Monday, December 10, 2012

Movie Review: Small Soldiers


When a toy company is bought out by a corporation known for making military technology, a military computer chip is put into a new line of toy soldiers in an attempt to make the most advanced toy soldiers yet. A teenage boy who works at a toy shop disobeys his dad and gets his hands on the toys before their release date, then activates two soldiers who are enemies of each other. To his shock, the “good” soldiers are soon all activated by their leader, and begin seeking to destroy the “bad” soldiers. When the boy appears to be defending the “bad” soldiers, he finds himself caught in the war between the toy soldiers. He tries to keep what’s going on a secret from his dad, but before long things are spiraling out of control as the “good” toy soldiers grow continually more violent and take their war to the streets.

The unique premise of this movie is what makes it worth seeing for those who are interested. The idea of toy soldiers coming to life and battling each other, with humans caught in the middle, is a fun one, and while this movie doesn’t use it as well as it could have, it does an adequate job. The special effects are generally good. The story has a few holes, none of which are big enough to sink the film, but which hold the film back a bit. Despite the length, some of the main characters don’t feel deeply developed. With more depth, this could have been a classic, but as it is, it’s decent entertainment that is mainly memorable for the premise.

Some might be surprised that a movie about living toys is PG-13, but this is definitely not Toy Story. Violence is pervasive, especially involving the toy soldiers being maimed and destroyed in various ways. The idea of living evil toys might frighten some children, particularly since at one point a child is tied up by the bad toy soldiers. There are a dozen or so mild swear words. Some girl dolls that the evil toy soldiers recruit wear bikinis for the rest of the film. A few mildly suggestive comments are made. More than one of the protagonists acts like a jerk at one time or another, and it would have been nice if they had learned more, though they have learned at least a little better by the end.


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christians and Snails

I realized this picture and this quote would go together perfectly.



(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Friday, November 30, 2012

I Finished National Novel Writing Month!


As I mentioned at the beginning of the month, I decided to try to write the first 50,000 words of a novel for the National Novel Writing Month challenge. After a long month of writing, I’m happy to say that I met my goal of 50,000 words. This surpasses my previous record for writing in one month, 45,000 words.


The novel I’m working on is tentatively titled The Silencer, and here is its logline: After witnessing a murder, a teenage city slicker and the girl he likes must rely on her dad's outdoor skills to survive when the relentless killer pursues them into the wilderness.

Since I’m aiming for The Silencer to be 80,000 words long, I still have around 30,000 words to go. I’ll let you know when I finish the first draft.

Did any of you write a NaNo novel, or try to?


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Enter to Win a Free Book


J. Grace Pennington, author of the excellent science fiction novel Firmament: Radialloy (that I reviewed here) has now branched out to another genre with a western mystery called Never, which will be released on November 23rd. And not only is she experimenting with a cool genre mix, she is also giving away a copy of the book. All you have to do to be entered to win is to take part in a simple and easy scavenger hunt.


Before I give the instructions for how to enter, here’s what the book you could win is about:

Travis Hamilton never expected to be a killer. One day he was studying to become a schoolteacher in the little western town of Spencervale, and the next he was sentenced to ten years hard labor in the Dead Mines outside town -- from which few return alive.

Ross Hamilton is no detective. But when his brother is convicted of murder, he has no choice but to abandon his ranch and do all in his power to find out just what happened the night of the killing, and who is really responsible.

Neither brother is prepared to be stretched and tested to his limits and beyond by an adventure that is much bigger than either of them ever imagined.

But in the next few days, they will be. The only way to survive is to never compromise.

Never.

And speaking of never, you should never pass up the chance to win a free novel, especially if it is by J. Grace Pennington.

Here’s how to enter to win Never:

Copy this code: ENYAW NHOJ

Then get the additional codes from other participating blogs, which will all be linked together for your convenience. The blog I’m linked to is: BushMaid

When you have gathered all the codes, send them to theauthor[AT]jgracepennington[DOT]com, and you’ll be entered to win a free copy of Never. Additionally, everyone who sends in all the codes will automatically win two Never-themed desktop backgrounds.

The giveaway starts today and will continue until 11:59 CST on November 22nd, the day before the release date.

Enjoy the scavenger hunt, and be sure to visit Grace's blog and website.

Never trivia: As with Grace's first novel Firmament: Radialloy, Never draws some inspiration from Star Trek--Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, to be precise. This film features one group accused of assassination and sent to work in some mines, while the other group remains behind to try to solve the mystery.


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Review: Illusion by Frank Peretti



After an aging magician loses his beloved wife in a car crash, he begins trying to pick up the pieces of his life. Meanwhile, a young woman from the 1970s finds herself thrown forty years into the future, and struggles to survive in what is now a strange world. She begins using magic tricks as a way to make money, and eventually catches the attention of the magician. He agrees to take her on as an apprentice, despite being bothered by her uncanny resemble to his wife when she was young. As they work to unravel the mystery of who the young woman is, they will have to turn to their magic tricks to help battle the mysterious group that is watching the young woman and has plans for her.

One of the most interesting things about this book is how Peretti breaks many of the supposed “rules of good writing” and usually gets away with it because he’s such a masterful writer. While some of these flourishes falter, most are effective. The story is a bit rambly early on, taking a long time to set up the complicated relationship between the old magician and the young woman who resembles his wife, and after that it stays engaging. The antagonists felt underdeveloped, but the magic tricks that are so important to the book are vividly described. While it is not one of Peretti’s best books, it is still a compelling story that is worth reading.

