Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book Review: Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur

The Message: “[The eleven faithful disciples] are fitting heroes and role models for us, despite their shortcomings. To study their lives is to get to know the men who were closest to Christ during His earthly life. To realize they were ordinary people just like us is a great blessing. May the Spirit of Christ who taught them transform us the way He transformed them, into precious vessels fit for the Master’s use. And may we learn from their example what it means to be disciples indeed.” ~ John MacArthur

My Thoughts: As men chosen by Jesus to found the church, the twelve disciples are well worth studying, and this book is a great place to start. Its straightforward style is easy to read, and the way it explores how eleven of the disciples can inspire us in our walk with God, while the tragic life of the twelfth offers a sobering warning to us, is far more exciting than you might expect. The eleven faithful men of God have much to teach us, and this book seeks to make sure we don’t miss any of it.

As with The Jesus You Can’t Ignore, which I reviewed previously, one of the best parts of this John MacArthur work is seeing historical details from the Bible brought together like puzzle pieces to form a powerful, enriching picture. While he sometimes seems to get a bit carried away with making assumptions based on scanty details, most of his observations are very insightful, revealing how much subtle facts from the New Testament can tell us about what each of the disciples were like. I highly recommend this book.

Content Overview: Safe for all readers.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Movie Review: The Terror

The Story: A lost French soldier runs into a beautiful and mysterious woman, only to have her disappear. As he investigates who she is and what happened to her, he meets a variety of strange people who may resort to murder to hide the truth, including a mad baron and an evil witch.

My Thoughts: While this film is a bit hokey and the story is a bit muddled, it’s great fun to see legendary actors such as Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson knowingly ham their way through all sorts of spooky settings and eerie scenes. The filmmakers seem to be enjoying themselves, and anyone who would seek out a movie of this sort is likely to enjoy watching.

The story gets even more muddled toward the end, and while that would have been easy enough to overlook for anyone who makes it that far, one major flaw squelches the fun. A heartlessly grim twist appears at the end, apparently a lame attempt at shocking viewers. If the film had ended in the same hokey yet endearing way it started, it could have been a decent horror movie. Due to the dreary conclusion, however, most people will probably be better off skipping the film.

Content Overview: While most of the film relies on scares rather than gore, two gruesome scenes take place: A man’s eyes are pecked out by a hawk, and a woman melts, her skin coming off in bloody streams. There are some references to adultery.

Monday, December 1, 2014

I Won National Novel Writing Month 2014!

For the third year in a row, I completed National Novel Writing Month's requirement of 50,000 words! I ended up writing around 52,000 words in November, and I'd estimate that my novel, Ghost Reign, has around 30,000 words left. When I finish the first draft of the novel, I'll post another update. So far, Ghost Reign has given me more surprises than usual, which is theoretically a good thing.

Did you do National Novel Writing Month this year? If so, how did it go?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Book Review: The Queen by Steven James

The Story: An FBI agent balances investigating a serial killer with a seemingly typical murder suicide case that is thrown his way. Soon, however, he realizes that there’s something bigger going on than just a murder-suicide, something involving international assassins, spies, and terrorists. As he sets out to discover the truth behind it all, he is forced to face dark family secrets, and comes up against some of the world’s worst villains.

My Thoughts: I had been interested in reading the Patrick Bowers series for awhile. When I came across a cheap copy of this volume, I snatched it up, figuring that if this book was good, the rest of the series would probably be worth reading as well. Now that I’ve finished reading it, I’m hoping that the other books can live up to the high standard of this one, so that I’ll have a whole series of excellent thrillers to read.

Despite a large cast of characters and a complicated plot, the author is always clearly in control, guiding the story through a variety of twists and turns and intense action sequences, while also looking deep into the hearts and minds of the people involved. The good characters are far from perfect, and seeing them struggle to do right in trying situations is part of what made the book so compelling. I look forward to joining them for other stories in this series.

Content Overview: Numerous violent scenes, several of them graphic enough to bother some readers. A few non-explicit sexual references.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Movie Review: Lilo & Stitch

The Story: After being created by a mad scientist and captured by the intergalactic government, a destructive alien escapes to earth. The ruthless little creature chooses a human girl to shield him from the agents who pursue him, but as the girl’s kindness starts to warm his heart, he has to choose between turning from his wicked ways or continuing on his dark, lonely path.

My Thoughts: A bit like E.T. crashed into a typical children’s animated film, this movie is more coherent and entertaining than that analogy might suggest. Watching a seemingly heartless monster slowly be tamed by love is, in this somewhat goofy setting, quite amusing, and surprisingly, the story goes deeper than that.

Rather than settling for the typical message about the importance of family, the story vividly illustrates the necessity of learning selflessness in order to make a family work, and that element makes this film much more memorable than it would otherwise be. The colorful animation and setting fit perfectly with the quirky story.

Content Overview: Crude humor, some mild innuendo, and the potential for children to imitate the bad behavior of certain characters are the only real concerns, and they’re prevalent enough that parents might want to watch this film first before letting small children watch it. There’s also a bit of mild violence and scariness.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Movie Review: Krull

The Story: A hideous creature with a nightmarish flying castle settles onto a fantastical planet, seeking to conquer it as he has conquered many other planets. Soon the beast slaughters most of the planet’s inhabits and kidnaps a beautiful princess to be his bride. The prince who is engaged to the princess must gather up an army of outcasts so that he can fight back against the monster’s conquest and rescue his beloved.

My Thoughts: Krull deserves to be far better known and respected than it is. It is a bit like a mix between The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, and while it’s nowhere near equaling those films, it was perhaps the best live-action epic fantasy film for around two decades until The Lord of the Rings toppled it from its throne. The only movie that could compare was The Dark Crystal, which was technically live-action, but used elaborate puppetry to perform the characters.

