Written by Jeff Reuter
Reviewed by Donald James Parker –
Does a book have to be extremely well written to be of worth? I think not. I would not classify this work as a masterpiece of extraordinary quality. In fact the prose displayed is much closer to average, run of the mill, and mediocre. It was not written to provide the readers with exercise in mental and lingual gymnastics and help stave off diminution in mental prowess. It was not penned with the goal of bringing shock and awe to your reading experience. You won’t need your thesaurus or dictionary to probe into the meaning of multisyllabic words. The author intended it to be a reflection of himself, down to earth and unpretentious, a prophet called to deliver a message of substance without any hype. How appropriate that I penned, well keyboarded, these words on Christmas Eve, the night we celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus in a humble stable to two very down-to-earth parents. God has a way of using the little things and little people in life.
This first person non-fiction narrative tackles a fairly complex message and reduces it to simple language to help people grasp the concept that God is alive and working through His people. The journey of the author is a beautiful demonstration of how a life yielded to the Savior pays rich dividends, not necessarily financial, but always in the area of character and true contentment. The author could have ended up like many of his friends, living a life seeking pleasure and creature comforts and enjoying stunted growth as a child of the King. God must have planted a seed of dissatisfaction in his soul long ago. Nothing that he did brought him lasting joy-until he encountered his heavenly father. That dissatisfaction was like a grain of sand inside an oyster. The irritation of that sand produced a beautiful pearl of great price.
The trek started out with an earthly father who needed to enroll in Remedial Fatherhood 101. That class would have been filled by men of the World War II generation who seemed to lack the ability to demonstrate love. As a result, a whole generation of sons and daughters grew up with a sketchy concept of a loving Heavenly Father. Ironically Jeff had been a disciple of Jesus Christ for many years before he discovered the Father’s love. Playing church, even as an active participant in the roles of Sunday School teacher and pastor had not filled him with satisfaction. His heart ached for something more. He found that he had a God-sized hole that only God could fill. And after that he discovered a God of power and might that not only loves His children, but blesses them richly when they come to Him in faith. The Bible says that we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. This is Jeff Reuter’s witnessing of the great work done in his life by a loving Creator. This is material that can help others overcome as well.
We as humans seem to always be on a journey of discovering. We’re always trying to find a spouse, a job, the perfect house; you fill in the blank here. Some of us are always trying to find a good movie to watch or a book to read. I truly believe that as Christians the excellence of either is directly proportionate to the closeness it brings us to our Creator and how it teaches us to follow the commandments that have been etched in stone, and hopefully in our hearts. Perhaps reading about Jeff’s journey will inspire you to take a higher path and to elevate your search for meaningfulness beyond typical human trivial pursuits. I recommend this book for that reason. Just don’t compare the verbiage with Shakespeare.
By Donald James Parker –
A few months ago I was assigned to review a novel by Robin Shope for The Christian Pulse. After reading three of her books to decide which one to review, I chose The Valentine Edition. A short time later, the announcement was trumpeted on Facebook that one of her other books, The Christmas Edition, had been selected to be made into a movie by Salty Earth Pictures out of Wisconsin. I was looking forward to seeing this unique romantic plot brought to life on the screen, and on Christmas day I got the opportunity to watch this flick, which was renamed Journey to Paradise.
On Christmas Eve, I had gone to watch the newest Narnia movie. The shock and awe cinematography and special effects in that film were still indelibly etched in my memory banks the next day as I beheld the obviously small budget film from Salty Earth. It was impossible not to make a comparison between the senses scintillating scenes in The Dawn Treader with the plain Jane look of Journey to Paradise as the opening scene unfolded on the main street of the small community of Paradise. My heart sank because I didn’t want this movie to be a clunker.
The action then flashed back a week into the past, and the story began to share with the viewers the events that led up to the dramatic conflict that director and screen writer Steven Zambo used to try to grab people’s attention in the opening. It was toward the end of the movie that the present and the past merged at the onscreen fight between the antagonists. At that point the story moved on to catharsis and resolution, as all happy endings must. The movie followed the book quite closely, though it deviated sharply in one aspect. The original story took place at a small local newspaper, whereas the film version upgraded the Collins’ family business to a small television station named Paradise Seven. That change did not detract from the story. The mystery concerning the identity and motive of Joe McNamara, who didn’t just coincidentally drop into the TV studio to win a job and the heart of the owner’s daughter, was not only preserved but enhanced by strategic scenes of flashback and use of a DVD player.
