“Hacker (Outlaw Chronicles),” Ted Dekker

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Image courtesy of Worthy Publishing

My name is Nyah and I’m a hacker. I know things most people would never believe. Things that shouldn’t exist, but do.” 

Seventeen year old Nyah Parks is a genius hacker whose world is unraveling. Desperate and with no other choice, Nyah turns her programming skills to cracking the firewalls of the world’s largest corporations. She exposes their weaknesses, and then offers her services to secure their systems from hackers.

But when the most dangerous job of her life backfires and forces her to go on the run, she encounters an impossible reality that shouldn’t exist, but does.

A hack unlike any other. A hack that will take her beyond the firewall of the human brain itself. A hack, which may be the only way to save her mother now.

What if there was a way to tap into the unseen reality that surrounds us all? Would you hack in? How far would you go to find the answers to your deepest questions? The answer lies deep beyond the firewall.

As part of the FirstLook Blog Tour Worthy Publishing provided a Q&A with Ted Dekker which adds good background to the above teaser.

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Q&A with Ted Dekker – Blog Tour for “Hacker” (Outlaw Chronicles)

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Image Courtesy of Worthy Publishing

I was given the opportunity to participate in Worthy Publishing’s First Look blog tour for Ted Dekker’s latest novel: “Hacker”.

Hacker is the third installment of the “Outlaw Chronicles” which Dekker describes as follows:

“THE OUTLAW CHRONICLES consist of EYES WIDE OPENWATER WALKER and HACKER. Although related through one common character, Stephen, they can be read in any order.

Written in the vein of Ted’s thrillers like Thr3e and Blink, these are transformational stories that take the reader on an intense ride full of twists that unravel the deep mystery or reality in ways rarely seen.

To discover the profound origin story of how Stephen came to live out of the law of darkness, read Ted’s novel by the same name: Outlaw.”

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“Stranger Things”, Erin Healy

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Photo courtesy of Thomas Nelson website

This is my new favourite Erin Healy novel. It has all the hallmarks of what we’ve come to expect from Healy: gripping suspense, characters grappling with their external world but also with what’s in their heart, and an insider’s perspective of the “thin places” where the natural and supernatural intersect. However, added to this novel is an especially powerful story line drawing the reader into the dark sinister world of human trafficking.

The novel starts fast and doesn’t let up. Healy’s descriptive powers make this novel a highly visual experience. We get multiple points of view which I enjoyed as it enlightened the experience in my mind.

The story demonstrates how human trafficking is able to proliferate due to systematic abuse, deceit and corruption. For much of the novel we’re not exactly sure whether the heroes are actually villains and vice-versa. As the story unfolds the layers gradually peel away to reveal some very courageous people and sinister bad guys.

Serena Diaz and Amber Larsen are two very gutsy women, both survivors of this heinous industry, and marvelously crafted. They are drawn together, coincidentally, by Amber’s brother, Christopher. Embedded in both ladies is his passion and energy to rescue those in need and shine light in the darkness of the industry that has played such a role in their lives since their youth.

The bad guys are creepy in their arrogance, abuse of power and complete disregard for the lives of the many they destroy. Healy reveals the far-reaching tentacles of structured corruption that pervades the industry.

This is an effortless read that was hard to put down and I was sad it ended.

“Water Walker”, Ted Dekker

18143692I read the 4 separate episodes on ebook and provided reviews on each but I wanted to summarise my overall thoughts on the complete novel. BTW, I love the episodic method of reading a novel and hope it plays a big part in the future of fiction.

Alice Ringwald (or is her name Eden?) is kidnapped from her foster parents by Wyatt, the nicest kidnapper one could ever want to meet. Wyatt was acting on behalf of his wife and Eden’s mother, Kathryn.

The search starts at pace and we meet Olivia Strauss, the agent in charge, who has her own story of losing a daughter.

Kathryn and Eden are reunited and the rest of the novel including a jump of five years in the future revolves around their relationship. Kathryn has a mentally handicapped son, Bobby, who is a delightfully written character reflecting an innocence that has managed to survive much abuse.

