Monday, December 31, 2012

Interview: Melissa McPhail on Cephrael's Hand

Melissa McPhail ~ Author Interview

1. Your debut novel, Cephrael’s Hand was the winner of The Written Arts Award for both the best fiction and the best Sci-Fi/Fantasy categories–congratulations! So tell us, what was the inspiration behind this story, and can you tell us a little bit about it?
     I started the first version of Cephrael’s Hand when I was going through a difficult time in my life. I needed the cathartic joy that I’d always found in writing. I didn’t set out to write a novel—just to write. That first draft had no planning, no world-building, no design. It was pure creative inspiration. And it was awful! 
     But the characters… I had brought them into being, and they insisted that they had a story to tell. It took my growing as a writer—and over a million words tossed into the trash—to finally tell their story properly. 
     Cephrael’s Hand is the result of a philosopher’s approach to fantasy. It’s the story of one man’s steadfast determination to save the realm he swore to protect, and his willingness to do anything it takes to accomplish that end—even to betray those he loves. It’s the story of the unlikely pieces (men and women) who unknowingly fall beneath his shadow, and of the players who follow him. Ultimately, it’s a story of salvation. 
     I see fantasy as a metaphor for life in this world. We all face tests of our honor. We’re all working to accomplish our goals and flourish and prosper. Few of us set out to do evil. Yet evil is done. Goals are abandoned. Integrity is compromised. We totter precariously on thin wires as we move through the labyrinth of life. I strive with my series to illuminate those wire-thin paths, that we might find solid ground beneath them.
2. Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the readers when they crack open Cephrael’s Hand?
     If you listen to my critics—too many characters! But this is an epic fantasy dealing with a conflict that spans multiple kingdoms. It takes a team to save the world.  
     Hopefully you’ll meet interesting characters and a world you can easily find your own place within. You’ll discover pirates, princes, star-crossed lovers and philosopher-soldiers. You’ll see many characters who are not as they appear, and a few who are exactly as they seem. You’ll find adventure on a perilous road with prince Ean val Lorian, and farcical escapades with Trell of the Tides and the pirate Carian vran Lea. 
     You’ll often wonder who is good and who is evil—because most villains in real life are cloaked in shades of gray.
3. Can you tell us more about some of the key concepts that inspired the world of Cephrael’s Hand?
     The story is crafted out of many of the philosophies I’ve studied. As I was planning Cephrael’s Hand, I had been reading about game philosophy. Game philosophy speaks on the importance of games in our lives and takes a look at their composition (barriers, purposes and freedoms) and their anatomy (pieces, players, maker of games). It’s a compelling concept with abundant applications, and I became immediately interested in exploring the ideas more via the story of Cephrael’s Hand. 
     Balance is another concept that threads throughout the story. Exploration of this idea comes out of my study and practice of yoga. If ever a concept permeates our lives, the pursuit of balance is one. Whether seeking to balance work and parenthood, our social commitments and our private lives, or even just the juggle of that list of a thousand things we’ll never get to, every one of us is seeking balance in some fashion. Placing this concept within the framework of a fantasy story embellishes it with a magical lure.
4. The Cephrael’s Hand constellation plays an important role in the book. Is there a real life constellation that plays a similarly important role in your life?
     I can’t say that a particular constellation is important to me personally, though I’ve studied Astrology for many years. But I’m drawn to the idea, both scientifically and philosophically, that we are all connected somehow with each other and the broader universe. String Theory and General Relativity play to this idea from the perspective of science. Certainly, if we are connected to the stars in some esoteric way, then the actions of the stars can impact us. 
     Astrology believes this, and the graphing of natal charts proves an underlying truth in this ancient, mystical and often misunderstood science. Philosophies far and wide declare that we’ve descended or separated from a universal oneness and teach karmic values with the intent of helping us return or re-ascend to that harmonious state. The concept of Balance in Cephrael’s Hand stems from this idea of universal connectivity.
5. Ever since a linguist named Tolkien came along, language has been a very important aspect of the epic fantasy genre. What inspired the various languages in Cephrael’s Hand?
     The desert languages are based on Farsi or Arabic, depending on the tribe. Farsi is one of the oldest languages still in use today, and its traditions lent themselves well to the Kandori culture, which is one of Alorin’s oldest races. Likewise Arabic, being originally a language of the nomadic tribes, seemed the correct base from which to draw the language of the Akkad. 
     Even older than both of these languages in my novel is Old Alaeic, which is the original language of theangiel, the Maker’s blessed children, and of the two original races: the zanthyrs and the drachwyr. Old Alaeic draws primarily from Gaelic root words. I chose Gaelic because the language maintains some of the earliest roots of our Indo-European linguistic heritage. Its spellings and pronunciations are almost universally reminiscent of mythological beings from ancient times and are often associated, especially in the fantasy genre, with elves, Druids or other mystical races.
6. Which other authors have served as influences and inspiration for your own work?
I love lyrical writing, so my bookshelves host an eclectic mix (albeit heavily weighted with fantasy and science fiction). Those who first come to mind from the fantasy genre are Anne Rice, Patrick Rothfuss and Jacqueline Carey, all of whom carry on a great and fabulous romance with the English language, much to the ecstasy of millions. Being able to string words like pearls into a story that reads at times like poetry in motion seems the greatest pinnacle of storytelling skill.
7. It’s been said that one of the most time-consuming processes of writing epic fantasy is world building. Without giving too much away, what are a few of your favorite world aspects and what inspired them?
As I wrote in a recent guest post, world-building and the magic system developed for the world are intimately connected. We can’t really describe a fantasy world without talking about the magic that rules it, because so much of what we understand about the world derives from our understanding of how the physical laws of the world work. 
     In creating my world of Alorin, I established five “strands” of the lifeforce known as elae. These strands are a way of describing and codifying the lifeforce which is the source of energy in the world, but they are only one way of describing it. While most of the viewpoints I am writing from agree with describing the lifeforce in terms of “strands,” there are other races in Alorin who have codified it differently, darkly, or with less purity for lack of philosophical simplicity. 
     I love exploring different viewpoints and imagining how each would describe a universal energy. I love examining the cultures that seek to describe this energy and how their ideals might alter their understanding of it. For example, the Adept race believes that Adepts are born with the ability to work one of the five strands, but only one. Yet some of the “Wildling” races are known to be able to innately work more than one strand. 
     The Fhorgs race works blood sacrifice to fuel their magic. Would their magic work without such sacrifice? The Adepts believe that it would. Yet within the Adept philosophy, a working of magic requires faith both in the existence of power and in one’s ability to manipulate it. If the Fhorgs don’t believe themselves able to wield the lifeforce without letting blood, it follows that magic would become unavailable to them simply because of their lack of belief. Moreover, because the Fhorgs don’t limit their ideas of their magical ability to a five strand approach, it’s possible they might achieve more through the wielding of it–or not. These are existential questions for these two races, questions which set them at odds with each other. Questions from which derive conflicts and persecutions, intrigues and betrayals. 
     Such explorations fuel both world-building and magic-system building, because their delineation establishes how the world works, how the people of the world interact with the energy that fuels it, how they interact with each other, and how they use the energy itself to work arcane acts.
8. You grew up in a house full of musicians, but your creativity emerged in the form of writing. Have you always felt called to write?
     I always thought I would end up with a career in music like the rest of my family. I grew up harboring such an appreciation of these accomplished, classical musicians all around me, it seemed a natural course to follow in their footsteps. 
     Instead, I stumbled into writing the way one sometimes bumps into providence, colliding with it accidentally. I happened to take a creative writing class in high school. My creative writing instructor believed the best way to teach writing was to send her students out to actually write. So I did—hundreds of pages over the next few years. Writing became both an outlet for my creativity and the escape reading had always provided. I know I share that love affair with many authors.
9. At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writer’s block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
     Usually I turn to music—either composing it or listening to it. If I can find a great new song, sometimes that will help inspire me out of the hole. When a scene just isn’t working, I’ve learned to go back to where I was last doing well in the story and scrap everything that came after. It’s an agonizing process, but often necessary.
10. The Dagger of Adendigaeth, Book 2 in your series, has just been published. How has your vision expanded from book 1 to book 2, and what kind of creative growth have you experienced in your process this second time around?
     We grow as writers with every novel—at least I believe that’s the goal. Many of the things I gained in writing The Dagger of Adendigaeth are intangible, ineffable understandings of myself and my creative process. I think of those times of being fabulously, fantastically stuck and the final moment of inspiration that launched me out of that depressing well. I think of the plot twists that came to me completely without warning, and the absolute magic that is the creative process. 
     The thing I loved most about writing this book was being able to explore so many viewpoints—especially the viewpoints of those characters who might be viewed as antagonists. But I don’t and never have seen them that way. It’s my greatest purpose in writing this series to be able to show the motivations and ideals that mold and shape each character. The more we can understand each other, the closer to a peaceful coexistence we will find, whether in the microcosm of our lives or the broader political and religious zones.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Guestpost: My Take on Magic Systems by Melissa McPhail