Krull has many things going for it, including many spectacular special effects and a story with numerous original elements, such as the villain’s flying fortress and a unique cyclops. It also has a few significant flaws, including story holes, occasional stiff acting, and some special effects that look dated. Since the movie has so many brilliant moments and an adequate overall execution, I found it easy to see past the flaws and enjoy this fantasy classic. It is still one of the best fantasy films ever made.

Content Overview: Violent and scary scenes pop up frequently, but are generally mild. Polygamy, seduction, and other such topics are mildly referenced.

Friday, October 31, 2014

My Newest Published Article: Ticks and Tricks

"Ticks and Tricks," an article just published in TRC Magazine, brings my list of published writings to ten! I'm glad to have reached double digits, and I plan to keep submitting.

"Ticks and Tricks" is based upon my experiences with ticks, and it humorously encourages us to squelch temptation whenever it appears. It's perhaps the quirkiest article I've written so far, which made it fun to write.

You can read it for free here: "Ticks and Tricks"

What do you think of the article?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

National Novel Writing Month 2014

A just-for-fun cover.
National Novel Writing Month starts on November 1st, which is only a few days away. The past two years, I’ve enjoyed doing NaNo, and won both years. This year, I’ll be working on a YA horror novel with the working title Ghost Reign.

Ghost Reign’s logline: When a teenage boy’s ghost unleashes supernatural vengeance on the bullies whose dangerous dare killed him, only his still-living best friend has any chance of stopping him.

Are you doing NaNo this year?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: Machiavellian (Firmament: Book 3) by J. Grace Pennington

The Story: Starship nurse Andi Lloyd’s adventures in space continue as her ship, the Surveyor, rescues the crew of a science station. The charming captain of the science station reveals that he has a plan that could bring much good to a hurting planet. But since his plan is illegal, would it be worth the cost?

My Thoughts: If Star Trek had a Christian worldview and was told from the perspective of a young nurse instead of the captain, the result would be something like the Firmament series. I enjoyed the first two installments of Firmament, and found the third book to be just as good as the first two.

The characters are what drives the Firmament series, and of course the regulars appear in Machiavellian, from the heroine Andi to the stoic Guilders. The villain reminds me a bit of Long John Silver from Treasure Island, due to his charming manner and interest in the young protagonist. The moral questions the story raises are well worth pondering. Fans of the series are sure to enjoy Machiavellian, and it seems likely to win over new fans.

Content Overview: Some mild violence.

You can learn more about the Firmament series at and Also, you can find out which Firmament character you are most like by taking the Character Test. I took the quiz and it said I’m most like Dr. Lloyd, Andi’s father.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

My Newest Published Story: Heart of Stone

My flash fiction horror story "Heart of Stone" is in issue 1.4 of the speculative fiction magazine Havok! The story follows the adventures of two soldiers who, while returning home after the Civil War, take shelter in an unusual house that is filled with statues.

Havok 1.4, the magazine issue that contains "Heart of Stone," is available at MagCloud.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Movie Review: Detour (1945)

The Story: While hitchhiking to California to visit his girlfriend, a man accidentally kills a stranger who gave him a ride. Fearing that the police will think he did it on purpose to rob the man, he hides the body and continues on his way. He thinks he’s safe until a greedy young woman who figures out what happened uses it for blackmail and quickly takes over his life.

My Thoughts: While watching this movie, I could easily see why it is widely considered a classic, and one of the best low budget noir films that came out during the peak of noir filmmaking. Its limited budget never shows, since the film uses simple everyday settings that fit well with the story and its everyman protagonist.

For most of the movie, things are tense and the premise is carefully played out, especially in the relationship between the memorably nasty villainess and the protagonist. The grim and weak ending, however, causes the film to stumble and fall short of the premise’s potential. It’s still worth seeing for thriller fans due to how well-made most of it is.

Content Overview: Some mild innuendo and mild violence.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Movie Review: The Neverending Story

The Story: A lonely, bullied boy hides in a bookstore, where he discovers a strange book. After borrowing it without the owner’s permission, he notices that he seems to be becoming a part of the book’s story. As the dying fantasy world in the book intertwines with his own life, he discovers that it may be up to him, not the hero in the book, to save the world.

My Thoughts: While this film has a brilliant premise and generally good special effects, it has many flaws. The fantasy world often feels a bit generic, and the story ends abruptly and leaves much unexplained. Still, the premise is strong enough and the filmmaking is adequate enough that any serious fantasy fan will want to experience it at least once.

Children will probably enjoy it the most. After all, who wouldn’t want to be able to interact with the fantasy world they are reading about, joining the hero in his quest to save it? Who wouldn’t want to be able to ride around in two worlds on the back of a friendly luck dragon? And all ages can benefit from the film’s reminder to always continue to dream.

Content Overview: There’s a bit of mild violence and scariness, the average sort for a PG-rated family film. The only notable concerns for parents are some nude statues of semi-human creatures and a few instances of bad attitudes and bad behavior.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Movie Review: Homeward Bound 2 - Lost in San Francisco

The Story: When three pets escape from an airport after one of them fears that their owners are sending them back to the pound, they quickly get lost in the city. As they search for how to get home, they encounter a variety of colorful friends and foes, and discover that the city is almost as big and dangerous as the wilderness they once survived.

My Thoughts: Where the first Homeward Bound has an innocence and charm that make it a minor classic, the sequel quickly gives the impression that it is a slightly cynical and rude money grab, as it goes for cheap laughs and melodrama instead of following in the warm-hearted pawprints of its predecessor. This impression, unfortunately, never goes away.

