Monday, December 24, 2012

Ashes and the Wind

Ashes and the Wind
By Reuben Horst

Out of time
Surely defined
Gone with insanity

Who rejected whom
The bride or the groom
The question of infinity

How can you love me
When I cannot love you back
Life doesn't happen
Without ever a tack

The ashes and the wind
The mother and the twin
Forever in the end
May all be forgiven

The ashes and the wind
The beautiful, beautiful wind


This poem was originally published on An Einateinian Approach on May 26, 2012.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Announcement: Eyes Wide Open by Ted Dekker

It's been a long time since Ted Dekker announced a new novel, and with the final installment of the Books of Mortals trilogy being the only remaining title in the release queue, an announcement has long been due.

The New York Times bestselling author has finally stepped out of his shell of secrecy and told us all what's been up: He's working on a brand new, 4-book series, published by Outlaw Studios, the first novel of which will be released this December. What's more, he's decided to give away the first novel, Identity, for free to anyone who wants it. Though it seems obvious that this offer is eBook-only, to be fair, it didn't specify.

For more information about the book and series, go here. That is also where you can request your own free copy of the novel.

Sources: 1, 2 (+ Facebook announcement)

UPDATE: It appears I got some information wrong. Eyes Wide Open is the first book in the series (called the Outlaw Chronicles), and it's split into four parts. The first episode of Eyes Wide Open, called "Identity," is what is being given away.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Two Flippin' Years

Can you believe it's been two whole years since I started this blog? Yeah, I can too. It feels like it's been four.

Last year today was both the first anniversary and my 100th blog post. I have nothing as fancy this year, as this is only my 147th blog post. I could have posted a few random posts recently so that this would be the 150th blog post, but I only remembered the anniversary a few days, so there wasn't really time.

So why have I written only half as many blog posts this last year as I did the first year? Well, a large part of it is inactivity in recent months. I recently lost my ability to read without taking enormous effort and causing a lot of stress, and with that, of course, came my loss of ability to compose reviews and write in general.

How this all came about is a very long story that I would rather not talk about at this particular time, but do know that writing this particular blog post is already causing my nervous system to panic.

For last year's anniversary I told a lot of my friends to ask me questions about various parts of my life, but since I didn't know until the other day that today was today, I didn't have time to ask. Since the last anniversary, I also introduced the "20 Random Facts About Me" series, so that partially makes up for it. If anybody’s interested, I would be willing to write another list in the series sometime soon.

So, will I start being more active on here? Well, I don't know. There are only a handful of people who even read this blog. Think about it: Reuben Horst’s Blog (quite the original name, eh?) has been around for two whole years, and it only has 28 followers. I know people who got that many followers a week.

Why is it that not many people have visited this site? Is it my blog’s unappealing title? Is it that I'm just bad at advertising? Is it that I focus on books half of the time and focus on video games the other half? That's something I've noticed: those interested in book blogs are not interested in games, and those interested in video games are not interested in book blogs. I wonder why that is, as they are both equally beautiful forms of art and story.

If you have any questions or suggestions about the blog, post a comment below, on Facebook, or anywhere else you can contact me. I always look forward to feedback, especially because I rarely get any. Live long and prosper, and good luck. Thank you for reading my blog. Not many people do.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Every once in a while I review some small, casual, freeware game, just because that's what I feel like doing at the moment. TONE is a game that was created for Ludum Dare 24. I found it because the creator submitted it for the Steam Greenlight, in which I feel it didn't really belong.

The point of the game is to protect your square, which is in the center of the screen, from the other approaching squares around it. You destroy the oncoming squares by running them through with your mouse cursor. It's a simple concept, and quite fun.

I, personally, suck at this type of game, and I constantly found myself dying far sooner than I thought I should. There are multiple kinds of squares, adding variety (and yes, difficulty) to the game. The music track is really cool, and it adds a new tone to the atmosphere. (See what I did there?)

In the end, it's a fun game that you should give at least a couple shots. It's definitely not Steam material as it is, but the developer is working on a major upgrade to the game, so we'll see how it turns out.

Play TONE online here
(download links here)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Trine 2

Trine 2 is, as implied by its title, the second installment of the acclaimed Trine series by Finnish independent developer Frozenbyte. It once again follows the three memorable characters from the first game, but it takes place many years later.

The Trine, an artifact of great power that binds our three heroes together, as it has since the first game, seeks out each hero—Pontius the Knight, Amadeus the Wizard, and Zoya the Thief—and takes them to a strange enchanted forest. Unsure of what the Trine wants them to do, they traverse the mystical wood and discover that once, long ago, it had been a vast kingdom led by a noble queen. Now it was only ruled by savage goblins and strange beasts of the wild.

Eventually, the three come across a strange woman named Rosabel, who reveals that she had once been the queen of this land. She begs the trio to find and depose of the Goblin King, who currently resided on the throne of what had once been the kingdom. And so the three characters set out to dethrone the unrightful ruler, unaware of the true dangers that lay ahead.

Trine 2 is a brilliant game. It took the good points of the original Trine and improved all the rest. One of the biggest differences is replacing the main enemies—skeletons in the first game—with goblins. The entire theme went from being about a world where everything is dead, to being about a world—a strange and beautiful forest—where everything is alive.

And the visuals are no laughing matter. Trine 2 possibly has the greatest graphics of any platformer game that has ever existed to date. The level of detail is spectacular, from the gorgeous background scenery to the many different creatures you encounter along the way. You can see a sheep pasture in the background of the first level, and even that looks real.

Where I feel the game felt bland, and somewhat annoying, is the puzzles. They were confusing as heck, and often I felt that they were really made for multiplayer co-op mode and didn't really have a good solution in single-player mode. That being said, it felt like the only way to get past certain puzzles was to use slightly broken gameplay mechanics to glitch your way past.

And don't get me wrong there—the gameplay mechanics work great; they just have their minuscule flaws that can be taken advantage of.

In addition, I felt that the soundtrack didn't meet par with that of the first game. It was still beautiful and fitting, but it didn't stand out as Trine's soundtrack did. It didn't make me want to instantly go and purchase the soundtrack with my very own money. However, Ari Pulkkinen is a great composer, and you should buy his scores anyway.

Something that played a major role in why I loved this game was the hidden backstory. All throughout the game you find poems and letters that hint at what may have happened to the great kingdom. This adds a feeling of mystery to the entire experience, and it makes you want to continue and figure out each piece of the puzzle.

In the end, Trine 2 is a game you don't want to miss. The graphics are amazing, the soundtrack is great, the story is deep and intriguing, and it felt so refreshing to be able to return as the three heroes from Trine—I actually missed them after I completed the first game. However, as much as I loved this game, I felt as though it couldn't surpass the classic experience of its predecessor.

Trine 2 certainly has its flaws, but those are so far outweighed by the good things that you really shouldn't worry at all. This game receives a very high recommendation from me.

As a side note, this is one of the only games I've ever played (or sequel in any form of media) where you don't necessarily need to experience the predecessor first. You can start with either Trine or Trine 2. Either way, I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Brief History of the Brief Past

As you may or may not have realized, I took the month of July off from reviewing books. I didn't take a break from reading; just reviewing. This was to give me some time to catch up with my schedule. I don't know if it really worked, but I believe I'll have another review ready by my next deadline.

A lot has happened recently. Two new pages have been added to the blog: the Status page, to keep track of what books I'm currently reading, etc., and the Reviews page, which is basically a large list of all my reviews. These were added several months ago, but I never got around to mentioning them until now.

In other news, I've recently joined a lot of other websites. I became a fiction book reviewer for The Christian Manifesto, and my first review will be going up on August 10. In addition, I joined the news team on, a general gaming website.

My friend Eva Ping created a blog a little while ago called An Einsteinian Approach that I've been contributing to on occasion. Some of my most-praised entries on the blog have been The Kneeling Man, Ashes and the Wind, and Story.

So there's a little update of my life. I know for sure that I've forgotten something, but that's not unusual.

God bless,
Reubeny Horsts

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Trine is an adventure puzzle-platformer developed by the independent developer Frozenbyte. It is currently available on PC/Steam, along with the PlayStation Network.