My Take on Magic Systems 
by Melissa McPhail 

     One of the most enticing aspects of writing fantasy is developing a magic system. The author’s magic system is inextricably woven into their world and contributes greatly to the reader’s vision of the world overall. The way a system is created either makes the world seem real or unreal, depending on how well the author has grounded the system with laws and limitations.

     For example, scientists in our own world have defined laws—inertia, gravity, the periodic table—that describe the physical limitations and properties of energy. We don’t expect a stone to rise upwards when we throw it, but we might believe it could float if it were somehow made of helium. Likewise in a fantasy world, it’s important to codify the system with laws and rules (and to stick to those rules once established), to set boundaries for what the magician can and cannot do with magic, and to establish consequences for and ramifications of magical misuse.

     This all shows that magic systems require significant thought and research on the author’s part to develop realistically. Yet for all of this, the manner in which one might design and describe the magical process is potentially limitless—there are as many magical systems as there are fantasy novels, and equally as many readers eager to pontificate on their pros and cons and/or to organize the systems into categories and types.

     The one thing most magic systems have in common, however, is that they all handle energy. Whether that energy is spiritual, omnipotent, corporeal, or derives from physical objects or living things, the working of arcane arts surrounds the manipulation of energy.

     I designed the magic in Cephrael’s Hand based on scientists’ existing understanding of electrical fields. The process of thought has been scientifically proven to produce energy, and human bodies are known to generate electrical fields. For the magic in Alorin, I proposed that all living things produce a metaphysical energy which is formless but which flows across the world in natural currents. This energy is called elae. This is the energy a magician of Alorin uses to produce arcane workings. How he does this is the creative part.

     In Cephrael’s Hand, all things are formed of patterns. A single leaf derives its pattern from the larger pattern of its motherly oak. The snowflake harbors the pattern of a storm. Rivers form patterns that mimic the pattern of the world, and a living man harbors within him the pattern of his immortality. These inherent patterns collect and compel energy (elae) toward a certain purpose—growth, action, states of change.

     To compel energy, a magician of Alorin (called a wielder) must learn to first identify and then usurp control over the pattern of a thing in order to command it. This is a laborious process requiring a lifetime of study.

     Unlike wielders, the Adepts in Cephrael’s Hand are born with the ability to manipulate certain patterns. Adept Healers can see creation patterns (life patterns) and mend them where they’ve become frayed. Truthreaders can hear certain thoughts and read minds to see what a man saw versus what he says he saw. Nodefinders have the ability to move long distances with a single step by traveling on the pattern of the world. And Wildlings tap into a variant aspect of the lifeforce called elae to shapeshift or even skip through time, among other intriguing talents. The last type of Adept can sense the patterns of nonliving things—stone, air, water, fire, etc.—and use those patterns to compel the elements themselves.

     Adepts are limited by nature of their birth—they can only inherently work one category of patterns. They are limited by their training, their inherent intelligence, talent and ability. And of course, like us in real life, they are limited by their own vision of their capabilities.

     Above all of these limitations, we find Adepts limited by “Balance.” The concept of Balance draws from my studies of Eastern philosophies. It is the high governing force, the yen and yang, karma, cause and effect, fate. It’s as esoteric and arcane as these concepts imply. How far can the Balance be pushed in one direction without lashing back at the wielder? Which actions stretch it and which ones defy it? Balance is a complex and complicated subject—as difficult to define as our own world’s myriad competing religions. The only real agreement on the subject of Balance is that all magical workings stretch the Balance to some degree. Understanding how far they can be stretched without snapping is central to survival in the arcane arts.

     The concept of Balance provides, well, the “balancing” force to all magical workings in Cephrael’s Hand and is central to its plot. You see, the entire realm of Alorin is out of Balance and magic is dying—and the Adept race dies along with it.

About Cephrael’s Hand:

     Two brothers find themselves on opposite sides of a great battle, neither knowing the other is alive… A traitor works in exile while preparing for the disaster only he knows is coming… A race of beings from beyond the fringe of the universe begin unmaking the world from within… And all across the land, magic is dying. Cephrael’s Hand is the first novel in the award-winning series A Pattern of Shadow and Light. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the Author: 

     Melissa McPhail is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid Fantasy reader. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats.Visit Melissa on her websiteTwitterFacebook, or GoodReads.

About the Blog Tour:

     As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Cephrael’s Hand eBook edition is just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes.

The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $450 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

     All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Review # 262: Off Target: 18 Bull's-Eye Exposés by John Noe, PhD

Description: (from Amazon)
     This book asks readers to ponder this tough and challenging question: Have we Christians been led astray by our own leaders; dumbed down in our theology by ideas, interpretations, teachings, doctrines of men, and traditions that will not stand up to an honest and sincere test of Scripture; and consequently drawn off target in the practice of our faith? The author, however, is not down on Christianity-just the opposite. He's down on what we have done to it. Inside its 266 pages John Noē, Ph.D., re-explores what really is authentic Christianity versus today's institutionalized and compromised versions that we've come to comfortably know and accept. In so doing, readers will discover that beliefs do have consequences. He maintains that this is why our modern-day versions pale in comparison with vibrancy and effectiveness of the Christianity that was preached, practiced, and perceived in the 1st century and turned that hostile world "upside down" (Acts 17:6 KJV). They also pale in contrast to the faith that brought our forefathers to America to found this country and establish its great institutions-most of which we moderns have given away to the ungodly crowd and without a fight. Bottom line is, we Christians are paying an awful price for our self-inflicted deficiencies. 18 key exposé areas comprise this book's smorgasbord of relevant and significant topics, which have resulted in today's dumbed-down dilemma and substandard versions of the Christians faith.

