New and Upcoming Books I’m Excited For

We all have favorite authors we follow closely, anticipating their new book releases. It’s especially exciting when a new book in a series releases, and you can finally get resolution to the cliff hanger at the end of the previous book–or, if there was no cliff hanger, spend more time with your favorite characters. I thought it would be fun to share four of the books I’m looking forward to this fall.

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Book Review: Light of the Last

Light of the LastI spent the first half of this book desperately wanting to tell Drew (the main character) that he wasn’t insane, and the second half trying to read fast enough to keep up with the cascade of action. It was a wild ride!

I’m not sure how to classify Light of the Last. Superhero? Spiritual warfare? Political thriller? It’s all three!

Synopsis:
It’s been years since a lab accident resulted in Drew Carter’s visions of alien invaders–his term for the angels and demons he can now see. Now he’s draw the attendtion of the American government. Always a patriot at heart, Drew is excited to serve in the CIA despite the underhanded way he’s drafted into service. His problem is, he doesn’t know who he can trust. When a psyciatric exam tells him his visions are conjured by his subconscious, he doesn’t even trust himself. Drew is isolated from his family and the girl he loves, and he’s coming undone.

Meanwhile the force of angels tasked with protecting Drew is locked in the battle of the ages. Apollyon is loosing the forces of darkness in a desperate attempt to prevent the salvation of one man. Validus and his team must hold nothing back. The fate of the world is in the balance.

My Thoughts:
I love the lead characters in this series. Drew is a  quintessential hero–sincere, self-sacrificing, devoted, and just proud and broken enough to make you fully invested in reading to find a happy ending. Besides, what Christian Marvel fan wouldn’t get excited about a superhero story (complete with a Jarvis-like computer) with a spiritual warfare twist? However, I’m not going say more because you need to read it for yourself. Go back to book one, push through the first 50 pages (which I found boring), and enjoy the journey. 🙂

What Has My Attention

I enjoy seeing what other people are looking at and reading. With so much content produced on the internet every week, it’s nice to get curated lists of what people I trust have found valuable. So, I thought I might try to occasionally share my own list with you all! Let me know if you do or don’t like this new feature.

  • The Generosity Factor by Ken Blanchard. Don’t give to get. Get to give!
  • The Secret to Becoming an Expert Listener. This is a fabulous blog post on the art of listening well. As a talkative person, remembering to listen (and listen well) is something I can always use a reminder about!
  • The Family: Together in the Presence of GodNoel Piper (wife of John Piper) wrote this inspiring article on family togetherness during corporate worship. Hopefully I’m not the only single girl on here who enjoys reading parenting articles!
  • A Tribute to PrimroseIt’s no secret that I love adoption. This blog post about a baby’s first birthday with a family of her own made me cry.
  • How 5 Minutes Can Change Someone’s LifeEncouraging reminder about the power of little things.
  • Sermon NotesA graphic designer friend of mine and I have begun collaborating to make sermon graphics for my church.

What has your attention this week?

Author Interview: Steve Rzasa

Steve Rzasa Back in November, I reviewed two sci-fi novels, The Word Reclaimed and The Word UnleashedAuthor Steve Rzasa was kind enough to answer a few questions for an author interview. Enjoy!

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Welcome to Leah’s Bookshelf, Steve! Why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself? 

Steve Rzasa here. I’m a librarian and recovering journalist, educated at Boston University and a native of New Jersey—more specifically, the region we natives call “South Jersey.” It matters. I’ve lived there, Massachusetts, Maine, and my current locale of Wyoming. My wife is a teacher and we have two boys in middle school grades. Those boys are my biggest fans and when I come out with a new book, they’re ready to read. Does a dad’s heart good.

 

What do you write, why do you write it, and what inspires you?

I primarily write science-fiction, though I’ve also written steampunk, fantasy, and a superhero novel (the latter of which has yet to be finished). These genres all appeal to me because of their fantastical qualities. They make people dream, and exercise the imagination to the max. Most of my inspiration comes from history. There’s so many stories you can adapt from historical accounts and figures that it boggles the mind. I also draw inspiration from the real science advances these days.

Of course, with all my books, I try to touch on Biblical themes and the sovereignty of God. That is a vital theme that you can expect to find in all my work, whether blatant or subtle. Reader be warned.

 

What kind of research did you do while creating the world and tech of the Face of the Deep series? What are some neat facts you learned and how did you find out about them?

Ironically, most of my research was old-school. I read current and back issues of Popular Science and Popular Mechanics to glean near-future technologies and expand on ideas there into far-future concepts. For the Realm of Five, I played around with some historical governments and did my best to adapt that to a spacefaring confederacy/kingdom. One neat fact I learned was the existence of experimental plastics that, when electrical currents are applied, expand into a hardened shape. That formed the aerowings used by the Starkweather Lancers.