The story takes place in a medieval fantasy universe. A great kingdom lies in ruins, ravaged by an undead army. Three survivors—a thief, a wizard and a knight—are linked together by an ancient, mysterious artifact known as the Trine. Not knowing what to do, they embark on a quest together to set things right in their broken world.

You switch between the three characters as you play—unless you play the recommended multiplayer co-op mode—and they each have their own essential attributes. The wizard can create and move objects such as platforms and planks, the thief has a bow and grappling hook, and the knight has a trusty sword and shield. Alternating between these characters is easy and quite useful.

The story is intriguing. When assisted by the games visuals and music, it makes for a unique setting that you could only find in a video game. The voice acting—both for the characters and the narrator—is done extremely well, and it adds personality to the game, along with some humor.

The thief was my favorite character to play as. Not only is her bow a very efficient weapon, but her grappling hook allows her to get to many high places that the other characters can't get to. In addition to that, the grappling hook is just a fun way to move around. Don't feel like walking? If the ceiling is made of wood, just grapple and swing past the entire area in a third the amount of time.

Something I really want to touch on is the music. Trine's soundtrack creates the perfect atmosphere for the setting, and it makes you want to keep playing. As soon as you start the game, the music welcomes you and almost makes a promise that the game you're about to play is going to be brilliant. The composer deserves a medal. The soundtrack reminded me a lot of the soundtrack of the Elder Scrolls games, and that there's some mighty fine music.

To conclude, this is an amazing game. The replay value is very high, as there are collectibles to find in every level, and you can come back to any level you've beaten to find what you missed your previous time through it. There's a leveling-up system where your characters can upgrade their abilities, and also many various stat-boosting items to find in treasure chests.

I recommend you pick up this game. It just might be worth your time.

Friday, July 6, 2012

20 Random Facts About Me - #3

So you think you know a lot about me, do you? Probably not, but here are another 20 facts that you might or might not have known.

  1. My father is a carpenter.
  2. I have a passion for photography.
  3. I prefer Windows over Mac.
  4. My favorite contemporary TV series is Castle.
  5. My oldest brother is a physics major.
  6. I review media as a hobby (you probably didn't know this).
  7. My favorite webcomics are "Brawl in the Family" and "Blank It."
  8. I hate cleaning my room.
  9. I get new books faster than I can read through them.
  10. My favorite video games are An Untitled Story and Bastion.
  11. I love lemons. And limes.
  12. My most common nickname is "Reu," but it's mostly only used on the internet.
  13. I want to learn guitar, but I currently know nothing about how to play one.
  14. I'm not currently writing any books—I'm just planning them.
  15. My favorite color is blue.
  16. I still love LEGOs, even though I rarely buy them anymore.
  17. I have a habit of winning book giveaways.
  18. The first video game I ever played was Super Mario 64.
  19. I find one of the most irritating sounds ever to be that of a vacuum cleaner.
  20. Somebody was vacuuming when I typed #19.

Well, I hope you learned something important today.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Amelia's Last Secret by Eric Wilson

Amelia's Last Secret is a novella by bestselling author Eric Wilson about the fate of Amelia Earhart—one of the most prominent and well-respected women in the history of the world. It is available on Amazon for $2.99 exclusively as an ebook.

Everyone knows Amelia Earhart, and everyone has at least speculated about her mysterious disappearance in history. Leave it to somebody like Eric Wilson to take the facts as we know them and write a brilliant story from it. He took real people, events, and information, and put them all together in an intriguing and believable manner full of mystery and suspense.

The novella is split into four parts, taking place over the past seventy-five years:
Part One - July 1, 1937
Part Two - June 8, 1944
Part Three - May 17, 2012
Part Four - July 2, 1937

The first part begins from the point of view of Amelia Earhart, and ends with a cliffhanger, which is concluded in the final part. The two middle parts continue the story of how Ms. Earhart's fate was discovered. All four parts were extremely well-written and make you want to continue reading. The amount of research put into the story is astounding and truly adds life to the tale.

Eric Wilson is an amazing writer, and Amelia's Last Secret helps to prove it. The ending is a little sad—but you can't deny that the inevitable would happen. The novella could make a great movie, or at least a short film. Kudos to Mr. Wilson for writing such a masterpiece. It is well worth your reading time.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Robert Liparulo - The 13th Tribe Interview

Robert Liparulo is a man I've known about for a long time, as he's known in certain circles to be an amazing author. I met him last August at an event and received an advance copy of his book The 13th Tribe. I read it and was amazed. I haven't since read any more of his novels, but recently he was willing to let me send some questions his way about The 13th Tribe, and here are the results.


Reuben Horst: How have you and your family been recently, Robert?

Robert Liparulo: We've been well, thank you. My son Anthony is in his first year of high school. He's a soccer nut. My youngest daughter is in kindergarten and taking dance lessons. My oldest son is embarking on a 7,000-mile hike along the Appalachian, Great Divide and Pacific Coast trails. And my oldest daughter is now living in Santa Fe. We're all having a blast.

RH: What exactly gave you the idea for this story?

RL: Some time ago, I started thinking about vigilantism, frontier justice. I think most of us would say we'd do something to stop, for example, a child abuser, even if we have to go outside the law to do it (assuming all other recourses have failed). But what are the ramifications of that . . . to society? To our souls? It's a scary door to open. The best way to examine a topic is to exaggerate it, or look at how it functions under extreme circumstances. I wanted to look at vigilantism that way: an exaggerated reason to be a vigilante . . . how far could you take it . . . what do you become if you practice it over a long period of time?

You can't think too deeply about taking the law into your own hands, about hurting people before they can hurt others, without eventually getting around to thinking about the nature of forgiveness and grace. So now there's God, filing off the edges of my story, shaping it into something bigger than it was before.

The 13th Tribe can be summed up in two words: Immortal vigilantes. But, really, it goes much deeper. It explores our struggle to grasp God's holiness; our stubborn belief in "earning" God’s favor, though we know better; and how even our good intentions can be twisted when we insist on abiding by our own limited logic instead of God's righteous wisdom. All of this in a story filled with action, cutting-edge technology, and complex characters—the kind of story I like reading myself.

RH: How much research is involved when writing a novel like The 13th Tribe? Are there any specific places you went or things you did to help you with research for the book?

RL: I traveled to many of the locations, read books and talked to experts about immortality, biology, theology, weapons (like flame throwers), high-tech military inventions (such as invisibility suits), relics, archaeology . . . I filled three six-inch binders with notes, maps, and photographs. I used to be an investigative journalist, so I tend to research a lot, and I have no qualms about asking the leading experts in their fields for interviews and throwing tough questions at them. I try to find the little gems that either stun readers or make everything in a scene feel just right.

I believe the only way to make such a wild concept as immortality palatable and entertaining to readers is to make everything else in the story as factual and real as possible. All the locations are real, and I hope detailed enough for readers to get a true feel for each place. And one way the immortals are traced through history is through actual art—such as the Spinario or Boy with Thorn and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres's Apotheosis of Homer. I did a lot of research into biblical events, such as what really happened at the gold calf, and studied extra-biblical stories, such as the Apostle John being tortured by putting him into a vat of boiling oil. Many of the historic events described—a Civil War massacre, Rasputin's death— really happened.

A lot of times, science eventually "catches up" with God's miracles and we can explain them in human terms—which doesn't make them any less miraculous, but shows that God often uses the incredible things He created for us on earth to facilitate His will. I wanted that to be the case with the immortals, so I explain how every cell in the human body has telomerase genes—called immortal genes—which allow cells to replicate forever, which would result in the cessation of aging. Trouble is, they are "switched on" in only a few cells. I posit that God activated all the telomerase genes in the immortals, so there's both a biological and a supernatural reason for their immortality.

RH: How long did it take you to write the novel, from initial concept to final draft?

RL: About eighteen months, including the beginning convolutions from a book about vigilantes to a Christian story about immortal vigilantes. Most of the time was spent researching and deciding how to merge a solidly Christian story into my style of action-adventure-thriller.

RH: How much change did the story go through during that time?

