Review: 13th Tribe and the Judgment Stone

Today, I’m reviewing not one, but two books by one of my favorite authors: Robert Liparulo.

Image and synopsis from Goodreads

Image and synopsis from Goodreads.

Immortals from the time of Moses roam the earth on a quest for justice . . . and heaven.

One man stands in their way.

In 1476 BC, the Israelites turned their backs on the One True God by worshipping a golden calf. For their transgression, forty were cursed to walk the earth forever. Banished from their people, they formed their own tribe, The 13th Tribe.

Now, three and a half millennia later, the remnant of this Tribe continues to seek redemption through vigilante justice-goaded by dark forces in the spiritual realm. They are planning a bold strike modeled on the Israelites’ conquest of Canaan: the complete destruction of a major city-only now, they possess the horrific technology of modern weapons to ensure their success.

Jagger Baird is a husband and father…and security guard of an archaeological dig at the base of Mount Siani. Jagger suddenly finds himself in a fight for the future as he discovers the Tribe’s plans. But to win this fight, he must overcome his own struggles with faith and self-worth – as well as his anger at God for a past tragedy.

This taut thriller by acclaimed novelist Robert Liparulo fuses tomorrow’s technology with faith and non-stop action for a supernatural suspense novel unlike any other.

~~~

The 13th Tribe was fast-paced, action-packed, and loaded with plot twists.  I could not predict what was going to happen in this book until Liparulo unveiled it.  Upon reading the sections when he revealed the twists, I found myself staring at the page with my mouth agape, barely able to believe what I had just read.  I was astounded and excited and completely mystified by the latest turn of events.  I never knew when I would discover some new bit of background information that would completely alter both the plot and the characters themselves.  This made the 13th Tribe an intriguing and suspenseful read.

Liparulo created a realistic and relatable cast of characters.  I found myself not reading about the characters and looking inside their heads, but being inside their heads and feeling all of their excitement, pain, hope, fear — anything that they were going through, I went through too.

Throughout the novel, Liparulo interwove his signature witty sense of humor and highly original analogies.  More than once, these had me laughing out loud and reading them over again because most were hilarious, and all were brilliant.

In summary, I highly recommend the 13th Tribe.  There is but little doubt in my mind that I will be rereading it in the days to come, and am greatly looking forward to it.

Now, for the Judgment Stone.  (Please note that while my review is spoiler-free, Liparulo’s blurb does have some spoilers for the 13th Tribe.  That being said, read at your own risk.)

Cover and synopsis from Goodreads

Image and synopsis from Goodreads.

The Clan is on a mission to defy God by destroying those with the strongest faith.

When a group of ruthless immortals—known as The Clan—attack St. Catherine’s monastery at the base of Mt. Sinai, they steal one of the world’s holiest artifacts: a piece of stone from the Ten Commandments. Those who touch the Stone can see into the spiritual world: angels, demons, and the blue threads of light ascending to Heaven that signal the presence of believers who are connected to God.

Only Jagger—a spiritually wounded husband, father, and former Army Ranger—and Owen—an immortal himself—have any hope of stopping the Clan’s horrific plans.

But another group of immortals, who believe that Jagger’s wife holds the secret to salvation, is after her. Torn between stopping the Clan and protecting his family, there are no easy answers for Jagger. Laying aside his faith in high-tech gadgetry and in his own strength and abilities and embracing true faith isn’t easy for someone who has resisted for 3,000 years. But it may be the only key to his salvation.

~~~

All of the good that I had to say about the 13th Tribe is applicable to the Judgment Stone.   Once again, the characters were extremely relatable, and the analogies were excellent as always.  The book was filled with fast-paced action from the very first page.  However, this made the novel a bit harder for me to be pulled into.  I generally prefer novels that ease me into the action, rather than dropping me into it from the very start.  This is merely a personal preference, and I am sure that many others would adore the way that the Judgment Stone began.

The only other critique I have for this novel is that I had a hard time keeping up with the cast, especially in the beginning.  Liparulo introduced several monks that I hadn’t met previously, in a very short amount of time.  However, because they didn’t play a very big role in the overall plot, it didn’t greatly affect my overall opinion of the book.

Other characters I had a hard time keeping straight were the members of the Clan.  Bale, their leader, was very distinct, seeing as large parts of the book were told from his point of view.  The other members of the clan were less distinct, but they served their purpose: drawing out Bale’s character and furthering the plot.