 

If Baden had to chose an alias, what would it be?

Given his sense of humor and newfound appreciation for the written Word, I’d say “Bill Tyndale,” in honor of the original Bible smuggler.

 

I know you have at least one cool new book in the works. Tell us about what you’re working on now and what we should be looking to add to our bookshelves in the future. 🙂

The real question is, what haven’t I been working on? Let’s see: I finished my rough draft of The Word Endangered, the follow-up in The Face of the Deep that continues the adventure 10 years later in the same story universe. Enclave Publishing will release it in July. I’m also self-publishing a novel tentatively titled For Us Humans, which is an alternate modern day of Earth occupied by aliens. There’s another sci-fi project I’m beginning this winter which is top secret, for now, but should be out in early spring. Add to that some short story plans and another book idea I started on a couple weeks ago, and it adds up to a very busy—but happy!—writer.

P.S. Steve gave me some inside info that he’s signed the contract for The Word Endangered to be published by Enclave Publishing in July 2016 and turned it over to an editor.

Thanks for the interview, Steve! 

Do you have any questions for Mr. Rzasa?

What I Learned from Steve Rzasa’s Novel, The Word Unleashed

Word Unleashed, ThePlease refer to my review of, The Word Reclaimed.

What makes a book a hero level story to you? There are two things for me. The first is a superb writing skill. Some writers have an uncanny knack for crafting achingly real characters or plot twists that physically raise your heart rate. I give those books five star rating on Facebook and Amazon. But the second characteristic that makes a story “hero level” to me is even more important. Stories that teach me something. I don’t mean a wonderful non-fiction book (though there are a bunch of hero level non-fiction books) or a heavy-handed message in a novel. I’m talking about writers who may or may not have astounding ability in the technical aspects of story but can bleed pieces of their heart, inspiration, and life mission into the fabric of their stories.

Steve Rzasa’s books, The World Reclaimed and The Word Unleashed impressed an encouraging reminder upon me. The books are space odysseys that pulled me into the struggles of the characters, led me through more world-building detail than I personally care for, and left me with something far less fictional.

God Is Sovereign

No kidding, Leah. I hope you already knew that! Don’t worry, I know and have known for most of my life that God is sovereign. These books just drove the lesson home a little further. They shed light on the truth from a slightly different angle.

One of my personal favorite characters was a guy named Jason–a man charged with protecting antiqued copies of God’s word from destruction at the hands of Kesek. He anxiously watches Baden–the main character–carry an old copy of the Bible into dangerous situations. He urges Baden to take care, saying the precious Bible is not something to be carelessly waved around. As time goes on, Jason begins to recognize God’s hand at work.

“I feared the loss of Scripture and all it represented.” Jason’s breathing grew shallower. “The fear that there would be no evidence of Christianity beyond memories and scattered teachings consumed me. That is why I and the Seventy hid the relics we found.”

“But they do have to be protected.”

“Yes!” Jason coughed. Flecks of blood speckled his pants. Gail held out the subdermal spray but he waved it off. “They need protection, but not seclusion. Baden, you had with you the greatest gift God could give man, but now it’s gone. I should not have made you conceal it.”

Tears burned Baden’s eyes. “Hey, it’s all right. [Spoilers edited out] That’s what Jesus wanted, right? For everyone to hear.”

Jason’s expression brightened for a moment. “You have more courage than I.” He clapped Baden’s shoulder. [Spoiler] “The Lord will always protect his word. [Spoiler] With or without us.”

I’m like Jason–a worrier. I’m fearful. Concern for family members and friends, orphans and world catastrophes sometime fill my mind and put a cloud over the brightness of God’s omnipotence. I’ll tell you some inside information. No matter how much time I spend worrying, my anxiety changes nothing (Luke 12:22-32).

Conclusion

My brother likes to repeat the quote, “When you see God panic, that’s a good time for you to panic too.” These books reminded me of that. Characters who were not seeking God and were not influenced by Christians stumbled across God’s word and were changed by it’s power. Jason had to learn to trust God in troubling situations.

I was reminded through the emotional impact of story that it’s not up to me to fix the world’s problems, get people saved, or put them on the right track. I can only follow God’s commands and pray to be His tool as He heals the wounded, saves the lost, and guides His followers along the path He set for them.

What have you learned from the books you’ve read lately?

Book Review: The Word Reclaimed

Word Reclaimed, TheCounted Worthy meets Ender’s Game in this epic intergalactic tale tale built on a solidly Christian foundation.

My brother read this book before I did and promptly insisted that it should rise to the top of my to-read list. “It’s just like Counted Worthy,” he said, “but with more sci-fi elements.” He was right. Steve Rzasa’s space odyssey depicts a society where Christians desperately cling to the last fragmented antiques of God’s word. Many of those struggling to remain faithful have only faint memories of the gospel they wish to live by. The military division dedicated to suppressing religion is growing in strength, forcing those who mistrust it to formulate drastic plans. Just in case.

