The Ale Boy’s Feast- by Jeffrey Overstreet

The CSFFBT book for May is “The Ale Boy’s Feast”, by Jeffrey Overstreet.  It’s the 4th and final strand in the Auralia Thread (book 4 in the series).  Books 1 and 2 in the series (Auralia’s Colors, and Cyndere’s Midnight respectively) I have yet to read, and Book 3 (Raven’s Ladder) I read and reviewed here.

I really enjoyed Raven’s Ladder, but the ending didn’t seem to be an actual end of a book so I’ve been looking forward to reading this book.

The book starts out good.  However, I found I had a hard time remembering the significance of people and places in “The Ale Boy’s Feast”.  Then I found I couldn’t remember the names and characters from the last book as detailed as I would like.  Though the book has a good enough beginning to stand on its own, having a 1 year gap between these books leaves me knowing I’m missing out on some things.

So after getting a few chapters into the book I’ve decided to stop reading for now.  I want to go back to the first 2 books and read them in order, before I get into this last book in the series.  Some of the characters, plots and places were not established well enough in my mind from the last book, but I’m hoping that reading the whole series in order will firmly establish what I’m now missing.

For what I’ve read so far, I like the book.  It’s not easy for me to put this aside considering I’m already drawn into the book.  Hopefully I’ll get a copy of the other books soon!

 Get a copy of the book at- http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/9781400074686
And visit Jeffrey Overstreet’s site at- http://lookingcloser.org/fiction/

Please visit the blogs of other members of the tour for more thoughts on Jeffrey Overstreet’s “The Ale Boy’s Feast”.
Gillian Adams
Red Bissell
Grace Bridges
 Beckie Burnham
 Morgan L. Busse
Valerie Comer
 CSFF Blog Tour
Shane Deal
Chris Deane
Cynthia Dyer
Andrea Graham
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
 Bruce Hennigan
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Dawn King
 Inae Kyo
Shannon McDermott
 Shannon McNear
 Karen McSpadden
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
 John W. Otte
Sarah Sawyer
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
 Robert Treskillard
 Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free
copy of this book from the publisher.

Review- The God Hater, by Bill Myers

So the tour is back on schedule, and this month’s book is “The God Hater” by Bill Myers.  The book is a sci-fi work, and I wasn’t very excited before reading it.  The title put me off, and I’m not a very big fan of sci-fi.  However, I’ve found from doing the tour that I might miss out on some extremely good books based on such criteria.

And Bill Myer’s book, while not as big of a pleasant surprise as books like “The Charlatin’s Boy”, was a good read and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.  The sci-fi element was not as intense as I had assumed it would be, but it definitely increases the further along you read.

The title of the book is based on one of the work’s main characters, a professor who enjoys breaking down the religious beliefs of his students and anyone else who shares with others how they believe.  And through the parallels we see later on in the book, I think we find that the title shows us a problem common to all of mankind to some extend.  It shows that one can claim to follow God, yet meet him face to face and not only not recognize Him… but end up persecuting Him.

I enjoyed all the different elements of the story, and though some particulars in the book do not match up with the Bible, if I remember right most or all of those were limited to being in the fictional world that the book’s fictional characters themselves create.  Add to this that the author inserts a note at the beginning of the book that addresses the issue, and I think readers will be able to understand that these incorrect elements are not meant to be taken as applicable to reality.  I wish more authors would start their books with notes like this, and I’m definitely planning on having such notes in all of my novels.  Overall, I felt like the book made truths of God plain, and easily reached beyond a superficial claim of being a spiritual work of Christian fiction.

I would recommend this book to anyone who does not understand the sacrifice that God has made for his people, as well as for anyone who likes sci-fi or books full of adventure.

Here are some related links:

Book link  –  http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1439153264 (or an alternate link of your choice)
Author’s web site – http://www.thegodhater.com/
Author’s Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bill-Myers/44983396181

Check out the fellow blog tour members to see what they think:
Noah Arsenault
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Kathy Brasby
Keanan Brand
Rachel Briard
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Carol Bruce Collett
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
CSFF Blog Tour
April Erwin
Amber French
Andrea Graham
Tori Greene
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Joleen Howell
Bruce Hennigan
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emily LaVigne
Shannon McDermott
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika
MollyBuuklvr81
John W. Otte
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
James Somers
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Nicole White
Dave Wilson

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Review- Raven’s Ladder, by Jeffrey Overstreet

So from the start I was excited about reading this session’s book for the CSFFBT, Raven’s Ladder, mostly because I had seen good reviews around the web.  But I was especially excited because I had seen good reviews of Jeffrey Overstreet’s latest work from authors whom I admire for their own books.