I must also include a warning to those that are interested — which I hope most of you are — in reading the Judgment Stone.  Due to the nature of the Clan, this book has the potential to be much more disturbing than the 13th Tribe.  While the Tribe was a group of ruthless vigilantes, they were committing their crimes in the hopes of earning their salvation.  As twisted as their reasoning was, their motives were, in a way, pure.

The Clan  was far worse.  They hated God with a passion that, in Liparulo’s words, “may just frighten Satan himself.”  They would do anything to hurt Him.  They slaughtered children, raped women, and hunted down those that were closest to the Lord.

In spite of this, Liparulo did not portray the Clan’s crimes graphically.  He showed that these things happened, but cast them in a negative light.  He draws out Jagger’s horror in response to these events, and, in doing so, creates a sense of horror within the reader’s heart.

The Clan also revered demons, which were revealed to them by the use of the Judgment Stone.  The way in which he handled the subject of demons was very different from what is seen in Hollywood.  Instead of focusing on how terrifying they are, he used them to portray the spiritual war that is constantly raging around us.  This was something very different from anything that I had read before, and I was thrilled to see this change.

All of these things, both good and bad, culminate into an overarching theme (which I’ll not spoil for you) that is portrayed by an excellent cast of both characters and plotline.  I highly recommend both the 13th Tribe and the Judgment Stone.  I recognize that there are some that will see my brief account of the crimes committed by the Clan and shy away from these books, and that’s okay.  But those that realize that this is an integral part of the plot, and that these things do turn out for the best, will not be disappointed in their choice to read the first two installments of the Immortal Files.

Also, I would like to make a note of the fact that there is a cliffhanger at the end of the Judgment Stone.  I have spoken with Mr. Liparulo, and he assures me that there is a third book coming out; it simply is not published yet.

So, what do you think?  Will you be adding the 13th Tribe and the Judgment Stone to your TBR pile?  Tell me what you think in the comments!

Quotes: Paradise Lost

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My copy of Paradise Lost

One of my favorite books is Paradise Lost by John Milton, an English Poet from the seventeenth century.  Most people are at least somewhat familiar with it, if only with the name.  It’s the embellished story of the Creation of the world, the fall of Satan and his followers, and the fall of mankind.  It is such a favorite of mine that I think I shall have to set aside a post to devote to it, as well as a post about John Milton himself.

But for today, I’ll just share with you one of my favorite quotes from Paradise Lost, from its very beginning:

“Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence

Invoke thy aid to my adventurous Song,

That no middle flight intends to soar

Above th’ Aonian Mount, while it pursues

Things yet unattempted in Prose or Rhyme.

And chiefly Thou O Spirit, that dost prefer

Before all Temples th’ upright heart and pure

Instruct me, for Thou know’st; Thou from the first

Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread

Dove-like satst brooding on the vast Abyss

And madst it pregnant: What in me is dark

Illumin, what is low raise and support;

That to the highth of this great Argument

I may assert Eternal Providence,

And justifie the wayes of God to men.”

Now, there’s a good chance that if you’re not overly familiar with old English, that you had a rather hard time reading all that.  There is also the chance that you got halfway through the first line and said, “Nope!  I’m not reading that!”  I’ve read this particular section several times, so it’s not that bad for me.  And if you don’t particularly care for it, that’s just fine.

But the reason that I love this passage is because this is John Milton about to embark on the journey of narrating the Creation account, and he’s asking his Lord for help to do that.  More simply, it’s an author asking for the Lord’s help to write a story.

This resonates deeply with me, because it’s something that I have to do, too.  If I ever want to write something of quality, I know that I have to have my Lord’s help with that.  Of course, when I ask for help with that, my phraseology is not half so beautiful as Milton’s.  But there is still the common thread of a storyteller asking for the assistance of the greatest Author that ever has been and ever will be.

The “Hostage”

I was recently given this writing prompt by Jessi L. Roberts, and I thought that I would share what I came up with.  Of course, the setting is a little bit different.  It’s a bit more similar to one of our modern cities, as opposed to the sci-fi-ish feel that this one has.  Nonetheless, here it is!

May Writing Prompt

The “Hostage”

The man pushes me before him, a gun pressed to the side of my head.  My adrenal glands work overtime, and my heart is pounding.  But it isn’t the all-consuming pound of terror that is coursing through my veins, no.

It is the pound of exhilaration.

Quite honestly, I’m enjoying myself, and it’s all I can do to refrain from letting the burst of laughter out of my throat.  My shoulders are shaking with laughter, but I don’t try to stop that.  Let the fool think that I am trembling with the fear that my puny life will be taken from me.