The three furry main characters seem to have regressed mostly back to how they were in the beginning of the first film instead of continuing to grow. Their zany adventure is at least fairly different than the first, but it’s somewhat weak. While the film is vaguely amusing, it’s nowhere near as good as the first, so you might as well just watch the original movie again instead.

Content Overview: There’s some innuendo, which is problematic in a film aimed at children, and I’m not sure how it managed to keep a G-rating. Otherwise, the snarky and crude humor is similar to the first film. There’s also the same sort of mild violence that was in the first film.

What do you think of Homeward Bound 2 - Lost in San Francisco?

If you enjoyed this review, you might also be interested in my review of Homeward Bound and my review/comparison of 101 Dalmatians - Animated Versus Live Action.

Friday, September 19, 2014

My Newest Published Story: On the Beach

For the first time, a story of mine has been published in an anthology! The anthology, from Whortleberry Press, is entitled Strange Summer Fun, and its title sums up its theme. It contains fifteen stories, most speculative, about weird adventures during memorable summers.

My story is a darkly whimsical post-apocalyptic tale called "On the Beach." Anyone who wants to read my story or the whole anthology might be interested in knowing that all the stories in Strange Summer Fun are written in a classic speculative or mystery style, so there's no graphic content. Most stories, including mine, contain mild violence, and some of the other stories contain mild foul language and mild sexual references, but that's all. It's unusual for an anthology in our day to keep the fictional fun relatively clean, and that's one of the reasons I wanted to be a part of it.

Click here to learn more or buy Strange Summer Fun!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Book Review: The Case of the Tabloid Tattler by Perry Elisabeth Kirkpatrick

The Story: After learning that his cat is exceptionally intelligent and can write, a detective sends her as a spy into the house of an heiress. Her mission is to find out which of the servants in the house is selling gossipy secrets to the media, and who would suspect a mere cat of being a detective?

My Thoughts: I’ve long been a fan of mysteries and, even more so, of animal tales, and this book combines both. The cat is an amusing narrator, and has enough feline quirks to be believable. Anyone who likes animals and mysteries will likely enjoy seeing a mystery from her opinionated point of view.

The mystery is perhaps comparable in tone to the Boxcar Children series, with no life-in-danger scenes or anything like that, and while that might make it seem to have limited appeal to older readers, the humor and unique main character do more than enough to keep things interesting. It’s a fun, charming tale for all ages.

Content Overview: Safe for all readers.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My Newest Published Article: Good Shepherd

Did you know that Psalm 23 isn't the only psalm that pictures the Lord as a Good Shepherd? My newest article, "Good Shepherd," explores the different ways the book of Psalms uses shepherd and sheep imagery to illustrate the love of Christ.

"Good Shepherd" was published in the September / October 2014 issue of The Bible Advocate, and can be read online, on page thirteen of the magazine.

Click here to read "Good Shepherd"!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Movie Review: Diary of a Madman

The Story: While talking with a convicted murderer who may or may not be insane, a town magistrate is attacked by the man and accidentally kills the murderer while defending himself. Soon he is haunted by strange sights and a haunting voice, similar to what the murderer claimed happened to him, and must find out what is tormenting him and how to stop it.

My Thoughts: This film is fairly obscure, but it’s well-made, combining veteran horror actor Vincent Price with a unique premise that is handled effectively. The villain, while not quite up there with one of the “big names” of horror like Dracula, is none-the-less one of the more memorable antagonists that the genre has seen.

I was pleasantly surprised that the film weaves spiritual themes into the story, most prominently the way that the villain is able to get a hold on many of his potential victims due to their sin opening them up to his influence. One character wisely concludes that the evil in our hearts, if we follow it, can be just as dangerous as a horror villain.

Content Overview: Some scariness and mild violence. One scene involving a stabbing is more intense than usual for an old horror movie of this sort. A few subtle references to sexual immorality occur.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Review: The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers

The Story: In the early twentieth century, a British man agrees on a whim to go on a boat trip with a sailing fanatic he hardly knows, and while their personalities and different backgrounds cause them to clash at first, they soon become good friends. As they look into some odd circumstances that nearly got the sailor killed, they realize that they may have stumbled onto a German scheme to invade England, and decide to find out if their suspicions are justified.

My Thoughts: While this book starts out a bit slow, the lively writing style keeps things interesting, and soon the pace picks up. Sometimes the lengthy nautical details were dull, but I found them easy to skim over without losing track of the story. The mystery is complicated, and while some elements of it are shaky, overall I was impressed at how the author wove everything together.

This novel is often considered the first spy thriller, and it holds up well to the test of the time, despite some archaic aspects. The author’s real life love of sailing can be clearly seen, particularly in one of the main characters, which fills the story with his enthusiasm for the subject and makes it believable and fun. It’s a worthwhile read for thriller fans who don’t mind an older style of writing.

Content Overview: Some mild foul language and mild violence.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Movie Review: Jumanji

The Story: Many years apart, two friends and two siblings find a game and start playing it, unaware that it contains an evil force. Circumstances cause all four of them to wind up in the same round, and as the game unleashes all sorts of dangers, their only hope is to finish the round so that they can reach the end and escape the game’s influence.

My Thoughts: As a fantasy author, I greatly enjoyed the unique premise of this movie. Watching the world of the game and the real world intersect in spectacular ways keeps things exciting, and while some critics have bashed this film for being nothing more than an interesting idea propped up with a lot of special effects, it’s much more than that.

The four main characters, two of whom have been deeply scarred by life, and two of whom have been deeply scarred by the game, discover the importance of facing what haunts them, and being courageous and selfless in life. Their journey through the elaborate and frightening challenges that the game throws at them gives this film a heart that makes it well worth seeing.