     I wholeheartedly agree with John Noe, we have in-fact been lead astray by the "modern" word of God. It seems that some church leaders/ congregants have spun the meaning of scripture to fit their own agendas, changing the context subtly, while others have simply misread or misunderstood what they study. These misuses of scripture have lead people to believe in a whole host of unfounded and destructive ideas - including unnecessary rules and regulations, mistreatment of church-goers (as well as those of other faiths), and even rumors of the apocalypse. There are a plenitude of liturgical volumes available in today's society, each with its own translation of God's word, but that doesn't mean that all of them hold the same meaning within each verse. These are some of the reasons that John Noe decided to "expose" eighteen areas/ ideas that have resulted in the victimization of modern day Christianity. His methods are honest, albeit shocking, but his research-laden analysis is well-penned, easy-to-read/ understand, and very effective in explaining where some religious houses have begun to crumble. Our beliefs do indeed have consequences, and he describes how to take control of your belief system. This is why I think that every Christian (and those of other faiths) should choose a doctrine to study independently in order to make their own conclusions; without thoughts of one's own, it is easy to get lost in a sea of deception and uncertainty. Although I thoroughly enjoyed Off Target, I felt that there were a few topics that went a little overboard (no spoilers), and I wasn't fond of one or two exposés. Other than that, I was quite pleased with my reading experience. Recommended to readers wondering if today's modern version of Christianity is what it should be.
Rating: On the Run (4/5)

*** I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Review # 261: A Heart Like His - Intimate Reflections on the Life of David by Beth Moore

Description: (from Amazon)
     We all go through times when we feel insignificant or times when we feel certain that we have experienced a degree of failure from which there is no return. This is not a reality we experience alone, but is one that a man after God’s heart experienced as well. From shepherd, to refugee, to king of Israel, David exhibited the purest virtues and the most heinous sinfulness, but through it all his relationship with the Lord continued to grow. 
     A Heart Like His looks at this bond of mutual love and admiration between a man who was not unlike any of us and the one true God who is all good and all powerful. Beth Moore walks us through an exploration of David’s incredible life, drawing spiritual insights from a man who boldly fulfilled his divine destiny not merely by what he did, but who he loved and served. Bringing lessons from David’s life to bear on your own, this picture of a man who loved and followed God will help you to serve with a heart focused on Him no matter the circumstance.

     A Heart Like His is a beautifully written story of motivation and devotion, following David throughout his life as a devout servant of God. Beth Moore takes the reader on a well-researched journey through the books of  I/II Samuel and Psalms, creating a vivid picture of the life and times of David. Her honest and personal connection, (as a believer and follower of God), allows readers to contemplate a very personal relationship with the Lord, like that of David's. I found it to be an easy-to-read and welcoming bible study full of scriptural support and helpful review. I will definitely be using this version for further study, especially the questions at the end of each section. David's story actually inspired me to work on my relationship with God, and to renew the strength of my faith. Highly recommended for anyone who would like a better relationship with the Lord. 

Rating: On the Run (4.5/5)

***  I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Review # 260: The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge by Christine Nolfi

Description: (from Amazon)
A savage rape on hallowed ground.
Secrets buried for decades by the town’s most influential family...  
     Now Ourania D’Andre will learn the Great Oak’s secrets as construction begins at the Fagan mansion. She can’t afford to turn down a job that promises to stir up the long-buried guilt—and the passion—she shares with powerful Troy Fagan. 
     She’s already juggling the most important job of her career with her new responsibilities as a foster mother for young Walt and Emma Korchek. And there’s a hard, older man on the construction crew with eyes void of emotion—cold and killing. The secrets of his brutal past will pose a grave threat to the children in her care. Will she find the courage to face him?


     I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge, a beautifully-written tale of love, heartache, forgiveness, family ties, jealousy, romance and suspense. Family sagas have always interested me - the more powerful the family, the deeper and darker the closets -   so Christine Nolfi's single-book saga intrigued from the first page. The characters were top-notch, especially Ourania and the Fagans. I definitely felt a connection with Ourania's independent and protective nature, particularly her strength and determination. It was refreshing to read about such a  deep and decisive female protagonist - not a girl that needed saving. The dialogue was also well-written and detailed, with a very natural flow. I liked how all the different story-lines came together, and how all the conflicts were resolved; some very difficult topics were discussed, (rape, abuse, etc...), but they were handled in a tasteful and true-to-life manner without being grotesque. The only aspect of the writing that I disliked was the semi-repetitiveness of the text, mainly in the romantic sections, but it was not a deterrent from reading further. Highly recommended to all adult readers.

Rating: On the Run (4.5/5)

*** I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Happy Christmahannukwanzakkuh!!!

The Paperback Pursuer wishes everyone a wonderful holiday season filled with comfort, joy and beautiful memories. 

Reviews and new content will return after January 2, 2012!!!


Friday, December 14, 2012

Review # 259: Oliver Twist - The Definitive Full-Cast Audio Dramatization of the Charles Dickens Classic

Description: (from
     With cinema-quality sound and an original soundtrack, this audio drama tells the story of a young orphan sent from a child farm to begin life in a workhouse. After committing the unpardonable offense of asking for more food, Oliver is sent off to apprentice with a coffin-maker whose wife mistreats him. He runs away to London, where he meets the Artful Dodger and Fagin, who trains kids to be pickpockets. Despite his many trials and hardships, he finally gets his happy ending, bringing hope for redemption to all around him.

     When I was seven I came across an illustrated copy of Dickens' Oliver Twist, and ever since, I have
read the book at least once a year; it definitely belongs on my "favorites" list. So when I had a chance to experience the full cast Radio Theatre audio book complete with the original musical score, I made sure I got a copy! The audio package includes over 5 1/2 hours of "audio drama" on 5 CD's, as well as a bonus DVD with a behind-the-scenes documentary of the broadcast and a look into today's "modern Olivers". I was very pleased with the outer case that held the CD's/DVD; the artwork and overall format was well-chosen and interesting to read. The space under the audio CD's held the descriptions of the characters, author, cast, and crew, and photos of the main cast were located on the reverse panel.  I always enjoy having something to look at when I am listening to an audio-book, so the additional material suited me well. The audio was very clear, the volume was consistent and well-balanced, and I could definitely envision Oliver stealing a loaf of bread and hightailing-it down a cobblestone street. I have seen (and acted in) the musical version before, so I did know what to expect -- and my expectations were thoroughly met! I could have been watching Oliver on Broadway, (and at the volume I listened to it, my parents probably thought that there was a chorus in my bedroom). I will absolutely be listening to this audio-book again and again! Recommended for all readers/listeners, especially kids and teens! Great gift idea; educational too!

Rating: Perfect Getaway! (5/5)

*** I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Review # 258: Mississippi Cotton (A Southern Novel) by Paul H. Yarbrough

Description: (from Amazon)
     It is 1951. Young Jake Conner gets on a bus to visit his cousins in the Mississippi Delta. But when the body of an unknown man is found in the Mississippi River, Jake's summer vacation gets a little more adventurous as he and his cousins snoop around in a mystery that is better left to the grown-ups.

