Divine Dungeon 1-4 by Krout

I first picked up the first book in the Divine Dungeon series, Dungeon Born, by Dakota Krout over a year ago. After struggling through it I gave up on the series and returned it. I never expected to go back.

Divine Dungeon, 1-4
By Dakota Krout
Mountaindale Press

The problem I had was in understanding a cultivation story. I had misunderstood and mischaracterized this series and assumed it was LitRPG. It’s not, which lead to my frustration.

Dungeon Born, the first book, is about a dungeon. The soul of some poor retch was captured by a necromancer within a gem that became the dungeon. A wisp shows up and for most of the rest of the book, the story is about “Cal” learning to gather in magical resources and cultivate to level up. Why? To build more and more dangerous traps and creatures for the dungeon. Just describing it sounds dull. And even after four books, the truth is that a lot is dull.

I dont get the point of all the detail in the cultivation techniques used or even why the leveling system is so comlicated (it gets more and more as you progress from F to SS, and all the steps in between.) It’s clear that the author spent an incredible amount of time working through everything though.

After hearing so many positive reviews about subsequent books I picked up the rest of the series deciding to give this one more chance. After four book, I’m glad I did.

In the second book, Dungeon Madness, the second book, Cal’s wisp has been stolen by the necromancers. A dungeon that loses its wisp goes mad and Cal is on the verge throughout the book. New characters are introduced and the burgeoning town that has sprung up around the dungeon, Mountaindale, is growing. During this book, I thought the story with the dungeon may take a step back as we focuse on the cuty.

By the end of the third book, the relationship between Cal and Dale, the human “owner” of the dungeon, finally makes sense. And the story could have probably wrapped at the end of Dungeon Calamity and I would have been fine.

Instead, it continues in Dungeon Desolation, the first book where it’s clear that the author has bigger plans for where the story goes. No spoilers, but the ending is great!

The problem I have is that all of the really fun parts are interspersed between long tedious sections of cultivating. There is a war at one point where Dale decided to cultivate for real, I guess, and for most of the war all we hear about it seems is Dale cultivating. In my opinion, probably a third of each book could be condensed and tightened to keep the attention of the reader. It would have worked for me.

However I may have had some complaints, there are some parts that the author should get credit for. I wrote of the complexity, which is well developed, and the master plan in the series. I also appreciated that this book was clean, both in language and content. This means I can listen with my kids and I’m all about finding ways to encourage them and get them hooked on reading.

There is a fifth book, Dungeon Eternium, which I already bought and will read. I’d recommend this to readers who want intensely complex cultivating and an overarching development story included.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Everybody, Always by Goff

I’d heard so much good stuff about Goff’s Love Does (2012) with 3000+ reviews on Amazon with a 5 star rating! I was excited to get my hands on his follow-up book, Everybody, Always (2018), which also has a 5 star rating with over 1200 reviews on Amazon. With so many people loving these books, I was bummed to find that I had mixed feelings.

Everybody, Always
by Bob Goff
Thomas Nelson
April 2018

Before I get into the things I wasn’t enthusiastic about, let me first say that I listened to this audiobook read by Goff himself and it was excellent. Goff is clearly a true believer and his enthusiasm and story telling are outstanding. There is almost nothing in this book that I wouldn’t want people to emulate or attempt to do in their own life. But there are some thing I think Goff responds to by going from one extreme to the opposite extreme. From legalism to hyper grace, from in-your-face proselytizing to vague loving acts. I think at root here, Goff has too much faith in humanity’s ability and desire to be good and do good works. Let me give some examples.

Goff seems to believe that humans are inherently good. At one point he says that the difference between the sheep and the goats (Matt 25) was those who “just didn’t know what to do so they did nothing.” That is absolutely not what Jesus is saying here. Jesus is calling out a callousness of heart. Goff is making excuses for the goats. Which is it? The total depravity of mankind means that we are inherently selfish and sinful. We don’t always premeditatedly sin, but to say we sin only on accident is equally incorrect. We choose to give and love because He first loved us. Without this regeneration, we could do good things sometimes but we wouldn’t actually be good. So unregenerate people aren’t frozen by a lack of understanding how to take care of those in need. They don’t want to. Those are the goats Jesus is talking about.

He also focuses on good works without providing the reason why we are doing them (the hope that lies within). When I heard Goff say, over and over, that you don’t need to tell people about Jesus, but just love people like he did I recoiled. There are so many stories, like, how he sometimes buys 20 In-N-Out burgers and drives around giving them out to people who are hungry. This is a great story and I agree that it is definitely a loving and kind thing to do – something we are commanded to do by God. But the reason for why we should do this is where I’m confused and I think Goff is missing the whole picture. Why do we love people? Because Christ first loved us. Do we love only because of Christ? Do we love only when it’s a selling point for Christianity? Of course not. But why one or the other? Why not both? I wondered about the motive here. Is our motive to make the world less sucky? Or is it to point a dying world to the life-giver?