RL: Other than that first big change, going into both the paranormal and Christian fields, it didn't change much from my initial concept. But I don't outline, so there’s not that much for my stories to change from.

I don't outline because I want my characters to lead me through a story. If I outline too extensively or too far ahead, then it's me, as an author, who is forcing my characters to behave the way I would behave in those situations. When I create compelling characters and set them free, they develop what seems to be personalities and behaviors all their own. They start to do things I never would have dreamed they would. They respond differently from the way I thought they would when I thought through the story. But I do have certain points in the story that I know I have to reach; I just prefer to let the characters tell me how to get there. Typically, I know about three days in advance which scenes are coming up. That helps me stay on track without being too overbearing on my characters.

RH: Who was your favorite character from the novel?

RL: Just because I spent so much more time with him than the others, I'd have to say Jagger. But Nevaeh's confused passion to please God intrigues me. Owen personifies my desires to know God better. Even Tyler endeared himself to me. When I finished the manuscript, I missed all of them.

RH: How did writing the novel impact your life?

RL: I've always studied His word, always sought deeper understanding, but now, writing about it, I'm learning so much more. To make these stories work, to make faith integral to the plots, I have to excavate theology like I never have before. What struck me more while writing and researching The 13th Tribe is that at every turn, I'm awed by His love for us, his tolerance and grace. We are so unworthy, but still, there He is, arms wide open.

RH: Without giving too much away, can you tell us something about The Immortal Files #2?

RL: We're back at St. Catherine's Monastery with Jagger, Beth, Tyler, and the monks, when a group attacks. We find out there is another group of immortals, called the Clan. These guys are really nasty. They don't care for God at all, and their only goal is to grief God by hurting his children. They get their hands on an artifact that allows them to peel back the curtain between our world and the spiritual realm. I had a great time writing it.

RH: Do you know the title of The Immortal Files #2 or approximately when it will be released?

RL: We're playing with a few titles now—The God Stone, The Vision Stone, or The 7th Vision (in keeping with the ordinal theme from The 13th Tribe). It should be out early 2013. I'm hoping for the third in the series to come out later that year.

RH: Are you currently working on any projects other than the Immortal Files series?

RL: I've started the third Immortal Files book, but I've decided to try something I haven't done before: I'm also working on the first book of the Hunter series, a YA series that should be out next year. A lot of writers I know keep several stories going at once. That way, if one isn't flowing or they’re waiting for research, they can switch over to another story. I've always written one at a time, but I think Immortal Files 3 and Hunter are different enough that I can give it a try. So far, I like it.

RH: If someone hasn't read any of your books, which would you recommend they read first, The 13th Tribe not included?

RL: That's always a tough call to make. I usually suggest that teens give Germ a try, probably because a lot of high schools have picked it up and I get a lot of emails from teen readers who like it. If readers like twisty-turny, I suggest Comes a Horseman. For more straight-up thrillers, try Deadfall, then Deadlock. Of course, if they're young, I suggest Dreamhouse Kings.

RH: What’s your favorite soft drink?

RL: Dr. Pepper.


Once again, thanks to Robert for his time, and also thanks to those of you who submitted questions for me to add to this interview. Check out Robert Liparulo's website here.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Truth About Forgiveness by John MacArthur

This is a book in a series of three books by John MacArthur. I had to choose one out of The Truth About Grace, The Truth About Forgiveness, or The Truth About the Lordship of Christ to read and review. I chose the one that I would be the most interested in, as forgiveness is something I have always struggled with.

I didn't expect much from the book; nonfiction generally bores me by explaining things I already knew in five times the amount of words necessary. I do admit sometimes I thought it was a little wordy—even for a book only a little over a hundred pages—but that is to be expected, and it didn't happen nearly as much as I thought it would.

I started the book genuinely surprised; MacArthur started at a point I wouldn't expect, and continued explaining what I had never thought of before. That, in itself, is something wonderful. I began expecting little, and what I found was more than I could have hoped for.

The first chapter made me think a lot. Sometimes I thought, "He can't say that, because it's very apparent that he's never experienced that himself," but every time as I kept reading I realized that this man truly knows what he's talking about, whether he's experienced "certain things" or not.

The Truth About Forgiveness is not a typical Christian nonfiction book, basically putting a boring sermon I've heard before into text format. It's something entirely unique, and for the first time something actually worth putting into book format. It focuses much on what Jesus said about forgiveness, through parables and stories, along with actual happenings, but it does it in a way that grabs your attention and keeps you interested. What's more, it actually uses good points that you might not have thought of.

It's extremely rare that a nonfiction book, especially about Christianity, does not disappoint me, but this one not only didn't disappoint me, it actually impressed me. When I saw the dozens of five-star ratings for the book, I inwardly chuckled and knew it would have a lot to prove if it were going to get anywhere near that rating from me. Because face it, everyone: sermons and books about forgiveness are generally just plain boring. We never truly hear what we need to hear. John MacArthur's book, however, is different.

I have never recommended a nonfiction book as highly as I recommend this one. Five stars.

The Truth About Forgiveness was published on May 1, 2012.
This book was sent to me for free from Thomas Nelson Publishing.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

The Screwtape Letters

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis was a school assignment that I was to read over a couple months. Considering school is now over (yahoo!), I finished this book a while ago.

The entire book is a set of letters from Screwtape, a demon, to his nephew Wormwood, a fallen angel who's job it is to tempt a young man referred to only as the "patient." It takes place during World War II, and that plays a part in the events.

It's interesting to read a book from the point of view of a fallen angel. The points made are undeniably good, and it feels like every other page is a slap in the face to the lifestyles of average "Christians." It's hard not to see many fragments of your own life in the life of Wormwood's "patient."

Overall, The Screwtape Letters is a true showing of Lewis's genius and his knowledge in Biblical facts. I believe that the author put a lot of himself into the novel; into the life of the "patient." It's a great philosophical read, and I highly recommend it to anyone with a decent vocabulary.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Game Recommendations of May

Sometimes you just can't write a whole review of a game, but it's good enough that it deserves some mention. Here are some games I've played in the previous few months that didn't get their own full reviews, but I definitely recommend them anyway.


NightSky has beautiful visuals, touching music, and it's one of those things that prove that games don't need to be extremely hard—or hard at all—in order to be fun. It does also include an alternative mode with much harder puzzles for those looking for a challenge. The only downside to the game is the price, but $10 isn't much at all. I very highly recommend this game.
Systems: PC, Wii, 3DS
Official Website

It amazes me how people can still think up new Tetris-style concepts that are still fun. PiCTOBiTS is an addicting arcade game for DSiWare with fun chiptune music and a lot of different levels. In each level you try to clear different colors of blocks in order to create various different characters from oldschool NES games. If you have a lot of time to kill, check it out.
Systems: DSi, 3DS
Official Webpage

Galcon Fusion
Galcon Fusion is a real-time strategy game in space, with a ton of game modes, difficulty levels and achievements. It's addicting, in a good way, and can spawn numerous hours of game time to take up... time. Oh, it's also colorful and pretty. Highly recommended if you like strategy games or multiplayer games in general.
System: PC
Official Website

3D Classics: Kid Icarus
This is the original NES Kid Icarus game remade in 3D, with some other revamped features as well. One worth mentioning is that the game now has cool level backgrounds, so it's not always black. Basically, it makes for a super fun platformer and a worthy remake of the old game. My biggest problem with it is the fact that half the game is far too hard and the other half is far too easy. It seems to alternate between extreme difficulties. Regardless, this game is certainly recommended.
System: 3DS

Monday, May 7, 2012

Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee

Many years have passed since civilization's brush with apocalypse. The world's greatest threats have all been silenced. There is no anger, no hatred, no war. There is only perfect peace... and fear. But a terrible secret has been closely guarded for centuries: Every single soul walking the earth, though in appearance totally normal, is actually dead, long ago genetically stripped of true humanity.

Fleeing pursuit, with only moments to live, a young man named Rom stumbles into possession of a vial of blood and a piece of cryptic writing. When consumed, the blood will bring him back to life. When decoded, the message will lead him on a perilous journey that will require him to abandon everything he has ever known and awaken humanity to the transforming power of true life and love.