Like the cinematography, the acting was a notch below the typical fare from Hollywood. This is something to be expected since the entire budget for this film is probably lower than the salary paid to a single middle tier star for one movie. Overall the ambience reminded me of a soap opera or perhaps a television show from the fifties. The absence of major conflict in this movie gave it a feel of Leave It to Beaver. One member of the cast did stand out to me. Matt Koester as the boy wonder was excellent. His boyish good looks and ability to ooze passion and compassion reminded me of one of my favorites, Jim Caviezel. The rest of the cast grew on me as the movie progressed.
Hollywood movies normally have a bigger than life feeling to them. The acting typically exaggerates real life. Watching a movie where the characters seem like everyday family and friends might seem a bit on the boring side. We usually want to escape from our daily mundane existence to something bigger and more exciting. This story didn’t provide that escape from real life. Perhaps that is a good thing. We sometimes consider our own lives bereft of excitement and of little significance. We muddle through life with the mistaken notion that life is comprised of many meaningless moments with a few blockbuster events thrown in. Somehow we miss the fact that in the small challenges we face every day to fight the good fight and run the good race lies the essence of life. In addition many fail to perceive that without God in the equation, the pursuits of the common man are indeed trivial.
As a lover of small communities and a big advocate of family owned businesses, I found that the threat of a big city chain putting Paradise Seven out of business in this flick heightened the stakes. Also I’m always a sucker for a good romance, and this story fit the bill. This was not just a sanitized fluffy love story where profanity and sex are conspicuous by their absence. This movie contains a Christian message which was not kept subliminal. There was not a lot of mention of Christ, but the small segments that bring the gospel and the Bible to light emphasized nicely the importance of embracing Jesus Christ. A couple of scenes showcased the Bible as a prominent focal point.
So despite a less than auspicious opening and only a modicum of conflict, the ingredient which characteristically makes a movie memorable, this movie burrowed its way into my heart. In comparing this flick to The Dawn Treader, I found that I liked these movies about equally but in different ways. Journey to Paradise is definitely a movie suitable for family viewing, though modern kids may have trouble getting into it. In my heart I would wish that movies like this would help turn back the clock and return our society to a kinder and gentler time when themes of true love and family prevailed. But I’m convinced that will never happen. Instead movie studios like Salty Earth are needed to help shine a light into the darkness that threatens to engulf our world. These types of movies will be instrumental in taking the gospel to all nations on Earth and then the end will come.
Visit the Salty Earth website at www.saltyearthpictures.org where you can buy a copy of this movie.
About the reviewer: Donald James Parker is a novelist and computer programmer who resides in Tennessee. Check out his website at www.donaldjamesparker.com
Written by Eric Wilson
Reviewed by Donald James Parker –
Ever try reading a book at an airport and then later on a plane? My average reading speed is usually about a page an hour in those situations. The distractions of people-watching, shuddering jets and people climbing over me to reach the restroom usually pry me away from the written word, causing me to spend half my reading time searching for the sentence that was half digested when my attention was diverted. I encountered no such problem with The Best of Evil. My eyes were riveted to the pages both on the way to my destination and on the way back on flights that seemed to end too soon. I arrived home at 5:30 AM after almost an all night journey. Before succumbing to sleep, I was compelled to return to this book to find out how this story ended. Like performing a successful gymnastic routine, “sticking the landing” is imperative for an author to receive high marks. Eric Wilson’s finale was flawless, leading me to the conclusion that this is one of the best books I’ve encountered in Christian fiction, perhaps even Best of Class.
Authors are often advised not to write in first person since the challenges are many. Wilson took on those challenges and ascended the slippery slope nicely. I really like first person POV (point of view) novels and think they offer readers an intimate look into a person’s life. That technique in this story allows us to get to know Aramis Black very well. He certainly is no choirboy, Eagle Scout type, but despite his rough edges, he is a character who attaches himself to a reader’s heart. A debate sometimes rages about whether a plot driven novel is better than a character driven one. Either can be good, so doesn’t it stand to reason that a combination of those two would present the best of both worlds? This story has combined those paradigms seamlessly.
I was once told by an acquaintance that she knew a person who could speak twelve languages but couldn’t say a thing of worth in any of them. I think some writers are like that. Their mechanics and manipulation of language is superb, but the value of the message they convey is of dubious worth. Like cotton candy, their prose possesses beauty but, in reality, contains no substance. In my opinion, Eric Wilson could never accurately be accused of producing cotton candy fiction. His penchant toward Proverbs type down-home philosophy and wisdom is never far from display. His insight into life and people is very evident. His style occasionally wanders from straight forward and concise to eloquent. His humor is low-key but very effective when employed. The salient nuggets of wisdom pass the fools-gold test.
I share this passage from The Best of Evil to give you an idea of the depth of Wilson’s writing:
She gave a cautious laugh – that of a bereaved mother trying to wear a strong face for her little ones. Some who lose loved ones never rediscover that spring of genuine mirth, while others lay their stories of grief in the water’s path, creating richer sounds of bubbling, gurgling life.