Content is minimal, and mostly consists of mild violence here and there. There are a few ambiguous uses of words that may or may not be meant as swearing. Kissing, attraction, and the caresses of a married couple are referenced. Adult subjects are present, but dealt with tactfully. It doesn’t have as clear a spiritual message as some of his books, but the central theme is a good one, and the indirect influences of faith can be seen throughout.


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Monday, November 12, 2012

Movie Review: Titan A.E.



When an evil alien race fears that humanity will gain the ability to stop their conquest of space, they destroy earth. Fifteen years later, the only hope of humanity is the son of the man who hid a powerful ship that can create a new earth, since the son’s DNA can unlock the map to find the hidden ship. The son has grown up with mostly indifferent alien companions, and has become a reckless jerk. As he is begrudgingly dragged along on the quest to save the remnants of humanity, he slowly becomes a better person, and finds a few colorful allies. However, the aliens who destroyed earth are on his trail, and are willing do anything to get the hidden ship for themselves and prevent humanity from rising again.

The main draw of this film is the animation. In many scenes, it is spectacular, and fans of sci-fi and animated films might want to see it for that alone, though occasionally the animation is stiff or has less depth. There are many memorable action sequences that are vividly depicted. The story, on the other hand, is riddled with holes and things that aren’t explained and some erratic characters. However, the two main protagonists are effective, and a sidekick named Goon is notably amusing.

Titan A.E. is much more “adult” than all the other Don Bluth films I’ve seen, such as The Land Before Time, An American Tail, and Anastasia. The screenplay is co-written by Joss Whedon, who is famous for the television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, and the movie The Avengers. While the idea of Don Bluth making a film for older audiences could have worked, I have somewhat mixed feelings about the result in this instance. There is a lot to like in the animation, action sequences, and protagonists, but a lot to dislike in the story problems as well as mild content issues. This unfortunately ended up being Don Bluth’s last film.

Titan A.E. starts out a bit grim and problematic, and though it gets less so as it goes along, the tone feels more like a PG-13 movie than PG. A gory murder scene is supposed to be funny because the alien being killed is sleazy. Aside from that, the violence doesn’t get gory. The idea of earth being destroyed and remade may trouble some, as may women in battle. There is some gross out humor and a bit of vague flirting and innuendo. Mild male nudity is played for laughs. A woman’s silhouette is seen as she gets dressed after a shower.  Surprisingly, in the midst of all this, the movie is free of profanity.


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Monday, November 5, 2012

My First NaNo Novel


If you don’t know what a NaNo novel is, it’s a novel written in November, as part of National Novel Writing Month. I decided to join in this year. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel, or 50,000 words of a novel. I’m aiming for the latter.

Here’s the basic information for the novel I’m working on:


Title: The Silencer

I’m not sure if I’ll keep this title or not. What do you think?


Logline: After witnessing a murder, a teenage city slicker and the girl he likes must rely on her dad's outdoor skills to survive when the relentless killer pursues them into the wilderness.


And just for fun, I made a simple cover:



Are you writing a NaNo novel?


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Friday, November 2, 2012

Podcast Co-host



I co-hosted a podcast that was just released, interviewing author J. Grace Pennington. You can listen to it or download it here:

Interview with J. Grace Pennington, author of Firmament: Radialloy

It’s my first time on a podcast, so let me know what you think.


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Book Review: Finding the Core of Your Story by Jordan Smith



Jordan Smith believes that all storytellers should be able to describe their story in a single sentence. Loglines were originally used to describe films, but Jordan has adapted them so that they can be used to describe any story, with an emphasis on screenplays and novels. Not only is this useful for giving a quick and effective answer to anyone who asks what your story is about, but it is also helpful for making sure that, as you write your story, you stay focused on the core of the story.

I was amused to notice that I got an indirect mention in this book, as an example that Jordan gave to illustrate one of his points. I’ve sought Jordan’s advice in the past on a logline, and while I’m sure having him look over your logline is best, having this book is the next best thing. At only eighty pages long, it’s an easy read, and all the information you need to write a logline is thoroughly and humorously laid out within its pages. If you already know you need to write a logline, then you need this book, and if you don’t yet know you need to write a logline, this book will tell you why you need to and then show you how to do it.


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Monday, October 22, 2012

Animal Tips for Writers: Possums


At first glance, the possum’s size, grayish fur, and naked tail might make it look like a giant rat that can menace your hero. However, the possum is actually a generally harmless American marsupial. A scavenger often seen in an urban environment, the possum is known for showing its teeth and hissing when encountered, or alternately, playing dead. The possum has a strong immune system that is resistant to the venom of certain snakes, and its diverse diet includes roadkill, trash, small animals, and fruit.

A possum playing dead.

Female possums carry their young in a pouch, but once the young get bigger they ride on their mother’s back. Adult possums are solitary and tend to roam about in search of food and water. Possum tails can grip branches to help them balance, but possums cannot hang from their tails as popularly believed except while they are small. While the correct name for the possum is “opossum,” to differentiate it from the various possums of Australia and elsewhere, many Americans prefer to simply call them possums.