That’s not to say that the thought that I might die hasn’t crossed my mind; it has multiple times, to be sure.  But that’s far from likely.  I’m his hostage.  I’m the valuable one, the one that he doesn’t dare to kill.  Because if he does, he’ll have nothing between him and the policemen that would be all-too-happy to send a bullet through his skull.

I stumble, tripping over my feet.  Or, that’s what the man thinks.  In reality, as I’m falling to the ground, I’m pulling the 9mm from the holster at his hip, and the hunting knife from his boot.  He doesn’t even feel what I’m doing, he’s too afraid that my fall will result in his death.  Which it will.  Just not in the way he’s expecting.

“Get up!” he growls at me, and I stumble to my feet, almost falling back to the ground.  That results in ample time for me to slip the knife underneath my belt, as well as for me to tuck the handgun into a pocket on the inside of my jacket.  A quick glance at the man’s face tells me that he caught none of this, and I have to fight to keep my lips from twitching into a grin.

The man grabs me by the arm and hauls me up to my feet, then shoves the pistol’s muzzle back to the side of my head, then “forces” me to keep moving.

I scope out the street in front of me.  He’ll be turning at this next corner on the left.

It will be his last mistake.

We round the corner, and not five paces after we’re out of sight, I grab his wrist and wrench the gun away from him.  Before he even knows what’s happening, I strike him across the temple, and he falls staggering against the brick wall.

A few moments later, blood trickles down from the slit in his neck where his own knife pierced him.

I press my lips together, my conscience berating me for what seems to be the thousandth time.  I don’t like this part of my job.  If only it could all be the chase.  If only I need never finish my work.

I shake my head, forcing these thoughts to the side.  For a moment, I’m tempted to defend myself to the part of me that despises my work, but I refuse to.  I am completely justified in what I have done and will continue to do.

If only Xavier could see it that way.

Review: Draven’s Light

Image and summary from Goodreads.

Image and summary from Goodreads.

In the Darkness of the Pit The Light Shines Brightest

Drums summon the chieftain’s powerful son to slay a man in cold blood and thereby earn his place among the warriors. But instead of glory, he earns the name Draven, “Coward.” When the men of his tribe march off to war, Draven remains behind with the women and his shame. Only fearless but crippled Ita values her brother’s honor. The warriors return from battle victorious yet trailing a curse in their wake. One by one the strong and the weak of the tribe fall prey to an illness of supernatural power. The secret source of this evil can be found and destroyed by only the bravest heart. But when the curse attacks the one Draven loves most, can this coward find the courage he needs to face the darkness?

How can I even begin to say how incredible this book was?  Throughout this novella, Anne Elisabeth interwove the themes of fear and bravery, giving the entire work a sense of continuity.  It bound the two plotlines together — the plotline with Draven and his sister, Ita, and the plotline with the girl whose name we do not learn until the very last chapter.

Her characters were authentic and deeply relatable.  Each of the main characters had his or her own struggle with fear, and yet each was unique.  The result was a cast of truly unforgettable characters that I will, I am confident, carry with me for the rest of my life.

Chronologically, Draven’s Light is the earliest work yet in the Tales of Goldstone Wood.  It’s set in the days during the building of the House of Lights, and even in the days before the Houses, which we had had very little insight into before this novella.  Anne Elisabeth developed a vibrant, intriguing world in the short 189 pages of this novella.

 In summary?  This is one of the best books I have ever read.  It’s a story that I am always going to remember, and will come back to over and over again.  I loved the storyline.  I loved the allegory.  I especially loved the characters.  I have literally nothing bad to say about this book.  Go.  Pick it up.  Read it.  Read it again.  And again.  And again.  And then pass it around, because all of your friends need to read it, too.  It is amazing.

Camp NaNoWriMo

(Taken from the Camp NaNoWriMo Facebook page.  Most definitely not mine.)

(Taken from the Camp NaNoWriMo Facebook page. Most definitely not mine.)

More than likely, most of you are aware of the amazingly exciting and stressful month-long event coming up this July called Camp NaNoWriMo.  Some of you, I know, are doing it.

But for those of you that don’t know about it, Camp NaNoWriMo is the online “camp” that takes place every April and July.  It’s a modified, potentially easier version of the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) that takes place in November.  The original NaNoWriMo has a set word-count of 50,000 words for everyone that does it.  Camp NaNoWriMo, on the other hand, has a moveable word count, so you can do more or less than the 50,000 words.  (Hence “potentially easier.”  You can make it a lot harder on yourself, too.)