    Mississippi Cotton is a lighthearted coming-of-age mystery narrated by a group of young boys growing up around the Mississippi Delta in the early 1950's. Paul H. Yarbrough has created a fun and realistic cast of characters, (Jake, Taylor and Casey), whose innocence - and knack for trouble - set the stage for a real southern treat! The genuine southern charm, attention to detail, and engaging story-line, made me feel like I was in Mississippi picking cotton, fishing, and watching crops sway in the warm mid-day breeze. I was engrossed by the well-written descriptions and historical authenticity. It reminded me a bit of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, but was a refreshing look into boyhood curiosity and the adventure of growing up. I also appreciated the lack of violence and profanity. Overall, Mississippi Cotton was a clean and well-developed story packed with unforgettable characters, tons of laughs, and classic southern hospitality! Recommended to readers of all ages, but especially preteen boys!

Rating: On the Run (4/5)

*** I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review # 257: Men of Sunday - How Faith Guides the Players, Coaches, and Wives of the NFL By Curtis Eichelberger

Description: (book jacket)
Step into the locker rooms and living rooms of NFL players and their families to see how a close relationship with God guides football's biggest stars! 
     In a behind-the-scenes, off-the-field glimpse into one of America's most beloved sports, "Men of Sunday" reveals how Sunday's greatest rely on God to face issues such as drug abuse, family crisis, injuries, and temptations resulting from fame and fortune. Compiled from dozens of interviews, Men of Sunday marks the intersection of two Sunday traditions: faith and football. Inspired by the league's "systemic shift" toward embracing Christianity, Bloomberg writer Curtis Eichelberger shows how God is a source of comfort when facing the unique challenges of life in the NFL and the everyday challenges of maintaining strong families and building character. 
     Featured personalities include Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, New York Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Former Chicago Bears middle linebacker Mike Singletary, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, San Diego Chargers pastor Shawn Mitchell, Danisha Rolle, wife of former Tennessee and Baltimore defensive back Samari Rolle, and many more...


      Being a resident of Maryland, I am quite partial to the Baltimore Ravens (NFL) team, so when I saw a book that mentioned Ray Lewis, I was definitely intrigued! Ray Lewis is one of the team's driving forces, always cheering on and motivating teammates on and off the field. There's not a game where spectators don't see him pep-talking players, or leading them in a team prayer, which has earned him the respect and adoration of his fans, as well as some of his teammates. Besides the team prayers, I had never really pondered the connections between football and faith - two seemingly unrelated topics - but Men of Sunday put them into perspective, providing further evidence that God is with us in everything we do.
     I expected to read a Christian sports biography of sorts when I first received the book, but with so many NFL players included, I was not sure how it would be set up. I was surprised to learn that Men of Sunday was more of a professional athlete's guide to staying a faithful Christian throughout the ups-and-downs of a career in the NFL. Although I may not be a professional athlete, I appreciated getting to know the "human side" of the players I watch on the field every week. Their stories stretched a variety of emotions and topics, including aspects of their home and NFL lives. I liked reading the chapters about the families of the players, as well as their coaches; it was interesting to see how God played a role in their daily lives on and off the football field. Curtis Eichelberger detailed the players' ability to glorify the Lord, play a violent game, make family sacrifices, overcome adversity and temptation, make transitions, follow God's plan, and provide leadership. I found the material easy-to-read, honest, and valuable to any readers, whether athletes or not. Great behind the scenes look at the NFL and the faith that builds the game and the league as a whole. Recommended to Christian readers and athletes who are curious about the faith behind the game.

Rating: On the Run (4/5)

*** I received this book from the author (BookSneeze) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Review # 256: The Girl in the Glass by Susan Meissner

Description: (book jacket)
     Since she was a child, Meg has dreamed of taking a promised trip to Florence, Italy, and being able to finally step into the place captured in a picture at her grandmother’s house. But after her grandmother passes away and it falls to her less-than-reliable father to take her instead, Meg’s long-anticipated travel plans seem permanently on hold. 
     When her dad finally tells Meg to book the trip, she prays that the experience will heal the fissures left on her life by her parents’ divorce. But when Meg arrives in Florence, her father is nowhere to be found, leaving aspiring memoir-writer Sophia Borelli to introduce Meg to the rich beauty of the ancient city. Sofia claims to be one of the last surviving members of the Medici family and that a long-ago Medici princess, Nora Orsini, communicates with her from within the great masterpieces of the Italian  Renaissance. 
     When Sophia, Meg, and Nora’s stories intersect, their lives will be indelibly changed as they each answer the question: What if renaissanceisn’t just a word? What if that’s what happens when you dare to believe that what is isn’t what has to be?

     With imagery vivid enough to transport me to Florence, Italy, Susan Meissner wove a novel draped in history, with a touch of romance, family drama and lifelong uncertainty. I have to applaud the cover-art, I loved the bold colors and the scene that they captured; a great start to the book! I also enjoyed the rich use of detail and the timely dialogue, as well as the top-notch character development evidenced in Nora, Sophia and Meg. I was intrigued by the layers I found within the plot-line, although they tended to blur together in certain areas, (especially those between Nora and Sophia), but I appreciated the overall build-up of the story and the emotion behind it. The Girl In the Glass was a wonderful story of fathers, daughters, regrets, dreams and hopes for the future that took me on a much needed visual journey across time. Recommended to all readers, particularly women, who enjoy fiction with a little romance, great characters, and a lot of emotion.

Rating: On the Run (4/5)

*** I received this book from the author (WaterBrook Press) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Review # 255: The Tower of Babel by G.T. Anders

Description: (book-jacket)
     Two letters making two demands. Two seeds: one growing, the other dormant. Two allegiances—one high-profile, the other subversive. Oh, and one reluctant goal: the cleansing of the planet. 
     This is the story of how Austin Feckidee and his three friends tried to change the world. It’s the story of L’Hermitage, the abandoned church that was the base of their earth-shattering work; and it’s the story of the Tower of Babel, the arrogant statement of human self-sufficiency that they sought to destroy. 
     It’s 1967 somewhere in North America. Babylon is the greatest city in the nation (maybe even on earth), and to prove it, they’re building a veritable tower to heaven that would make even the denizens of biblical Shinar a little jealous. But far from the city, in the abandoned suburbs, Austin and the secret society are talking about the Tower again. Talking about how it must come down. How the planet must be cleansed. And how divinity has chosen them to make it happen.

     I have to admit, when I first started reading The Tower of Babel, I really had no idea what was going on. The pace was slow, the characters were not well defined, and the plot was frustratingly indiscernible; however, the writing style was what kept me interested, the voice of the main character emitting promises for a suspense-filled and intriguing sci-fi drama. Austin was definitely my favorite character, his character and dialogue were well-developed and relatable, especially his "philosophy". G.T. Anders' writing style was sometimes unconventional, but I enjoyed the ebb-and-flow of the narration and dialogue - very literary - not full of rambling or unnecessary verbiage. I liked the simplicity of the text, but I was not crazy about the use of ellipses (...). They were alright in moderation, but overuse had me wondering what was left unsaid and undone. The overall story was well-written and plotted very nicely. I enjoy plot-lines that force the reader to process the book without giving away all the answers, and The Tower of Babel did just that. I actually did not know what was coming, or that there would be a sequel - which I will definitely be reading!

Rating: On the Run (4/5)

*** I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author:

     G. T. Anders, who goes by George Anderson at work, home, and among friends and family, has been writing since the age of learning-to-write. From the earliest picture-books about a talking can through novellas about sparrows to a militaristic space opera, his projects have led him down one rabbit trail after another, constantly approximating but never quite reaching the ideal of Great Novel that began to form in his young brain when he first saw chapter headings and body copy on a printed page.