(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Movie Review: Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey



Two dogs and a cat live a happy life with their family, but when their family has to go on a long trip, the three pets must go stay with a relative of the family. The pets are confused, though the old dog is certain that their family will return for them. However, the young dog was abandoned by his previous family and thinks it has happened again. Eventually, the old dog worries that his beloved boy is in trouble, and sets out to find him, with the other two pets tagging along. What they think is a quick trip over a mountain turns into a daunting trek through a dangerous wilderness, leaving the pets to wonder if they’ll ever reach home or even survive.

The simple story of this film is fairly effective, and when added together with the humorous dialogue and antics of the three pets, the result is a fun film for all ages. The animals who portray the pets are believable and amusing. One of the most notable things about the film is that the cynical and rebellious young dog learns the value of love, family, and home, which is a step above the usual “believe in yourself” moral that many family films have. Some of the scenes where the pets are in danger are fairly intense, and parents might be concerned about children wanting to imitate the snarky dialogue of the pets, but other than that this film is safe for the whole family.


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Friday, October 12, 2012

Book Review: The Windrider Saga by Rebecca P. Minor



After an elven warrior is the only survivor of a dangerous mission, he runs into a half-elven prophetess who shakes up his life even more by revealing that he is meant to become the head of the elven air calvary, with an ancient silver dragon as his mount. As he settles into this daunting new life, he has to endure the seemingly boring religious teachings of the prophetess on the one hand while dealing with dangerous enemies on the other. His adventures will lead him away from his beloved homeland and into strange and dangerous lands.

The Windrider Saga by Rebecca C. Minor consists of two novellas that were originally published as serial stories. As their origins might suggest, they are fast-paced adventures with fun characters. While the world is not described in detail other than some original flourishes, it is fully adequate for the action-oriented tales that are set there, and will likely be fleshed out more if the series continues. This book is probably best for teens and adults due to violence and the presence of a seductive slave girl who tempts the hero with kisses and revealing attire.


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Friday, October 5, 2012

Abstract Experiments

I made these pictures while experimenting with effects in an art program. What do you think of them? Do you like experimenting with effects?

"Aquatica"



"Arctica"



"Electrica"



"Fire & Water"



"Flowerburst"



"Land & Sea"



"Moss Map"



"Wavestorm"



"Woodcraft"



(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Anastasia (1956)



After the royal family is killed during the Russian revolution, no one can access the family's $10 million in a British bank. However, an exiled general sets out to change that by using a woman who greatly resembles the royal daughter, Anastasia, to claim that the heir to the fortune is still alive and access the money. The woman suffers from mental illness, and is reluctant to go along with the plan, but eventually agrees to. Together, they set out to convince the world, and more importantly, the real Anastasia’s aunt, that the woman is the real Anastasia, so they can claim the millions of dollars for themselves.

The story and characters in Anastasia are well done, though it seemed like the film could have benefited from being a bit longer, to give it more time to focus on certain aspects of the story and characters. The theme of being true to yourself rather than doing whatever it takes to chase money was nothing new but fairly effective. The acting is, as one would expect, quite good. In the end, this is a competently made but not particularly memorable historical drama.

Content is generally mild: Intensity, such as thoughts of suicide and references to mental illness and murder. A middle-aged woman’s lustful ways are condemned, but more due to her age than the immorality itself. There is a bit of kissing. The main characters are almost all shady in some way, and it is not evident at the end if the two protagonists have learned better in general, though they do learn the error of some of their ways.


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Friday, September 21, 2012

Book Review: Firmament: Radialloy by J. Grace Pennington

A young nurse lives with her father, a doctor, on a starship that is exploring space, but her happy and peaceful life is shaken when her father starts acting strange and eventually appears to insane. As she tries to figure out what’s wrong, criminals take over the ship in pursuit of a treasure that is hidden aboard. She finds herself forced to face a secret from her past that could tear apart much of what she believes in. After discovering that the secret is connected to the criminals, she must race against time to cure her father and help save the starship.

Firmament: Radialloy by J. Grace Pennington is a good, clean, old-fashioned science fiction story. The fast-paced plot makes one think of an episode of Star Trek, and like that classic show, it has strong characterizations and is well-written, weaving together an effective story and theme. This is the first book in an expected eighteen book series, and if this book is any indication, it is a series that will be worth reading all the way to the end. Firmament: Radialloy is aimed at teens and adults, and contains some intensity and violence, but is also suitable for some older children.

(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Monday, September 17, 2012

Animal Tips for Writers: What Is A Rodent?


After an unplanned short break from writing animal tips, I hope to write them more frequently. Today we'll look at rodents, which seem to come up often in certain types of stories, books, and movies.

When writing about creepy little animals, some authors might wonder if they can describe such animals as rodents. But can all creepy little animals be described as rodents? The answer is: No. Most “creepy” little animals are not rodents, and not all rodents are little. Some rodents are even widely thought of as cute.


Rodents are mammals of the order Rodentia. Rats, mice, squirrels, hamsters, guinea pigs, and even bigger animals like beavers and the 200 pound capybara are rodents. Snakes, toads, cockroaches, flies, and other such frequently reviled animals that some authors might want to lump together with rats are not rodents, because they are not mammals nor members of the order Rodentia.

Have you ever written about rodents, or do you plan to? Have you ever had a memorable encounter with a rodent?


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Saturday, September 15, 2012

An Angelic Dedication



Few people are fortunate enough to have a book dedicated to them. Earlier this week, I learned that I was one of those fortunate few. Author Aubrey Hansen chose two people to dedicate her new novel, Peter’s Angel, to. I was one of the two. Here is my half of the dedication:

To Jonathan
for listening
to every fear
every pain
every hope
and always reminding me
that God
has a plan
for everything
To you is the character of Nathan warmly dedicated.