But the blood will also resurrect hatred, ambition, and greed.

Set in a terrifying, medieval future, where grim pageantry masks death, this tale of dark desires and staggering stakes peels back the layers of the heart for all who dare to take the ride.
With one month from the release of the series' second installment, I finally finished Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee's highly-acclaimed Forbidden, which I first started reading in October 2011.

The first in the Books of Mortals trilogy takes place in an alternate future in which fear is the only emotion genetically allowed. Although the setting and story are certainly good, the book failed to meet its hype. The book was slow, and even got to be quite boring in many places. It's a struggle to get through, making an unpleasant experience.

The antagonist is a man named Saric. He was given a serum by alchemists that brings back some of his emotions, but only the horrible ones. Basically, he was turned into a beast in a world that knew only fear. He sickened me to the point that I truthfully say I have never hated anyone, real or fictional, more than I hated Saric. That is not how to write a good bad guy! A well-written bad guy is one who you can see reason behind; one you can sympathize with. Ted Dekker has a trend of writing antagonists who are mentally unstable and/or retarded, and no offense to him, but that is the most annoying kind of bad guy in any story. By the end of Forbidden I literally wanted to butcher Saric.

There was a flaw in the story's concept. It's an awesome concept for a setting, but it's not possible to get rid of all emotions except fear. Among the characters who could only experience fear, I saw other emotions as well, such as confusion and desperation. Those could be considered attributes to fear, but that's irrelevant, because they're also emotions separate from fear. If someone in that universe suppresses their fear, they can still be confused, causing a major flaw in the idea of no emotions but fear. Other emotions are necessary in order to have only fear, and that in itself is contradictory.

Forbidden was good, but there were a lot of things I had a problems with; all those listed above, in addition to all of the blood, gore, and sexuality. There's nothing necessarily wrong with having blood, gore, or sexuality in a novel, as long as they don't go overboard. I, for one, am someone very easily grossed out, and there was a lot of gore that I wasn't comfortable reading. The authors could have been just as realistic in their writing while just being less explicit. I know that, because they've done so in the past. As for the sexuality factor, the main evil character, due to his dark emotions, was quite a pervert, wanting to bed every woman he laid eyes upon. He very nearly raped one of the main characters at one point. Another reason to be irritated at Saric and his idiocy.

Yes, yes, as everybody told me, the book improved massively by the end. The pace quickened, the story developed, and everything turned out really cool. But does a book getting good by the end classify it as a good novel? Unfortunately, not this one. If the entire first half of the book had been retold in half the length, it would have been twice as good. Considering the story got good by the end, I'll be eagerly awaiting the release of Mortal, the second in the series. Poor, poor Forbidden, however, is left with only three stars out of five. If not for the second half of the book, it would have been left with two.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Illusion Giveaway Winner!

*Rings Bell* And we have a winner!

Arielle Bacon (your name is delicious) should receive an email soon about winning her free ARC copy of Frank Peretti's latest novel, Illusion. Congratulations! I'm sorry to those who didn't win, as I know some of you really wanted it. Fear not, though, because there will be more giveaways in the future!

Friday, April 27, 2012


Pushmo is a highly-acclaimed puzzle platformer game for the Nintendo 3DS, featuring 198 unique puzzles and a level editor that allows for virtually endless possibilities. With five difficulty levels, both novice players and masters can enjoy the game. Pushmo is fun and colorful, and it really offers you a good time. It costs $6.99 on the Nintendo eShop, and it's worth every cent of it.

Here are the QR codes for two of my custom levels, for those who already own the game:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Crater by Homer Hickam

A mining colony on the moon, a teen sent on a deadly mission, and a secret bigger than two worlds. It’s the 22nd Century. A tough, pioneering people mine the moon for Helium-3 to produce energy for a desperate, war-torn Earth. 
Sixteen-year-old Crater Trueblood loves his job as a Helium-3 miner. But when he saves a fellow miner, his life changes forever. Impressed by his heroism, the owner of the mine orders Crater to undertake a dangerous mission. Crater doubts himself, but has no choice. He must go. 
With the help of Maria, the mine owner’s frustrating but gorgeous granddaughter, and his gillie—a sentient and sometimes insubordinate clump of slime mold cells—Crater must fight both human and subhuman enemies. He’ll battle his way across a thousand miles of deadly lunar terrain and face genetically altered super warriors in his quest to recover an astonishing object that will alter the lives of everyone on the moon.
Crater was written by Homer Hickam, the author of the autobiography Rocket Boys that was adapted in 1999 as the film October Sky. I saw the film years ago and loved it, and that's how I instantly became interested in this novel when I heard that Homer wrote it. The story of October Sky was about Homer's life as a young man: his father was a coal miner and wanted him to become one as well, but Homer saw his future along a different path, and eventually became a NASA engineer. Many years later, after the events of his autobiography, Homer retired and became a writer of both fiction and nonfiction. Though at this current time I've only read this one that he's penned, the book descriptions of many of his books imply that he uses much of his knowledge from both his life as a coal miner's son and his life as a NASA engineer when writing his stories. This is definitely one such story.

Crater is of a lower reading level than I have read in a while—young adult, for sure—and sometimes it just seemed childish or cheesy. The narration would often mention some key piece of technology but would fail to even hint at what it actually looked like or how it worked. Sometimes it would fail to mention what certain things even did. A lot of the main character's mission that was assigned near the very beginning of the book doesn't make complete sense until you know what exactly a cycler is and how a works—and that's something you don't find out until you have about fifty pages left in the entire book. These aren't details that would be considered plot spoilers; these are details that the narration seems to think readers should already know from the beginning but can't, because it's usually referring to technology that the author himself created.

In addition, several parts of the story were cliché. Early in the book the protagonist, Crater Trueblood, enters a sort of futuristic race, and his main opponent is one that everyone knows will win. The opponent is the type that uses as many forms of "foul play" as they can while making sure not to officially break any rules. With the help of his gillie and some ridiculous luck, Crater barely crosses the finish before his opponent. By that time they'd been the only two competitors still in the race. Does that sound familiar? Also, the main character is just a teenager, but he's extremely smart and can think of (and design) improvements for almost everything man-made he comes across. I suppose in the next book it will be revealed that General Caesar Augustus Nero—a character who, as you can obviously tell from his name, will turn out to be evil—is actually his father, long thought dead. (Yes, that is sarcasm.)

Crater is full of inconsistencies, clichés, and sometimes just ridiculousness, but in all honesty, it was the first book I've read in a long time that I've actually enjoyed reading. I read a lot of books recently that I loved, but it was the story or characters or ideas or setting or author's writing ability that I loved, not the actual reading part. For nearly a year and a half now reading has been a chore for me. I've grown to hate it, but I press on anyway to enjoy the wonderful worlds and tales that I fall in love with. My ability to read left entirely with my ability to focus, so even reading a little bit takes an excruciating amount of effort and time. Crater, though at times it was difficult to get through, (to an average person it could be probably read easily in a weekend) is a super easy read. I enjoyed reading it like I haven't for any other book I've read in a very long time.

The book had its faults, but enjoying the reading part of it really helped me to enjoy the rest, and the faults weren't nearly bad enough to ruin the book. The story and setting, when you look past the thin outer skin, is actually incredibly cool. Sometimes the book seemed a little bit like an Isaac Asimov novel, though of course on a far less mature level. The main character, Crater Trueblood, changed a lot throughout the story. He sometimes really surprises the reader, either with his level of immaturity or his level of maturity.

The author, Homer Hickam, harnessed loads of his scientific knowledge into the novel. Putting a bunch of techno-babble into a book geared toward the reading level of Crater is absolutely ridiculous, but for those of us who enjoy reading books at this level and also know a decent bit about science (so we can barely grasp what some of the techno-babble is about), this book a very enjoyable experience. Homer is a wise man, and I often felt myself wanting to save entire paragraphs or conversations as quotes, rather than just a character's line or two, as is traditional for quotes.