     His first published novel, The Tower of Babel, is another such excursion but claims nothing of that ideal. If you enjoy it, if it makes you question your use of gasoline or Facebook or anything else that is machine, then it has succeeded.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Guestpost: Jade Kerrion - When it’s no longer science fiction —A peek behind the Double Helix

When it’s no longer science fiction
A peek behind the Double Helix 
by Jade Kerrion

     For the past several years, our attention has been consumed by faltering economies, unstable governments, an epidemic of bullying, and an explosion of social media. In the meantime, largely ignored by mainstream media, the genetic revolution marches on quietly and inexorably.

Let’s test your knowledge of bioengineering. Which of the following is true? 

1. We used genetic engineering to create hybrid creatures, like the goat-sheep, and the camel-llama

2. We used genetic engineering to transfer bioluminescent genes from coral and deep-sea jellyfish to create glow-in-the-dark mice, cats, dogs, pigs, and monkeys

3. We cloned animals, including sheep, dogs, and horses

4. We used genetic engineering to create animals that excrete pharmaceutical products in their milk and other bodily fluids

5. We used genetic engineering to preserve endangered species, creating animals that possess the nuclear DNA of the endangered species, and the mitochondrial DNA of the host species…in effect, a genetic hybrid

6. We created bug-bots by implanting wires in the central nervous system of insects, and we can now control their movements, including flight

7. We created organic robots by implanting wires in the central nervous system of rats, and we can now control what they do

8. We wired a monkey to control a third artificial arm entirely through its brain waves

9. We genetically engineered rats with pliable skin in order to grow human organs (e.g., ear) under their skin for eventual transplant to a human

10. We used organic computer chips made out of rat neurons to control a flight simulator

11. We isolated a brain of a lamprey eel and placed it in a nutrient medium, surrounded by electrodes. The living, intact brain controls a machine that moves toward the light (in much the same way a lamprey eel moves toward the light)

12. We used a DNA synthesizer to create an artificial organic cell. (Isn’t that an oxymoron?) The computer is its parent

     If you answered “Yes” to all of these, you are right. All of these are true. Science fiction is now science fact. Today, we possess an unprecedented control over bioengineering, an area that remains largely unregulated by governments. Our scientific advances raise many ethical questions, such as “Is it right to control the autonomy of another creature, even if it’s just a rat?” Other more pragmatic questions focus on timing, “When will we start applying directed evolution (i.e. design) to humans?”

     I majored in Biology and Philosophy at the Johns Hopkins University, and the philosophical implications of genetic engineering naturally combined my two interests. I started by asking myself, “What would the world look like to the perfect, lab-created human being?” And then, I wondered, “How would the world change for the people whose genetic templates were used to create the perfect human being?” The Double Helix series sets out to answer both those questions from the point-of-view of Danyael Sabre, an alpha empath whose genetic code was used as the physical template for the perfect human being.

     In the world of the Double Helix, directed evolution has become the norm, but is accessible only to those with financial resources. Historical personalities are reincarnated as clones. Genetically optimized in vitros abound, and they tend to succeed at the expense of normal humans who struggle to keep up. Nevertheless, normal humans still form the political majority, and thus, the world of the Double Helix is deeply stratified by genetics, wealth, and politics. Into this already chaotic mix, I added mutants and their dangerous variants of psychic powers, and finally Galahad, the lab-created, perfect human being.

     The story explodes into a “highly-enjoyable, brainy guilty pleasure of a novel: a perfect mixture of non-stop action, gripping plot, thought-provoking philosophy, and beautiful visuals.” Set in Earth’s near-contemporary future and frequently compared to X-Men, Heroes, and Alphas, the Double Helix series is highly accessible, even for non-science fiction readers.

     I invite you to check out a world that is closer to science fact than science fiction. Welcome to the Double Helix.

     His genetic code sourced from the best that humanity offers, Galahad embodies the pinnacle of perfection. When Zara Itani, a mercenary whose abrasive arrogance exceeds her beauty, frees him from his laboratory prison, she offers him the chance to claim everything that had ever been denied him, beginning with his humanity.

     Perfection cannot be unleashed without repercussions, and Galahad’s freedom shatters Danyael Sabre’s life.

     An alpha empath, Danyael is rare and coveted, even among the alpha mutants who dominate the Genetic Revolution. He wields the power to heal or kill with a touch, but craves only privacy and solitude—both impossible dreams for the man who was used as Galahad’s physical template.

     Galahad and Danyael, two men, one face. One man seeks to embrace destiny, and the other to escape it.

     The award-winning Double Helix series, consisting of Perfection UnleashedPerfect Betrayal, and Perfect Weapon, will challenge your notions of perfection and humanity, and lead you in a celebration of courage and compassion. Science fiction, urban fantasy, and action-adventure readers will enjoy this thrilling roller-coaster ride as it twists and turns through a world transformed by the Genetic Revolution. 

About the Author: 

     Jade Kerrion unites cutting-edge science and bioethics with fast-paced action in her award-winning Double Helix series. Drawing rave reviews for its originality and vision, and described as “a breakout piece of science fiction,” Perfection Unleashed, and its sequels, Perfect Betrayal and Perfect Weapon, are available in print and e-book through Amazon and other major retailers. 

Buy the Book(s):

Perfection Unleashed: Amazon / Amazon UK / Smashwords

Perfect Betrayal: Amazon / Amazon UK / Smashwords

Perfect Weapon: Amazon / Amazon UK / Smashwords

Excerpt: Perfection Unleashed by Jade Kerrion

Today, I’d like to share with you the first chapter from Perfection Unleashed, the first in the Double Helix series… 


On another Friday night, she might have been out at a Georgetown bar, accepting drinks from attractive men and allowing them to delude themselves into imagining that they might be the lucky one to take her home.

Tonight, she had work to do.

The hem of the white lab coat brushed about her legs as she strode toward the double doors that barred entry to the western wing. No one paid her any attention. Scientists and lab technicians scurried past her, nodding at her with absent-minded politeness. On Friday evening, with the weekend beckoning, no one thought about security.

Where men faltered, technology kept going.

The corridor seemed endlessly long, and the security cameras that pivoted on their ceiling-mounted frames bore into her back. She knew that her image likely featured on one or more of the many monitors at the security desk, but a combination of training and nerves of steel steadied her. She resisted the urge to twitch or to hurry her pace.

Each step brought her closer to an ominously glowing red eye on the security panel beside the door. Undeterred, she waved her badge over the panel. Moments later, the security panel flashed to green and a heavy lock slid back. Another small triumph. It usually took a series of them to make a victory.

She lowered her head, ostensibly to look down at the tablet in her hand. Her long, dark hair fell forward, concealing the lower half of her face from the security camera as she walked through the open door. “Entering the western wing,” she murmured, trusting the concealed microphone to pick up on her whisper.

“Good luck,” Carlos’s voice responded through the tiny earpiece inserted in her right ear. “All’s clear out here.”

“I’m really glad the security pass I programmed for you actually worked,” Xin added, a whimsical tone in her voice.

Zara was glad, too. She had a solid plan. Two of her finest associates backed her up—Carlos Sanchez waiting in the car concealed off road outside Pioneer Labs, and Mu Xin poised in front of a computer in her Alexandria home—but she could come up with a list of a half-dozen things that could still go wrong.