Aubrey’s kind and beautiful dedication means a lot to me, and I look forward to owning the special book that contains it. I read and enjoyed two earlier drafts of the novel, but haven’t yet had the chance to read the final draft, which has had some big changes since I last read it.

Soon my copy of the book will arrive, and now you can own Peter’s Angel, too. Aubrey has been working on this novel for years, calling it her masterpiece, and it is finally finished and was released today.

Here is what Peter’s Angel is about:

In the wake of a lost War for Independence, Peter Jameson, a young colonel, struggles to protect his tiny patriot state of Rhode Island from the oppression of New Britain, the wealthy British duchy. When New Britain invades and attempts to seize Rhode Island’s newly-discovered mine, Peter finds himself leading his small cavalry against the massive British army. But war becomes the least of his worries when his own men kidnap him and hold him for ransom. Facing certain death, Peter is freed by a mysterious boy who vanishes without leaving his name. Indebted, Peter determines to find his "angel" and reward him. But his rescuer has a secret of his own—he is the exiled rightful heir of New Britain, and he will do anything to keep from being found.

I hope you will join me in reading Peter’s Angel. It is available in paperback and as an e-book.


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Movie Review: Act of Valor



After a Muslim terrorist blows up a school in the Philippines, he aims for a bigger target: America. He enlists the help of a childhood friend who is now a smuggler, and begins putting his plans in place. Meanwhile, a team of Navy SEALS must plunge into a Costa Rican jungle to rescue a kidnapped CIA operative. Once that dangerous and explosive mission is completed, they learn enough about the terrorist’s plans to begin hunting him down and working to stop his planned attacks on America.

Film critic Christian Toto had this to say regarding one of the most notable things about Act of Valor: After years of seeing films treating American soldiers as mercenaries, thugs or much, much worse, we witness another side of the modern warrior. These SEALs are smart, self-effacing and brave beyond measure. Their personal sacrifices alone make them worthy of our respect and admiration. The film stands out in a sea of morally conflicted war movies where the enemy is given the benefit of the doubt, not the soldiers.

The fair view of the U.S. military is not the only thing that makes this film stand out. Some of the action sequences are brilliantly executed. The film goes for realism rather than a lot of special effects, and this authentic feel helps the film. Most of the actors are active duty Navy SEALS, so their unpolished but fully competent acting further adds to the authentic feel. However, the story and characterizations are for the most part just adequate, and this holds the film back a bit. Overall, Act of Valor is a solid action film that will leave you thinking about heroism and the threats that America and the world faces.

Despite the R-rating, the violence in this film was generally on the level of a PG-13 movie. It was slightly more bloody in some scenes, such as the occasional headshot, but the filmmakers wisely chose not to focus on the violence. The foul language, consisting of around ten “f” words, about twice that of other swear words, and two blasphemies, was also on the mild side for the rating--which is one of the reasons why I rarely watch R-rated movies. The rest of the content is truly mild: A bit of immodesty and a villain referencing past lovers. The restraint of this film regarding content is unusual for Hollywood, though I wish they had shown a bit more restraint with the swearing.


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

12,000


My blog is nearing its two year anniversary, and already it has 12,000 views. Thank you to everyone who reads my blog! I enjoy seeing your comments.

I have some special things planned for the two year anniversary, which I will reveal later. For now, y’all might be interested in seeing what are currently the most popular posts.


The top five most popular posts are:

#5 Imagine All the Vampires...

People seem to like this John Lennon and Twilight parody.


#4 Animal Tips for Writers: Coral Snakes

I’m surprised that people are curious enough about coral snakes to make this my #4 most popular post, but I’m glad that people are interested in animals.


#3 Four Seasons (Illustrated by BushMaid)

This post has long been one of the most popular.


#2 Choosing Godly Entertainment

I got a lot of good responses from people about this article.


#1 Honey Badger Cares

This article is so popular that it has almost twice as many views as the second most viewed post. I don’t know if it has made a dent in the dark side of the honey badger trend, but at least it has put the message out there.


As a bonus, my most popular post this month is:

Childish Ways


Did any of the most popular posts surprise you? What is your favorite post? Do you have any suggestions for posts I could write?


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Monday, September 3, 2012

Cross-Eyed

This picture seems like it could inspire a story. It has a lot of interesting elements.



(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Movie Review: Supercop



A policeman with skills too large for his small assignments is sent to help with a dangerous mission. He quickly finds out that while his skills are impressive back at home, they aren’t quite as impressive among the best of the best of law enforcement. As he goes undercover and helps a powerful criminal escape from jail as part of an operation to bring down an even more powerful criminal, his skills will be tested as never before.

Supercop is typical of Jackie Chan’s good movies: Generic story, minimal characterization, and plenty of humor, all of it held together by slick action sequences, cool stunts, and the star’s charm. The bad English dubbing is, as usual, part of the fun. If you’re looking for an action film with a masterful story and vivid characterizations, look elsewhere. The Fugitive, for example. If you’re looking for just-for-fun entertainment, then Supercop fits those qualifications.