Content Overview: Occasional mild language, slightly more than usual for a family film. The violence and scariness are mild, but might bother some children.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Book Review: Nightmare by Robin Parrish

The Story: While visiting a horror theme park, the daughter of two famous ghost hunters is unimpressed by the fake scares, since she’s faced the real thing. Coming face to face with the ghost of a friend who recently disappeared, however, shakes her up, and investigating the disappearance soon puts her up against both natural and supernatural enemies.

My Thoughts: Mixing well-researched ghost lore and an amazingly unique horror premise, this novel surprised me with how entertaining it is. The author not only dares to explore ghosts and supernatural in ways rarely done in Christian fiction, but also shows the same boldness in the twists he gives to the story.

While the plotting sometimes felt a bit shaky, the power of the premise and the author’s energetic style made it easy to overlook any problems. As I read, I kept finding myself envisioning the novel as a movie, and I hope that a film version gets made. It’s a fun read for horror fans, and I’m interested in reading more by the author.

Content Overview: A lot of scary scenes, which might bother some people, but not much violence. Most teen and adult readers should be able to handle it.

Friday, July 11, 2014

My First Published Article: How To Become A Snake

I have more good news about my writing this week. My article “How To Become A Snake” was published in the July issue of The Christian Journal! It’s my first published article, and perhaps not surprisingly, it involves animals and theology.

You can read “How To Become A Snake” in the online edition of The Christian Journal, near the bottom left of page 10: The Christian Journal, July 2014. You may need to use the zoom in feature to read it clearly.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My Newest Published Story: Shattered

My thriller story "Shattered" was published in July's issue of TWJ Magazine!

You can read it online here: "Shattered"

Or, to whet your appetite, here are the opening lines:

When her cell phone rang, Adie glanced at the clock on the mantle. The hands on the clock pointed to two minutes after five. She smiled. Ralph, her husband, had said he’d call when he got off work so they could decide where to go out for dinner.

She closed the preparing-for-pregnancy book she’d been reading and set it next to her on the couch, then stood up and reached into her pocket for her phone.

Without bothering to check the caller ID, she put the phone to her ear. “Ralph?”

Instead of a man’s voice, a woman replied softly. “Hello, traitor.”

Read more.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Guest Post (and Book Giveaway!): A Feline Detective

One of the perks of having friends who are writers is getting to “test read” their books before the books are available for sale. Recently, I had the chance to test read the charming first book in Perry Elisabeth Kirkpatrick’s The Kitten Files series, The Case of the Tabloid Tattler.

The feline detective who helps her owner investigate a mystery is quite amusing and truly cat-like, and Perry has written a guest post about creating and writing a feline character. I’ll let her tell you all about it, and then you can enter to win the book at the end of the post!

Perry: Growing up, I had a very grumpy cat. Her name was Samantha, and she was like a walking bad attitude. I loved her despite this. As a little girl, I spent time copying her--pretending I was a cat too. In some ways I haven’t stopped pretending...

One of the comments I’ve heard repeated when people read my new book “The Case of the Tabloid Tattler” is that it sounds like a cat actually wrote it. I suppose to some this would be an insult (“You’re saying I’m like a cat in some way? Ew!”), but I was delighted to hear this because it means Mia’s “voice” is believable.

I remember randomly writing what became the first few lines of the book:

Keith was rambling again. And his theory was so boring a mere yawn couldn’t express my feelings well enough. I was getting up to go hide under the bed when he said, "I just don't know, Kitten. What do you think, huh?"

Then I decided this cat needed to have the ability to write, that the guy was a detective, and that the cat was going to help him solve a case. In a matter of moments I knew what the case would be, though not quite how it would all turn out. This was literally all the planning I did before diving in.

From that moment on I became Mia, an escaped laboratory cat who had learned to read and write, and who was determined to lead an interesting life. I have never written a book so quickly or had so much fun in the writing. I wasn’t the author dragging her through the motions of the plot. Rather, I lived her tale in my mind, letting her thoughts and actions flow naturally to the keyboard. I viewed the story from her slightly egotistical, snarky perspective. And, apparently becoming a cat for a while worked.

My guess is that I owe much of the realism, much of the believability to the time spent studying a certain bad cat years ago. Thank you, Samantha.

Perry is a Christian, homeschool graduate who has written and published "The Heavens Declare," "Light of the World," "Pearl's Practice," and "The Case of the Tabloid Tattler." She lives in beautiful Oregon with her best-friend-turned-husband and their sweet baby boys. Find her books and other writings and connect with her at:

Tomorrow, head over to for an interview in which Perry answers questions about being homeschooled, self-publishing, and her least favorite chore.

And don't forget to enter the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, June 5, 2014

In Emerald Depths (haiku)

I wrote this haiku poem recently. What do you think of it? Do you write haiku?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Movie Review: Pete’s Dragon

The Story: After being adopted by a family who wants to use him as a servant, a boy is befriended by a dragon. He runs away with the dragon to try to start a new life somewhere else, and winds up in a small seaside town, where he is taken in by the lighthouse keeper’s daughter. Meanwhile, his cruel adoptive family wants him back, and they team up with a con man who wants the dragon.

My Thoughts: I was a bit skeptical of the idea of having an animated dragon in a live-action film, since it seemed like the animation would feel out of place and not be believable. Amazingly, the film makes the concept easy to accept and enjoy. It’s entertaining to watch the antics of the mischievous dragon and the boy as they go on a variety of adventures together and try to outwit their villainous pursuers.

As if putting an animated dragon into an otherwise live-action movie didn’t make this film unusual enough already, it’s also a musical. Fortunately, most of the songs are good, and none are tedious. Amusing characters and situations fill the story, and the story itself is solid enough to help this film soar like its dragon star. This unique, colorful, and song-filled movie will likely delight imaginative children and provide light-hearted fun for older fantasy fans.

