Category Archives: Book Reviews

These book reviews are of books I’ve read during leisure hours for my own enjoyment or learning. I share them with readers who are interested in finding books worth the time to read.

Storytelling Well Done

T. C. Southwell, Children of Another God (The Broken World Series, Book 1) Smashwords, 2010 Format: ebook (97,613 words) Free

In order to research the genre of science fiction and fantasy novels in preparation for writing one myself, I’ve been reading the novels of others. This  book by T. C. Southwell is a good example of self-published sci-fi novels that are readily available today. Southwell has 31 novels available on They aren’t all free, but Children of Another God will give you an excellent sample of the genre. I recommend buying more if you like this volume.

Children of Another God tells the story of Chanter and Talsy. Chanter is a Mujar, a race of beings who can assume various forms, such as an eagle or horse, dolphin or human. A Mujar lives a hundred years exactly and cannot be killed for any reason, although they can be imprisoned in the Pits. Humans use and abuse Mujar for their own selfish or terrible ends, yet they hate Mujar because they have no emotional attachment to anyone or anything.

Talsy is an eighteen year old woman who desperately longs for adventure and freedom from the conventional human lot for women who are treated as little more than cattle. When her father captures Chanter and uses him for his own ends, then intends to imprison him in a Pit, Talsy rescues the Mujar. Then begins their complicated relationship which leads to surprising ends and to the potential salvation of the human race, which is not guaranteed by the end of the novel.

Southwell’s storytelling is well-done. The author’s considerable imagination concocts a world, or rather worlds, that reflect a dual judgment on humanity. People are truly evil but are capable of great good, and people can rise above their base nature with difficulty. One reviewer complained about Talsy’s deliberate endangerment of others by her actions, suggesting that this detracted from the story. For me, this was the heart of the story. Talsy represents those who want to be more but are bound to their debased humanity. It takes great effort for her to learn and rise above herself. Kudos to Southwell for telling such a story!

Another reviewer demurred the “blatant” Christian imagery. For me, the Christian character of this book was a pleasure. It was wonderful to see an author who used the Christian gospel as a tool to present the story of humanity and salvation without bludgeoning the reader with a gospel mace. The same reviewer felt that the picture of human beings as a pack of dogs was overdone. As a Christian, I felt Southwell did a tremendous job showing the reader how far the race of men can fall, how horrible its actions can be, when people operate on the level of the flesh alone. I suppose how a reader reacts to the Christian message behind the book depends on where he or she stands in relation to that faith.

All in all, if you want to read a valuable book, I recommend this one, but I add a couple of warnings. First, Southwell sometimes drags out an aspect of the characterization or plotting, and this can be a bit tedious. I prefer novels to make their point and move the action forward quickly, but that’s a personal preference. Second, Southwell spent too much time describing a gruesome dissection of the Mujar by men searching for knowledge but succumbing to brutality. The Mujar lived and survived with Talsy’s help, but the detail almost made me stop reading or skip ahead. An author should not do this to the readers. Yet, in the end, I admit the long scene was critical for the storyline. So, if you read it, persevere. You’ll be satisfied when you do.

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Book Reviews


Tags: , , , , , ,

A Christian Novel Worth Reading

Karen Baney, A Heart Renewed.

Fiction eBook 110,920 words

Price: $5.99

At the start, let me tell you that the author Karen Baney is my daughter. So you can decide if I am prejudiced in favor of the author as a father or as a critic.

When she began talking about writing a novel, I encouraged her and gave her my advice about writing and self-publishing. She read and consider other people’s ideas, too. I’m glad to say she’s proven herself as an author. I am proud of Karen.

Now to this book. A Heart Renewed is the second in her Prescott Pioneers series. So it’s her second book. Since this one, she has published two more books. How good a book is it?

As a critic, I think it is quite good, primarily for two reasons. Karen has done a marvelous job drawing believable characters who populate her story and give the plot its action. She has also done her research on the era and its lifestyle and managed to make it a well-integrated part of her novel.