This film should never have been rated R. Aside from a few “f” words in a rap song that plays briefly in the background, content is all of the PG-13 variety or below, and the song seems to have been added solely to get this film an R-rating and make it “cooler.” There’s a handful of other swear words. Violence is pervasive, but mostly bloodless, and sometimes involves women in combat roles. It’s implied that the protagonist is living with his girlfriend and all that entails. Some characters are mistaken for prostitutes and propositioned by a criminal. Various women are seen in immodest clothing. Also of note is that going undercover requires some actions that are not always explained morally, but since the general tone is one of morality, it’s not much of an issue.


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Book Review: Lord of the Flies by William Golding


After a plane crash strands a dozen or so boys on a tropical island, they at first have fun in this new environment. They form a community and make plans for building shelters and keeping a fire burning to signal rescuers. However, the laziness of many of the boys leads to these plans falling apart. A rivalry between the leader of the boys and another boy who obsesses over hunting continually grows more tense. As time passes and the boys in general become more and more like savages, the few boys who retain bits of civilization try to survive and hold onto hope.

As anyone who knows a bit about this book might can guess, this isn’t a happy story. The tone is grim and doesn’t make for pleasant reading. However, the nightmarish feel also makes it compelling since you will want to see how it ends. The prose is vividly written, but sometimes feels detached, while the story flows at an erratic pace early on before smoothing out as the story goes along.

The savagery that takes ahold of the boys is disturbing, and occasionally seems implausible, but for the most part one can see how something like this could happen to those who let go of their values or have no solid values to stand on. As such, it can be read as a reminder of the importance of Christian principles that stay the same in every situation. Unfortunately, the author’s lack of Christian faith and the relentless darkness of the story muddy things up.

The main content issues potential readers should be aware of are violence and darkness. Boys are brutally murdered by other boys, and once this is described in flashes of gruesome detail. Hunting is described somewhat graphically. The cruelty of some of the boys and their eventual descent into murderous savagery might be too much for some readers. There is a bit of mild swearing. Most problematic of all, the story seems hesitant to offer any hope, and thus is probably not worth the time of anyone except those wanting to read it for literary research.


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Book Review: The Coral Island by R. M. Ballantyne


After their ship is wrecked during a storm in the Pacific Ocean, three young men learn to survive on an exotic island. They quickly discover that their new home is almost a paradise, with all sorts of indigenous food and colorful animals, and good weather other than the occasional storm. While they dream of going home, they enjoy themselves in the meantime, having all sorts of adventures on the island as they explore the many wonders it holds. Their peaceful life is shaken after a boatload of vengeful cannibals chase a boatload of rebel cannibals to the island and a violent battle occurs on the beach. The young men take the side of the rebel cannibals and help them overcome their pursuers. In gratitude, the cannibals do not harm the boys. After the cannibals leave, the young men return to their peaceful life, until the coming of a pirate ship permanently ends the peace on the island and plunges them into the greatest danger yet.

I found this book to be surprisingly enjoyable to read, considering its age. The protagonists were likable and had unique personalities. While descriptions of flora and fauna and philosophical musings sometimes went on awhile, they were written in such a pleasant style that I never found them to be boring. The story itself rambled around a bit, as is common for this type of adventure book. The rambly plot flows smoothly for most of the book, then gets a little shaky towards the end, and finally is harmed a bit by a deus ex machina ending. However, the various adventures of the boys are so entertaining overall that the fumble at the end did not seriously harm my enjoyment of the book. With some tweaking to the ending, it would be easy to imagine this book as a film. Christianity is presented positively and clearly in this book, woven in as an essential part of the story rather than just tossed in.

While The Coral Island has a reputation as a “children’s classic,” it is worth noting that the violence in this book can get somewhat graphic. Cannibals slaughter each other in various gruesome ways. Once their enemies are dead, the cannibals sometimes chop them up, cook pieces of them over the fire, and eat them. The dark pagan practices of the cannibals are referenced and occasionally witnessed. The pirates are violent, too, though not as much as the cannibals. Characters are wounded in numerous ways. There is also some lesser content worth noting: The cannibals are sometimes referenced as being nude. Racism, including one racial slur, appears occasionally among the villains. The combination of all this violence and darkness may be too intense for most children and even some teens and adults. However, due to the morality of the protagonists and the healing that is shown as found in faith in God, the book exudes hope rather than darkness.


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Childish Ways

Picture by Elizabeth Liberty

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. -- 1 Corinthians 13:11

How do we decide if certain things are childish? As Christians, we want to be responsible teenagers and adults. But does that mean we have to leave behind things like climbing trees, enjoying walks in the rain, playing with puppies, and using our imagination?

Since I am a relatively young man, this subject comes up a lot among my friends, and I think I have a good idea of how to decide whether something should be left in childhood or can be taken with us through the teenage years and even into adulthood.

To start, this verse from 2 Timothy 2:22:

Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Notice that it doesn’t say flee all of youth, but just the evil desires of youth.

Next, a verse that is popular among the young, 1 Timothy 4:12:

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 

These two verses show quite a bit of what being an adult is about: Pursuing righteousness, faith, love, peace, and purity, and making sure these things show in our life, including the words we say. How do climbing trees or walking in the rain or playing with puppies or using our imaginations get in the way of those things?

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.

When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 

And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them. -- Mark 10:13-16

It is clear from the Bible that a child-like faith is seen as a good thing, because it lacks the skepticism and fear that is common among adults. Children can just believe. Since a child-like faith is good, why not a child-like joy in the simple pleasures of the life God has given us?