The home the family of four live in is really a compound of sorts with the Jim Jones-type character, Zeke, controlling everything they do in the name of Jesus. We soon meet Stephen, the Outlaw, who first appears in Eden’s dream, and plants a seed of freedom within Eden’s mind. Not a lot happens and a good third of the book is spent hearing what’s going on in Eden and Kathryn’s minds.

It is when Stephen reappears for a second time, in another dream (or was it?) and helps Eden realise how bound she is by her fears and the affects of the abuse inflicted upon her and Bobby. She “walks on water” by stepping beyond that that binds her and in forgiving Kathryn, she both frees her heart and enables Kathryn to confront her fear of Zeke.

Letting go and letting God is a powerful message. Further, letting go of all the offence we may have been subjected to through forgiveness breaks the chains around our heart and shatters the scales that cover our eyes. I especially liked how Dekker used Eden’s forgiveness of Kathryn to demonstrate this power.

I enjoyed Eden or is she Alice Ringwald? Might be time for me to re-read “Showdown” once again. She’s a good character but there’s lots of opportunity to further develop her. My favourite character was Olivia Strauss and so hope we see her again in a future production as her role in this one is quite minor after the initial first few scenes.

And then there’s the Outlaw, Stephen. I’m not quite sure what to make of him. Interesting how his love contrasted so radically to that of Zeke, both of whom sought to represent the love of Christ. We don’t have to be as blatantly evil as Zeke to be out of sync with the love of Jesus, a good warning for us all.

Stephen shares the message in words and Eden as a good pupil listens and responds. I do wonder, however, that it’s a little unrealistic for an eighteen year old who has had such abuse be able to so quickly let go and respond so maturely. This is why, as I’ve mentioned, Eden’s love changing Kathryn’s heart truly reflects the miraculous power of accepting Christ’s love.

Every Dekker fan should read this and for those new to his work this continues on this new path his work has taken starting with “Eyes Wide Open”. These last few novels have had much stronger messages than previous ones, messages that are so important for we fiction readers to soak in.

My virtual chat with Ronie Kendig plus an awesome Giveaway

roniepicI had the pleasure of featuring Ronie Kendig on the blog in May last year when Talon, the second instalment in the “Breed Apart” series released. Beowulf: Explosions Detective Dog, the final piece in the puzzle, has recently launched. Ronie was kind enough in her very busy schedule to answer some questions I posed her.

I loved Trinity and Talon. Beowulf is staring down at me from my bookshelf waiting to be read (“pick me, pick me”). I’m sure it’s another cracking good read.

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Favourite Books of 2013

As you are likely to be aware I do read a lot of books and I thought a good way of wrapping up 2013 was to highlight some of my favourites.

Before I do that I thought I’d share some of my reading stats. (I borrowed this idea from Katie Weiland, one of my favourite writing instructors).

Books Read –  93 (2012 – 75)

Fiction to Non-fiction ratio – 27: 66

Paper to ebook ratio –  48: 45

(this surprised me. Majority of the ebooks fall into the non-fiction category)

Top Categories – Christian self-development (23 books), Christian fiction (20), Devotional (12), Secular non-fiction (12), Writing & Marketing (9), Bible commentary (9).

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“The Tournament,” Matthew Reilly

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Photo Courtesy of Pan Macmillan Publishers

This is a very different Matthew Reilly novel. There’s no Scarecrow, nor Jack West. There is also no hero saving the world with moments to spare from some global calamity.

But don’t let that stop you from reading it as this is Matthew Reilly at his story telling best.

We meet Bess, the young 13 year old daughter of Anne Boleyn & Henry VIII, who goes to Constantinople with her teacher, Roger Ascham, to witness the inaugural World Chess Tournament hosted by the Sultan. Soon after arriving, a prominent Cardinal from the Catholic entourage is found murdered. The Sultan engages Ascham to investigate the murder. In the process of the investigation, conducted in the background to the tournament, further murders are perpetrated to add to the intrigue.

Meanwhile, Bess’s friendly older companion Elsie seeks to win herself a Prince, the son of the Sultan. She spends her nights on various nocturnal exploits which she regales in full detail to Bess the following morning. Yes, this novel features sex, which to his credit, Reilly points out at in his “Author Note” at the beginning of the book stating it to be for mature readers only.

