Grasping God's Word is a mammoth of a book. It's used as a textbook for seminarians and other students of the bible. Me, I'm just a Sunday School teacGrasping God's Word is a mammoth of a book. It's used as a textbook for seminarians and other students of the bible. Me, I'm just a Sunday School teacher and a lover of the Word. So why did I read it? I was looking around on NetGalley and found an ARC for it. I thought it could be helpful for Sunday School, sent the request to Zondervan, and soon I had the ARC on my Kindle.
On the down side, I've rarely had good luck with sending ARCs to my Kindle via NetGalley. Most of the time, the things are shoddy and formatted to a point where I either can't read at all or I would have to exude great effort to do so. This is to be expected some, as the books are ARCs, but they still need to be read-able. In this case, Grasping God's Word is read-able, but there are plenty of graphics that are impossible to decipher. Also, quotes and footnotes don't display correctly.
Besides this, and this stuff really won't affect the final product, I rather enjoyed Duvall and Hays' textbook. Up front, I didn't read the entire thing, but I did read a large chunk of it. For Sunday School my class is doing a "how to read and study the bible" study. Through this we are going through the various types of books (poetry, prophecy, epistles, etc.) found in the bible, and this book is a perfect tool for what my class is doing. I read the first few introductory chapters, setting up the book and how to use it.
I like the authors approach to interpreting scripture. Imagine a biblical city, all walled and dusty. There's a river flowing next to the city. On the other side is a modern city, skyscrapers and all. Connecting these two cities is a bridge. The method describes taking the message from the bible (a la the old city) and applying it to life (a la the new city). Doing this requires understanding the culture of the Old, crossing the bridge, and understanding the New. (There's more to it than that, but this is a simplified preview.)
In particular I enjoyed the chapter on epistles. It was very informative of how letters worked back in biblical times, how Paul's letters are much, much longer than an average letter of the times, and how letters were written, going so far as to break down the mechanics and structure. I personally feign interest in most of history, but this stuff was kind of interesting.
Overall, I felt that Duvall and Hays offer a great resource for reading and understanding the bible. They are passionate about correct interpretation, and they stress context very seriously. There are many different methods for reading and interpreting Scripture, and Grasping God's Word offers tools for applying the bible to our own lives. While the book goes through a somewhat repetitive approach, if you're in any way interested in getting a little deeper in the Word, then it is still a book I'd recommend checking out.
FTC Thingy: Zondervan graciously supplied me with an Advanced Readers Copy of this book. I wasn't even obligated to right a review, but I enjoy this sort of thing, so I did. I also enjoy cookies and milk, or just cookies, too, though I did not receive any of these along with my book. Such is life....more
Please read this review. Do not discard it simply because you are unfamiliar with the book or with the message it might have. If you're reading this sPlease read this review. Do not discard it simply because you are unfamiliar with the book or with the message it might have. If you're reading this sentence, then please read this review. A life literally depends on it. Thank you. -------
The words "life changing" are pretty much cliched now, their meaning no longer to be taken at face value. Perhaps that's endemic of our American tendencies to abuse hyperbole. But when I think back on Richard Stearns' oh-so-relevant book The Hole in Our Gospel, those two overused words immediately rise to the top.
"If Jesus was willing to die for this troubled planet, maybe I need to care about it too." (Pg. 2)
Richard Stearns is the president of World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization with the goals of "working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God." I've had a relationship with World Vision for five years now through the child sponsorship program. (I liked how 86% of donations went directly to the mission.) Stearns has served at this post for fourteen years now. Prior to that he lived a life of luxury, working as the CEO for luxury kitchen company Lenox, making six-figures and achieving the "American Dream," overcoming his relatively poor childhood and finding success through hard work and perseverance.
The Hole in Our Gospel is part autobiographical, part field guide to get involved and help change the world. Stearns writes candidly of his struggle to uproot and take on the new position at World Vision. He admitted several times that he had no interest in doing anything like that, that he was comfortable with his life and was satisfied. But what really shines is Stearns' passion to motivate others--people like you and me--to get involved in the world, to plug in and help those who are so desperately in need of help. His appeal is from a Christ-like attitude, but I suspect that even non-believers support Stearns opinions.