First off, this is a book that truly does give honor God.  As far as I can tell, it supports very well the heart of Christ.  There’s much to gain spiritually from Raven’s Ladder.

The characters in this story are very well done.  The plot lines are solid.  The world in which it is set is awesome, and with that the story behind the story is spectacular.  It fully came to life for me when it was told as a story within the story.  If that sounds confusing, then I will only say that the answer is found… you guessed it… in the story.  You’re more than welcome to dive in and grab ahold of it for yourself!

I had a feeling this was part of a series, but I couldn’t tell right away.  It wasn’t until after I did some looking around that I found out there are 2 previous books in the series… Auralia’s Colors and Cyndere’s Midnight.  Raven’s Ladder stood well as an individual work.  Only the ending let me down in this regard… not because it wasn’t an ending of a book, but because it was also a beginning of the next.  Whether or not it should have been done differently I cannot say, but I can say that I would have been much happier if this book (the 3rd in the series) had also included the 4th book.  It’s not fair beginning a new work without first warning the reader Mr. Overstreet! ;P

 This work is bound together wonderfully, as if all its subplots secretly run along a vein of a precious metal in a dark and deep tunnel.  Nothing seems especially unrelated at any point, but certainly everything becomes very much related and important as the story goes on.  The elements of the story are rich, and, as should be expected from any good book, they were especially rich when woven together.  Let the reader understand, Raven’s Ladder strikes a true and shining chord within us all.

It does seem to me that Jeffrey could do a bit more with the world he has created.  But because I have not yet read the first two books, I wonder if I’m mistaken.  Looks to me like I only have one way to find out just how far Jeffrey pushes the limits throughout his world.

No matter the reader’s age, Raven’s Ladder will provide an engaging adventure that will, if the adventurer allows, bring new colors to their life.  I’m looking forward to seeing even more new colors in the rest of this series.

Here are some direct links for the book and author:

Raven’s Ladder http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1400074673
Author Web site and blog – http://lookingcloser.org/category/journal/

And the following are links to other bloggers participating in the CSFFBT of Raven’s Ladder:
Brandon Barr
Rachel Briard (BooksForLife)
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Ryan Heart
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

What Is Life?

We look at life as that which fulfills our souls, things that reach to our deepest of parts.  In doing so we miss the very thing we think we’re looking for.  We miss it because life isn’t about us, it’s about God.

Although life will fulfill our deepest parts, we’ll never find life by attempting to be satisfied.  True satisfaction and fulfillment come as by-products of finding life… by-products of finding God.  May we enjoy this benefit of life, but more importantly, may we truly live!

John 17:3 “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

God be praised!!!

Book Review: Sir Dalton & The Shadow Heart- By Chuck Black

BookI was invited to review “Sir Dalton And The Shadow Heart”.  It’s book three of Chuck Black’s series “The Knights of Arrethrae”.  I haven’t read any of the other books in the series, or any of Chuck’s other books, so I can’t speak to how it fits in the series.  However, I do have some thoughts on this work.

For those who aren’t familiar with the series, Chuck Black provides a Q&A section at the back that teaches outright the spiritual lessons he tries to bring out in his story.  Each chapter has a set of questions that ask the reader to reflect upon their own life and upon the truth of God.  It felt to me like it would be best used by a group doing lessons together over a period of time.

That’s not a very exciting setup for a book.  And when I first started reading Sir Dalton’s tale, I really wasn’t into it.  It seemed like a generic story forced into the form of a lesson.  But with the shortness of the book, and feeling that the author was really trying to do something good here, I read on.

And to my surprise, I found that I was slowly drawn in.  Even though simply reading straight through may have been more entertaining, I stayed faithful to checking the questions after every chapter.  I wanted to experience the book as the author intended.  It’s a good thing too, because at the end of the book I found I really appreciated it as a whole.

I don’t know if it’s just me or what, but the book seemed to really take on life later on.  The characters seemed more alive, I was experiencing the world in a deeper way, and the story became more engaging.  And while many of the book’s elements have been overused by other writers over the years, there were some refreshingly new elements.  Well, we know there’s nothing new underneath the sun, but they were new to me.