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! -- Philippians 4:4

If such a joy affects our ability to be responsible and righteous Christian adults, then yes, it is a problem that must be dealt with, and is not a good thing. It is rejoicing in ourselves rather than rejoicing in the Lord.

But if our joy brings only good, then who can question it? If it is looked down on by people who think you are “too old for such things”, why should you care, as long as you know it is not affecting your pursuit of the Biblical definition of adulthood?

Certainly, there are some activities so juvenile that they should be avoided by adults and we must use discernment about such things. However, there are also some activities that are wrongly stigmatized as childish by adults who have pushed aside the good parts of youth along with the bad. King David danced for the Lord in a way that was not “dignified,” and was judged wrongly by his own wife for it, while God approved of it.

May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful. -- Psalm 68:3

There is nothing inherently immature about someone who climbs trees, enjoys walks in the rain, plays with puppies, and uses their imagination, as long as those things do not interfere with the pursuit of righteousness, faith, love, peace, and purity. This doesn’t mean that you have to do them, only that you can if you want to and are able to exercise discernment regarding them.

If you are worried about whether some things you enjoy are too childish, give them a simple objective examination. If they are not too ridiculous and pass the Biblical criteria for adulthood, then never worry about them again without significant cause.

Adulthood isn’t about being solemn, but about being responsible and righteous. Let your thoughts go to praise and thanksgiving to God instead of to being self-conscious, and know that He is pleased with your joy.

Are you one of those who worries about whether something you like to do is too childish?


*All Bible verses are from the NIV.

(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Movie Review: Courageous


Four policemen excel at their jobs, including battling with violent drug dealers. But after one of them loses a child, they realize that they have not been excelling as fathers to their children, and decide to change this. One of the fathers writes up a resolution for them to be great rather than just good fathers, and with another father joining them, they sign it and set out to live up to their promise to their children.

What sounds like it could be a sappy drama is actually a quite solid drama that has plenty of action and comedy sprinkled throughout. The opening scene of this film, and a humorous scene later in the movie, are more effective than just about any scenes I’ve seen in years from Hollywood. As Sherwood keeps growing as a film production company, I’m interested in seeing if they can fully live up to this potential. This film is safe for most viewers, with some mild violence, intense scenes, and mature themes.


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Book Review: Red Rain by Aubrey Hansen


After a young woman accompanies her father to Mars so he can work on a scientific project, she explores the base where they are staying. She is curious to see if she can find anything out about her deceased brother, who worked at the base before he died. Soon she is surprised to find herself able to open unauthorized doors, and discovers that her brother’s death was not accidental. Then she learns an even greater secret that will present her with a terrible choice.

Red Rain by Aubrey Hansen is unique in some ways, being one of the few Christian science fiction stories on the market today, and the only Christian science fiction novella I’ve ever read. It’s a short read, but the simple story is well-told, with an endearing heroine and an atmospheric setting. If you like science fiction, stories about young adults, or wholesome entertainment in general, then you'll probably like Red Rain. This book is safe for most readers, with only a bit of mild violence and some intense scenes.


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Friday, July 20, 2012

Close Encounters of the Roach Kind


One insect that invades homes has probably set more women to screaming and more children to sobbing without actually harming them than any other: The American Cockroach, often referred to as simply the roach.

Despite its name, the American Cockroach is not native to the United States of America. It originally invaded the shores of America by stowing away on ships from Africa, colonizing the southern part of the United States less than two centuries after the earliest human colonists came from Europe.

In its new habitat, it thrived, becoming a pest that creeps into houses to search for food and sometimes even swarms in large numbers in the dark places of a house. Today, it yet lurks in houses, usually roaming about after nightfall, bringing terror to many.

What is it about this insect that frightens people so? It doesn’t have fangs like a spider. It doesn’t have a stinger like a wasp or a scorpion. It can't spray a foul-smelling odor like a stink bug. What it does have are its relatively large size, its strangely hideous looks, and its apparent fascination with tormenting humans.

Where roaches are numerous, it is not uncommon for them to appear to attack humans by flying and landing on them, running up their legs, dropping from the ceiling into their hair, diving into their cups, or crawling on their faces as they sleep. Roaches assault people so regularly that it seems as if they take devilish delight in this contact.

Roaches also perpetrate other dark deeds. Sometimes roaches make eery scratching noises as they crawl about, which might bring to mind the sounds in a supposedly haunted house. Sometimes they cause a foul odor to fill a part of a house. Sometimes they spread diseases as they roam.


Defensive measures are taken against these domestic scavengers by exterminators who spray poison and homeowners who put out roach traps. Yet roaches still often manage to establish themselves in houses and other buildings, and continually prove hard to get rid of.

While insect spray from cans will kill them, perhaps the most common method of using lethal force against the invaders is to crush them with a shoe, sometimes while the shoe is being worn, and other times while the shoe is held in a hand. This method, while quite messy if the roach explodes, can be done with delicacy so that there is little mess to clean up afterwards.

However, since roaches are notoriously hard to kill, it may be preferable to flush such delicately smashed roaches down the toilet rather than tossing them into the trash. Often the water revives a wounded or merely stunned roach and causes it to swim desperately until sucked into the vortex of death. Had the roach been tossed into the trash, it might have awakened and crawled out to terrify a second time.