In the end, through its faults that I have probably made sound far worse than they actually are, Crater was a fun novel with a great story, cast and setting. If you enjoy young adult fiction and science fiction, check it out. I was expecting a lot from the author, so for a while into the reading I can't deny that I was disappointed. By the end, however, I was wondering when Hollywood will get enough sense to make this into a movie. I definitely can't now deny the awesomeness of the story and setting. Homer Hickam might not be an expert at converting his knowledge into all the correct words for a novel everyone will love, but his knowledge of space and the moon makes the technology he created seem all the more believable. I look forward very much to the next novel in the Helium-3 saga.

Crater: A Helium-3 Novel was published on April 10, 2012.
This book was sent to me for free from Thomas Nelson Publishing.

If you read this review within the first couple days of its posting, you can follow this link for a chance to win Crater on Free Book Friday. The link also includes an interview with the author. Enter soon, though, because the giveaway ends on April 20.

Update 7/4/13: I gave this book a second review. You can read it here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

I was assigned to read The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare in literature class. I wasn't thrilled to read anything with a book cover such as the one above, but I endured it. We read a parallel text edition, meaning the original Old English text was on the left side of each double-page and the modern translated version was on the right. We were assigned to read the translated version, then listen to the same chapters in Old English via an audio version while we read along in our books. A short while after finishing The Taming of the Shrew, we went on a field trip to Navy Pier in Chicago, and by extension the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, to see it performed professionally.

This play is about a man named Lucentio who travels to the city of Padua to undergo various courses for his education. Once he arrives, he falls in love, from a distance, with a lovely girl named Bianca. But unfortunately for Lucentio and the girl's suitors, Hortensio and Gremio, Bianca's father Baptista will not offer her hand in marriage until his older daughter Katherine, a hot-tempered shrew, is found a husband. Lucentio then comes up with a brilliant plan: his faithful servant Tranio will pretend that he is Lucentio, and Lucentio will disguise himself as a tutor and try to court Bianca in secret. What ensues is possibly one of the poorest plays in human history... that is, unless performed by the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

The plot of The Taming of the Shrew is cliché and downright poor. Any humor that would have been included in the play was dried out by the fact that it's just a script, not a performance. I came away from reading the play knowing that I will never recommend it for anyone. The BBC audio edition added color to a black and white movie—the characters had real personalities—and occasional music or other background noise made for a lot better storytelling than just an unimaginatively blank book. Hearing a whole cast of voice actors and actresses is a lot better than hearing various voices in your head playing the parts or listening to somebody else try to play every part while reading it to you.

My experience with the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, however, was completely different. For that, perhaps you should just read my school report, excluding the introductory paragraph that could have been much better.
One of the characters who stood out most in the play was Petruchio, who had taken upon himself the task of courting and wooing the not-so-lovely Katherina to be his wife. Matt Mueller played Petruchio’s part to perfection, but although Ericka Ratcliff did her part very well, the director's portrayal of Katherina could have been improved. Other characters that had notable parts were quite different from their stereotypical personalities, while still staying true to the original script. Hortensio (portrayed by Matthew Sherbach) and Gremio (portrayed by Mick Weber), the only two men openly courting the lovely Bianca (portrayed by Tiffany Yvonne Cox) at the story's beginning, were extreme contrasts in physical form—one older and huge, the other younger and tiny—but very similar in personality. This was one of many ways that the director added to the play's humor through the cast.
Overall, the two-hour trip to Chicago as a school field trip was worth it. The Chicago Shakespeare Theater's version of The Taming of the Shrew was amazing. Although the original script and language were used, it was packed with modern inside jokes from the director and cast, and that added much hilarity to the experience. Surprisingly, the modern rock music that played during various parts and scene changes was fitting. The theater could seat around five hundred people, and due to the amazing architecture and acoustics, the actors could be easily heard by the entire audience without using microphones if they properly projected their voices. A lot of the play’s humor would warrant a PG-13 rating, so it is definitely not a family-friendly play, but it can truly change one’s perspective of The Taming of the Shrew. It was unbelievably well done and, overall, a spectacular experience. This performance surpassed many expectations.
I loved the theater's version of the play, but I don't regret reading the script beforehand. Knowing the story and characters greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the experience. This adaptation felt like a wonderful dessert after an very unappealing dinner. The director took a unique perspective on almost every aspect of the play and, thank goodness, tuned the sexism down several necessary degrees. I would very strongly recommend you check out the play, but the final showing was on April 7, so it's a little too late to attend.

Petruchio may have tamed a shrew, but the Chicago Shakespeare Theater turned a lousy farce into a brilliant comedy.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

New Release: The 13th Tribe by Robert Liparulo

The 13th Tribe, Immortal Files Series #1

The 13th Tribe was actually released during the month of March, but today, April 3, 2012, is the official publication date. You can read my review of the novel here. "For sure, it was one of the best novels I have read this entire year."


Immortal vigilantes from the time of Moses have planned the unthinkable. But how can you stop what you can't see?

The battle didn't start this year . . . or even this millennium.

It began when Moses was on Mt. Sinai. Tired of waiting on the One True God, the twelve tribes of Israel began worshipping a golden calf through pagan revelry. Many received immediate death for their idolatry, but 40 were handed a far worse punishment-endless life on earth with no chance to see the face of God.

This group of immortals became the 13th Tribe, and they've been trying to earn their way into heaven ever since-by killing sinners. Though their logic is twisted, their brilliance is undeniable. Their wrath is unstoppable. And the technology they possess is beyond anything mere humans could imagine.

Jagger Baird knows nothing about the Tribe when he's hired as head of security for an archaeological dig on Mt. Sinai. The former army ranger is still reeling from an accident that claimed the life of his best friend, his arm, and his faith in God.

The Tribe is poised to execute their most ambitious attack ever and the lives of millions hang in the balance. When Jagger's wife and son are caught in the crossfire, he'll stop at nothing to save them.

But how can one man stand against an entire tribe of immortals?


The 13th Tribe is a work of sweeping imagination and high octane action that grabbed me, intrigued me, and wouldn’t let me go. The best Liparulo novel I’ve read yet.”
—Steven James, best-selling author of The Queen

“We authors are always looking for the next Great Idea for a story, and I think Robert Liparulo has found it in this Bible-derived “What If?” He has created environments with an eye for detail and whatever is fascinating, peopled them with characters who are walking mysteries, then drawn from scripture and history to weave situations in which trouble just has to happen. Result: a great read!”
—Frank Peretti, best-selling author of This Present Darkness

“In The 13th Tribe, Robert Liparulo plunges deep into the pages of scripture to find intriguing what-if’s and stunning revelations—all woven into a tale that is both supernatural and skin-tinglingly real. And with all the high-tech, action and heart that has always made his books a blast to read. Robert Liparulo is a phenomenal storyteller, and The 13th Tribe is a phenomenal story! Read this novel! Seriously!”
—Ted Dekker, best-selling author of Forbidden and the Circle series

Check out more reviews here.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Book Giveaway: Illusion by Frank Peretti

Important: This giveaway is now closed.

When I was sent a review copy of Frank Peretti's latest novel, I actually received two copies. I was told that this was so that I could give one away on my blog. I could be selfish and keep both for myself, but that's pointless and not nearly as much fun. Now, do you want to win a copy of Illusion? Of course you do! Who doesn't like free stuff?

This is the Advance Reader's Edition, which basically means that the editing is not quite completed, though it's very close, and that it has a different cover image (as seen in the photo). It is paperback with 497 pages.

How to enter (+1 entry for each item on the list):
-Follow my blog with your Blogger* account
-Share this giveaway on Facebook
-Share this giveaway on Twitter
(Use the tag #rjhblog.)

For these entries to count, you can either send an email to with "Illusion Giveaway" as the subject header, or leave a comment on this blog with your name and email.

The email or comment will need to include which items on the list you have fulfilled, and I promise that I will not send you spam or anything like that. The giveaway will end on April 22, 2012, and around that time a winner will be selected at random to receive a copy of Illusion. Update: The email or comment counts as an entry as well. The items on the list are for additional entries to improve your chances of winning. If you leave a comment and send an email, it will only count as one entry.

*You don't need a Blogger account to follow this blog. You can use Google, Yahoo, Twitter, and maybe others as well. If you don't have a Blogger account, click "Join this site" on the sidebar (under "Followers") to view your options.

