Sunday, February 21, 2010

Next Book Club Book

We are excited to announce that our next Book Club Book is Cliff Graham's Day of War. To participate please have the book read by March 21st. Commenting will be all day on March 21st, so please remember to visit the site and share your thoughts about this excllent book!

-Heath Sommer

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day of War by Cliff Graham Book Review

Book: Day of War

Author: Cliff Graham

Release Date: September 29, 2009

Genre: Historical Fiction (religious)

Pages: 364

Review Date:2/20/2010

With a final burst, he released one of the ropes, sending the stone whistling through the air, and as it flew towards the black form of the warrior, he whispered in his spirit: Cover me in the day of war.” (p.10, day of War)

Review: Sometimes an action book is just an action book--the fighting, the intensity, the imagery, the hype of the plot and the fans all clamoring really just about the entertainment of the story—a story without substance. A story without meaning. A story that will be fashionable for a moment, then forgotten. That is not this story.

Day of War is a special novel amid special novels. The only flaw with Day of War is that very few people may actually get what the author is trying to do, so compelling is the writing. If one—and the story is so fiercely driven and compelling that it would be very easy to do— is distracted enough to be caught up merely in the characters swinging swords and bleeding bodies, they may miss the brilliantly composed dialectics bleeding through every carefully crafted page and chapter. They may miss, just as they might in the Bible itself, the real and true meaning of stories about war and painful descriptions of human suffering. The real story that speaks about paradigms, lifestyles, and above all the quest for ontology—literally what it means to be, who we are, and why we suffer along with triumphs.

The point is that this novel, while as white-knuckled, and testosterone producing as any blockbuster war epic, is really about people, not war. This novel is about parents and sons, women, and honor and righteousness. It is about the religiously supernatural, and the human traps we all must experience, and Graham’s writing is so detailed and compelling that one would have to have a dormant heart to not feel the pain as one reads the perils of Jonathon, Saul, David, and Benaiah.

Finally, the story is really about conversion, and confusion of conversion. Graham doesn’t paint a simplistic or unitary figure of who prophets and people are, but describes characters who are real—flawed, but heroic. You will respect what our ancestors have done in new and profound ways after reading DOW.

As a slightly compulsive student of the Bible myself, I am constantly frustrated when novels that describe the Bible use populist and even pontificating promotions of the Bible that are often odd, unrealistic, hopelessly inaccurate, and frankly, a little Star Trek.

Graham’s knowledge and passion for the history and depth of the Bible is a wonderful breath of relieving oxygen. For instance, where most writers gloss over the importance of the Old Testament’s temple attire, use of Urim and Thummum, and reliance of both males and females with metaphysical insight, and where most seem to be confused or adrift on the chapters of Isaiah and Ezekiel and the meaning and intent of the Abrahamic Covenant, Graham brilliantly strangles the reader into the realities and daily life of the ancient inhabitants of the modern Middle East, and makes it all believable and palpable, and he even accurately describes the atrocities and unbelievable vices of ancient temples and standards of those who would follow and serve Baal, all in a way that doesn’t feel odd, preachy, weird-o-ish, and for lack of a better word, is mesmerizing.

The point is that DOW is so expertly written, so absolutely tantalizing, that one is tempted to feel the rush of a story such as Braveheart and do nothing more. In fact, probably most of the book reviewers will talk just about that aspect of DOW, and it is worthy of that kind of attention. But to this reviewer DOW is so much more than a story about dead bodies and interesting Hebrew trivia. It is about the confusion of following God in a land over three thousand years lost, but even more than that, it is about giving, through the recordings of the Bible mixed with a blend of archaic and presentist prose, lessons for our own children about what it means to be a valiant warrior against temptation and sin in a life that has never been more complicated than in the modern day. Brilliantly done. Brilliantly done. Brilliantly done. It feels sophomoric to simply say this is a must read.

On the writing style: graphic, intense battle scenes not for the faint of heart, but a compelling, obsessive-compulsive page turner. Don’t plan on needing sleep for awhile if you read the first chapter late in the evening, you won’t just stop there.
On the Target Audience: Without wanting to sound sexist, this novel is undoubtedly more for males than females, but regardless of gender those who love the history of the world, and especially religious history MUST spend some time in this book. Some will disagree on the characterizations of the some of the prophets and people, simply because David is arguably one of the most controversial, and thus disagreed on beings recorded in the Bible, but regardless of theological perspective, all can appreciate the extremely accurate details of war, and the extremely astute insights on the effect war has on the character in battle.