Some people have wilder methods of killing roaches than smashing them, and turn it into a sort of hunt: Rubber band guns can be used to take out roaches if the shooter is accurate. If one wanted to get really creative, a grasshopper mouse could be unleashed, since this ruthless rodent likes munching on roaches.

The roach has supposedly been around for 350 million years, and in spite of all the attempts to eradicate it, it is still thriving. This infamous insect is certain to terrify, disgust, and be violently slaughtered for years to come.

Have you ever had a close encounter of the roach kind?


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Friday, July 13, 2012

Movie Review: The Fugitive

After a doctor is wrongly convicted of murdering his wife, a crash while he is being transported to a different prison allows him to escape. A relentless U.S. marshal is given the task of hunting him down, but the doctor successfully eludes the police and settles into his new life on the run. As government agents circle ever closer, the doctor begins trying to unravel the mystery of who really killed his wife, desperate to stay free long enough to bring the real killer to justice.


The Fugitive is an exceptional thriller--one of the best ever made. All of the main characters feel fully developed, most notably Tommy Lee Jones as the no nonsense U.S. marshal hunting the fugitive down. The train wreck and the dam jumping scenes are both classics of their kind, and stand out even in a movie with many suspenseful action scenes. The story is brilliantly constructed and chillingly believable.

The only problem with the film is a handful of blasphemies and the high number of mild swear words. The rest of the content is not enough to be problematic for appropriate viewers: The violence is intense but not excessive. The suspense in this film is relentless and might get to some people. A vivid flashback shows the doctor kissing his wife in bed. If it weren't for the language issues, I would recommend this film for those who like thrillers.


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Friday, June 29, 2012

Imagine All the Vampires...


Just for fun, I wrote a parody of the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer and the song "Imagine" by John Lennon. For those who don't know, Twilight is a popular vampire romance with some issues, and "Imagine" is a popular atheist anthem that is disturbing to anyone who takes the time to think about it. Put the two together, and you get... Well, you'll see soon enough. Imagine Edward or any other Twilight-style vampire singing these lyrics.


"Imagine" (Twilight Version)

Imagine you’re a vampire
It's easy if you try
No coffin to hold us
When we kiss life goodbye
Imagine all the vampires
Drinking blood like me...

Imagine there's no humans
It isn't hard to do
We can all suck on wildlife
And never have to chew
Imagine all the vampires
Sharing all the blood...

You may say I'm just creepy
But my books are widely read
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be undead

Imagine no Van Helsing
I wonder if you dare
No need for stakes or garlic
And no one left to scare
Imagine all the vampires
Sparkling like me...

You may say I'm just creepy
But my books are widely read
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be undead


This is obviously a bit different than my usual posts. What do you think of it?


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Review: The Book of Sea Monsters

by Bob Eggleton and Nigel Suckling


The title pretty much tells you all you need to know about the focus of this book, so I’ll get straight to the review. As a book of this type should be, it is colorfully illustrated, and for this reason is enjoyable to browse in or read all the way through. The pictures don’t always match the text, but they are always nice to look at.

Instead of setting out to prove the existence of sea monsters, the text gives a fascinating and fairly thorough overview of sea monsters in myth, legend, and purported fact. If you are curious about sea monsters, this book might be just what you are looking for to have fun learning more about them, and it might inspire you to look into more detailed books. However, readers who are looking for an in-depth examination of the evidence for and against sea monsters might be disappointed.

This book is safe for most readers, containing just some scary stuff, a single crude slang word, mild mythical humanoid immodesty, and references to macro-evolution. The only notable mark against it is that a disdainful view of Christianity creeps into the text on a few occasions, but this is ironically somewhat balanced by an endorsement of the general integrity of clergymen.


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Monday, June 11, 2012

Movie Review: Brigadoon


While hunting in Scotland, two rich men from America stumble upon a mysterious village that isn’t on the map. When one of the hunters falls in love with a young woman in the village, his curiosity leads him to find out the village’s secret. It turns out that the village is miraculously protected due to the sacrifice of its former minister, and only seen by the outside world once every one hundred years. The hunter realizes that he must choose between leaving his present life behind to stay in this magical village forever with the woman he loves, or returning to his normal life and never seeing the woman he loves again. As he ponders this choice, a malcontent will threaten the existence of the village, and with it, the woman the hunter loves.

Brigadoon is a colorful fantasy musical from the 1950s that should have been enjoyable for the whole family. The spiritual themes had a lot of promise, even if the theology was a bit murky, but unfortunately it ends up too tainted by Hollywood to live up to the promise of the themes. A supposed innate aversion to marriage by men, a distorted view of love, and various other small issues drain some of the enjoyment from the film. Brigadoon has some of the most brilliant uses of sets that I’ve ever seen, but you may still occasionally notice the artificial backgrounds. Overall, it’s an interesting and fun movie, but felt haunted by what it could have been. The notable content is mild and typical for the era: Some brief violence, immodesty, kissing, and an instance of vague innuendo.


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Contest Winner: Where Is The Hunter?

I just found out last night that I won the Holy Worlds Photo Manipulation of the Month Contest for April with this picture. What do you think happened to the hunter?


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Contest Winner: The Fifth Term

As promised, here is the story that won the Holy Worlds Science Fiction Drabble Contest. You can read it on the Holy Worlds Blog: The Fifth Term

(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Animal Tips for Writers: Hog-Nosed Snakes


The hog-nosed snake is sometimes erroneously called a puff adder, but it is not venomous, so your hero has nothing to fear from it no matter what some people may claim. Hog-nosed snakes get their name from their upturned snout, which they use to help with digging. They are often brown with darker and lighter brown markings, but can also be a variety of other colors.