Also, there are groups called “Cabins” that can hold up to twelve people, other writers.  You can either be sorted into a random cabin, based on preferences (or be completely random, if you’re feeling really brave), or create/become a part of a private cabin, where people are specifically invited to become a part of it.

I did NaNoWriMo last April, and loved it.  I was in a private cabin with an awesome group of fellow writers.  I set my word goal relatively low, but found myself far exceeding it, and made an enormous amount of headway on it.

I wound up loving it so much that I made the decision to do it again this July, despite all of the craziness that I know July is going to hold for me.  I’m getting back together with my fellow Campers from April’s session, and we’re going to be going crazy with the juggling act of high word counts and life in general.

As for my project, I’ll be working on the second draft of my novel Guardian, and am aiming to get at least 35,000 words in.  I’ll keep you posted on how that goes!

How about you lot?  Are you planning on doing July’s Camp?  Have you ever done any of the Camps or NaNoWriMos before?  How did you do?

Excuses and the Liebster Award

I really should have posted again sooner.  But I do have excuses!  Half-way decent ones, even!  For one thing, I haven’t had very much Wi-Fi recently.  For a little while last week, I didn’t even have my computer!  What is a writer to do?  Well, I had my journal and author’s notebook for one thing, so I wasn’t completely estranged from my writing, just from typing and the internet.  That and there were plenty of things for me to do to keep busy.  So there’s excuse #1.

Excuse #2 is much more interesting, and hopefully pretty obvious: I’ve reconfigured my blog!  I’ve been wanting to do this for a good while now, and wanted to do that before I posted again.  So here it is!  The re-vamped Memoirs of a Tale Weaver!  Many thanks to my mom for helping me with it!  🙂

Now then.  Enough excuses.  It’s time to get to the real reason for this post:

liebsteraward

You see, my readers, Katie-Grace has nominated me for the Liebster Award.  Thank you so much, Katie!  This should be fun!  😀

Here are the rules for the Liebster Award:

1.  Thank the person that nominated you and link back to their blog.

2.  Answer the questions given you by said person.

3.  Choose eleven questions of your own.

4.  Nominate eleven more people!

Here are Katie’s questions, and my answers to them:

1.  Why do you write?

How couldn’t I write?  I’ve been writing since kindergarten, when I wrote a fanfiction for Brian Davis’s Raising Dragons.  I don’t know what became of it.  I probably threw it out.  😛  But for a while, I didn’t really count that.  Then, one morning in the second grade, I woke up and decided that I wanted to write a book.  And I’ve been writing on and off ever since.  🙂

2.  If any fictional character could be your best friend, who would it be?

I think that I would have to say Samwise Gamgee.  He was always so loyal to Frodo, and such a good friend!  He’s one of my absolute favorite characters of all time.  That and he’s a very good gardener, so he might be able to give me a few tips every now and again.  😛

3.  What’s one really weird dream you’ve had?

Well, there was one dream that I had in which my sleeping mind sorted my youth group into a royal court (because I have a fantasy-geared mind even in my sleep).  My best friend was the queen, and one of two guys in the youth group was the king.  One of my other friends was some sort of page or squire.  I was a servant, and I had apparently broken something.  No one would believe me, even though I protested vehemently.

Then, my friend the queen, said, “Well, one way or another, you’ll have to go to him.

For whatever reason, I felt a wash of dread when she said that.  I knew who he was.  He was the “handyman” of the court, and apparently rather mad.

But, like a dutiful servant, I went down the wood-paneled hallway towards the room where he resided.  But I didn’t have to go all the way, for he came barreling down the hallway towards me.  When he reached me, he proceeded to heave me against the wall and begin to choke me.

That was where the dream ended.

(Please please please please PLEASE note that this in no way represents the individuals in my youth group!  This was my sleeping mind making up strange, wild fancies!  No, I have no idea WHERE these things come from.  It’s my mind.  There really is no explanation.)

4.  If you found a portal that could transport you to any fictional world of your choice, where would you go?

Middle Earth, I think.  There’s just so much to see!  The Shire, Rivendell, Lothlorien, Rohan, Fangorn, Gondor….  So very many places to see!  And then I might settle down somewhere there.  Possibly Fangorn.

5.  Paperback or Kindle?  Why?

Paperback, definitely.  I love the feel of the book in my hand, the smell of it, the wonderful ability to turn the pages and look from above the book to see how far along in the book you are.  I do, of course, have a Kindle, and it’s very useful when it comes to traveling.  I don’t want my books to get messed up, after all!