“I’ve finished checking the employee log against the National Mutant Registry,” Xin continued. “You’ve lucked out, Zara. Apparently Pioneer Labs isn’t big into hiring mutants. You won’t have to contend with any telepaths or telekinetics tonight.”

Good. That was one thing she could strike off her list.

Another long hallway stretched in front of her, but the glass-enclosed research station on the left drew her attention. Two lab technicians huddled around a network of computers, their attention focused on the output pouring from the whirling terminals. Her gaze drifted over the lab technicians and focused on Roland Rakehell and Michael Cochran, the famous co-creators of “Galahad”, the perfect human. The two scientists stood in contemplative discussion in front of a liquid-filled fiberglass chamber.

The man floating within the sensory deprivation tank, his head encased in a metallic hood and his face covered by breathing apparatus, writhed in agony. Wires monitoring heart rate and brain waves trailed from his naked body. Jagged edges leaped hysterically off the computer readouts as mind and body convulsed, shuddering with madness and pain.

One of the lab technicians spoke up, “Professor, his brain waves indicate that he is waking.”

Roland Rakehell glanced at his watch. “Right on time,” he noted, his voice tinged with disappointment. “I guess the miracles can’t come thick and fast every single day.”

“We made him human, not superhuman,” Michael Cochran said. “Besides, we don’t really have time to record a miracle today.” He glanced at the two technicians. “Roland and I are meeting investors for dinner, and we have to leave now. Take Galahad back to his room. Make sure he gets something to eat.”

Silently she pushed away from the viewing area and continued down the corridor. Her violet eyes betrayed the faintest flicker of confusion and consternation.


She would never have imagined it, but apparently the scientists had no qualms treating their prized creation like a common lab animal.

“Xin?” she murmured quietly.

“Right here,” was the immediate response.

“Approaching the suite.”

“I’m one step ahead of you,” Xin said. “I’ve gotten through the security system and rerouted all the cameras in the suite to a static video feed. You’re clear to enter.”

The second door opened into a large suite pressed up against the western wall of the laboratory complex. No gentle ambient lighting there, just harsh pools of unforgiving white light blazing over the bed and table, leaving the rest of the large suite in muted shadows.

Was it through deliberate design or neglectful oversight that no attempt had been made to humanize Galahad’s living quarters? Empty shelves lined the wall. The small metal table and matching chair were severe, the narrow bed unwelcoming. She had seen third-world hospital wards offer far more comfort to its occupants.

Footsteps echoed, drawing closer, and then paused outside the door. There was no time to waste. She strode across the room, slipping into the shadows that obscured the far side of the suite moments before the door slid open again.

The two technicians she had seen earlier half-dragged, half-carried Galahad into the room. It staggered with exhaustion, trying to stand on its own. The technicians hauled Galahad up and dumped it unceremoniously in a wet, shivering heap on the bed.

One of the technicians cast a backward glance at the unmoving figure on the bed. “Pete, are you sure he’s going to be okay?” he asked the other.

“Eventually. It usually takes him a while to recover,” Pete assured the younger man. He pulled out two sealed nutrient bars from his pocket and tossed them onto the table. “Let’s go.”

“I think we should at least get him a towel or put him under the sheets.”

Pete snapped. “How many times do I have to say it? Let him be, Jack. He doesn’t want to be helped, though God knows I’ve tried often enough. He wants to be able to do things for himself, at least here, in this room. It’s the only dignity he has left; let’s leave that to him.”

“It was bad today.”

The older man inhaled deeply, sparing a quick glance back. Galahad trembled so hard it seemed as if it would shatter. It curled into a fetal ball, perhaps to protect itself from further violation. “I know. And the best thing we can do for him right now is leave him alone,” Pete said as he stepped out of the room and allowed the door to seal shut behind them.

The impact was thunderous—not audibly—but she felt it nonetheless. It was the sealing of a prison cell.

Zara had wondered what kind of luxuries and privileges the incomparable Galahad—the pinnacle of genetic perfection—enjoyed. Now she knew the answer.

She watched in silence as Galahad stirred, slowly standing and leaning on the wall for support as it staggered toward the bathroom. She had yet to get a good look at its face, but the blazing light did not leave much of its body to imagination. It was slender but well muscled, powerful and graceful, in spite of its obvious exhaustion—the promise of perfection come into fruition.

She waited through the sound of running water. Patience had never been easy for her, but she possessed the instincts of a hunter closing in on its quarry. Her patience was rewarded when it finally returned to the room, dressed simply in loose-fitting white cotton drawstring pants and a tunic of the same material. As it stepped into the blazing circle of light, her eyes narrowed briefly, and then a faint smile of easy appreciation curved her lips.

She had studied the surveillance video feed Xin had hacked from the central computers of Pioneer Labs the day before, but the wide-angle lenses had not captured anything approximating the full impact of Galahad’s beauty. Its rare and lovely color—pale blond hair paired with dark eyes—stood out and attracted immediate attention, but the longer she looked, the more beauty she saw in its exquisitely chiseled features, as flawless as a Michelangelo masterpiece. Galahad was stunningly beautiful—would be stunningly beautiful, whatever the color of its hair or eyes. The scientists had certainly done well; more than well.

Galahad made its way over to a rattan chair, moving with greater ease. It was regaining its strength, though she did not think that it was anywhere near optimal form, not when it had almost collapsed with exhaustion on the way to the bathroom ten minutes earlier. It curled up in the chair and closed its eyes, looking oddly content, despite the fact that it did not fit very well into the chair. Within a minute, she realized from the even rise and fall of its chest with every breath, that it had fallen asleep.

It was time to get to work.

Galahad did not stir as she silently crossed the room. A*STAR had demanded fresh DNA samples obtained as directly from the source as possible. Hair or skin samples would be acceptable, and both were typically abundant in a bathroom. She pulled test tube and tweezers from the pocket of her lab coat and knelt to examine the bathroom counter.

Something flickered in the corner of her vision.

Instinct and trained reflexes took over. In a flash, her dagger was in her hand. She spun, the black serrated blade slicing outward.

Galahad reacted with uncanny speed. It dove to the side, dropping into a roll and coming up in a battle crouch. Her dagger slashed through the air where Galahad had been standing a moment before. Galahad’s dark eyes narrowed as it assessed her. Its body shifted into motion, preparing to defend itself.

She too reassessed, readjusted. Her attack should not have missed. Galahad’s battle instincts had been trained and polished to perfection. Apparently it was more than a common lab animal.

Her dagger lashed out once again in a graceful, snake-like motion, and Galahad evaded by dodging to one side. The blade sliced harmlessly through the air so close to Galahad that it must have felt the chill breath of the dagger’s passing against its skin.

Galahad’s silent and sinuously graceful movements were driven by so much speed and agility that strength—although abundant—was superfluous. It matched her, step for step, dodging each attack with a grace that made their deadly waltz seem choreographed. There was no doubt that Galahad was good, far better than anyone she had ever contended with. In spite of its obvious fatigue after a long and difficult day, Galahad possessed flawless timing and impeccable spatial precision, allowing it to escape injury by fractions of a second and a hairsbreadth. It had nerves of steel. It taunted her with its proximity and tempted the kiss of her blade, never straying too far as it sought an opening.

She saw the dark eyes glitter dangerously and knew that something in it had shifted, had changed. She thrust her blade at its face.

In less than a heartbeat, it was over.