"If we are to be part of this coming kingdom, God expects our lives--our churches and faith communities too--to be characterized by these authentic signs of our own transformations: compassion, mercy, justice, and love--demonstrated tangibly." (Pg. 57)
There is so much that I could talk about from this book that I don't know where to begin. On one hand I fear that I would cheapen the experience of reading the book, as Stearns takes twenty-six chapters to expound the various issues raised. My single weblog post would be nothing. On the other hand I so want to share this book with you. I made so many highlights and underlines that my book looks rather abused, and picking out what to share was not the easiest task. Additionally, removing a quote from its context loses some meaning.
The Hole in Our Gospel was published in 2009. As such, the statistics are slightly out of date, but still very close to true, I'd wager. I'm thankful Stearns includes a comprehensive index for footnotes, giving sources to the statistics he shares. Many times I would flip to the back to see where the data came from. Unfortunately, most of the statistics shared are punches to the gut. Just think, 3.6 billion people, 55% of the world's population, live on less than $2 per day. Americans, approximately 4.5% of the world's people, live on $105 per day. I'm blinded to how much I actually have, how much I actually waste. It's sickening.
"More than 26,500 children died yesterday of preventable causes related to their poverty, and it will happen again today and tomorrow and the day after that." (Pg. 107)
"It is estimated that a child dies every five seconds from hunger-related causes." (Pg. 135)
"A child dies every fifteen seconds of a waterborne disease." (Pg. 138)
"93% of the world's people don't own a car" (Pg. 216)
I don't know about you, but reading stuff like that is truly devastating. Stearns presents a lot of this information in a chapter titled "One Hundred Crashing Jetliners." In short, if one hundred jetliners crashed today, killing 26,500 people, imagine the chaos that would ensue. People would be in pure pandemonium, afraid to fly and fervent in fixing the problem. Stearns then asks the question why 26,500 kids can (and do) die every day and receive little to no media coverage, no public outrage, no government interference. His conclusion,
"If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we simply have less empathy for people of other cultures living in faraway countries than we do for Americans." (Pg. 107)
That hurts. Badly. A few pages later, at the end of the chapter, I wrote in my margin "is my sadness enough to drive me to do something about this?" I'm wrestling with that thought right now. How can I live with myself knowing how much I'm doing to combat this kind of thing?
"Here is the bottom line: if we are aware of the suffering of our distant neighbors--and we are--if we have access to these neighbors, either personally or through aid organizations and charities--and we do--and if we have the ability to make a difference through programs and technologies that work--which is also the case--then we should no more turn our backs on these neighbors of ours than the priest and the Levite should have walked by the bleeding man." (Pg. 104)
The beauty and uplifting news of The Hole in Our Gospel is that there is hope, that the problems of the world are not insurmountable. It's easy to see the massive problem that exists, and thinking of it as one large mountain makes the task impossible. Stearns argument, though, is that the world changes through each individual. We're not called to change the world, but to love our neighbors. Jesus invested in people to institute His church and the Kingdom; we, his followers, should do likewise. With this mindset, changing a person in order to change the world, things become more manageable.
"Christ is an all-or-nothing proposition, and one way or another, every one of us has already made a choice about Him. We have either committed our lives to Him whole-heartedly, or we have not." (Pg. 83)
"This has always been a problem with God's people; we tend to drift away from God's bold vision, replacing it with a safer, tamer version of our own." (Pg. 183)
Richard Stearns book is powerful. The Hole in Our Gospel sheds light on global issues of suffering that I was not even aware existed. I lived obliviously, unenlightened, but no longer. Now there is something burning within me that's longing to do something, longing to take a stand against the status quo and the American Dream, to rise from my stupor and my good life and actually make a difference. I began mapping out my next step, thinking of ways to spread awareness and also do a little good. (You can see the current plan here if you're interested.) I won't change the world, no, but to the ones I do help, I will change their's. And you can too.