Content Overview: The only content of concern is some brief and subtle innuendo. The violence is mild and goofy.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Book Review: For the Temple by G. A. Henty

The Story: A Jewish youth, after his miraculous survival through a deadly storm, seems chosen by God to do great things. As Roman conquerers come to Israel to crush a Jewish revolt, the young man becomes the greatest hero of the fractured Israelite nation, standing for justice in a land dominated by ruthless criminals. In his quest to protect the temple in Jerusalem from being destroyed by the Romans, he will face many dangers, including coming face to face with Rome’s prince.

My Thoughts: This is the first G. A. Henty book I’ve read. I'd heard a lot of good things about him, and he mostly lives up to the hype. What might seem to be a mere historical adventure for children is truly an excellent historical epic for all ages. His writing style is sometimes stiff or archaic to modern tastes, but on the whole, I found the story to move at a faster pace than many novels written in the same time period. A variety of small and large scale action sequences are vividly described, making this already compelling tale even more exciting, and well worth reading for fans of historical adventure novels. It will be interesting to find out if his other novels are as good as this one.

Content Overview: There is pervasive mild violence due to the brutal warfare that goes on during the story. Some questionable morality and theology arises on a few occasions, such as a heretical sect that is seemingly portrayed as Christian, but these instances are generally vague and brief.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Thursday, May 8, 2014

I Won A Short Story Contest!

Yesterday, I learned that a short story of mine won first place in its category in Your Story Central’s short story contest.

The story, “Mr. Turtle,” was inspired by some real life encounters with turtles.

When the story goes up on the Your Story Central website next week, I’ll post a link!

(Here's the link: Read "Mr. Turtle")

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Double Movie Review: The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under

The Story: In The Rescuers, two brave mice are sent from a secret society of mice rescuers to help a girl who’s held captive in a creepy swamp by a crazed woman obsessed with finding the world’s biggest diamond. In The Rescuers Down Under, the two mice from the first film head to Australia to help a boy held captive by a poacher who’s after a giant eagle.

My Thoughts: I am happy to report that these two films, which I loved as a child, hold up to adult viewing. While they cannot quite match the best Disney animated movies, the charming characters, colorful animation, and heart-warming stories are likely to be please anyone who enjoys animation and animal fantasy.

The settings of both films add a lot, from the creepy swamp and dangerous pirate cave in the first film to the lush forests and crocodile-infested river in the second film. The side characters also contribute greatly, from a noble dragonfly and two evil alligators in the first film to the antics of two very different lizards and a guide mouse in the second film.

The Rescuers is the stronger of the two films, due to being a bit better written, but The Rescuers Down Under is still a good movie and has better music. If you like The Rescuers, you are pretty much certain to like its sequel, which gives those of us who appreciate classic animation a charming pair of movies to watch for years to come.

Content Overview: The Rescuers has a villainess who dresses immodestly. Some viewers may be bothered by a female character getting sent on dangerous missions. There is also some mild violence and a few mild scary scenes.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Book Review: The Fallacy Detective by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn

The Message: “This book teaches you to recognize the logical fallacies which you meet every day in the street, or in the newspaper, or in your work. Thousands of years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle began to study and categorize these common errors in reasoning. Ever since that time, people have found this branch of logic to be the most interesting and useful in ordinary life.” ~ Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn

My Thoughts: As the Bluedorn brothers say in their introduction to this book, “many Christians adopt beliefs and practices without evaluating the arguments that are used to support them,” so being able to assess all things logically and identify errors in reasoning is a necessary skill for Christians. Will this book help you attain this skill? While it’s far from an exhaustive study of the subject, the lessons in this book are a fun and practical way to learn the basics of how to identify logical fallacies. It’s an excellent resource for children and teens, whether to read on their own or in school. Adults who want an introduction to logic are likely to enjoy it as well.

Content Overview: Safe for all readers old enough to be interested in it.

Friday, April 18, 2014

What Are Your Favorite Beatrix Potter Books?

I've enjoyed Beatrix Potter's animal tales ever since I was a small child. While the stories are sometimes silly, many of the beautiful illustrations she made to accompany the stories are artistic masterpieces.

Have you read any of Beatrix Potter’s books? If so, what are your favorites?

My favorites are:

The Tailor of Gloucester

The Tale of Jeremy Fisher

The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Movie Review: The Raven (1963)

The Story: A mild-mannered sorcerer lives a quiet life with his adult daughter, mourning the death of his second wife. Then a raven who is actually a sorcerer turned into a raven by another sorcerer comes to his window and shakes up his otherwise normal night, sending the two sorcerers and their children on a wild quest to battle a powerful enemy.

My Thoughts: As you may have guessed from the synopsis, this is a horror comedy. Horror and humor is perhaps one of the rarer genre mixes, and not one of the easiest, but this film pulls it off pretty well. A few moments are perhaps a bit too over the top, and there’s not much laugh out loud comedy, but it’s consistently amusing. A good, well-presented message keeps the story from being mere fluff.

Cramming classic horror actors Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, and Peter Lorre all into one movie would be hard to mess up, since they are all pros at this sort of thing, and a young Jack Nicholson also appears. Anyone who enjoys horror, fantasy, comedy, or light-hearted adventures will probably like this movie.

Content Overview: There’s quite a bit of violence, but it is generally cartoonish, and the scary scenes are likewise usually goofy rather than frightening. There is also a mild swear word or two. Adult subjects are referenced, but appropriately and in a family-friendly way. Perhaps most notable is the high level of magic-related content, which might bother some people.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Book Review: Z for Zachariah by Robert O’Brien

The Story: After nuclear and biological warfare destroys most of America and perhaps most of the world, a teenage girl survives all alone in a small valley that was shielded from radiation and poison, wondering if anyone else is alive somewhere. One day, a man with a protective suit arrives in her valley after a long search for a haven in the wasteland. She hopes that together they can turn the valley into their own Eden, but slowly realizes he has sinister plans for her.