With a swiftness that left her stunned, Galahad twisted its hand to catch her wrist in an iron grip. It sidestepped, yanked her forward, and drove its knee into her thigh. Her leg weakened and collapsed. Its superior weight drove her to the ground and kept her there without any visible effort.

A perfectly sequenced attack, executed with flawless precision and stunning speed.

Gritting her teeth against the pain, she recognized the inevitable outcome as it eased the dagger from between her nerveless fingers. She cursed soundlessly. She had underestimated its skill, perhaps to her folly. It suddenly released her, pulled her to her feet, and then stepped away from her. Some emotion she could not decipher rippled over its flawless features, and to her amazement, it flipped the dagger over in its hand and held it out, hilt first, to her. “I don’t know why I’m fighting you. You came to kill me; I should thank you for your kindness.”

She reached out and accepted the dagger from Galahad as her mind raced to understand the incomprehensible. Galahad held her gaze only for a moment before it lowered its eyes and looked away. She saw its throat work as it fought an internal battle to suppress its survival instincts, and then it turned its back on her deliberately and walked out of the bathroom.

She could have struck the fatal blow. Galahad was offering her the chance. She could pull Galahad’s head back and apply the faintest pressure to the dagger’s blade across its jugular. She could extract the tissue sample she had been sent to collect, and then leave, her mission completed.

She could not bring herself to do it. Oddly enough, something in her wanted it—wanted him—to live.

“Zara?” she heard Xin’s voice softly inquiring in her ear, her tone concerned.

“I’m all right,” she murmured. “Give me a minute.” She paused by the bathroom door and watched him make his way toward the wide windows. He kept his back to her as he stared out at the manicured lawns around Pioneer Labs. Was he waiting for her to strike?

Well, she could play the waiting game too. She followed him and then turned, casually leaning against the window as she looked up at him, her gaze coolly challenging.

Several moments passed.

Finally he broke the silence. “Who sent you?” he asked quietly without looking at her.

She had expected the question, but not the calm, neutral tone in which it was asked. No anger. No hatred. No fear. Just a simple question, driven more by politeness than by any real need to know. “Does it matter?”

He inhaled deeply and released his breath in a soft sigh as she neatly evaded his inquiry. He tried another question. “Are you from around here?”

“Washington, D.C.”

“I’ve seen media clips of that city. It’s beautiful.”

She offered a nonchalant shrug as a response to his statement. “It’s pretty enough, I suppose. I take it you’ve never been there.”

“I don’t get out much, and the last time was a good while ago.” He shrugged, a graceful motion that belied the bitterness in his voice. “I’ve seen media clips endorsed by Purest Humanity and other pro-humanist groups. There is no place for me in your world.”

It was pointless to deny the obvious, but before she could open her mouth to toss out the retort on the edge of her tongue, an animal-like cry resonated through the complex. It was a ghastly sound, starting at a low pitch akin to the sound a lost puppy might make and then rising until it was a banshee’s scream. “What was that?”

“It’s an experiment in another part of the building.”

“It doesn’t sound like anything I recognize. What is it?”

He tossed her question back at her: “Does it matter?”

“Not if you don’t care.”

“It’s been going on for as long as I can remember.”

His matter-of-fact statement was like fuel to fire. Her eyes flashed. “And you feel nothing? No anger? No pity? You’re inhuman.”

“I thought you’d already decided that,” was his mild rejoinder. “Isn’t that why the pro-humanist groups want me killed?”

She hesitated. Somewhere along the way—she was not even sure when—she had stopped thinking of Galahad as an “it” and had started relating to it as a “he”. She had attributed to him all the responsibilities of being human, but none of its rights or privileges, in effect placing him in the worst possible no-win situation. She recalled his anguished convulsions in the sensory deprivation chamber. How much pity did she expect him to dredge up for another creature in a position no different from his own? Very little. In fact, none at all.

She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. The anger subsided. “Do they conduct experiments on you too?” she asked softly.

He stiffened. Without meeting her gaze, he answered the question, choosing his words with care. “I…yes, they do, sometimes.”

“What did they do to you today?”

He averted his gaze and bit down hard on his lower lip. He shook his head, said nothing.

“You looked like hell when they brought you back. I want to know, please.”

He was silent for so long she thought he was never going to answer the question, but then he spoke in a measured, neutral tone. “They gave me a highly concentrated sleeping pill and then injected a hallucinogen, to induce nightmares. They wanted to see if I could overcome the effects of the sleeping pill to wake up.”

“Did you?’

Another long pause. His reply was a softly anguished whisper. “No.”

“How long did the experiment last?”

“About eight hours, perhaps nine.” He laughed, low and melodic, but it was a humorless sound. “I slept all day, and I’m exhausted.”

“Why do they do that?”

“It’s simple; because they can. Humans and their derivatives, the clones and in vitros, have rights. I’m considered non-human, in large part because of the successful lobbying of pro-humanist groups, and I don’t have rights.” Galahad released his breath in a soft sigh. Long eyelashes closed over dark, pain-filled orbs as he inhaled deeply. He opened his eyes and met her gaze directly, holding it for a long, silent moment. The corner of his lips tugged up again in a bittersweet half smile. “I’m tired. I need to lie down. You can do what you need to do whenever you want.”

“Wait!” She grabbed his arm as he turned away from her. “You want me to kill you?”

“Isn’t that what you came to do?”

“Do you actually want to die?”

He waved his hand to encompass the breadth and width of the impersonal and deliberately dehumanizing room. “I’m not sure this should count as living.”

“But you’re not human.”

“No,” he agreed, his voice even. “No, but I am alive…just like any other human. This isolation drives me crazy. I know this is not the way others live. This isn’t living.”

He looked away. His pain was real, his anger compelling. In spite of it, she had seen him smile a few times and wondered whether his twisted half-smile could ever be coaxed into becoming something more. In silence, she watched as he turned his back on her and walked to his rattan chair. He seemed tired, emotional weariness draining his physical strength. Slowly he settled into the chair, drawing his legs up and curling into a vaguely comfortable position. Apparently he had chosen to deliberately ignore her. He was tuning her out and was once again trying to find solace in the few things he had left, such as a worn chair and his own company, trying to get through each cheerless day and lonely night.

Outside, a rabbit, safe from predators in the falling dusk, emerged from its burrow and hopped across the small patch of grass in front of the large windows of the suite. Zara watched as a faint smile touched his face, briefly transforming it. His personality seemed wrapped around a core that was equal parts weary indifference and tightly controlled bitterness, but there was still enough left in him to savor the small crumbs that life saw fit to throw his way. If his quiet strength had amazed her, his enduring courage humbled her. As she watched him, she knew he had won the battle he had wanted, so badly, to lose. He had proved his right to live, even though there was no purpose in living in a place like this. He knew that fact intimately, and so did she.

Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully.

“Zara, we’ve got trouble.” Carlos’s voice cut through the silence of her thoughts, his habitual calmness edged with tension. “Lots of vehicles incoming. Purest Humanity logos. Could be a protest forming; they look seriously pissed.”

She took a few steps away from Galahad. Annoyance disguised flickers of anxiety in her voice. “They’re about two days too early. They’ve been gathering on Christmas Eve each year.”

“Well, looks like someone had a change of plans. I’m estimating about forty…fifty cars, at least twice as many people.”

“They won’t get through the gate,” Xin said. “It was designed to keep out APCs.”

“Uh…The gate just opened…Por dios…They’re driving in!”