"If you think you are too small to make a difference, try spending the night in a closed room with a mosquito." -African proverb (Pg. 250)
Christopher Priestley's Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror is the kind of book that begs to be read aloud, with a British accent, and in the dark of nigChristopher Priestley's Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror is the kind of book that begs to be read aloud, with a British accent, and in the dark of night sitting next to a roaring fire while an unnatural storm brews outside. This book is an anthology of ghost stories and cautionary tales, all told by the mysterious Uncle Montague to a rather dimwitted nephew, Edgar. Most leave you with a crooked smile after finishing.
Uncle Montague's home is filled with odd collectibles. An old brass telescope. A gilt frame. A small Indian ink drawing that may or may not move. These and more all have a story to tell, and not a one of them is happy. In fact, the words "ghastly" and "terrible" came to mind more than once.
Uncle Montague tells Edward ten tales over the course of the evening. All take place within the frame of Edward and Montague reclining near a fire place in Montague's moody home. Noises break into the frame, setting the stage for something else that may exist outside of the stories. Most of the tales feature young children as their protagonists, and because of this, the horrifying aspects of Montague's tales is multiplied.
Enhancing the book and each story is illustrations in the style of Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies. In fact, the stories read as if they were directly inspired and lifted from one of Gorey's panels. David Roberts, however, is the illustrator for the book, and his work is so memorable that I can scarcely think about Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror without thinking of the delightful illustrations.
It's hard to pick a favorite story here, as all were great for one reason or another. I particularly enjoyed the ones below.
"The Demon Bench End" is truly horrible. Young Thomas Haynes is not really a very good boy. For all appearances he is, but truthfully, he's just as bad as anyone else. After a fateful street side encounter with a tinker, Thomas's life forever changes. Largely neglected by his father, Thomas stands idly by while his father and the tinker haggle. Eventually the family parts from the riffraff, but Thomas does not forget what he saw. For the tinker had something Thomas wants terribly bad, and he'll stop at nothing to get it.
"Winter Pruning" is one of the more twisted tales of Uncle Montague's. It's a very traditional child's story. There is an old blind witch that lives miserly at the top of a hill. All day long Old Mother Tallow stands out in her yard pruning her trees, mending the apples. Simon Hawkins, another young rapscallion if ever there was one, decides to sneak into Old Mother Tallow's house one day while she's outside. The witch is supposed to be rich, after all, and he was sick of stealing pennies from his mother's purse. One big score would be all he'd need.
"A Ghost Story" was probably the most lighthearted of the tales, and that could be partially why I liked it so much. Little Victoria Harcourt begrudgingly attends a family wedding, a horrible affair where rain and wind ruins the day. Victoria is mostly scorned by the other girls, and when her most loathsome of cousins Emily begins telling a ghost story, Victoria is almost ready to abandon all pretense of wanting to fit in. I don't want to say much about this story, but I did enjoy it immensely. I smiled like a baboon at the end.
In the end, every story in Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror was exactly what I was looking for. While some are better than others, all are perversely wicked. One can't help but feel a trifle ashamed at the outcomes of these tales, for smiling at the often demise of children. Priestley's stories fit into the vein of the Brothers Grimm, though not as fantastical or folky. There are lessons to be learned beneath these stories, making it a perfect book for adolescents and teens. Even so, Priestley offered a memorable book that's quick to read and perfect for when the Halloween mood strikes. I'll be adding the other installments, Tales of Terror from the Black Ship and Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth, to my TBR now....more
“Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?”
Conor is a young lad with far too many “Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?”
Conor is a young lad with far too many problems on his plate. He wakes nearly every night from a recurring nightmare that is too horrible for him to think about. He’s picked on by a trio of bullies at school. His home life—living with a single mom whom he loves dearly—is fraught with A Big Problem. And to make matters even more complicated, a monster shows up outside his house one night at seven minutes after midnight, calling for him.
Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls is definitely one of the most heart-wrenching books I’ve ever read. The book tackles a serious subject matter—cancer—in a way unlike anything I’ve ever encountered before. Conor’s monster, a wicked and spiny thing straight from the Wilds, is a vivid beast with an attitude that dares not be trifled with. A tentative deal is struck between Conor and the monster: the monster will tell Conor three stories and then Conor will tell the monster the truth about his nightmare.