This giveaway is only open in the USA. I know there are people in other countries who would very much like to get their hands on the book, but my current income does not allow for shipping prices unless they're decently low. I apologize, and I hope this will be something we can get around sometime in the future.

Now, who's ready to win a book?

Frank Peretti's website
Reuben Horst's review of Illusion

Friday, March 30, 2012

Illusion by Frank Peretti


I recommend that, if you do not know the basic premise of this book already, you stop reading this review immediately and go read the book—without reading the back cover. I went into this story knowing nothing about it, and I highly recommend you do the same. If you still wish to continue reading, please note that this review may contain spoilers, depending on your definition of "spoiler."
Dane and Mandy, a popular magic act for forty years, are tragically separated by a car wreck that claims Mandy’s life—or so everyone thinks. Even as Dane mourns and tries to rebuild his life without her, Mandy, supposedly dead, awakes in the present as the nineteen-year-old she was in 1970. Distraught and disoriented in what to her is the future, she is confined to a mental ward until she discovers a magical ability to pass invisibly through time and space to escape. Alone in a strange world, she uses her mysterious powers to eke out a living, performing magic on the streets and in a quaint coffee shop. 
Hoping to discover an exciting new talent, Dane ventures into the coffee shop and is transfixed by the magic he sees, illusions that even he, a seasoned professional, cannot explain. But more than anything, he is emotionally devastated by this teenager who has never met him, doesn’t know him, is certainly not in love with him, but is in every respect identical to the young beauty he first met and married some forty years earlier. 
They begin a furtive relationship as mentor and protégée, but even as Dane tries to sort out who she really is and she tries to understand why she is drawn to him, they are watched by secretive interests who not only possess the answers to Mandy’s powers and misplacement in time but also the roguish ability to decide what will become of her.
Over twenty-five years ago, Frank Peretti wrote and published the astounding classic, This Present Darkness. Since then he has become one of the most well-known Christian authors still alive, publishing a new novel every few years until he suddenly disappeared from the writing world seven years ago, before returning two years ago to pen this novel.

Prior to Illusion, I'd only read one book by Frank Peretti. That was House, the last book he published (co-authored with Ted Dekker) before taking his extended writing break. In the past friends have tried to convince me, numerous times, to read more of Frank's books, but I've just never had the time, even though I've owned several of his books for some time now. When I was asked to review Illusion, however, I jumped at the chance. Various people had influenced me one way or another regarding the author, and frankly (pardon the pun), some of them had me doubting him, but in the end that did not diminish my enjoyment of the book.

The story starts strong—a tragedy has torn a man to pieces. Not literally, but in his mind. His wife, also stage partner and best friend, had been injured in a car accident and died a horrid death in a hospital. The man mourned her death, unable to accept that his companion for forty years was now gone forever. The next chapter is a flashback, or so it seems. It's about the deceased woman, the man's wife, hanging out with college friends at a fair in 1970, forty years before the accident. The reader hangs around for the flashback, enjoying it but wondering where it's going, then—BAM! Everything changes. It comes out of nowhere and just leaves you thinking, "Woah..." Never before have I been awed like that as early as Chapter 2 in any book.

Things often make no sense throughout the book. You find yourself thinking, "There is no way there can be a logical explanation for this." You think it's cool, but in the end, since you can't think of any possible solution or explanation to the magic and illusions, you think it won't be all that cool when it's actually revealed and explained. If you find yourself thinking that, you're dead wrong. Not only does everything have a logical explanation, but it blows your mind away.

Frank Peretti has truly created a story worthy to be passed down through generations. The plot, which changes much over the course of the book, is extremely intricate and drags you along, whether you want it to or not. I can easily understand how it took two years to write, especially with the amount of research put into it. The characters were unforgettable, the emotions undeniable, and the ending was the type of ending that dropped my jaw and made me say to myself, "Now, if I could write an ending like that, it would sell millions."

Five stars. Five stars all the way. Early on in my reading I was leaning toward four stars, but by the end I couldn't imagine giving it such a low rating. I was amazed; impressed beyond words. I can't wait to read what else Frank Peretti has written and, of course, what he's going to write in the future. Illusion is one book that deserves to be remembered for a very long time.

Thanks to Howard Books and Handlebar Marketing for sending me a free review copy, and special thanks to Julie Busteed of Handlebar Marketing for being so helpful (or at least doing her best to try). :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

One Whole Year

Today marks the first anniversary of Authors for Elyon, a writing group on Facebook that I co-founded. It changed and endured a lot over the last twelve months, and in the end, I can easily (without the slightest bit of hesitation) say that this group has changed my life. In August I attended an event where I actually got to meet some of my fellow group members, and that was the best weekend of my entire life. Thank you God for this wonderful group, which has grown huge. I have no idea where my life would be without it.

Also, today also marks the first anniversary of the day I attained my Nintendo 3DS, which was on the North American launch day. It wasn't so much a life-changing event, but I've never regretted getting it. It's added much entertainment and fun (and unfortunately distraction) to my life.

Yes, March 27 holds a lot of birthdays. It also happens to be the birthday of the mother of one of my best friends. Happy Birthday everyone who has a birthday today! I guess.

Just a quick update, I'm currently set to finish Illusion by Frank Peretti on March 30, and not a day too late, as the deadline I was given is for March 31. Also, Kid Icarus: Uprising came out on the 23rd, so I've been playing it recently. You can check out my first impressions here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

1,000 Days by Jonathan Falwell

I'm not into nonfiction, but occasionally I come across a book of the genre that I truly enjoy. 1,000 Days is a book that focuses on the later life of Jesus Christ, i.e. the story told in the Gospels that takes place throughout a three-year period, or roughly one thousand days.

Jonathan Falwell, son and successor to the renowned Jerry Falwell, is an intelligent and resourceful wordsmith, and he expertly crafted a masterpiece. Each of the fifteen chapters centers on a separate subject, moving chronologically in the order of events that happened or the points that Jesus made. Nonfiction is not something I read easily, but 1,000 Days held my interest enough to get me all the way through. Falwell studied parts of the Bible his entire life, as his father was a pastor before him, and he's visited most of the locations Jesus traveled. Few would be as qualified to write this book as he.

Many of the chapters start with stories; some well-known, perhaps from a classic novel or a TV series. They are used very well as metaphorical examples of whatever the chapter is going to talk about, and though the transition between storytelling and discussing history is not always perfect, both aspects of the book are quite intriguing and keep the reader's attention. The stories I had been already familiar with contributed to my admiration of the book.

1,000 Days does have its downsides. Almost all of the scripture quotations are from the New King James version of the Bible, and though many people are fascinated by the old language, it often makes points made in this book hard to understand. In addition, though the editing and quality were very admirable throughout the book, the last 2-3 chapters seemed as though they hadn't gone through their final draft of editing. I can say, however, that these downsides did not lessen the fact that this book is a great read.

In the end, I would highly recommend this piece. 1,000 Days is full of great and valid points, and it knows how to generally make a reader interested. It forces the reader to reflect a lot on their own life and really think about who they are in relation to Christ. As I read through the book, I often found myself wanting to recommend it to people (a pastor, a school friend, my mother, etc.). I was torn between giving it a four star rating or a five star rating, but since there is no "four-and-a-half star" rating on consumer websites, I rounded it to the nearest whole number. 1,000 Days receives five stars.

1,000 Days was publicly released on March 13, 2012.
This book was sent to me for free from Thomas Nelson Publishing.

For additional content related to the book, check out

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How I Got My Name in a Novel

Every time I mention that a New York Times bestselling author named a character after me in a book, somebody's jaw drops. Some people might not even believe it, but it's true. How did it come about?

Back in August, I attended a life-changing event called The Ragged Edge. I was one of only a hundred attendees, and it was probably the best weekend of my entire life. The event was hosted by five well-known authors in the Christian community, though none of them would specifically label themselves as Christian authors. Three of the authors—Ted Dekker, Tosca Lee, and Steven James—were authors I had read and interacted with before. Another author, Robert Liparulo, I had heard a lot of great things about and I'd previously chatted with him a few times on Facebook. That left the last featured author, Eric Wilson. Eric was the only author to be speaking that, prior to learning about the event, I had never heard of.

