs past one of the females, she turns and nips him on his right haunch. He yelps, and with a painful whine, runs back to where he should have been. It was his mother who had put an end to his foolishness. The alpha male observes the interplay between mother and pup and remembers back to when he was a pup and his mother had kept him in line in a similar manner. But that was before she was killed by the two-legs.
What is best writing advice you can give?
Read, read . . . and then read some more. Read everything you can get your hands on! Reading to a writer is as medical school is to a doctor, as physical training is to an athlete, as breathing is to life. When one reads stuff like the passage below, one cannot help but become a better writer.
"The afternoon came down as imperceptibly as age comes to a happy man. A little gold entered into the sunlight. The bay became bluer and dimpled with shore-wind ripples. Those lonely fishermen who believe that the fish bite at high tide left their rocks and their places were taken by others, who were convinced that the fish bite at low tide.”—John Steinbeck, Tortilla Flat
Is there anything else you'd like your readers to know about the book?
I would like to say that I wrote Resolution in one sitting and everything in it is my pure genius. But that would be a lie. I have an editor that puts order to my chaos.
One last thing: Everything in Resolution is historically correct. I spend as much time on research as I do writing—sometimes more.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Just this: Thank you for having me over. It’s been a real pleasure.
You can find Andrew Joyces' Latest novel, "Resolution; Huck Finn's Greatest Adventure." here:
and his website:
Monday, 30 May 2016
While this is only the second novel by Mr. Heldt I've read, I'm convinced he can basically do no wrong. I remember after reading "The Mine" I was trying to remember the actors in a movie I saw recently, and realized it hadn't been a movie. It was his book. "September Sky" is no exception.
Unlike 'The Mine' the two main characters, Chuck and Justin, knew and chose to travel back in time. In fact, they even chose the year. It made me wonder if I had a choice of a few years, when I would travel back to. It definitely would not be an easy choice for me, but I think they made a good decision and we learn that Chuck had an ulterior motive to choosing 1900.
Once in 1900, the two quickly defy their orders and travel to Texas in order to change history. As with all time travel novels, there's always the issue of the time paradox, and whether or not you can truly change the past. In Heldt's novels, you can, but we don't see the evidence of it effecting the present which I suppose is something Chuck and Justin were careful about.
I enjoyed the characters, and but for a few times where the dialogue didn't seem quite "there" the characters were memorable enough to overlook their flaws. I found Emily a little rough around the edges, but her development was wonderful. I found Charlotte to be the least developed. She seemed much too simple, to me at least. But of course I still liked her.
The novel seemed a bit longer than necessary but I'm not complaining as I love the author's writing style. The story, while drawn out, was written in a way that gave me a connection to what was happening. I was always wondering what was going to come around the next corner, as certain things hadn't been resolved yet. And, of course, everything was tied up nicely together in the end.
For anyone who enjoy historical fiction, and even a tiny bit of sci-fi (there is time travelling, after all) I highly recommend this novel. And all of Heldt's other novels.
Buy the book on Amazon.
Friday, 27 May 2016
“In the Blood of the Greeks” by Mary D. Brooks
In the Blood of the Greeks by Mary D. Brooks is a riveting tale of the Nazi occupation of a town in Greece during the Second World War. Brooks tells us of the story of a local girl, Zoe Lambros and how her life became entwined with the Greek Resistance and the daughter of a German commander, Eva Muller, and how their actions shaped their small village in Greece. Along the way we meet and connect with many other characters who bring the desperation of war to life, who act and react to the constantly shifting morality they find themselves in.
This is not your average story about war; from the choice of setting the novel in Greece, to the types of characters chosen, “In the Blood of the Greeks” strives to bring a breath of fresh air to the WWII fiction genre. The two main characters, Zoe and Eva, are strong compelling women, different from each other in every way yet destined to be together. The relationship that grows between them melted my heart (Which I will inform you all is no small feat) and Brooks expertly kept up the intensity of their situation and kept the reader holding their breath the whole time. The fear felt real, the love felt real and the sadness that was ever present felt all too real.
There were times however, where the author poured too much into the story. Zoe’s anger at everything and everyone sometimes felt overbearing; she is a rebel, she is stubborn and she does things her way. You get that that is a necessary part of her character, but a lot of times that appears to be her only character trait, and her as a person does not fully develop as far as her potential. The relationship between the two women does also feel like it was rushed towards the end, that the pleasant pace of growth between the two was pushed beyond its means by the end of the book. I do tend to appreciate the build up towards a romance more than the romance itself, so perhaps I am being too fussy here, but despite that criticism their love is the golden apex of a fabulous book.
The best thing about this book in my opinion, is that Brooks has sequels planned, so you don’t have to say goodbye to Zoe and Eva just yet, and if this book is any indication the sequel will be even better. I highly recommend “In the Blood of the Greeks.”