My Thoughts: While this science fiction novel does not appear to be written from a Christian perspective, it is respectful of Christianity and has strong moral themes. It brilliantly and movingly illustrates the importance of loving others and the horrific consequences that can arise from selfishness. I was also pleasantly surprised that the novel does not have a single instance of foul language or other problematic content.

This tale excels, however, not just with its exploration of morality, but in all aspects of storytelling. The two characters are vividly representative of opposing worldviews, yet they are fully-developed and believable. The way tension rises and eventually leads to violence between them keeps things suspenseful. It all adds up to make this a science fiction classic, one that has earned a place high on my list of favorite science fiction novels.

Content Overview: Some mild but intense violence.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Best Charles Spurgeon Animal Quotes

Great preaching requires great writing, and Charles Spurgeon had a way with words that helped him become one of the most legendary preachers in history. Since I like animals, and he often used creatures of many kinds in his sermon illustrations, I collected my favorites of his animal quotes.

I limited this list to short quotes, to keep it simple and easy to read, and now I want to share them with you.

From the mighty mind of Charles Spurgeon:

- We see the present power of God in the flight of every sparrow, and hear His goodness in the song of every lark.

- I have often heard people laugh at religion, but ask them what it is, and they know no more about religion than a horse, and worse than that, for they believe untruths about it, and a horse does not do that.

- Rest assured that every black horse of error that comes forth to swallow up the sea of divine truth shall be drowned therein.

- Each sin leaves a trail. The dogs of judgment will be sure to scent it out, and find their prey.

- A stag followed by the hungry hounds with open mouths is far more happy than the man who is followed by his sins.

- There's no telling when a man's sins may show themselves, for hares pop out of the ditch just when you are not looking for them.

- It may have been better for you if you had been made a frog or a toad than to have lived a man, if you should live and die without making peace with your Maker.

- Swift as the dove pursued by the hawk, fly, fly poor sinner, to God's dear Son.

- Prayer without fervency is like hunting with a dead dog.

- Let us but send out the dove of prayer, and we may be certain that she will return unto us with an olive branch of peace in her mouth.

- The fox hastens to its hole; every creature uses its refuge in the hour of danger, and even so in all peril or fear of peril let us flee unto Jehovah, the Eternal Protector of His own.

- The hound, when he has lost his scent, hunts backwards and so recovers it, and pursues his game with louder cry than ever. Thus, Christian, when your hope is at a loss, and you question your salvation in another world, then look backward and see what God has already done for you.

- A feigned friend is much like the bee, who carries honey in her mouth and a sting in her tail. So his countenance is friendly and his words pleasant, but his intent dangerous, and his deeds unwholesome.

- Too many ministers are toying with the deadly cobra of “another gospel,” in the form of “modern thought.”

- As the sportsman has a gun for wild fowl, and another for deer and game, so has Satan a different temptation for various orders of men.

- Trust a wolf at your throat sooner than worldly men in religious matters.

- When a man is proud as a peacock, all strut and show, he needs converting himself before he sets up to preach to others.

- Birds reveal their nature by their song. Owls cannot sing the carol of the lark, nor can the nightingale hoot like the owl. Let us, then, weigh and watch our words, lest our speech should prove us to be foreigners, and aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.

- Like a moth that lies under the finger, God can crush us now if He pleases, or He can let us go and save us. What reflections ought to cross our mind, if we believe that?

- Self-sufficiency is Satan's net, wherein he catcheth men, like poor silly fish, and doth destroy them. Be not self-sufficient. Think yourselves nothing, for ye are nothing, and live by God's help.

- Thoughts from heaven, like birds in spring, will fill our souls with music, but thoughts of evil will sting us like vipers.

- The true Church of God is a stranger and pilgrim still; an alien and a foreigner in every land; a speckled bird; a dove in the midst of ravens.

- If you keep your conscience clear, it is a great joy. Conscience is a little bird that sings more sweetly than any lark or nightingale.

- We play the man today, and the mouse tomorrow. Lord have mercy upon us: we are an inconsistent people, fickle as the wind. The Lord would have us abide always in Him with strong and mighty confidence, being rooted and built up in Him.

- A Christian should do with truth as a snail does with his shell—live inside it, as well as carry it on his back, and bear it perpetually about with him.

- Joy, like the nightingale, sings in the dark, and can praise God in the tempest and shout his high praises in the storm.

What do you think of this collection of Charles Spurgeon’s animal quotes? If you have any favorite Spurgeon animal quotes that you’d like to add, share them in the comments!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Movie Review: Unbreakable

The Story: After a man is the sole survivor of a train wreck, he is contacted by a stranger who thinks that his survival is due to him having a superhuman resistance to harm, just like a superhero out of a comic book. As the two men explore this seemingly unbelievable idea, they discover shocking things that will change them forever.

My Thoughts: This film is paced more like a drama than an action film, which is likely what made me find it somewhat forgettable when I saw it as a teen. When watching it recently, however, I noticed the subtle but powerful depth of the story, as well as the low-key but skillfully-executed scenes which often contain interesting details that enhance the story.

The ultimate message of embracing one’s calling to do good in the world, which includes a man helping to heal his troubled marriage, is far more clearly expressed than in most modern stories. Those who don’t mind the slow pace and who can appreciate the subtlety will find this to be a refreshingly hopeful film that gives a unique and fascinating take on the idea of superheroes.