As long as one can take the book for what it is, I think it will be enjoyed and appreciated.  I haven’t read anything Chuck himself says about the book, but I have a feeling he didn’t intend for the readers to take it as just a story.  He probably wanted them to use it as an entertaining and engaging way to go deeper in their faith.  Whether he wanted that or not, it’s how I’m going to recommend the book.  Use it with fans of fantasy, who are open to both direct and indirect study.  Go through it, and then lead a group in a study.  If you lead a devoted youth group then I think you could use this book with them.  I imagine it would be great for parents to go through with their younger children.

There’s a need to consider the doctrine of the book, since the author outright declares some things as truths.  Overall, I really appreciate what Chuck wanted to get across.  There are lessons in there that are sorely needed.  I don’t agree with everything he had to say.  I’d encourage readers to look EVERYTHING up in the Bible.  Don’t just take his word for it, and don’t just take my word for it either.  There are a few things he has assumed, which may or may not be right, but make sure you look to what God says in the Bible and have that as your only foundation for truth.

As long as one is willing to trust COMPLETELY in the Bible, this is a good book for them.  If they aren’t, then it’s possible that it may encourage them to reconsider.  Again, just as a work of fiction I don’t think it’s anything grand.  And as just a lesson it’s valuable but not necessarily a “life changing experience”.  But putting it all together it sure seems to me to be worth while and useful.  I’m very glad I finished the book.

Thanks, Chuck Black!

 

Information from the publisher, Multnomah Books…

Summary:

Sir Dalton, a knight in training, seems to have everything going for him. Young, well-liked, and a natural leader, he has earned the respect and admiration of his fellow knights, and especially the beautiful Lady Brynn.

But something is amiss at the training camp. Their new trainer is popular but lacks the passion to inspire them to true service to the King and the Prince. Besides this, the knights are too busy enjoying a season of good times to be concerned with a disturbing report that many of their fellow Knights have mysteriously vanished.

When Sir Dalton is sent on a mission, he encounters strange attacks, especially when he is alone. As his commitment wanes, the attacks grow in intensity until he is captured by Lord Drox, a massive Shadow Warrior. Bruised and beaten, Dalton refuses to submit to evil and initiates a daring escape with only one of two outcomes—life or death. But what will become of the hundreds of knights he’ll leave behind? In a kingdom of peril, Dalton thinks he is on his own, but two faithful friends have not abandoned him, and neither has a strange old hermit who seems to know much about the Prince. But can Dalton face the evil Shadow Warrior again and survive?

Young adults will be inspired to strengthen their faith along with Sir Dalton, as they follow his exciting and action-packed journey to overcome his doubts and renew his commitment to the King and the Prince in this third installment of Chuck Black’s popular Knights of Arrethtrae series.

Author bio.:

authorChuck Black traveled with the Air Force as a communications engineer and F-16 fighter pilot and began a career as a product design engineer. Chuck and his wife, Andrea, homeschool their six children and have a family music ministry that travels throughout the region. He is the author of nine novels, has been published in The Old Schoolhouse e-zine, and has received praise from parents across the country for his unique approach to telling biblical truths. Chuck and his family live in Williston, North Dakota.

But if they don’t like me… John 12

How many times do we shy away from sharing Christ, from spreading light in the darkness, from standing up for The Lord and what’s right, simply because we love praise from men?  And we make up all sorts of excuses.  Among the worst of those reasons is this one… if they don’t like me I won’t be able to evangelise them effectively.

How dare we blame our shortcomings on God.  It’s one thing to honestly misunderstand, but to lazily settle for less and say someone else is to blame… shame on us.

While we must become all things to all men, that does not mean they must like everything we do.  Indeed if they are not a Christian then there will be things they simply won’t like about us.  There’s no getting around that, for the flesh does not like dying to the Spirit.

God did not call us to “Go unto the world and be liked.”  There are enough people who are liked, that’s not what the world is starving for.  God called us to love, and to speak the truth plainly in that love.  He called us to be like Christ.

In our passage, starting in vs. 42, we see that while some denied the plain truth of Christ, others believed.  Even some among the leaders believed!  But they fell short.  They would not confess their belief out of fear.  Fear of being put out of the synagogue.  Fear of losing the praise of men.  They loved that praise, more so than praise from God.

But Jesus encourages them.  He tells them, and indeed us, that those who believe in Christ believe also in the Father.  He tells us that He came to give us light, so we won’t have to remain in the darkness.

Jesus even says that He did not come to judge us.  No, He came to give us life.  Now there is judgment, and it will come by the words Jesus spoke to us.  But those very same words lead to eternal life!  We only need to heed them!  It isn’t God’s goal to cut us off and leave us in darkness.  Quite the opposite!  He came for our good.  And all that He did is for our good.  All that He continues to do is for our good, if we love Him and His calling.