Goff says things that lead me to believe that the whole purpose of Christianity is to love our neighbors with good works “patience, kindness and understanding.” But nothing at all about making disciples. In case you think I’m splitting hairs, it’s not me! He keeps making division where none needs be.

“Knowing things about the Bible is terrific, but I’d trade in a dozen bible studies for a bucket full of love and acceptance. And truth be told, so would everyone around us.” Why not both? We learn to love by learning about God’s love for us, which is in the Bible. Studying the Bible is where we learn our purpose – and it’s not just kindness, patience and understanding. It’s also speaking truth, teaching others about God and the right way to live (disciplining).

Ironically, Goff continues to tell us to not tell others about their behavior and how to act yet his whole book is his attempt to tell us how to live.

Goff, to me, is an example of an overreaction to the hyper legalism of those who stand with signs and shake their finger at the sinful world around them. So turned off by the unloving attitude and behavior, Goff responds by going too far toward “loving” that they go from one rut on the side of the road, across the road to the rut on the other side. The narrow path is a razor’s edge that’s difficult to stay on. We have to avoid judgmentalism, legalism, finger pointing and disdain AND total affirmation of the unrepentant and good works.

One last thing. I was struck by was the overwhelming sense that Goff’s life is richer than mine and probably most of the people who would read this. I mean richer in the sense of he is clearly richer than the average reader. He buys cars and airplanes and houses whenever he wants. He travels half a million miles a year. He can do anything he wants. But I can’t and probably you can’t either.
For instance, he gets a collect call from a prison, which costs $9.95. He accepts that call at least three times in that story, then buys an ankle bracelet that costs so much that Goff says he “gasps and clutched his chest” but he pays it for a stranger. I tried to find how much that would by searching online and it looks like this was probably a couple hundred bucks to set up then maybe $10-20 a day. Goff said this bracelet costs him a “bundle.” This one story has Goff paying an unexpected several hundred dollar charge. The stories in the previous chapters where he rents airplanes or even buys a water airplane are even more. Can you afford this? I can’t. So as I listened I kept thinking that many of these stories were out of touch with average Christian.

This isn’t to suggest that if we get that call that costs $9.95 we shouldn’t accept it. We should. And we should give out food, donate to the Goodwill or shelters, volunteer time for charities and be kind to people we meet. It was that I was turned off by Goff’s generally expensive examples of these. It didn’t come across as encouraging, but discouraging. It felt like I was reading about the privileges of wealth were a guy tells us about all his extra time, extra money and perfect family with his daredevil sky diving and airplane flying son and his “Sweet Maria.”

Like I said at the beginning of this review, I liked the book for the most part. And if a reader hears and acts more loving then great! But I think this is a shallow Christianity that has more in common with the feel good Osteen faith than the real Gospel that focuses on not just making someone feel better in their sin, but helping them find life and relationship with Christ and feeling better about the freedom that they now have from sin.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

That Night In Nashville by Kade

Hailey had been having the time of her life until she saw him. Maybe it wasn’t him – couldn’t be – in a suit. Adam never wore a suit. He was back in Carroll Hollow ,Tennessee working in the factory. He turns and there he was – Adam Zucker. Maybe he hadn’t seen her. She would go to her dressing room and ignore him.

That Night In Nashville
Ticket to True Love
by Savannah Kade
Griffyn Ink
October 2019

Hailey had left Carroll Hallow to make it big in Nashville. She hadn’t yet made it, but she did have a record label – Heart Beats. She was performing at Nashville Brewer’s Festival and then going on tour.

Hailey and Adam were a couple back in high school with big dreams. Adam’s mother was very controlling, always fouling up things between Hailey and Adam. Hailey had left Carroll Hollow, leaving Adam behind. Now here he was -bigger that life – all her feelings for him came roaring back. When he came the dressing room, she was lost.

After spending time together, talking about what went wrong with their relationship, they discovered they had never stopped loving each other.

Can Hailey and Adam find happiness ever after the second time or will his mother once again foul up everything?

I really enjoyed the book. Highly recommend it to all readers.

Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for BookGateway.com and has generously provided this review. She describes herself as “an 88 year young great-grandmother and an avid reader.”

This book was provided by the publisher for review.

Thor: Goddess of Thunder, Vol. 1

After hearing about Thor 4, I figured I had to read the origin of the Female Thor. After finishing this In not sure it makes much sense.