I believe the spring’s out there, a source of heavenly strength.
Each day, in my own fumbling way, I look for it. And I listen.
I’d venture to say that Eric Wilson’s The Best of Evil is a book that has plenty to say to you – if you’re prepared to listen.
About the reviewer: Donald James Parker is a novelist and computer programmer who resides in Crossville, Tennessee. Check out his website at www.donaldjamesparker.com?tcp
Written by Delores Winder –
Reviewed by Donald James Parker –
The story of Delores Winder is one which should grab people’s attention. She has encountered God in ways that most of us can only vaguely envision. And the ironic thing is that she fought God with all the strength she had despite his manifest presence in her life. I found myself a bit jealous at the lengths that God went to woo her to His service. Read more
Written by Linda Harvey –
Reviewed by Donald James Parker –
Want to read a scary book? I’m not talking about a spine-tingler which reduces you to a glob of protoplasmic Jello, quivering under your covers as visions of horrific scenes haunt your attempts at sleep. No, sirree, Bub. If you’re a lover of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the Father of Jesus Christ, this book is guaranteed to frighten you twenty-four by seven for the rest of your life. Actually, we as Christians are not supposed to fearful, but this book will perhaps knock you to your knees where you will cry out to the Lord for His divine intervention on behalf of others and our society in general.
Linda Harvey is a literary surgeon in addition to being a fastidious researcher. She is an escapee from the secular worldview, who now spends her time trying to blow the whistle on an increasingly menacing violator. Her targets might be many in the flesh, but in actuality all those elements are fronts for the enemy of our souls. In this little masterpiece, the military blueprint for one of Satan’s frontal assaults on mankind is exposed. In actuality, this battle plan may be the undergirding for all of Satan’s many avenues of attack. If you have a problem with the mention of the name Satan and consider him to be a myth, go back and discover how many times Jesus referred to the serpentine deceiver. That little side trip should leave you in no doubt that a force exists that is trying to keep mankind from embracing and loving the Creator and trying to keep you from being as effective a Christian as you might be.
I recently read a book about the nation of Judah. The overwhelming vision I got from digesting the stories of the ups and downs of that group of people was that each generation had to choose whom they would serve – Jehovah or pagan gods. Depending much upon the king at the time, the civilization teetered and tottered back and forth between the two. It is inconceivable to me, at least it was until very recently, that the United States of America could ever abandon the Judeo Christian tradition and build alters of idolatry to gods of the primitive past. After you read Linda’s laser like dissection of this frog which really is a prince – the prince of darkness – you will not be able to plead ignorance. Your tolerance or perhaps even embracing of occult practices could reduce you to tears or perhaps cause your neck to stiffen and your defense mechanisms to go into overdrive to rationalize your behavior and belittle the danger brought out in this exposé. You can’t control the world, but you do have a great deal of control over your own life, and believe me, your life will have a ripple effect upon other lives. Your choice upon how to react to this information is critical. The Bible says that men perish for lack of knowledge. They also perish for lack of application of that knowledge they do gain.
Is this a book that your children should read? I doubt it, unless they are very mature and savvy. Linda is an excellent writer who does not mince words, but I don’t consider this entertaining material which will grab a young person’s attention in this culture which demands instant stimulation and gratification. This is a parental guidebook written to help you steer your children clear of the occultic influences that are becoming more and more mainstream, aided by a government which is curtailing the rights of Christian believers and an educational system which has lost all touch with truth. Your children need spiritual nourishment just like their bodies need sustenance from some food source.
In this age where junk food is the sustenance of choice, counterfeit spirituality is the rage. You have the responsibility to help provide nourishing spiritual material for your family, which will counter the influence of J.K Rowling, Phillip Pullman, Chris Crutcher, Stephanie Meyers, and countless others. It is time that men and women of God rise up and provide the type of literature and movies which will compete with the lure of the pagan offerings. I tried to do that in my book Reforming the Potter’s Clay. I truly believe that the supernatural aspect of God must be demonstrated in order to overcome the magnetic power of the dark forces. God is in the business of healing people, delivering them from demons, and renewing people’s minds. Let’s not be afraid to share that fact with the world. And don’t be hesitant to share this book with others. This can be in an invaluable resource, one which you’ll want to read with a highlighter so you can go back to find the pithy phrases.
Here’s one of the quote worthy passages from Not My Child. “The young life that casts aside the Savior and takes up sorcery has traded a pearl of great price for a worthless amulet.” Are you going to stand by and do nothing and watch countless young people choose death over life? If you choose not to read this book, it appears you’ve already made your choice.
Donald James Parker is a novelist and computer programmer who resides in Madison, South Dakota. Check out his website at www.donaldjamesparker.com?tcp