This is the basic premise of A Monster Calls. The book is a short, gorgeous thing, filled with illustrations that pull the eyes in for long moments. The plot is simple, and yet it is not shallow. The stories from the monster are great to think on, for both the Reader and for Conor. They’re fantastic cautionary tales worth the read alone.
I confess that the artwork was enough to pull me into this read. The detail is wild, easily finding a home in the realm of dream. Jim Kay, the illustrator, has created several wonderful works of art for this book. They all fit the tone of the scenes for which they're drawn. The style reminds me of stuff from the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, only more sketch like. And, perhaps because of the story, I'm also reminded of Where the Wild Things Are.
One cannot help but feel an overwhelming dread shortly after starting the book. With each page turned the dread grows thicker, the fate more and more certain. As I finished up the last several pages I read quickly, hoping to pass the deep punches to the gut unscathed. I did not. I closed the book and sighed heavily. I believe I told Keisha something like, “Oh my gosh I feel like bawling.” Why do you want to read something like that? she asked. “Because the emotions make me feel alive.” (Yes, I'm a dork.)
And they do. And that’s exactly why I recommend Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls. That's the whole reason to read, is it not? To feel something? Ness's words, along with Kay's illustrations, pierced me.
This book is a great tool for anyone who is losing a loved one to cancer, but one's circumstances need not be so cursed to get something from the novel. I'm of the opinion that we all need to read something from time to time that makes us appreciate life a little more, that makes us pay attention to those that are hurting around us, that makes us thankful for what we have. A Monster Calls does just that. It's not an easy book to read, in terms of emotional impact, but it is a rewarding book. It is enjoyable. It is beautiful. It is tragic.
If you’ve got a few hours (probably around two-ish) to spare and are itching for some quasi-Realism, then look no further than A Monster Calls. Wow. That should do it....more
My relationship with Stephen King is limited. I've read the entire Dark Tower series, and enjoyed it very much. Back in high school I read The Green MMy relationship with Stephen King is limited. I've read the entire Dark Tower series, and enjoyed it very much. Back in high school I read The Green Mile and a short story collection titled Everything's Eventual. I think that's about it. I've had The Stand on my TBR for a good while, but I've never managed to crack it open. So when I received Just After Sunset from my sister last year on a loan, I placed it on my shelf and figured I'd get to it whenever I did. As it turns out, it was sooner than later.
Just After Sunset is King's fifth collection of short stories. There are thirteen stories within, which seems appropriate given the subject matter. I figured the pieces would be horror, but most of them came across as suspenseful or eerie to me, and not a one crossed the line into horror. Okay, maybe one or two, depending on what gives you the willies.
As I did in my review of Neil Gaiman & Al Sarrantonio's Stories, I've written a brief review/preview of each story. (Actually, these are my unedited notes I took after I finished a story.) At the end of each mini-review I've given a rating based on the GoodReads scale. I've boldfaced the stories that I would recommend.