Thor: Goddess of Thunder, Vol. 1
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Jorge Molina
May 2015

Thor is his name, not a title. Seeing a female character get his power through the hammer makes no sense as Thor has the power in him as a god. It also makes no sense for her clothes to change. Whatever, I guess.

Comics are comics. If you’re looking for a primer on the upcoming MCU film, this probably won’t work. Not just because the hammer is destroyed in the films, but also because so little is explained here.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Dead Six by Correia & Kupari

I didn’t know what to expect here. This book was recommended to me and I actually thought it was scifi. I thought it would be all the way to the half way punt when I realized that “Dead Six” wasn’t some kind of matrix style VR thing. This is straight up warfare, like a Call of Duty game set in the world of today.

And I liked it.

Dead Six
by Larry Correia & Mike Kupari
September 2011

It’s been a really long time since I read a pulp military thriller. I gave up on popular fiction like Clancy or Cussler when I realized every book was the same. This has the thrills, a significantly more MA rating, and wasn’t by the numbers.

I enjoyed the two main characters and how they had their own personalities, capabilities and interests. I liked the secondary characters although when you get into it you realize there aren’t a ton of different characters, just the same ones over and over: techy, heavy gunner, their, hot lady who also can fight, rich criminal, etc.

And because there were so many characters the narrator starts to recycle voices. I’ve enjoyed this narrator before, but it seemed this time people were either nasally or gravelly.

I’m definitely going to read the next one.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

It Can’t Happen Here by Lewis

I’m a fan of cautionary stories like Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm and 1984 so I thought I would enjoy this book, but I was wrong.

It Can’t Happen Here
by Sinclair Lewis

Unlike the messages of those other books – control of information, totalitarianism, surveillance state, thought control, dangers of socialism/communism due to human nature – the message here that fascism could take root in America like it did in Germany and Spain doesn’t survive the antiquated time and setting of the story. Further, the main character seems to bounce around from Liberal to Communist to a sympathizer of socialism in his fight against fascism. And like most of these types of books from the early-mid 1900s the issues are more important than the story, which suffers by the end. Listening through this book was tedious.

The Audible narrator is pretty perfect for this book, though. Exactly the old timey sound I would want.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Jennifer Blood, Vol. 1 by Ennis and Batista

With the release of Garth Ennis’ The Boys on Amazon, I’ve been checking out some of his previous work. Jennifer Blood is one such work.

Jennifer Blood, Volume 1
A Woman’s Work is Never Done
written by Garth Ennis
art by Adriano Batista
Feburary 2012

From the publisher: “Jennifer Blood is a suburban wife and mom by day – and a ruthless vigilante by night! Every day she makes breakfast, takes the kids to school, cleans the house, naps for an hour or two, makes dinner, puts the kids to bed, and kisses her husband goodnight. This suburban punisher is ready to be unleashed in a story that can only be told by the legendary Garth Ennis. Collecting issues #1-6 of the hit series, along with additional bonus material, sketches, cover gallery, and interview with Garth Ennis!”

The first five issues in this collection start with “Jennifer” narrating the story of her revenge against her uncles in her diary. The story is driven largely by the diary text and we know very little of what is going on until mid-issue five. All we know is that this woman lives a normal life during the day but has been planning for a long time to go on a killing spree of this mafia-like family over the course of a week. It is entertaining and violently satisfying. But then at the end of issue five, Ennis seems to want to speed things up so the diary says she will stop writing until the main bad guy (and last uncle) is killed. Issue 6 starts – starts! – with the infiltration of his base complete, all his men dead, and him dying while “Jennifer” spends almost the whole issue explaining to the uncle (and us) why she is on the killing spree. It completely jumps away from the cool planning aspects and straight to exposition. It feels rushed and unfinished.

There are multiple other volumes written by Al Ewing so the story goes somewhere, I guess. But the first volume falls flat. It builds to the very baddest of the bad guys and then just fast forwards to the end. I hope that The Boys doesn’t follow this template.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Rebel by Kade

Emma Kate had really did it this time. She had woken up in a beautiful hotel room, dressed in a fabulous wedding gown with a handsome man in a tux asleep beside her. What in the heck was going on. She can’t remember anything that happened the night before. Just who is this guy?

A Breathless Novel
Emma Kate & Keith
by Savannah Kade
Griffyn Ink
June 2019

Emma Kate had left college on her way to Breathless. Just one short stop in Vegas and she would be on her way. She remembers getting a cheap hotel room, parking her car and trailer and heading to a casino. She had talked to a rather charming young man who said as long as she was playing the slots the drinks would be free. That is the last thing she remembers.

Just who is this guy and what has she done? Time to find out. He looks just as confused as she is. She learned his name is Keith and it appears they had a fabulous wedding with all the bells and whistles, but neither can remember it actually happening. Well they would get a quick annulment and go their separate ways. But it would take four days and money they didn’t have.