Content Overview: Foul language is infrequent, but the few instances of it are harsh, generally God’s name in vain. Violence is also infrequent, but intense when present, and there are some unsettling scenes. A few vague references (and one not-so-vague reference) to sexual immorality appear.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Review: The Singer Trilogy by Calvin Miller

The Story: The maker of the world sends his son to sing a new song for the people in the world, and once the son is an adult, he embraces his mission. While a few people accept his song, most cling to the empty music of the devil or the song of religious tradition, leading to a showdown between the new song of the maker’s son and the old music of the world and the devil. The result of the showdown will greatly affect the world’s future.

My Thoughts: This trilogy, which is comprised of The Singer, The Song, and The Finale, calls itself a “poetic narrative,” and that accurately sums up how it’s written. The style is not quite poetry, but also not like a normal novel, and poems play a big role in the text. It is a bit awkward to read at first, but easy to get used to. Retelling the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation in a fantasy world where salvation is partly brought about using music is a brilliant idea, and fun to read. As I read, however, I found myself wishing it had more depth and more complex musical elements.

Some questionable theology appears, such as, in the first book, the maker’s son not knowing that he is truly the son of the maker. While it’s fine to alter a real person in a fantasy re-telling, and the book did much of that, to experiment with the nature of God seems unwise. This, combined with a sense that the writing never quite lives up to the premise, make this less enjoyable than it otherwise would have been. In spite of its flaws, the trilogy is still definitely worth reading for those who want to experience such a unique fantasy premise and writing style.

Content Overview: It’s fairly similar to the Gospels in the Bible. Violence, scariness, and references to adult subjects such as prostitution occur, but are all mild.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Movie Review: Suddenly

The Story: When a small town sheriff has to help the Secret Service get the president through his town safely, he soon finds out that the government knows an assassination attempt targeting the president is imminent. Meanwhile, a ruthless criminal who cares only about killing and money slips into town with his men, convinced that he has what it takes to successfully assassinate the president, escape from the area, and claim the money from those who hired him.

My Thoughts: This film wisely doesn’t open with a bang. It starts out quietly, introducing the characters and the setting, and this makes a sudden burst of violence all the more effective. It caused me to feel the frightening shift that the characters were being subjected to, rather than just seeing it. That, and other similarly masterful touches, left me impressed with how skillfully-made this thriller is.

The story is believable and brutal, showing the importance of always doing the right thing, while not implying that everything will turn out perfectly even when people do what’s right. It’s definitely one of the best thrillers I’ve seen, and my only quibble with it is that I would have liked it to be a bit longer, to add even more depth of the story and characters. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys thrillers.

Content Overview: There’s a lot of mild violence and intensity.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Book Review: Descent Into Hell by Charles Williams

The Story: On a hill where the world of the living sometimes intersects with the world of the dead, a variety of people are brought together to put on a play written by a famous poet. As the living people struggle to face the spiritual realities of this world and the next, a dead man searches for salvation after his suicide, and an unusual woman who’s perhaps not human tries to seduce people to the way of death.

My Thoughts: As you probably guessed from the synopsis, this is a weird book. It is possibly the most bizarre book I’ve ever read, and I’m no stranger to weird fiction. Pretty much every chapter includes multiple lengthy rambles that are filled with odd ideas and references to literature. Characters frequently have incredibly unusual conversations with each other, and yet none of them ever seems to notice how unusual what they are saying is. While it was sometimes fascinating to read, much of the time it was tedious, and had this not been a fairly short novel, I probably wouldn’t have pressed on to the end. The plot is minimal, and basically holds together a series of related scenes.

I did end up enjoying some aspects of the novel. Aside from the unconventional hero and heroine, the best part was the brilliantly-written subplot of a man who comes to possess an inhuman replica of the woman he is obsessed with, only to be driven mad by this unnatural possession. If that subplot had been cut out and made into a short story, it would have been an excellent cautionary horror tale, but scattered as it was throughout the book, it just kept me from growing entirely bored. While I found this novel worth reading in order to experience Charles Williams’ unique writing style, it did not inspire me to want to read any of his other works.

Content Overview: There is little violence, but horror imagery and scary scenes are in abundance. While I don’t remember any foul language, there may be one or two mild instances. Sexual subjects come up in a few places, but are tactful enough that they won't bother most adult readers.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Movie Review: Castle in the Sky

The Story: When a young mining engineer sees an unconscious girl floating down from the sky, he puts her under his protection, and wonders what power she holds. Meanwhile, government agents and sky pirates are searching for her. Both groups want the crystal heirloom that she has, for it can guide them to a lost and mysterious city in the sky, a city that once ruled the earth and that contains incredible power.

My Thoughts: This is possibly the greatest animated movie in the history of filmmaking. The beautiful traditional animation has a greater fairy tale quality than most computer animation, and director Hayao Miyazaki uses the art style skillfully to craft the best film in his legendary career. Unique settings nearly pop out of the screen, from an apparently post-apocalyptic steampunk earth to the spectacular floating castle of the title.

The characters who inhabit this film are just as memorable as the animation and settings, from a kind-hearted princess to sky pirates to a ruthless government agent who hides his true identity. Some aspects of the story, particularly the ending, felt a bit too ambiguous in some ways, and this kept the film from achieving its full potential, but the story is well-written overall. Had the minor story flaws been fixed, this might have been my favorite film of all time. It’s still high on the list of my favorite movies, and it’s so good that I highly recommend it to anyone, not just fans of animated films.

Content Overview: There’s quite a bit of mild violence and intensity. The only notable concerns involve some briefly expressed problematic ideas, such as a pagan view of the earth.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What Story Would You Tell To Jesus?

A long time ago, before storytellers had easy access to pen, paper, and computers, most storytellers spoke their stories. Jesus, for example, told parables to crowds of people, which meant He was physically present with every story.

Modern writers appear to have lost this connection between storytelling and speaking. It is as if we have come to see stories as separate entities that are detached from us and come to life through words on a page. I think this can cause moral confusion.