"Willa" - This is a beautiful little piece is about a man named David and his fiance Willa. David and Willa are in a group of passengers waiting for an Amtrak train to come and pick them up from a layover in a sleepy little town in Wyoming. It's late, the train should be there soon, and David notices that Willa is missing. He sets out to find her, only to discover something else entirely. 3.5-stars
"The Gingerbread Girl" - After Emily and Henry's daughter dies in her crib, the couple begins to drift apart. Emily takes up running, to an obsessive degree. Eventually the two separate, and Emily heads to the Gulf of Mexico, to stay at her dad's tiny conch shack while she clears her head. She keeps up her running, more and more each day, until one day she notices what looks like a dead body in the trunk of a neighbors car. This is a pretty standard abduction/escape story that, while exciting, was rather dull and uninspired. It was difficult to read, too, considering I currently have a daughter that's sleeping in her own crib now. 2-stars
"Harvey's Dream" - Janet and Harvey have been married for many years. She's grown rather dissatisfied with life and her husband. As she's looking at his pasty white legs at the breakfast table one morning, Harvey tells her about his strange dream from last night. What follows is uninspired and mostly boring. 2-stars
"Rest Stop" - John Dikestre is a writer working on a new story. At a rest stop late one night, he encounters a man abusing his wife/girlfriend, and John muses whether or not he should interfere. 2.5-stars
"Stationary Bike" - Richard Sifkits, widower and artist, has just been told by Dr. Brady that his cholesterol needs to go down. Dr. Brady gives Richard "the speech" about aging and fats, and eventually Richard decides to buy a stationary bike. At first, riding fifteen minutes was a chore, but as time goes by, Richard has to set alarms to remind himself to get off. For when Richard Sifkit's is on the bike, his mind takes him places that may or may not really exist. 3-stars
"Graduation Afternoon" - Very forgettable and kind of boring. Seems to be written with 9/11 in mind, possibly? About a girl getting ready for a graduation party, planning her future and that of her dull but wealthy boyfriend. 1-star
"The Things They Left Behind" - Scott survived 9/11, but he has horrible secrets, horrible memories, horrible dreams, horrible visions. He skipped out on working that day, and everyone in his company died but two. Scott Steely is a man with survivors guilt and a box full of things that were left behind by the victims: a conch shell, a lucite cube, a mushroom, a whoopee cushion, and some sunglasses. Their arrival is a mystery, and he finds that he cannot get rid of them. This story was wonderfully written and reflective, even if slightly vulgar. 4-stars
"N." - Can a story get inside your head and change you? Can you believe the words of an OCD madman? Psychiatrist Dr. John Bonsaint recounts his testimony and experience with a delusional patient referred to as N. This story is a framed story, where Sheila, John's sister, writes to a childhood friend of John's about the doctor's recent suicide. After his death, John's patient notes were discovered marked with "BURN THIS." Sheila's curiosity got the better of her, and what follows is a strange story that is gloomy and haunting. Reminiscent of House of Leaves, this tale is a great descent into madness. 4.5-stars
"The New York Times At Special Discount Rates" - While getting herself together in her bedroom, grief stricken from the death of her husband, James, Annie gets a phone call. When her husband starts speaking on the other end, life takes an upside down turn. This was a short but enjoyable piece. 3.5-stars
"Mute" - Monette recounts a mysterious confession to a priest. This is another frame story, where Monette's wife's infidelity at age 54 has been found out. Not only has she been cheating, but she's also been embezzling. So when Monette picks up a mute and deaf hitchhiker, he finds the perfect companion to vent to. This was quite an intriguing story. Fun. 3.5-stars
"The Cat from Hell" - Halston is an independent hit man. When an aged and wealthy man offers him a hit for $12k, Halston takes it. When the man says that the target is a cat, Halston shrugs, unconcerned. He's killed plenty of men before, never caring about the reasons behind the hits. He figures the cat's just another target like any other. What he finds is something else entirely. This was a short and fun story, albeit bizarre. 3.5-stars
"Ayana" - A narrator tells his story of how he watched his father's miraculous recovery from pancreatic cancer after a small girl kissed him. From then on, the narrator found that he, too, had the gift of healing, and this story recounts some of what he's done over the years. I found this piece kind of odd and out of key with the others, not really seeming to fit. Plus, there was no action, just a very passive memoir like tone of things that had been done. An interesting idea that wasn't developed enough. 2-stars
"A Very Tight Place" - Curtis Johnson has plenty of hard feelings over his neighbor, named TMF for short. TMF had an electric fence, which killed Curtis' dog. Curtis wants recompense and revenge. This story was exceptionally colorful, filled with so much profanity that my eyes bled, and enough vulgarity that I nearly quit the story several times. I wish I had. This story is absolutely disgusting and gross, and I cannot imagine what Stephen King was thinking when he wrote this. I was compelled to keep going just to see how everything would resolve, even if I felt dirty and wanted to throw up. The premise is that Curtis is lured to an abandoned construction site and left to die in a tipped-over portajohn. 1.5-stars -----
As you can see, for the most part, I was around the 2-3.5 range. The arithmetic mean of these stories is 2.8, which is just below the "I Like It" 3-star rating. The three bolded stories are all very good, and I can easily recommend them. In particular, "N." was a delight to read, and "The Things They Left Behind" was one of the most powerful 9/11 stories I've read. I really loved King's take on that day.