Julia Colter experienced a terrible personal trauma. The author has explored what the devastating experience means to her and how she responds to it. Julia has a volatile personality and learns harsh lessons, making her believe she will never find happiness. But through her interactions with the other characters in the story, Julia grows. Her faith regains its composure and develops into a mature belief as the plot progresses.

Adam Larson is a Christian with deep convictions who learns patience while dealing with Julia’s up and down moods. He grows from being a bewildered man, made so by his sister and Julia as they find ways to deal with Julia’s experience, to being a strong support for Julia in trying times. Other characters, Will and Hannah, whom readers met in the author’s first novel, also grow and develop in the course of the story.

Karen has drawn her characters well, with clear portraits, allowing them to grow beyond their starting points. When I finished reading A Heart Renewed, I felt I knew them as people.

The backdrop of the author’s story is Prescott, Arizona in pioneer days. She has become very familiar with the ground she covered and has made it a realistic and credible place. Having visited modern Prescott with Karen, I can see how she took into account the growth and change of the community, as well as pushed back over the years to what it must have been like at its founding. She made Prescott in the 1800’s a place I could know as a reader. This is what an historical fiction writer should do.

Since this is a Christian romance novel, I’d like to express myself about Karen’s handling of one of my pet peeves. Faith and scripture. Too many Christian authors use these aspects of their belief like bludgeons, slapping the Bible into their books to score points with their believing readers, but alienating readers who aren’t Christians. Karen does not do this. She has brought out her faith and the Bible’s message in a fashion that makes this aspect of her novel genuine. The characters struggle with their beliefs and their meaning, and they read scripture as part of their life experience not as way for the author to score points.

As a father and a critic, I would heartily recommend that you read my daughter’s book.

1 Comment

Posted by on November 21, 2011 in Book Reviews


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Modern Christian Literature at Its Best

Jack Cavanaugh, The Colonists. $2.99. 148,530 words.

This ebook is the second in Cavanaugh’s American Family Portrait series. I bought it because I like historical fiction based in the colonial era, and I was looking for a good summer “read.” I was not disappointed. Jack Cavanaugh re-creates the colonial period in vivid detail with some surprising twists from what I’ve read in the past. The major twist is his focus on Native Americans and their part in our history, and he does it without entering into an apology for the colonials’ attitude. He presents the Indians as genuine people with families, who had a willingness to grow as individuals. He also showed them as a people mistreated, misunderstood, and feared. The colonists are revealed as a mixture of the desire to understand and relate well to Native Americans with a readiness to express prejudice. Both groups are depicted as an amalgam of good and evil, but as folks who are spiritually searching.

The Colonists is a book about Christian faith and life, the struggle of it and the wonder of it. The focal characters are three siblings whose deceased father and wandering mother were devout Christian people who lost their way. Their children travel through harrowing experiences with difficulty. They lose their Christian moorings, then gradually rediscover what faith and Christian living are all about. The characters of the Morgan children are well-developed and entertaining. Priscilla is the thoughtful, secretly educated one, who has lots of promise, but is enmeshed in the vulgar world of colonial business dealings. Jared is the carefree, rowdy son who is shanghaied but matures as a Christian while forced into piracy on the high seas. Philip is the lead character of the novel and becomes to cornerstone of the renewed family as he searches for a lost family Bible and discovers his Christian humanity among the praying Indians of the Massachusetts colony.

I found in Jack Cavanaugh a master storyteller whose language is clear and straightforward. His way with words drew me into this novel and always held my interest. He plotted the novel as an expert author and created suspense that pulled me constantly forward. My wife grew tired of my nose being always in my ereader and said, “That must be some book you’re reading.” It was one of the most engaging novels I’ve read in years. In fact, I think I’m going to back up and buy the first book in the series so that I can find out how the Morgan family came to America and why the family Bible became so important to them.

If you like good historical fiction that centers in the American colonial era and want to read a decent Christian book, I encourage you to consider Jack Cavanaugh’s The Colonists. You’ll be reading one of the best examples of Christian literary work that is available.

If you wish to purchase this book, just follow this link… Buy eBook on Smashwords

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 5, 2011 in Book Reviews


Tags: , , , , , , ,