Book Review: The Compass

The Compass
The Adventures of Niko Monroe
#2
by Tyler Scott Hess

My rating: 2.5 / 5
Genre: Christian fantasy/sci-fi

It’s been a year since Jack’s unexpected adventure in the mind of Niko Monroe some time in the future, with no new rumblings from the map and letters that sucked him in. When new markings appear on the papers, he’s not prepared for what happens next to Niko and his friends, for whom a year has also passed.

Though I enjoyed the book that preceded this one, I had some difficulties with both storylines of book 2. There are basically two different stories being told—that of Jack in present time, hoping to complete a group social studies project in time for Christmas Eve and that of Niko dealing with a future where a specific group of people are heavily persecuted for their beliefs. In the present time, Jack and his friends are 11 years old working on a project where they’re supposed to create a people group complete with culture, language, etc. While it makes some sense for Jack’s glimpses into Niko’s life and the future world to influence his work on this project, it doesn’t influence him in ways that make much of sense to me. In fact, the kids’ discussion of the project doesn’t always make sense to me in general, and they seem to go around in circles a lot. These kids also talk and act far older than 11, and one of them is way too quick to resort to violence in response to even mild joking. Along with some other issues I had, it all led to me feeling really disconnected from this side of the story.

Unfortunately, I also felt pretty disconnected from the other side of the story too. Niko spends all of his time either in prison (sometimes the prison is plush, but it’s still prison) or on the run. But his counterparts spend a lot of time learning, doing, and acting. Then Niko hears about it after the fact in very vague snippets, as they are always hesitant to give him any real information. So the reader doesn’t really know anything either, until things are revealed near the end, which are too little, too late. It all felt a little too contrived to provide suspense, but mostly I just felt left out. And on that note, I was really hoping that the Maiden would not turn out to be who she ended up turning out to be, because it seems too cliche and I don’t really get it.

I think what I was really missing, though, was the “why.” I mentioned in my review of the first book that the beliefs the persecuted people are following is probably meant to be Christianity, but it’s not stated all that clearly. They reference the “King” a lot, but there weren’t even any references to God in this book, while the previous book had at least a few. In fact, the one thing from the previous book that had seemed to be God intervening turns out to have been an act of man! Essentially, the people in this book are being persecuted for not falling in line with the government more than anything else. They even state themselves that what they most want is just to be left alone, to be free. It’s usually a secondary statement that they would also want to share their beliefs with others. But what beliefs? Because I really don’t know what they believe other than that “the King” will guide their paths, even though it seems more like it’s the Maiden who’s been guiding their paths.

As is the case with so many reviews I write, it’s clear that there are plenty of other people who really enjoyed this book, so please be sure to check out their reviews at the link below if the book is of interest to you.

Find out more about The Compass

See what I’m reading next.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Awake & Alive to Truth

Awake & Alive to Truth
by John L. Cooper

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Christian nonfiction

Skillet lead singer John Cooper presents a thoughtful look at today’s culture, both from Christian and secular mindsets. The main focus is on truth–where does truth come from, how do we distort it, and what happens when we let each individual decide what’s true for them? With relativism pervading the society around us, is it any wonder so many are unhappy? Broken? Searching? This book provides some insight.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect with the book. It wasn’t published traditionally, though presumably Skillet’s John Cooper could have gotten a publishing deal if he wanted one. As he put it, “I decided to release this book myself so that I would have the freedom to write something that I believe in and know to be true. I didn’t want to be pressured to write the book that someone else wanted me to write, or to write things that I don’t believe in.” I respect that a lot; he didn’t want to compromise. It seems to be a common theme for him. As a result, it does have typos and errors throughout, but even for someone like me who really picks up on that kind of thing, it isn’t enough to distort the message.

I think that what is within this book could ruffle some feathers, but he doesn’t pull punches or water down what the Bible says. His lays out some hard truths about today’s culture making “love” a god, ignoring parts of the Bible we don’t like, and shying away from God as judge. Depending on where you are in your life, you may find this book unnecessary or too shallow. But if you’re unhappy with the noise and chaos around you and aren’t sure what voices to listen to, this is a great book to pick up. It also has a great message to unbelievers or those undecided about God. The only downside is that this book is not widely available. The only place I know of to buy it is here, and I believe it’s currently out of stock. If you’re interested, though, it’s really worth the wait.

Find out more about Awake & Alive to Truth and Cooper’s band Skillet

See what I’m reading next.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Weekly Writing Update: 1/17

I’ve started to focus more on revision again finally, after the slump that started around the holidays. I had a conversation with the younger sister of Leahna, one of the main characters of book #3. Somehow that ended up involving the sisters’ brother too, and in the end, I had so much more insight on both of these two side characters, especially the sister. And then I finished one of the brand new scenes that I’ve slated to add into the story, all of which focus on Leahna and her family, a group of characters that were sorely under-represented in the previous drafts.

Over the next week, I will probably continue to work on the new scenes, saving my new full revision until after all scenes I’ve already planned are done. Then I can start at the beginning and get an idea of how things are flowing so far.

While I work on continuing the series, if you’re interested in reading where it all starts, Pithea is available on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback (it’s also on Kindle Unlimited).


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Book Birthday!

Pithea cover, Kindle

Guess what! Today is my book birthday! One year ago today, my first full-length novel, first in a series I’ve been working on for many years, was released out into the world! Eleven months later, I did it all over again with book #2, but nothing will ever be quite as exciting as the day that Pithea was released. (Go here to see what the book is about.)