If you're looking for some short fiction, Stephen King's Just After Sunset has some gems, but it has some unpolished stones, too. There was potential in a few, and some were just flat out boring. All in all, I liked the read well enough, but I could have liked it better....more
It is no secret that I love Hellboy. With him, Mike Mignola crafted a remarkable character, one infused with religion and folklore, mad Nazi science,It is no secret that I love Hellboy. With him, Mike Mignola crafted a remarkable character, one infused with religion and folklore, mad Nazi science, a sense of humor, and genuine concern for his pals. His pals--Abe Sapien, Roger the Homunculus, and Liz Sherman--all work for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD). Well, up until Hellboy called it quits.
B.P.R.D.: Hollow Earth and Other Stories, is the story of the Bureau after Hellboy leaves. It was he who held the group together, and his absence left a large hole in his friends and coworkers. This arc begins with Liz Sherman, a firestarting pyrokinetic, leaving the Bureau and setting off to find some peace. While gone, Abe is ready to quit, along with Roger. It's here that field commander Kate Corrigan (no super powers, just lots of folkloric knowledge) introduces the newest member of the team: Johann Kraus. Kraus was a real-deal psychic medium who had the unfortunate accident of having his body die while he was in the spiritual realm. As such, he embodies a special suit and has no physical features.
One night, Abe receives a distress call from Liz, pleading for help and rescue. Soon, the group is heading off to find her, sparing no expense to rescue her.
Hollow Earth and Other Stories lacks the pizzazz Hellboy had for me upon first reading it, but it nevertheless packs a great tale in its pages. The writing and illustrations are excellent, fitting perfectly into Mignola's strange universe. The "Other Stories" bit is like they are with Hellboy, being one-shots or so of character side tales, things that are important to development, just not the overarching arc.
Mignola knows how to write characters, and the BPRD employs some excellent ones. The dynamics between them all are real. You feel for the team as they miss Hellboy. You're mad for them. Glad for them. Laugh with them. The team works well together, as a function and for the Reader, and there's not a poor character in the lot.
I've already got the next two tpbs, and I have faith that Mignola will make this series as special to me as Hellboy. Hollow Earth and Other Stories is a good introduction to the comics, and well worth the read for any Mignola fan....more
Volume 2 continues the run of one-shots and off-stories. No major arc (at least not one I've seen) has appeared. Still, these stories establish the chVolume 2 continues the run of one-shots and off-stories. No major arc (at least not one I've seen) has appeared. Still, these stories establish the characters with the Reader, and we get to see more into their personalities.
"Soul of Venice" is the opening tale, and it's a very Hellboy-ish story. BPRD is called to Venice to investigate something mysterious. Abe remarks that the water smells funny. A goddess shows up. It's a classic Mignola tale, and it's a lot of fun.
"There's a Monster Under My Bed" is short, sweet, and fun, though it lacks much of an impact. The art was great in this story.
"Dark Waters" is set in New England, where townsfolk unearth three perfectly preserved bodies that are several hundred years old. This tale was beautifully illustrated, too, and probably my favorite in the TPB.
"Night Train" has Lobster Johnson. This seemed liked another classic Hellboy tale, with Nazis and scientists and whatnot. I'm a Lobster fan, so this was fun.
"Another Day in the Office" was predictable from the onset, but still fun but lacking much depth. This was written by Mignola himself, for what it's worth.
It seems like B.P.R.D. is still getting its feet. The art and stories are entertaining, and there is occasional emotional impact, just not up to the levels I'm expecting. Volume 3 starts the major arc, I believe, so we'll see where it goes. Overall, The Soul of Venice and Other Stories is still setting the stage for what's to come with B.P.R.D.....more
When I first read Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, I knew I'd read something special. Mike Mignola was telling a lofty story, something grandiose and magWhen I first read Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, I knew I'd read something special. Mike Mignola was telling a lofty story, something grandiose and magnificent. Part of the reason I liked Seed of Destruction so much was Hellboy, yes, but also his friends in the BPRD. In particular, and I think I'm not alone here, Abe Sapien.