Each author gave their own personal story, and none of them were pretty. To summarize, they let out the secret that unless you are extremely lucky, the path to becoming a published author who can live off novel writing is unbelievably hard. I won't elaborate, because it was something that you had to be there for.

Since the amount of attendees was very small and there were multiple breaks and intermissions throughout the two-day "conference," that left a lot of time to interact with the authors and other attendees. Several members of my Facebook writing group were also attendees, so during these times I was also able to hang out with my best friends. I was the first to ask a question during the first Q&A session, and I was the youngest person there (though not by much), so everyone knew me before the end. This was also partly due to the fact that Ted Dekker kept picking on me during his speaking time about that question I asked.

It was during one of those periods when people were just hanging around talking with the authors and each other that I happened to run into Eric. I had taken a picture with him earlier and jokingly commented that he was the only author I hadn't heard of when I first became interested in the event. His response was something to the effect of, "Are you making a point?" It was almost as if he expected me to have not heard of him, and it made me feel bad, even though I'd made the comment in good humor. Anyway, at this particular break period Eric was wearing a funny t-shirt. It read, "Careful, or you'll end up in my novel." I read it and asked him, "Is that supposed to be a bad thing?" He responded, "Do you want it to be?"

Long story short, that is why there is a character named Reuben King in the upcoming novel, Two Seconds Late by Eric Wilson. He said had would name a character after me, but I didn't know whether or not he was joking. I told him he didn't really need to, but then he said it was too good a name to let go. That's ironic, considering I don't really care for the name "Reuben" myself.

One thing that Eric did not tell me, however, is whether or not Reuben King will be a good or evil character. Regardless, I do hope he's at least somewhat intelligent.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It's a Gorgeous Day!

It's absolutely gorgeous outside! When I went to check the mail today, I literally could not walk—the wind propelled me into an effortless jog. The outside thermometer resides at an unrealistic 70 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm not much of an outside person—dark closets are more my style—but on these rare days when the vast outside world is neither too excruciatingly hot nor too unbearably cold, I feel like I can fly!

Though the windy world calls for me, I am sitting comfortably in our family room, at the rarely-used family computer. This is because my laptop, which has served me well (at least ten percent of the time) for the past year or so, has met its end. Perhaps it can be revived, or the files salvaged, but for the time being it is gone—crashed—and there is really not much we can do about it. On Thursday it started its never-ending cycle of error screen, then rebooting, then error screen, then rebooting, that will not stop unless the computer is manually shut down. We don't know where we will go from here, because I can't use this computer forever. I'd probably make it crash too.

So what have I been up to lately? Drainage and disorders may tear me down... but I'm still alive and well, and eagerly awaiting what the future has in store. I've done a little maintenance around the blog recently, revising my profile and bio, as can be seen to the right of this entry, and also adding a Status page, which you really should check out now and then. To those who might be interested, I've recently started using my Twitter account. If you want to follow or interact with me there, feel free to do so. I also re-launched my fan site for the upcoming video game, Kid Icarus: Uprising. It will be stressful to maintain the site, but I never should have quit it in the first place.

Today is March 6, and therefore the official release date of Frank Peretti's new novel, Illusion. It is the first book he has released in seven years. I would be outside on the porch reading it right now if my review copy had arrived on time—that being today. For now, I'm reading 1,000 Days by Jonathan Falwell, which I'm going through at a slow pace, as I find it fascinating and I don't want to rush through it. It is hard for me to speed-read through a nonfiction book, though often that's the only way I can get through them.

So that's an update on my life. What's been new in yours? Keep checking back for updates, because before too long I'll be hosting more giveaways! I know you like free stuff. Don't you deny it.

Until next time, farewell!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

One Step Away by Eric Wilson

Wow. I'm impressed.

I was given One Step Away by Eric Wilson at an event back in August. Focusing issues and other books needing to be read kept it away from me, but at long last it was the next item on my list. I was certainly not disappointed.
"A Modern Twist on One of the World's Oldest Tales." 
Bret and Sara Vreeland have been targeted. Someone has plans for them, a plot that reaches into their past and threatens their future. 
When one of Sara's patients dies, a mysterious old man, he leaves his fortune to her and her family. They have no idea they are part of an experiment. Satan once tested Job through trials, but failed to break him. Now Satan has sought God's permission to test the Vreelands with a $6,000,000 blessing. 
As their lives take turn for the better, will their souls take a turn for the worse?
The book description implies that One Step Away is of preachy nature, but I assure you, it is not. I'd say it could fit in the "drama" genre, but that in no way hinders this amazing tale. It definitely has its share of thrills and chases.

One Step Away is not the kind of story that grips me, draws me in and doesn't let go. This would normally be a bad thing, but the novel is filled to the brim with clever and humorous bits of wording that it is more than made up for. I was impressed at the author's writing ability, and numerous lines of dialogue gained my respect of him many times over.

The story isn't an explosion of awesomeness that left you sitting on the edge of your seat, but rather something to lay back and relax while reading. I may have many books in the near future that I'll be on deadline to read and review, but as the next on my list has not yet arrived, I saw no need to speed through this one. I took my time, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The characters are fun, especially when you get to know them, and their adventure, if you could call it that, is one of the best stories I have read in quite a while.

In conclusion, this book is amazing. I was wowed by it. I took it at slow pace, but you in no means need to do the same. Eric Wilson is an extremely talented writer, deserving a lot more publicity than he has at present. If you have an upcoming weekend or two with nothing to do, I highly recommend you pick up this book.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Coming Soon: The Sanctuary by Ted Dekker

The Sanctuary was first announced in early 2011, under the working title "Meltdown". To those involved in Ted Dekker's Share the Love campaign, it was revealed that it is about the characters Danny Hansen and Renee Gilmore, meaning that it is a sequel to the recent Dekker thriller, The Priest's Graveyard. The initial release date was for September 2012, but it was pushed back to early 2013 with the announcement that Mortal and Sovereign (books two and three in The Books of Mortals trilogy) are both being released in 2012. However, just yesterday it was announced (along with the amazing cover image above) that The Sanctuary will, in fact, be released in October of this year. I don't know what that will do to sales, as Sovereign is being released in just September, but I am certainly looking forward to this novel.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

You Love Me

To tell the truthful true, I've neglected from posting anything... obviously Christian on my blog. I've stated and implied before that I'm a Christian, but I've always stayed away from reviewing things like devotional diaries and intentionally never got around to typing up interesting points of theology. The reason for that is actually that I just... well... I don't want to turn people away. I want people to read my blog, and I don't want them to get some opinion that I'm a "religious person" or something. I hate religion, but what I actually believe doesn't affect impressions other people may get from what I write.

But tonight, I don't care.

Tonight I had a conversation with my mother, and because of it and a string of events afterward, I had one of the most unique and emotional nights of my entire life. It inspired me to compile this blog post, which is a list of quotes I typed myself over the course of the past short while. Looking back, for some reason this past week has somehow been one of the longest weeks of my life.