Writers occasionally have questions such as: Is the violence in this action story too graphic? Should I put foul language in the mouths of the villains? How far should I go with sexual content? And so on.

It seems to me that these questions are a lot easier to answer if we understand that our stories are a part of us. The words on the pages have to be spoken by us, through a pen or keyboard, the same as if they came out of our mouths. This does not mean, however, that our stories must avoid dark or adult subjects.

Jesus told a lot of sweet stories, including one about a kind shepherd caring for his lambs and another about a woman who found her lost coin. Yet He also told stories involving murderers (Matthew 21:33-46), prostitution (Luke 15:11-32), and a man tormented in hell (Luke 16:19-31).

A story involving murder can be just as wholesome as a story about a kind shepherd caring for his lambs. What matters is the specific way we tell a story. Every word should be tested to see if it is worthy of the standards of wisdom, purity, and excellence that God expects of us.

Imagine Jesus coming to you and asking you to tell Him a story out loud. How would you tell it? Would you describe the gory details of violence? Would you say foul language while speaking bad guy dialogue? Would you talk about sexually explicit things?

These would not be questions we could take lightly if Jesus was sitting in front of us as we spoke, His eyes fixed on us expectantly, and His ears waiting to hear us use the storytelling gift that He gave us.

Actually, for all Christians, Jesus is sitting in front of us every time we write, listening to us tell story the same as if we were speaking it out loud to Him. What story are you going to tell to Him? Answering this question and those related to it, and seeing storytelling in light of our answers, should greatly help us have moral clarity as we write.

What are your answers? Do you think your answers will cause you to look differently at some aspects of your writing?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Book Review: Deadfall by Robert Liparulo

The Story: A bow hunter and his friends head out into the wilderness of Canada for a vacation, settling down near an isolated small town. Unknown to them, a group of outsiders has taken over the small town and cut off its ability to communicate, planning to use the town as a testing place for an experimental and extremely effective new weapon. When one of the hunter’s friends is killed by the weapon, he and his remaining friends join up with some people from town to try to find a way to stop the outsiders from slaughtering everyone in the area.

My Thoughts: The plot of this novel intrigued me, and the author mostly made it live up to its potential. Aside from an ending that feels a bit rushed, this is an excellent thriller, filled with well-written action sequences and moral depth. Many scenes that could have been fairly conventional are given twists that, along with the fast-paced storyline and the thought-provoking exploration of despair and depravity, elevate this above the average thriller. While its spirituality is perhaps a bit too vague in some areas, it presents many aspects of a Christian worldview with skillful subtlety. This book, with its explosive and deep story, could make an amazing movie.

Content Overview: It has two things that are unusual for a book from a Christian publishing company: A bit of mild foul language, and violence that is intense and brutal, though not graphically described. Some readers might find the deaths of more than one main character and the dark tone too grim and disturbing, but the book ends filled with hope.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Movie Review: Gladiator

The Story: When the Roman Emperor secretly chooses a noble general to be his successor, the emperor’s son is enraged, and murders his father to be able to claim the throne. He then sends soldiers to murder the general and his family. The general escapes from his executioners too late to save his family, and gives up on life, which leads to him becoming a slave. In slavery, he is forced to be a gladiator, a twist of fate that, due to the emperor’s love of violent games, will bring him face to face with the evil emperor once more.

My Thoughts: This historical action film was a huge box office success, and it’s easy to see why. It has memorable characters, from the heroic general who is brutally betrayed and seeks vengeance to the spoiled brat emperor whose wickedness causes great suffering. The story, about an enslaved gladiator daring to defy the most powerful man in the world, is compelling. The action sequences are elaborate, yet add to the story rather than being the main attraction.

Despite being two and a half hours long, this film moves at a fast pace, and I actually wish it had been a bit longer, since the ending felt a bit rushed. How things wrap up is not entirely satisfying, but it is not enough of a problem to seriously harm the film. Overall, Gladiator is exceptionally well-made, and seems guaranteed to become a classic. It’s also one of the few R-rated films that shows enough restraint for me to be able to recommend it.

Content Overview: The violence is intense and bloody, and while it doesn’t get overly graphic, it might be too much even for some adult viewers. Several mild swear words pop up. A few sexual references appear, including about incest, prostitution, and rape, and though not all of them are mild, none are explicit. The paganism of Rome and surrounding cultures, and its spiritual implications, affect a significant amount of the story.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Book Review: The Jesus You Can’t Ignore by John MacArthur

The Message: In this book, John MacArthur says, “The way Jesus dealt with His adversaries is in fact a serious rebuke to the church of our generation. We need to pay more careful attention to how Jesus dealt with false teachers, what He thought of religious error, how He defended the truth, whom He commended and whom He condemned--and how little He actually fit the gentle stereotype that is so often imposed Him today.”

My Thoughts: This short book brilliantly illustrates the points the author made in the above quote. It does this by surveying the ministry of Jesus from beginning to end and detailing the way He preached. Sometimes what He said was gentle, and sometimes it was harsh, as His wisdom deemed necessarily for each situation. As the author noted: “We can learn a lot from observing how Jesus dealt with false religion and its purveyors. The boldness with which He assaulted error is very much in short supply today, and the church is suffering because of it.”

In addition to being an effective Biblical defense of the necessity of standing strong for truth and sometimes telling hard truths that are sure to offend, this book is also fascinating as an overview of the life of Jesus. It puts together historical facts from the Gospels that I hadn’t realized before, and I enjoyed this just as much as its promotion of the proper view of truth. The only flaw is that the way the author repeated the same conclusion again and again got a bit repetitive, but this is a minor flaw, and I highly recommend this book.

Content Overview: This book is free of content concerns.