Unlike Counted Worthy, the main characters of The Word Reclaimed are not Christians. They live in a world where Christ followers are rare, God’s word is rarer, and religion–though officially tolerated–is a dangerous stigma. Nevertheless, a chance discovery and treachery that threatens everything they know will bring surprises and revelations to everyone.

If you enjoy meticulously crafted fictional worlds, tactical details, and a strong Christian message, this book will be an immediate favorite.

Book Review: Rise of the Fallen

Rise of the Fallen

Remember the face of evil, my brothers, and never forget the price the righteous will pay because if it.

Two years ago, my brother and I met Chuck Black at a homeschool conference. We were thrilled when he told us he was working on a new series. When the first book, Cloak of the Light, released, we pounced on it. It turned out to be a totally unique story delving into the world of spiritual warfare. My brother describes it as “Spiderman meets Frank Peretti.” It’s an apt description, and Rise of the Fallen is no less unique.

Instead of continuing the tale begun in Cloak of the Light in a chronological manner, Rise of the Fallen switches point-of-view-characters and jumps back in time. We now get to view Drew’s story (and the history of the world) from the perspective of the angel assigned to protect Drew.

While Chuck Black’s writing style/technique is not nearly as polished as some other writers, he’s a superb story teller who knows how to weave Truth into his narrative with rare power. I put the book down not just with the satisfied feeling of finishing a good book, but also with a renewed appreciation of certain Bible events and an inward challenge to improve my prayer life. I love it when fictional books leave me feeling challenged but not hit over the head with a sledgehammer by the author’s “message.”

That said, some readers may be annoyed by the construction of this book. Chapters alternate between past and present. The “past” chapters work their way through Bible history, and are relatively basic in their narration. It didn’t bother me because I found it fascinating to “see” the events through such a unique perspective, but I think some might find it boring.

This is a book I feel very safe recommending to all readers old enough to handle intense battles where deaths are not glossed over. Readers sensitive to such things should be forewarned that there are two brief but heartbreaking scenes depicting the slaughter of the children of Jerusalem following Jesus’ birth and the death of a mother and child in the Sobibor concentration camp.

Rise of the Fallen kept me up till 1am to finish the book, and I can’t wait to read book three!

Free Book Alert

On a different subject, homeschooled author Sarah Holman is offering her short story, Cinderella retelling free on Kindle today (and for the next few days). Waltz into the Waves is a sweet little quick read (28 pages) that weaves a tale about a girl whose beauty is marred and her betrothed who chooses to love her anyway.

 

Book Review: The Dragon of London

Dragon of London

“He offered to help me,” Floyd said. “And I am so desperate for help that I actually considered his offer.”

Jeffrey Floyd, defender of the earth, is back and faces more challenges than ever. The brash, smart-alec face he shows the world is only a thin veil over his inner turmoil. Afraid to love and unwilling to confide in the few friends he has, he fights his demons alone–all while continuing to battle the supervillain outbreak. A new string of mysterious but linked robberies seem to point to a new threat. When the dragon of London offers to help Floyd and give him relief, Floyd knows better than to trust him. But at the same time, he hesitates to kill the one creature who seems to understand.

This story was an interesting addition to Katie Lynn Daniels’ series. The light hearted, slightly inane Floyd has disappeared, and so have the comic bookish villains. In this book, the dragon is a creepy reminder that evil can portray itself as a beacon of light. But actions speak louder than words, and the dragon’s actions show his true nature. Floyd too has a lot to learn about trust, friendship, good and evil, and life in general. I’m curious to see how his struggles and triumphs will continue to develop.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, you can check out my review of Supervillain of the Day, book one of the series.

Book Review: Machiavellian

MachiavellianBetween the release of Counted Worthy, working on a new book, and the holiday season, my reading progress has been reduced to a crawl. You’ve probably noticed that the book reviews have been lacking the past few weeks. But, I finally finished something! J. Grace Pennington was kind enough to give me a free copy of her latest release in exchange for an honest review. So here it is.

In this book, Andi’s sympathies from the previous book are dragged into another adventure. When the Surveyor picks up some extra passengers, the get more than they bargained for. The trouble is, the heroes and villains seem as entangled and undecipherable as the motives and goals. As the line between right and wrong seems to blur, Andi struggles to discover the truth before more people get hurt.

This story leaves the humanistic tendencies of science fiction no where to be seen and quite un-missed. The Christian worldviews and morals of the author and her characters weave into the story without ever becoming preachy. This series keeps getting better along with the author’s improving writing prowess. I can’t wait to see what will come next.