These are the ones explaining the depression I'm going through.
Hey guys, I need prayer. Recently my depression has pummeled me with full force, and it's just not fun. (Ya think?) I don't know what it is that causes it, but I'm always abnormally tired, unable and unwilling to focus on anything, extremely depressed, and overall just feeling terrible. I'm on a medication that helps for a very short time, and then seems to make it worse when it wears off. I feel like I really can't do anything at all, be it school or writing or whatever the heck else. Still don't know the cause, but I need a lot of prayer.
-- my Facebook writing group, 2/14/12
My ability to focus or work efficiently is hindered, but lusts and rage are not. A couple nights ago I finally flipped out at God. I know I've probably flipped out like this at him before, but it's not in my memory. Most people who get angry at God annoy me because I've always seen (obvious, at least to me) reason in what God did to them. But the reason I've always been mad at God -- though I'd never blown up this way -- is because of something I've NEVER been able to understand.
-- my Facebook writing group, 2/14/12
Suffering from an unusual depression. That's why I've been angry and snapping at people recently.
-- a writing forum, 2/14/12
Guys, I really do need lots of prayer. I've been meaning to ask you guys to pray for me for quite a while now, but I've never gathered the courage. You might be having a depression of your own and thinking, "He doesn't truly know what depression is like," (I've done so myself to other people before, shamefully) but that doesn't change anything. Something is hindering my ability to do the simplest things, and it's greatly hurting my relationship with God.
- - -
I don't know you guys a lot, not enough that I would truly call you friends, but you're fellow followers of Christ, and at least some of you have been through (or perhaps are going through now) something similar to what I'm going through. I don't even know what's wrong with me, but whatever the heck it is, God can provide a solution. I just don't know... when... or how...
-- an internet forum

But then, despite all the frustration this disorder or whatever has caused me, I had a deep and meaningful conversation with my mother tonight, and this is a little bit of the aftermath.
I love my parents. I love them so much. :')
-- Facebook status, 2/18/12
My mother and I are so vastly different. If not for the special connection between us, which is the fact that we've lived together for fifteen and a half years, we'd have nothing in common except a love for words and a love for Christ. If we went to the same church but weren't related, I doubt we'd ever even hold a whole conversation, because we're so different. But because we're connected as such, I love her as a mother and she loves me as a son, because that's what we are. And if it weren't for our vast differences, our all-too-rare meaningful conversations wouldn't be nearly as meaningful as they are.
I love my family. I would never let my blood family onto [this group], because I can truly be myself here and be a person I'm not in the real world, even around my closest real-world friends. But I love my brothers as true brothers and I love my parents as true parents, because even though we have our differences, we're a family. I true family. We have arguments, we have differing interests, my brothers sometimes seem to think that I haven't matured nearly as much as I have, but... we love each other. We've experienced life together. Both of my brothers have struggled with depression and lack of friends. Both of my brothers have struggled with motivation. Both my brothers have been physically weak for their age, no matter how hard they work. Both of my brothers have been ME, or at least a part of me. We're all extremely different, but we've all gone through similar ordeals. That; along with having lived together for fifteen and a half years, and having similar reading, gaming, and music interests; is what truly binds as together as brothers. 
If not for my family... my mother's impossibly frustrating discipline, my oldest brother's lectures, my middle brother's encouragement (and abuse), and my father's... I guess my father's approval... then I have no idea where on earth or hell I would be right now. Sometimes I hate who I am, but sometimes I just need to remember who I could have been if my family were someone else's family. 
I know God exists. The fact that I exist as who I am is proof enough to me that God exists. The fact that I have a genetically-connected family that truly loves me -- even my extended family on both sides is absolutely amazing -- is proof enough to me that God exists. The fact that my little idea for [a Facebook group] could inspire some of the initial members to start a writing group that turned into what [this group] is... is proof enough to me that God exists. 
I love my family. My physical family, you guys, and the Father who is the head of it all.
-- my Facebook writing group, 2/18/12

This entire blog post feels to me as if it has no meaning. Partway through I felt like just quitting, since it doesn't seem to have a point, and there's nobody would would want to read it, but there's at least One out there's going to read it and enjoy it, and that's reason enough to me to post it.

I guess the point might be that no matter how dark a shadow is, a simple minuscule of light can scare it away. I might be suffering from some sort of disorder that makes life impossibly hard. I might be struggling through an impossibly dark night. But I was handed a candle tonight, and the darkness just shrank away.

God is awesome. You know that? You can be going through the absolute worst in life, but He's always standing by with his stock of candles, ready to light your way. No matter what happens or what we've done, He's there, and He loves us anyway.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

After being in development for five years by over a hundred full-time developers, the chronologically first Zelda game, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, was released to the world this past November. Though I'd had my eye on it for most of that half decade, I did not obtain it myself until late December.

This was the game I had been waiting for longer than most people knew it existed. Critics and developers alike had been saying that it may be the greatest Zelda game of all time, and the hype for the game before its release had grown so large that my expectations were extremely high. When I started the game, I thought to myself, If this game doesn't live up to the hype, I'm going to be pretty dang mad. Within three hours of playing . . . those oh-so-high expectations were already exceeded.

The setting in Skyward Sword is unique. It starts in a world far up in the clouds, specifically the town of Skyloft. Throughout the millenia this strange sky world existed, there have been legends of a vast surface world far beneath the clouds. I would give a short synopsis of the story, but instead of typing one up myself, since I can't find a good one online, you should just play the game yourself. The story, in itself, is probably one of the best video game stories I have ever played through, and I found myself falling in love, once again, with the magnificent world Nintendo created.

One really cool aspect of the game is its use of Wii MotionPlus technology. You wield the Wii remote as you would a sword, so to speak, and the accuracy is truly great. It makes for a fun new way to play through a game, being able to actually slice through obstacles with your saber. Just be sure you don't accidentally break anything in your house from swinging that remote too wildly.

At the first public release of what the game would look like, many were disappointed. It looked like a mixture between Twilight Princess and The Wind Waker, and it just looked horrible. The visuals were eventually changed ever slightly, and regardless, they are actually quite beautiful once you get used to them. As one of the lead developers mentioned years ago, it's meant  to look a little bit as if it could be in a painting. This is especially true when looking off into the distance. I am quite satisfied with the final graphics, and they fit the game better than any other style could have.

I usually give a game's soundtrack a good rating if it fits the game well, regardless of if it's a good score on its own. For Skyward Sword, however, the music was not only fitting, but it was one of the best game soundtracks I have ever heard. Though it has never happened for any other game, I've found myself wanting to buy the OST. Unfortunately, it is not currently available.

The amount of content is actually quite large, and you can literally spend hours playing minigames and completing side quests. However, I do have to say that with Skyward Sword's format I really do miss Hyrule Field. The game takes place long before the kingdom of Hyrule was ever established, so it would be impossible to implement it in, but there is so much more you would be able to do if you had a massive overworld field to explore. Most other games in the Zelda series have one, but the game that took the series to its highest peak didn't. It was a little disappointing, but the amount of content they fit into a game without such a place (without packing it in tightly at all) is outright inspiring.

Skyward Sword uses many elements from previous Zelda games, and improves them, ranging from returning enemies to items to even the treasure system. There are numerous subtle references to games that take place later in the chronology, such as finding a forest spring identical to a key location in a game that takes place thousands of years later, or occasionally finding Hyrule's sacred crest without the Triforce.

Of course, there is no such thing as a game without flaws. Skyward Sword has furthered the maturity of the Zelda series with its upgrade in quality level, full effort put into the soundtrack and story, and several other aspects that have made the game amazing, but there are still little things here and there that did not make the jump to higher maturity. The dialog of the game is all in text, so there isn't vocal speaking for the player to hear, yet still there are voice actors for groans, breathing, sighing, etc. In theory it's not a bad idea, but in Skyward Sword it's terrible. In addition, the poses and expressions Link still makes when he gets a new item are sickeningly childish.

The biggest downside of them all is actually your sidekick and companion, Fi. Fi is the intelligent being or artificial intelligence who lives in your sword, and who's duty it is to guide and assist you on your quest. She can project an image of herself, but can make no physical contact. The only good thing about her is the fact the that she looks cool, but that's about it. Of all the companions who have assisted the different incarnations of Link throughout the thousands of years that different Zelda games take place, many have been unbearably annoying. Navi, your ever-constantly-bugging-you fairy in Ocarina of Time, has often thought to be one of the most annoying companions in any video game. I would have to say Fi is even worse. She seems to have an obsession of telling you the completely obvious facts (and not the things you actually need to know), and making sure she elaborates in full, or more than full, often boring the player to the point where they feel like throwing their controller across the room. It doesn't help that she . . . always . . . talks . . . extremely . . . slowly. . . .

In conclusion, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword may be one of the best games I've ever played. At present it is dueling The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for being both my favorite Zelda game of all time, but also my favorite Wii game of all time. The story, setting, graphics, music, gameplay, variety, locations, and overall ingenuity of it all made for an amazing experience. Nintendo doesn't cease to amaze me, and I can't wait for the next home console Zelda release. No doubt that will be in another five years.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword gets a well-deserved 10/10.