On the best parts: For 99% of the readers, I think it is highly likely the story pacing, detail, and drama itself is what will be enjoyed. As much as this is good, the message the author is trying to convey, to me, was wonderfully done and not in a corny, super-obvious sort of way.

But, in terms of the best part of the storyline for me...the death of Prince Jonathon, son of Saul = raised, bumpy skin on the arms and legs.

Closing thoughts and overall summary: One word: Unbelievable. Get into this book as soon as you can. This sounds like a paid promotion, it is not, it is hard for me to get into books sometimes as an author because it feels like study...this didn’t, I was enraptured by this brilliantly written novel, and look forward to the rest. Graham is one of the best storytellers on the market today. Really. It is not hard to see why this story is being made into a major motion picture.

Rating: Five T's
Heath Sommer, Ph.D.
Author of The Manufactured Identity

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Book Review: Left In His Closet (Mary Krome)

Book: Left In His Closet

Author: Mary A. Krome

Release Date: Advanced Review Copy, available in prerelease (Tate Publishing)

Genre: Mainstream Fiction

Pages: 296

Review Date:2/13/2010

As a phoenix is born from his own corpse
And his false image dies…

There is no honor in being alive
Unless in his closet they still reside

(excerpts of a passage from In His Closet by Mary Krome)

In his closet is one of the more genuine stories I have read in years. Sad, but sincere, this multiperspective story shreds the invisible taboo of gay versus heterosexual philosophies into a brilliant and ingenious study of human philosophy, connection, sexuality, and identity. Krome, the author, is a doctorate who has won awards for her research, which she brilliantly spins into the prose without it ever feeling like an academic lecture. This reviewer has a background in clinical psychology, and therefore it was easy to identify the sound research perspective and thoughts Krome spins into the web of human frailties recorded throughout Left In His Closet, but never once did I feel I was being talked at, but rather let into a privacy and undiscovered world that so few know.

Rephrased, I felt that Krome’s subtle poetry, and soft-lit inner dialogues mixed with a story really moved more by conversations than events in a way a pointillist painter might blend the blurriness of inane color dots, that seem hazy at first glance, but from far away form into a beautiful whole that is too easy to miss if one’s review of the art at hand values Polaroid over Picasso (yes I know Picasso was not a pointillist, it’s a metaphor).

The point is that Krome sets out in Closet to do more than tell a story, she seeks out to bleed it into your own veins, merge it into your own thoughts, press it into your own vulnerabilities, and triumph it into your own hopes, and she achieves in a glorious way the untold story of the other spouse left in the closet when a gay lover wanders into a new life, and all without demonizing human beings in general along the way. This story will trouble you, move you, make you smile, make you frown, make you cry, but in the end, make you a better person for having suffered through the darker with the lighter parts of the human landscape.

On the writing style: mainstream fiction, brilliantly written and softly guided. Krome is undoubtedly a fine artist including a great writer. She also mingles poetry throughout in a way that doesn’t feel foreign or surreal, as the poetry is written by a character who writes poetry, but the words highlight the points too easy to miss to the untrained reader.

On the Target Audience: Women do appear to be a better fit for much of what is discussed, although there are scenes and storylines written for the male experience of the book’s message, so there is wide appeal to all who have loved and lost, and loved some more—or at least wanted to. However, the style screams to me that a woman who enjoys the gentle but direct analysis of life could curl up on a rainy day and explore herself and life more thoroughly with Krome as the host for a day.

On the best parts. I think more than anything, and consistent with the tenets of mainstream writing itself, Krome expertly connects people with people. If you do not feel the power of the human drama while reading this book, you may as well give up on reading altogether and spend your life doing something else!

Closing thoughts and overall summary: An EXCELLENT read. Both for the lover of fiction, and the professor trying to get students to get life and not just research. I highly and thoroughly recommend this book, and look forward to the next from this new fiction author.

Rating: Five T's

Heath Sommer, Ph.D.
Author of The Manufactured Identity