Saturday, June 28, 2014

"The Rook" by Steven James (A Review)

[Preface about my reviews: I do not write reviews that give away the story, telling you the premise of the book and possibly becoming a “spoiler alert.” I figure that if you want to know more about books these days, you can click on the various “Look Inside” features booksellers offer and read enough of it to get a feel for the writing. You can also go to the author’s website and see if they have a “Sneak Peek” section of the work. You can even read other reviews that reveal more. I also rate my books on two different scales. My Star-Rating Scale is posted below. The other is the rating system used in the movie industry (G, PG, PG-13, etc.). I feel this rating too is a much needed element in reviews today and helps the reader know “who” should be reading what when it comes to children and young adults.]

The Rook is actually the third book in the Patrick Bowers series (Opening Moves being Book 1 & The Pawn being Book 2), although it was written second. Opening Moves, like Star Wars 1, 2 & 3 came after most of the Patrick Bowers series was written. Only the last book in the series, Checkmate, is yet to be released (although I hear it will be soon as of the time of this review).

I read The Pawn, then went back and read Opening Moves because I wanted the back story of the main protagonist before I went any further. The first two books in my opinion were great. Very “Criminal Minds”-like in many ways. James’ “tradition” is to have two story lines run concurrent (three if you add the daughter into the mix) that weave themselves together at times. It’s an interesting concept to have two “bad guys” who sometimes work together, sometimes one works for the other, sometimes both. And sometimes, it’s hard to tell which bad guy is the real villain, which adds to the suspense.

However, I felt The Rook, as one reviewer put it, tried to force too much into one book. I flew through the first two books. This one, I labored with it. It really didn’t pick up speed for me until around page 130. I thought, “Okay, here we go now,” expecting the story to take on a “pawnish” form. Instead, the story raced ahead, then slowed down to a snail’s pace, then sped up again, then slowed, but not in a roller coaster-type fashion. It was more like drag racing from stop light to stop light at rush hour.

I do intend to read the next installment, The Knight, and understand it to be more on par with the first two books. I sure hope so. James is a great writer, but this one was not up to his lofty standards.

On my scale (see below), I rate this 3.5-stars. I think you’ll like it, regardless of genre, but don’t judge a series by its Book 2 (eh, Book 3). Read the first two first, then you’ll understand what I’m talking about. I also rate it PG-13 for violence and subject matter.

My Scale:
5 stars – It doesn’t matter what genre you read, this book is a must read! It’s all about “story.” You won’t regret it.
4 stars – This may not be your genre, per se, but I feel confident you’ll enjoy it, nevertheless.
3 stars – This book will be a good read if this genre is one you really like. If it is not “your genre,” then your final thoughts may vary, but I don’t disparage it in any way.
2 stars – This book had potential, but fell short, in my humble opinion. Genre or no, it was all about the writing and the story, or the lack thereof.
1 star – If you buy it, read it, and spend any of your time on it, do not blame me. You were forewarned.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

VBS is Coming! Gospel for Asia-style

Action songs, Bible lessons, puppet shows – each are a part of Vacation Bible School, and each have been prayed over and designed to display the love of Jesus. On this side of the world, your church might be gearing up for its summer programs, and in South Asia, VBS programs are already in full swing!

What better time could there be to share about VBS in Asia than when it is actually happening?
As your church gears up for VBS, can you add a missionary component? Below are some ideas you can use to help share with our children here in the States what is going on in Asia concerning the Kingdom of God.

What you can do:

Who knows? The next Hudson Taylor or Elizabeth Elliot may be sitting in a pew or a chair this summer in your church, ready to change the world.
Gospel for Asia is the organization founded by K.P. Yohannan. I first heard him speak at a chapel service as a sophomore in college (Houghton College, 1988). Read more about the ministry in his book, No Longer a Slumdog. You can also visit their website @