I know many people were looking forward to the end of 2020 and the beginning of a new year, but let’s not be too quick to dismiss last year. I have a feeling that, despite the mess the year became, each of us could find something to celebrate from 2020. What’s yours?

Weekly Writing Update: 1/10

I didn’t do much of any revision work during the holidays at all, and only just finally managed to get back into it. So far, all I’ve done this year, mostly during this last week, is a character interview with one of the main characters of book #3, Leahna. She’s one that I always thought I had a decent handle on, but has always been in the background. Now that I want to bring her to the front more, of course I realize that my understanding of her is far too shallow. So I spent some time fleshing her out a little.

I did learn some details that I think will give her a lot more depth in the book. I also realized that I need to conduct another interview, though, with Leahna’s sister. Though the sister will only be in the book a little, I’m noticing how much she has to do with the Leahna’s background and her dynamic arc. I’ll work on that this coming week, and hopefully take some time to finish writing the first new scene for the book that I’ve started on for this revision, but didn’t get very far with due to Christmas-related activities taking so much time in December.

While I work on continuing the series, if you’re interested in reading where it all starts, Pithea is available on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback (it’s also on Kindle Unlimited).


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Weekly Writing Update: 12/20

I’m not even going to pretend that I did much work on book #3 in the series this last week. I put the new order of scenes that I came up with the week before into Scrivener, and then I started writing one of the new scenes I have planned. I didn’t even get that scene finished, as various things, mostly related to preparing for Christmas, took up much more of my time than I’d expected. Plus, I’ve been having headaches more often lately, which makes focusing on writing difficult.

This coming week, of course, will hold even more Christmas prep, plus the day itself. I will attempt to spend at least a little time in Pithea, even if it’s not official revision. I have a character interview in mind, so maybe I’ll do that in little snatches of time throughout the week.

While I work on continuing the series, if you’re interested in reading where it all starts, Pithea is available on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback (it’s also on Kindle Unlimited).


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Weekly Writing Update: 12/13

I worked on book #3 in the series this week, and I think I have figured out the best way forward. I’ve cut off the last 15k words from the previous draft to be part of book #4, which basically means I’m going to be making the main story goal for book #3 different than how it’s been for many years now. This means that I need to revise a lot to make sure the new story goal is coming out enough. It also means I can put back in some longer scenes that I’d removed to shorten the story and to allow the old story goal to come to the surface earlier in the book.

Actually, this book has been giving me trouble for quite a while. I always worried that the last 1/3 of the book was such a different plot from the rest, and that the plot that is set up in the first 2/3 sort of goes nowhere. But I kept moving forward, thinking I just had to live with it. Then when I had the sudden realization that those 15k words would be better off as part of book #4, it gave me the chance to fix all of that. It’ll be a lot of work to fix, though.

So I started by doing something that helped me a lot during revision of Outcast earlier this year–putting all of the existing scenes onto little slips of paper, color-coding them by story arc, and then filling out new slips for new scenes I think should be added.

This allowed me to play with the order of the scenes and move some forward when I realized a plot arc was getting started too late, and that starting it sooner could help avoid monotony in the earlier scenes. Now it’s pretty much time to get to revising, which I think will start with a read-through to refresh myself on the story, cutting down bloated scenes and writing the first draft of some new scenes along the way. I’ll also need to make the scenes flow in the order I’ve changed them to, but I’m not sure if I’ll do that now or later.

While I work on continuing the series, if you’re interested in reading where it all starts, Pithea is available on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback (it’s also on Kindle Unlimited).


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Weekly Writing Update: 12/6

Now that NaNoWriMo is over, I’m back to other writing work. Well, sort of. I spent most of this week doing preliminary work on my NaNoNovel before filing it away for now. Sometimes I’ll spend the first few days after November ends doing a quick clean-up of what I wrote–mostly removing things I marked as NaNo fodder and at least doing a quick spell check. This is usually better to do while the story is still fresh, and then it’s good to let it sit for some time.

I did start on revision of book #3 in the series today, but didn’t get very far. I have some large structure changes to figure out, but first have to decide how to figure them out.

While I work on continuing the series, if you’re interested in reading where it all starts, Pithea is available on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback (it’s also on Kindle Unlimited).


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Outcast Released!

My second full-length novel, book #2 in a series of futuristic speculative fiction with a Christian worldview, is now available to purchase as both an e-book and a paperback! I’m so excited to see this series continue! See synopsis below and go here to buy the book.

Outcast on Goodreads

OUTCAST

Deep in the desert of Pithea lives an order of mercenaries. Assassins, thieves—they’ll do anything for a price. They are known in whispers and rumors as the Class of Morano. To this unconventional family belongs one Natos Morano, a member since birth. When a woman he’s never met kidnaps him in order to convince him to leave the order, he will be forced to choose between the only family he’s ever known and his true family that is long gone.

Remiel Azrael thinks his choice is easy when he discovers a woman in desperate need. But sometimes the noblest intentions result in the most unfavorable repercussions. And when the woman’s situation turns out to be more dangerous than he realized, Remiel comes face to face with a demon he thought he’d buried.


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New Mailing List

In advance of my new book releasing in a few days, I’m doing something I’ve been putting off for long time: starting a newsletter. Most news I do share here on this blog as well, but I know how bad I am at checking blogs that I follow regularly, so I’d imagine others are too. There will also be some extra tidbits now and then that are only in the newsletter. At most, these emails will be monthly. At the least…is there a term for every 6 months? As I think of it? Really, though, if you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any big news or announcements I have to share, enter your email address below and join my mailing list:

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