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!