God’s commands lead to true life.  And He has commanded every vessel of His Spirit to go and show the world that there is indeed light.  We need to warn them of the darkness they’re in by showing them that light.  Even if it means they don’t like us.  It’s not their opinion of us that will judge us on that Day, it’s the words of our Saviour.  The Saviour we claim as Lord.

And it’s not their opinion of us that will get them into heaven or hell.  It’s their standing with the Lord.    Are you living for yourself, so that hell will be full of people who like you and were never offended by the light you didn’t bring to their eyes?

You may enjoy your time in the synagogue that is the heart of the lost.  But will it be at the cost of Jesus not coming into their place of worship?  Has it become a place for the worship of you?

But they won’t listen to me if they don’t like me…

I desperately need to be different in this, and I fear I’m not the only one.

Hard Life for the Hard Heart- John 12

Jesus did so much to prove who He was. 

Many people today say that if they could meet Him face to face then surely they’d believe.  I doubt most people who say that, that is those who continue to say such a thing,  have been honest with themselves.  Even people of His time, who saw (in person) real and undeniable MIRACLES, did not to believe in Him. 

Verse 39 says “for this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn- and I would heal them.””

This is not the easiest passage to understand.  It seems to have a lot in common with Pharaoh’sheart being hardened.  Some people try to explain it by saying that God pointed fingers at random and decided who would and would not be capable of believing.  We know that’s a fallacy however, for many reasons.  One reason being that God Himself said through Paul that He “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

The quote in verse 40 of our text is from Isaiah 6:10.  Let’s go there.  God is sending Isaiah unto Israel with a message.  There’s more to it than that, but you’ll have to go back and read it carefully (noting in vs. 9-10 what Isaiah is told to “say” and what he’s told to “do”).  I’m still working on that one myself.  But in response Isaiah asks how long.  God says (to sum it up) until Israel’s cities are destroyed and the Israelites are sent far away.  All of this is because of Israel’s unfaithfulness.

Also quoted in our John text is another passage in Isaiah.  John says it’s a prophecy fulfilled by the people not believing in Jesus.  This quote is from Isaiah 53:1, and again you really should go to it and consider it in relation to our John 12 text.

While I have some ideas about what the entire meaning of this passage in John is, I won’t lay out my speculation here.  I’d hate to lead someone astray.  But what I can say is this…

Every person presented with Christ has a choice to make.  Choose Him and you will live.  You can ask your questions, but do not do so proudly.  You’ve been shown clearly enough that God exists and you have been shown that you have indeed sinned.  God does not expect you to say you believe in Him if you really don’t… He expects you to really believe in Him.  So leave no stone in your heart unturned and throw your all at His feet.  Consider everything with eyes wide open… He will answer you.  And the humble in heart will love His answer.

But a person could also choose to be proud and arrogant.  They could choose to close their ears, and turn their eyes, and harden their hearts.  This is not a correct answer to a math problem that they’re making, it’s a decision of what the answer is regardless of the equation.  It is not a whole hearted honest response, it’s a choice to reject the evidence before them because they want to believe something else.  Such a response may have results you didn’t plan on though.

A warning to any such person is found in John 12:37-50.  Go down this path, just as Pharaoh foolishly did, and you run the danger of having your heart hardened.  This hardening may last until you come to your last breath, in which case you will have ruled out for yourself any possibilityof hearing the truth with your heart.  Or the hardening may last until the false kingdom in your heart is destroyed, and you experience a pain and suffering for which you only have yourself to blame.

Lamentations 3:31-33 says “For men are not cast off by the Lord forever.  Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love.  For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.”  It is not God’s desire to make you suffer.  But He will do it to open your eyes and ears, to soften your heart.  The pain is your own doing, for it would not hurt to tear a thing from you unless you yourself stitched it into your own flesh.

Tear it off He will though, if you dare to let it go.  Better still, believe on Him when He comes to you, and save yourself the heartache of seeing your lie destroyed.  Believe on Him, that He might save you from the wrath to come.

Verse 41 brings up some more interesting thoughts, and again I can’t tell you I have it all figured out.  Likely it’s simply referring to the event described in the beginning of Isaiah 6.  Whether it is speaking of that event or something else, it’s clear that seeing the glory of Christ will change a person.  For better or worse, believe that you will be changed.  And know that you will have to answer for your response to Him.  Don’t chance eternal suffering for the sake of keeping your heart calloused.

Praise God!!!  Believe in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of man!!!