The tournament, the investigation and Elsie’s ambition are all drawn together at the end. There was a degree of predictability which is not typical in a Reilly novel, however, the power of the novel is in Bess’s coming of age story line.

Bess, of course, matures into Elizabeth I, and one of the wonderful aspects of the novel was the fictionalising elements of real people. Fundamentally, this is a story about Bess, and Reilly courageously explores how the experiences in her youth (namely this fictional one) helped mould her into becoming one of Britain’s greatest monarchs. Not to mention that she never married.

Told from Bess’s first person voice, this is a rollicking tale that will delight Reilly’s passionate reader-base as well as introduce new readers to the great story teller that he is.

Erin Healy discusses “Stranger Things”

erinhealybooks_1367526975_600Erin Healy’s latest supernatural thriller, Stranger Things, comes to stores on New Year’s Eve. Most of you will know I’m a big fan of Erin and when she asked for some bloggers to help promote Stranger Things I was delighted to get the opportunity to feature Erin once again.

*** There is also the opportunity to win one of 10 copies of Stranger Things by using the Rafflecopter link below. You can enter every day this week until Sunday 8 December by visiting the other bloggers during the week.***

Here goes. Let’s start with a brief blurb about Stranger Things.

Introducing Stranger Things

Library Journal says: “Serena Diaz’s teaching career came to an abrupt end when a student falsely accused her of sexual misconduct. Seeking solace in the woods, she discovers that a gang of sex traffickers has taken over a vacant house. Serena is almost captured by one of the criminals but is saved by an unknown man who has been shadowing her. He is shot, and Serena escapes with her life. But she is drawn to know more about this stranger who died for her. What follows is a suspenseful story of danger and pure evil. Whom can Serena trust in a world that seems intent on serving its own self-interests? VERDICT Healy (Afloat; coauthor with Ted Dekker, Burn and Kiss) has written an edgy, fast-paced spiritual thriller that will please Dekker fans.”

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Introducing Melissa Tagg with a chance to win her debut novel: Made to Last

mtagg-pic1I first met Melissa Tagg at ACFW Conference in Dallas last year. Well in fact I was sitting amongst 700 odd others as Melissa shared a devotional. She was instantly engaging in her passion for Jesus, her sense of humour and willingness not to take herself too seriously.

(As an aside I understand Melissa’s devotional has now gone down in ACFW folklore due to her enthusiastic mention of a certain well known Christian quarterback with the initials TT.)

I had the good fortune to bump into Melissa later that day. I congratulated her and introduced myself most likely with a “G’day”. On returning home I soon started following Melissa’s blog. Melissa posts regularly during the week and has established a large following. Melissa’s blogs read like she spoke that morning in Dallas: full of passion and good humour.

Melissa is now a published author. Her first novel, a romantic comedy, Made to Last, was released at this year’s ACFW Conference in Indianapolis. Now only a few weeks later, the book has 72 reviews on Amazon (wow!) and averages 4.6 out of 5. (Wow and more wow!) So the novel and, I daresay Melissa, have captured the hearts of an immediate audience.

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“Intimacy with the Almighty”, Charles Swindoll

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Photo courtesy of Thomas Nelson.com

Chuck Swindoll wrote this short book during a period where he was on sabbatical to his pastoral responsibilities. It was only in that down time that he sensed his yearning for greater intimacy with the Lord. Sometimes it’s only when we slow down and be still in the Lord’s presence are we able to hear our heart’s cry.

The book is centred around 4 decisions that need to be made daily and the required discipline for enabling greater intimacy with the Lord:

1. To reorder one’s private world -> Simplicity
2. To be still -> Silence
3. To cultivate serenity -> Solitude
4. To trust the Lord completely -> Surrender

I liked this structure particularly the inclusion of simplicity. In this frequently manic world we live in it is very easy to become overwhelmed not just by physical things but our minds can be overtaken by a barrage of unrelenting communications.

This is an easy book to read, only taking an hour, but it’s important to allow the teachings and soundbites time to linger in our hearts so we can start to put the concepts into practice.

Highly recommended.