6.  What’s one post that you’ve written that you’re most proud of?  Why?

To be honest, probably this one.  I like my others, but this is the first one that I’ve written with my redesigned blog, so it’s rather exciting.

7.  What’s an interesting quirk that you have?

Like I only have one?  XP  But, for the purposes of not making this post any longer than it need be, I will mention only my occasional tendency to refer to myself in the third person.

8.  Can you share a picture of your bookshelf?  (More commonly known as: a #shelfie.)

Sure!

My

My “Precious” Ones. Left to right: The Complete English Poems by John Donne, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes by John Milton, Heartless, Heartless, (Veiled Rose is being lent to a friend) Moonblood, Starflower, Dragonwitch, Shadow Hand, Golden Daughter, Goddess Tithe, and another copy of Goddess Tithe by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, the Hobbit, the Fellowship of the Ring, the Two Towers, and the Return of the King by Tolkien, as well as a small volume of Tolkien’s renditions of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Pearl, and Sir Orfeo.

Listing all of these would take forever...

Listing all of these would take forever…

9.  What are three things on your bucket list?  Or do you even have a bucket list?

Erh…  Not really.  But some of the things that I would really like to do is get published (obviously), travel, probably to the Rockies and to the UK, and be able to grow lots of orchids successfully.

10.  How old were you when you started writing?

I already sort of answered that question earlier, but the age range was probably around five to six years old.

11.  Share the last sentence of your WIP with us!

“She balled her hands into fists and studies the floor at her feet, trying to hold her anger in.”

It’s a first draft.  If you could see the chapter that I pulled this from, you would stare with your mouth agape in horror and confusion.

There you have my answers to Katie’s questions!  Now it’s time for my questions for my nominees!

1.  Who is your favorite character from your WIP?  Why?

2.  Outside of writing, is there anything that you really, passionately love doing?

3.  What made you want to start your blog?

4.  What is one of your funniest childhood memories?

5.  Do you have any pets?  If so, what are they?

6.  Is there one particular trait that most of your characters have?  If so, what is that?

7.  If you could be any type of mythological creature, what would you be?

8.  You have been handed a blank check by a billionaire.  What do you do with it?

9.  If you could life absolutely anywhere in the world, where would it be?

10.  Plotter, pantser, or plantser?

11.  Do you keep a journal/notebook?  If so, what is it about?

Finally, my nominees are…

FaithSong, Schuyler, Ana, Sierra and Rebecca, Rosalie, AdrianaTessie, Jessi,

Annika, Anna, and Caiti Marie.

An Exercise in Self-Control

I’m fairly certain that most of you, my followers, are avid readers like me.  In fact, the only one that I know for a fact isn’t is a family member.  (I love you anyways, Grammy!  :D)

But those of you that are bookworms, I thought that you might be able to empathize with this:

I have the hardest time with squirrel-reading.

That is, like a squirrel, or a dog from Up being distracted by a squirrel, I have a tendency to be distracted the next new book I come across.  And so I put down the first book, and move on to the second book.  But then I come across another book, and it too is very shiny-looking, so I put down the second book to move on to the third.  And this happens again.  And again.  And again.  Eventually, I wind up with ten or so books on my “currently reading” list.  It’s really very counterproductive when it actually comes to finishing books.

Of course, the problem is only exacerbated when I walk into a bookstore.  There are just so many books!  (Probably why it’s called a bookstore…)  And then I just have to buy one.  Just one, mind you.  And I’m just so tempted to pick it up right away, even though I’ve determined that I’ll wait until I’ve finished a few other books!

In case you’ve not guessed it already…  I did this tonight.  I went to a Barnes and Noble, and I got a copy of Eragon by Christopher Paolini.  It’s okay, though!  I have not picked it up yet!  …  Yet being the key word there.  But if I can help it, I will do as I have purposes, and I’ll finish a few other books before I read Eragon.  It will require self-control.  It will require steadfastness.  It will require an extreme effort in the way of ignoring my squirrels.  It can be done, though.  I’ve never done it before, but it can be done.  I’m going to try, anyways.

Such, then, are the problems and struggles of this particular bookworm.  I’m kind of hoping that I’m not alone in this.  If I’m not, though, I admire your focus and ability to resist the urge to pick up another book when you’re still working one the first one.  If you are like me, though, I’m sure we can find some squirrely camaraderie in the comments.