Keith is a veterinarian and has a job waiting for him in Breathless. This surprises Emma Kate as she too is on her way to Breathless and as it was impossible to return any of the clothing or the rings, their only recourse was to travel together.

Arriving in Breathless they found a unique little cottage waiting for Keith. He had invited her to stay with him until she had a chance to see her sisters and explain. Just how was she going to tell her sisters that she was back in Breathless and married?

How will Bailey Anne and Harper Rose react when they learn that Emma Kate had once again gotten herself into trouble? Will she and Keith have a real marriage?

This is the third book in Kade’s Breathless Series. I really enjoyed the books and strongly recommend that you read all three.

Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for BookGateway.com and has generously provided this review. She describes herself as “an 88 year young great-grandmother and an avid reader.”

This book was provided by the publisher for review.

The Hunted by Scudiere

Joule could hear the dogs in the distance. They were getting closer and she was in trouble. She had stayed out too long and now she would suffer the consequences. She was running flat out and still they were getting closer and closer. Her trembling legs could hardly hold her up and her heart felt like it was going to jump right out of her chest. Up ahead she could see her house, but she would never make it. There was an empty house just a few feet away and she ran in, shut the door and raced up the steps. The breaking of glass in the windows alerted her to the fact that the dogs were now in the house. She needed a weapon, but what. Looking around she spied just the same that would keep her safe.

The Hunted
Black Carbon – Book #1
by A. J. Scudiere
Griffyn Ink
June 2019

It all started a couple years ago in the small town of Rowena Heights. First it was just the small animals – cats, dogs and other small pets, then graduating to people. A lot of the houses were vacant as the people either left for a safer place or were caught by the dogs. They were called the dogs, but they were nothing like any dog that anyone had ever seen. They only came out at night and left in the morning. Where they spent the day no one knew as they had never actually seen one in the day time. People went around their normal business during the daylight hours, but when the sun went down they stayed indoors with the curtains closed, being sure not to make any noise and going to bed early.

Things were going along as usual for the Mazurs until one evening when the dogs got into the house. The family was hiding in the laundry room, being very quiet and all the lights were off. Suddenly an earthquake warning sounded and set the dogs off. They found their way into the laundry room and located Kayla. She said I got this and raced out of the room, the dogs following her. The next morning they found her on the floor. At least they had a body to bury, that was more than some families had.

Nate, the children’s father, was determined to get revenge for the death of his wife. He persuaded Jules and Gage to go with him to fight the dogs. One time was enough for them and they thought they had persuaded him not to go out again. One morning when they started looking for him, he was gone. They now knew he had been going out each night and he would never return. They had to figure out some way
to kill the dogs before the whole town was gone. They remembered Dr. Brett, a veterinarian, that came to the school on several occasions. He would help them find a way to eliminate the dogs.

Will Jules, Gage and Dr. Brett find a way to save the remaining residence of Rowena Heights or will they too lose their lives?

This book has a little bit of magic, mystery and a whole lot of imagination. It is best read in the daylight because there is a lot of scary parts.

I really enjoyed the book and highly recommended to adult readers.

Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for BookGateway.com and has generously provided this review. She describes herself as “an 88 year young great-grandmother and an avid reader.”

This book was provided by the publisher for review.

Solaris by Lem

I had no idea what to expect here. the description seems to imply a love story and Very Serious Deep Thoughts. Man was I disappointed.

Solaris: The Definitive Edition
By Stanislaw Lem

I’m going to tell you what I wish someone had told me [SPOILERS]: this is boring as heck. Not the charming slow moving classic SciFi with quaint science and thoughts on the future. No, this is an incredibly long winded story where long sections are nothing but back story on the planet. At first I thought it was interesting and wll thought out. After a time I just want to move on.

As for love, the way the main character treats the female lead is incredibly chauvinistic and demeaning. Very little actual love. In fact, he “falls in love” with the alien created version of his dead wife for almost no reason even though he loves her for not being his wife. Huh? If he doesn’t love her because she looks and acts like his wife what exactly is it he loves? Her lack of memory? Her charm? The fact that she a fake version of his dead wife? Makes no sense. But he does fall in love with his suicidal alien construct. Maybe. I don’t care. This story isn’t about love, it is about a man who longs for something he can’t have. That’s not romantic. It’s pathetic.

The alien (Ocean) is interesting. You’ll get no resolution here and that’s actually fine. But I’d prefer more time spent on the Ocean than on the constructs. A better solution is the main character recognizing that the Ocean is sentient and attempting to contact it, rather than longing for his dead wife/ dead construct to come back.

I powered through this but I don’t recommend it. There are simply too many better options.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

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