“No kidding, I swear to God.” The tension in Carlos’s voice escalated. “Someone must be screwing around with the security system.”

Zara suppressed a hiss of irritation. “Find that person, Xin, and disable his access. I don’t want to have to fight my way out of here.”

“I’m on it, but I can’t guarantee they won’t get to you. If they’re already through the gate, they’ll be pounding on the front door in seconds. You don’t have time; get moving. And Zara, if you don’t take Galahad with you, he’s as good as dead.”

Zara’s mind raced through the options available to her, the possibilities. She shrugged, dismissing the many logical reasons why she should not do what she was about to do, and took her first step down her path with a terse and coolly decisive order. “He’s coming with me. I’ll get us out of the building. Carlos, stand by for an extraction.”

“Copy that.”

She stepped toward Galahad. “You need to change into something else.” The thin cotton tunic and pants he wore would not provide sufficient protection from the chilly night air. Besides, his clothes looked like something issued to long-term residents of mental hospitals. Something with fewer negative institutional implications would work better at keeping him as inconspicuous as possible.

He blinked in surprise, her voice jerking him back to reality, and he looked up at her. “There is nothing else to wear,” he said. He released his breath in a soft sigh, his gaze drifting away from her to the rabbit outside the window.

Nothing else? A quick search of the suite confirmed his words. The only pieces of clothing in the suite’s large and mostly empty walk-in closet were several pieces of identical white cotton tunics and pants, a subtle but highly effective dehumanizing strategy. “We’re leaving anyway,” she told him as she returned into the living area of the suite. “Get up. We’re going.”

He stared at her in bewilderment. “Going?”

Zara exercised exquisite politeness and reminded herself to be patient with him. “I’m getting you out of here.”

A glimmer of understanding tinged with wary hope swirled through the confusion in his sin-black eyes, but he still did not move from the chair. “I thought you came to kill me.”

Not precisely, but perhaps it wasn’t a bad thing if he kept believing it, especially if it would make him more tractable. Things were complicated enough; an uncooperative captive would heighten the stakes and the danger of their situation. “I’ve changed my mind.”

“Changed your mind?”

“It’s a woman’s prerogative,” she told him, a wicked smile curving her lips. Her tone softened slightly. As huge as this step seemed for her, it must seem even larger for him. “I want to help you. Will you come with me?”

He met her gaze, held it for a long moment, and then finally smiled. “Yes.”

The simplicity of his answer staggered her, to say nothing of the heart-stopping power of his smile. It was a smile that could melt iron. “You trust me,” she said, “but you don’t even know my name.”

“It would be ungracious not to trust someone who has already passed up on several opportunities to kill me.” He uncurled from his chair and stood. His manners were at least as exquisite as his looks. He made no mention of the fact that he had beaten her in a fair fight and then refused to follow up on his advantage.

Maybe he considered it irrelevant. The important point was that she did not. The fight she had lost had, after all, been the critical turning point. She smiled up at him, suddenly realizing that his dark, fathomless eyes did not seem nearly as distant and empty as they had several minutes earlier. “I’m Zara Itani.”

He smiled faintly, the warmth from his smile briefly lighting up his eyes. “Zara, I’m Galahad.”



     His genetic code sourced from the best that humanity offers, Galahad embodies the pinnacle of perfection. When Zara Itani, a mercenary whose abrasive arrogance exceeds her beauty, frees him from his laboratory prison, she offers him the chance to claim everything that had ever been denied him, beginning with his humanity.

     Perfection cannot be unleashed without repercussions, and Galahad’s freedom shatters Danyael Sabre’s life.

     An alpha empath, Danyael is rare and coveted, even among the alpha mutants who dominate the Genetic Revolution. He wields the power to heal or kill with a touch, but craves only privacy and solitude—both impossible dreams for the man who was used as Galahad’s physical template.

     Galahad and Danyael, two men, one face. One man seeks to embrace destiny, and the other to escape it.

     The award-winning Double Helix series, consisting of Perfection UnleashedPerfect Betrayal, and Perfect Weapon, will challenge your notions of perfection and humanity, and lead you in a celebration of courage and compassion. Science fiction, urban fantasy, and action-adventure readers will enjoy this thrilling roller-coaster ride as it twists and turns through a world transformed by the Genetic Revolution. 

About the Author:

     Jade Kerrion unites cutting-edge science and bioethics with fast-paced action in her award-winning Double Helix series. Drawing rave reviews for its originality and vision, and described as “a breakout piece of science fiction,” Perfection Unleashed, and its sequels, Perfect Betrayal and Perfect Weapon, are available in print and e-book through Amazon and other major retailers. 

Buy the Book(s):

Perfection Unleashed: Amazon / Amazon UK / Smashwords

Perfect Betrayal: Amazon / Amazon UK / Smashwords

Perfect Weapon: Amazon / Amazon UK / Smashwords

Review # 254: Bold As Love by Bob Roberts Jr.

Description: (from Amazon)
As Christians, we’re called to love our neighbors—all our neighbors. But is that even possible? And can we truly love them well? 
     People often think of their neighbors as those already belonging to their “tribe” or community. It’s safe, it’s easy, and it doesn't often cause conflict—politically or religiously. But in today’s world, everyone and everything is interconnected globally in an ever-changing cultural landscape, while religious strife runs rampant. Is it feasible for Christians to live their faith boldly and lovingly while entering into a true relationship with “neighbors” of other faiths, both locally and globally? 
     In Bold as Love, Pastor Bob Roberts shows you what it looks like to live out your faith daily in the global public square among people of other faiths—Jews, Muslims, atheists, Hindus, Buddhists. While he admits that it can be challenging to engage people of other faiths whose beliefs are as strong as yours, he demonstrates how to enter into this critical dialogue in a radical yet loving way. “We have to learn to speak with one conversation and give the same message everywhere to everyone,” he says. “We are commanded to love God and love others. And sometimes that requires risky boldness.” 
     Roberts invites you to respond to this call to live a life of fearless and loving engagement with the world. So take the risk! Your faith wasn't made to live in isolation. It’s something you do face-to-face, heart-to-heart, hand-to-hand. Whether you are in a suburb of Houston or a village in India, put away the fear and suspicion and, instead, answer the call to radically love others the way God loves. And get ready to see your life and the lives of those you touch—your family, your community, even your enemies—transformed!


     I was very excited about reading Bold As Love because it promoted a very important message - to always love and accept your neighbor no matter their religious or social creed. I have always been a fan of Matthew 7:12 - "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you..." and this book shows us how to ditch the fear, suspicion and intolerance and start loving our neighbors the way God loves! The book is easy-to-read, down-to-earth, and is supplemented with examples from Pastor Bob Roberts Jr's own personal experiences, as well as scriptural support. His multi-faith approach to loving and accepting people of all religious backgrounds, without ulterior motives, is a tool that every person, (no matter what faith), should apply in their daily lives. Without opening up a shared, non-judgmental dialogue between those of different faiths, there would be no transfer of ideas - limiting acceptance. That is why I find the multi-faith approach so intriguing - although somewhat repetitive - because it is one of the foundations of religious peace and acceptance. Highly recommended for all Christians, as well as those seeking acceptance over tolerance.

Rating: On the Run (4/5)

*** I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author

     Bob Roberts Jr. is the founding pastor of NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas. He received his masters of divinity at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1983 and his doctorate in ministry from Fuller in 1996.