Some hog-nosed snakes eat only toads, while others eat rodents and lizards. Despite being pretty much harmless, they are sometimes mistaken for copperheads and killed. While the hog-nosed snake is unlikely to bite, when it is threatened it will sometimes raise its head off the ground and spread its neck out like a cobra, while hissing loudly.


If this does not scare a threat away, or if the snake is too scared to make such a display, it will roll onto its back and play dead with its mouth open and its tongue hanging out. On the rare occasions they do bite, their saliva contains a weak toxin that causes relatively mild localized symptoms.

Have you ever encountered a hog-nosed snake?


(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Friday, May 4, 2012

Resources for Finding Godly Entertainment


Over the past few months, I have written about the importance of choosing Godly entertainment and how to find Godly entertainment. One person’s comment on the latter article gave me the idea to do a post about some of the resources available to help with finding Godly entertainment.

There are all sorts of review sites out there, but not many of them look at entertainment from a Christian perspective, and even fewer offer any sort of a content overview to help choose your entertainment wisely.

Here are the review sites I’ve come across so far that focus on the content and in some cases the worldview of entertainment.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Animal Tips for Writers: Rattlesnakes


The rattlesnake is one of four kinds of venomous snake your hero can encounter in the United States, and there is

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Temptation

Once when a friend was struggling with temptation, I decided to go through the New Testament and gather the verses on temptation, then perhaps find more verses from the Old Testament, to encourage them. Not only did the verses in the New Testament gave a thorough overview of temptation, but to my surprise, they gave this thorough overview in such an orderly manner that I was able to write this whole article as I searched the New Testament for verses, with very little rearranging of verses when I was done. I realized that this collection of verses could be helpful to me and others in the future when we struggled with temptation, so I decided to post them here, and hopefully they will be helpful to you.


To start, we will look to God, which is where we should always look first in any instance. In this case, we will look to Jesus.

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.

The tempter came to Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took Him to the holy city and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If You are the Son of God,” he said, “throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give You,” he said, “if You will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from Me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’”

Then the devil left Him, and angels came and attended Him.

-- Matthew 4:1-11

Not only do we see that Jesus was tempted and overcame temptation, but we see that God sent angels to minister to Him, just as He will send angels to minister to us.

It also adds these fascinating facts in Luke 4:13-15:

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised Him.

It is evident that even when we overcome temptation, it will return, though it may return in other forms. However, if we can look back on the way God helped us and others overcome through His Spirit and His Word in the past, then we will be encouraged for our present and future battles.

It also notes that when Jesus overcame the temptation, the power of God rested on Him, and He was able to boldly and effectively live out God’s will for His life. Overcoming temptation is an important step upward in our spiritual walk.


Since temptations are waiting to seize onto any opportunity given to them, we have to always be on guard, for as it says in Matthew 26:41:

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.

Seeking to live righteous lives will protect us from some temptations, but many temptations will assail us even while living righteously, for they came to the perfectly righteous Jesus, and so we must be ever watchful. Some people have less temptations and some more than others, but the certainty that we will have temptations should keep us ever prayerful. One thing we can pray is the Lord’s prayer, and this line from Matthew 6:13 in particular:

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Temptations were not only shown in the lives of Jesus and the saints, but were also promised, since we are all born in sin. But just as we are all born in sin, so we are also born again in Christ, and God will help us when we are tempted.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. -- 1 Corinthians 10:13

Not only will He help us, but we know that Jesus was tempted with the same temptations which we bear:

For this reason [Jesus] had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because He himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. -- Hebrews 2:17-18

He doesn’t just know what our temptations are like because He is God, He has actually been tempted like we are, and because of that, we can trust that He understands our temptations in every detail and knows how best to help each and every one of us.

Hebrews describes this even further in 4:14-16:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens,  Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

When we are tempted and start to give in, there is mercy, and furthermore, there is grace to help us overcome the temptation that threatens to overwhelm us as well as to help us withstand it in the future. It is worth noting, too, that it does not say when we are tempted to come crawling to God sobbing about how we are failing. It says to come with confidence, because the point is not that we are tempted, for even Jesus was tempted, but that His grace will win out over the temptation.


What happens if we give in to temptation?

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. -- James 1:13-15

The Bible is clear not only that temptations will come, that they are of the devil, and that Jesus overcame them and can help us overcome them, but it is also clear that if we give into temptation, the consequences are terrible--ultimately, death. Fortunately, we will be saved from death by our salvation and resurrection through Christ, and until then, He will walk with us and help us in every temptation.


Due to how thorough an overview of temptation I found in the New Testament, I decided not to go through the Old Testament for this article, other than to note a few things: The first temptation was in the Garden of Eden where Eve gave in to the Serpent, and ever since then people have been giving in to temptation. But those faithful to God will be able to overcome temptation, just like Joseph resisted the temptation of his master’s wife and was later blessed for it.

Everyone, from slaves to rulers, will continue to be tempted and in some cases give in to temptation and be cursed by it, such as King David who gave in to temptation with Bathsheba and saw the loss of his son and the coming of family discord. But we have an eternal King, Jesus Christ, who overcame temptation, and through His salvation and with His help we can also overcome.


All Bible verses are from the NIV.

(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner