All posts filed under: Pop Culture

Ember Falls | Book Review

Kids of all ages will enjoy this book. In the time between finishing Ember Falls and writing this brief review — a couple weeks — my 11 year old daughter read all three of S.D. Smith‘s books about rabbits with swords. The family was talking about the books over lunch the day she finished Ember Falls. My son commented that his sister read it super fast. She replied with a strong explanation: “It’s a good book!” Yes, it is. Story Warren published another fine children’s book. It’s an excellent follow-up to The Green Ember. Heather and Picket’s story not only continues, but escalates and expands. Relationships are enriched, new dangers and dark times are faced, all the while the characters grow in a delightful way. I was especially pleased with Picket’s development. So was my daughter, however, Heather is her favorite character. Your kids will love the adventure. You will, too. I did.

Does Dr. Strange Villainize the Truth? | Movie Review

I’m a Marvel fanboy, through and through. Like many thirty-somethings I enjoy watching my childhood reading material come to life on the big screen, and I love sharing the stories with my kids. We’re a Marvel family for sure. Now that I’ve established my loyalty to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, er… multiverse?… let me say, in the interest of full disclosure, that I’m not a Dr. Strange fan. I never liked the comics or the characters. You might say that my Evangelical roots left me disinterested in a superhero fighting evil with, well, evil — magic spells and goat-head hands. Who needs strange stuff like that when there’s Spider-Man? Really. Ok, so now you have a handle on my presuppositions. Oh, wait. There’s one more vital piece of information that you need to know: I’m a Lutheran pastor. Though I grew up as a fundie, I’ve repented of my pietistic tendencies and find peace and joy living in the feeedom of the Gospel. There you go, now you have all the pieces at play in this post, …

The Black Star of Kingston | Book Review

After reading S.D. Smith‘s first children’s novel, The Green Ember, (read my thoughts on it here) I quickly ordered this little volume, as well as book two of The Green Ember Series, Ember Falls. The Black Star of Kingston is a great read. It’s a prequel of sorts, taking the reader to a time before Heather and Picket, a time when The Green Ember’s familiar motto was just being formed. If your kids like swashbuckling adventure, they’ll love this book. The characters are great and the story is true to S.D. Smith’s tagline, New Stories with an Old Soul. I enjoyed getting to know the new cast in this fantastic story! Zach Franzen’s illustrations were excellent additions in this regard. It’s a good, clean, exciting read for the whole family. When it comes to books about talking animals it would seem that a new author has successfully taken up the mantle.

The River | Book Review

This is the fourth Pastor Stephen Grant Novel (see my reviews of the first three books here, here, and here), and I got to say, it’s the best one yet. In this volume, Ray Keating delivers an action-packed adventure set in Las Vegas that’s full of God, goons, girls, gambling, and of course, gunplay. It’s brimming with ministers, mobsters, and military maneuvers. Okay, enough alliteration. You get what I’m saying. It’s a great read! Your favorite (fictional) Lutheran pastor, Rev. Stephen Grant, and Mrs. Grant find that Sin City lives up to its name. Pastor Grant struggles against the sins of others and his own as life and love hit with intensity. If it wasn’t the Hollywood-esque action that kept me turning the page, it was the intrigue surrounding how God’s Law and Gospel worked on the pastor and those in his life. Five Stars, friends! A few weeks back, when I finished reading The River, I had only one more Pastor Stephen Grant Novel left to read, Murderer’s Row. However, that’s not the case anymore. I’m excited to …

The Green Ember | Book Review

Let’s start where ancient wisdom tells us not to and judge this book by its cover. If I didn’t know anything about S.D. Smith‘s first children’s novel or about Story Warren Books, the cover would’ve been enough to convince me to give it a chance. Zach Franzen‘s art is warm and crisp, inviting viewers to explore the world of these rabbits with swords. Okay, so only one rabbit has a sword on the cover. Not the point. The cover art is superb! That’s the point. Young ones will enjoy finding more of Franzen’s art throughout the book as well. As it stands I actually did know a thing or two about this book and it’s publisher before I purchased it. For instance, Story Warren says they exist to serve you as you foster holy imagination in the children you love. Awesome! Or how about the author’s claim to write new stories with an old soul? Okay. I’m in. It was a no brainer from there. I had to purchase the hardcover edition of The Green Ember, which is a high quality product and …

An Advent for Religious Liberty | Book Review

Ray Keating’s third Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, An Advent for Religious Liberty continues to bring to life this heroic pastor. What pastor doesn’t want to be like Pr. Grant? What parishioner doesn’t want him as his shepherd?! At only 157 pages this book is just about half the length of book two, Root of All Evil? (read my thoughts on that book here). I don’t know if it was originally released during Advent, but I wish I would’ve read it during Advent. As a novella it packs an intriguing story into a quick read, perfect for the busy-ness that comes with December! Mayor-elect Adam Pritchett’s over the top personality is Trumpian (for lack of a better word), which enabled me to buy into the rapid and overt attack on religious freedom in the story. How it’s stopped, well, that’s on par with how I’ve come to expect Pr. Stephen Grant to handle things – like a boss. A great teaser story between Root of All Evil? and The River, which I can’t wait to read. Perfect for the faithful who want a seasonal book consumable …

Warrior Monk | Book Review

With powerful endorsements by both a congressman (Pete King) and a well known reporter (Larry Kudow) on the cover, I was aching to get into this book. The first of Ray Keating’s Pastor Stephen Grant novels, Warrior Monk, catches your attention from page one. It reads like one of Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp adventures, dishing out details and action at a fast pace.  And in the midst of that action Keating manages to brilliantly present the reader with thought provoking truths, seemingly little things that aren’t pondered nearly enough, such as a note about church architecture or a relational reality particular to men who hold the pastoral office. At other times he deals with larger topics such as church doctrine and practice. As the story unfolds Keating presents the Christian faith in a real way that any reader will appreciate, exposing differences and difficulties between varying denominations and between the Church and the world without distraction. This perfect backdrop propels the protagonist, and the reader, into the challenges of the book. It’s a spectacular ride steeped in theological intrigue! As a fan of G.K. …