With BPRD: Plague of Frogs, we finally see the full scale arc Mignola has been envisioning. Seed of Destruction and Plague of Frogs are inter-connected and work well with one another. Whereas Hellboy makes no appearance in this third volume of the BPRD run, Readers do get to see more of Abe, Liz, Roger, and the rest.
Plague of Frogs sets an apocalyptic tone, as most Mignola things tend to do, and it works well, especially with events from Hellboy in mind. The BPRD is sent to a science lab where something disastrous happened, something related to Rasputin and Nazis and Old Gods. Plus, Mignola is the chief writer with this run.
What follows is a fast-paced run involving cults and frogs, simply put, but definitely much deeper than that. We get to see some of Abe's origin, which was incredibly entertaining and leaving this Reader with thoughts aplenty on the implications of it.
BPRD really hits its stride with this book, establishing an arc that will span several comics to bring to a fitting conclusion. I'm not sure what the future holds for the Bureau, but I'm definitely going to find out....more
Michael J. Sullivan was/is a self-published author who was so successful at his craft that a traditional pub(A SPOILER FREE Review of the Full Series)
Michael J. Sullivan was/is a self-published author who was so successful at his craft that a traditional publishing house (Orbit) bought up his books and re-issued them. These six books were split into three omnibuses. The Riyria Revelations tells a spectacular story that is instantly familiar and yet completely different. In The Crown Conspiracy, the Reader is introduced to a duo of thieves—Royce Melbourn and Hadrian Blackwater—who are hired to steal a sword from an impenetrable fortress. Little did they know that this action would set off a series of events that would change the course of the world. Along the way they meet princesses, warlords, pirates, monks, magicians, and all sorts of colorful characters.
Indeed, characterization is but one of the strengths of the series. Royce and Hadrian are complex characters, thieves of renown who are exceptional at what they do. They each have a rich history that slowly comes to light over the course of the novels, and I can’t help but think that this is part of the meaning behind the series’ title. The two are simultaneously funny and lethal. Their banter is a joy to read, and their escapades are entertaining.
While character is vital to a good story, plot is integral. Sullivan tells a matter-of-fact story, one that is not filled with flowery language nor is it devoid of life. Each novel is a complete book in itself, satisfying to read without leaving the Reader too dependent upon cliffhangers, etc. There is an over-arching story, of course, and I can’t imagine anyone reading any single book of this set without wanting to read the rest. The books are quick reads and pacing is never slow.
World-building is top notch here. Like Royce and Hadrian, the history of the world grows with each novel. The old empire fell hundreds of years ago, and in its wake several independent kingdoms arose. Imperialists look to rebuild the empire. Nationalists seek democracy. Royalists prefer a monarchy to rule over them. These factions provide plenty of room for conflict, as do the religions that accompany the various peoples.
I’m trying to think of shortcomings but am failing. Michael J. Sullivan’s books are tight stories with intense action and wonderful characters. Tropes appear and disappear, sometimes subverted, sometimes not. The conclusion is breathtaking and exciting.
Do I recommend The Riyria Revelations? Let me put it this way. I let my brother borrow the first volume. He tore through it, and then when he found out that I didn’t (yet) have the second volume (Rise of Empire) he went out to buy it. Instead he wound up with the third (Heir of Novron) because the bookstore was sold out of the second book. I ordered Rise of Empire from Amazon and proceeded to read it. Meanwhile my brother re-read The Crown Conspiracy. He said he “liked it as much—or better—than Patrick Rothfuss.” I gave him the second book and he’s since read each one of them multiple times. That’s some rather high praise for Mr. Sullivan. Praise that’s absolutely worthy.
The Riyria Revelations are safe novels that I can recommend to any person with a passing interest in fantasy fiction. They would be a great place to start for a fledgling reader into genre fiction, but they also are great for old salts, too. I very much look forward to reading more of Michael J. Sullivan’s work. ...more