Monthly Archives: November 2018

Cozy Christmas, Chapter 1, Part 1

Well, I busted through the last bit of The Edge of Darkness (though Michael Murphy deserves no better!) and am actually on schedule for this year’s War on Wintermas romance read…

Cozy Christmas

The cover is just too cutesy, with the couple with the dopey grins standing in front of the world’s most decorated storefront, as well as a chair that nobody would sit in at this time of year.

In keeping with my entire history of Wintermas reads, I am tackling this blind, chapter by chapter.  So we’ll have fun discovering it together, and I have no idea how good the book might be.

In keeping with recent history (as in, last Wintermas), this is the final book of a Love Inspired miniseries.  Last year, we had the world’s most horrible will, and a group of cousins who had to come back to their crappy small town for a year to get money and land.

This year’s series involves a failing small town in Kansas.  The local Big Business that kept the town afloat closed down permanently, and people were left in the cold (har, it’s Christmas).  Many who can have up and left.

But then, some anonymous benefactor bought up a whole block of Main Street and then paid for a bunch of businesspeople to set up their small businesses in those buildings.  Which actually sounds kinda cool until you realize two things:

  1. So even if some smart and savvy businesspeople set up their awesome businesses in this town, on this one block, the businesses will be kinda useless if nobody in town has any money to spend at these businesses, which seems likely since it sounds like the whole town is dying.  (For the record, the businesses set up in the books of this series are, in order: a flower shop, a bakery, a hardware store, a bookstore, a pet store, and (in this book) a coffee shop.)
  2. Speaking of the whole town dying, the really bizarre part of this benefactor and their system is that only out-of-towners are permitted to apply to be in the buildings.  Locals don’t get a shot.  So it’s all about convincing people to move to this little shithole town and open a business, because there is absolutely no way that the resident of Bygones (yes, really), Kansas would ever feel resentful of this situation.

Now, at this point, I’ve only read the first chapter of this book, and the first chapter of the first second book of this series, so I could get a better handle on this deal than I had on Grandpa Asshat’s will last year.  (I’ve got both the first and second books of the series from the library, for reference.)  So the interesting part is that while I haven’t really seen my first point be a thing yet, my second point is.  Like really a lot.  This isn’t even subtext, it is actual text.  In fact, it kinda looks like the entire central conflict of the first second book is that the heroine moves to town and opens a bakery, and the hero is resentful because he wanted to open a business, but couldn’t because he’s not allowed in on this deal because he’s a local.

So yeah, it is super weird and, just like last year, I don’t envy the author her task here, because not only is she writing her own story, she’s tying up the loose ends of the whole series; specifically, who is this mysterious benefactor?

Our heroine is the person who is supposed to figure this out: Whitney Leigh.  She’s a reporter for the Bygones Gazette.  So, to be clear, she works for a local newspaper in a failing small town.  But she kinda acts Too Cool For School about it: she spends most of Chapter One internally whining about having to write fluff pieces about all the romance in the air as all these businesspeople on Main Street keep falling in love.  And what she really wants is to find out who the benefactor is.  She seems to see herself as an intrepid journalist who will break the biggest story of the century, and I’m mildly annoyed by her attitude…but then again, this is the big secret that the book needs to reveal, and it’s just a Chapter One exposition-dump, so I’ll give it a pass for now.

(Also, she’s very much on the side of the townsfolk and kinda pissed (being a local herself) that locals don’t get to be a part of the Save Our Streets (SOS, get it?) initiative.  So points for her in that regard.)

The opening chapter features Whitney heading to the Cozy Cup Cafe, a SOS business run by our hero, Josh Smith.  (Bizarrely, he’s Josh Smith in the book, but Josh Barton on the back cover).  Josh is perfect wish-fulfillment material so far: handsome and sweet, he runs this awesome coffee shop that miraculously appeals to both older locals who chill all day and gossip, and teens who hang in his “internet cafe.”  (This series is from 2013.)

But since I’ve also spent this post in exposition-dump, I’ll leave their conversation till next time.

Happy War on Wintermas!

TEoD: Chapters 66 – 68: Not So Wrapped Up

I think the important thing to remember as we conclude The Edge of Darkness is that it was clearly intended to be the fourth book in a five-book series.  So the book wraps up a subplot by killing off nonbeliever Paul, kills mini-boss Talon, and sets the stage for the big RTC romantic reveal of the series, by having Murphy dump Isis because of her lack of belief, giving him a (probably false) alternative in the form of one Summer Van Doren, and having Isis convert so that she will finally be worthy of Murphy’s particular brand of RTC love.

Sadly (or not so sadly), there will presumably never be a fifth and final book to the Babylon Rising series, since it’s been twelve years since The Edge of Darkness was released and also Tim LaHaye is With Jesus now.  So we just gotta roll with what we have.

Murphy wakes up in a Catholic hospital in Burgas, Bulgaria.  There is not one person in the whole hospital who can understand him since he only speaks English, and I have to digress here and say that somewhat surprises me.  I mean even if nobody there spoke any English, I’m a bit surprised that archaeologist Murphy doesn’t understand a little Russian or German.  And maybe that’s just because I’m used to most humanities professors in the States speaking more than one language, and certainly most Europeans do, especially if they’re doctors or nurses, but oh well.  Murph is just a dumb American.

Oh, and by the way, Murph, if you had bothered to bring Isis with you on this little adventure, even if you’re no longer dating, you would not have to wait an entire damn day to find out what’s going on.  Because that’s how long it takes Levi to get there.  When he finally arrives, Levi explains that Murphy made it to the surface in the sub, and a fishing vessel found him unconscious and brought him here.

And lest you think Levi wasn’t doing anything about the “very large” Black Sea…

…he had “alerted the Bulgarian Navy and they had begun a search for you.”  Yeah, because I guess the Navy didn’t have anything better to do than search the entire Black Sea for a dumb, lost American.

Murphy wryly observes that this has been “Some vacation.”

Um, except it was never a vacation, Murphy.  You were here to explore the cave for…whatever…and to get the plates.  Yanno, the ones with the secrets to unlimited clean power forever?  THOSE plates?  Hey, did you tell your students that you were ditching them in the middle of the semester to go on vacation?  And does Dean Fallworth know about that?

Also, and this has nothing to do with anything, but I find it kinda amusing that Murphy is in a Catholic hospital staffed with nuns, and they saved his life, but the hospital is “old” and his room has no TV.  Like, I know how RTCs feel about Catholics, and it just seems like a weird little nod to, “oh, but the Catholics are actually okay at this medical stuff.”

Then again, maybe they’re not so okay with it, because it turns out that Murphy has been unconscious for three weeks.  (Yes, THREE WEEKS have passed.)  Also, he’ll have to have physical therapy and can’t go anywhere for a whole month while he has it.

Okay, I know not all injuries are the same and not all people are the same and everything is different and all, but…

Murphy has a head injury, several broken ribs, and a broken leg.  Some years ago, I suffered a head injury that knocked me unconscious, as well as multiple broken bones.  Yes, I had to do physical therapy, but I was released from my initial hospital stay in UNDER 72 HOURS.

Murphy’s a bug wuss.

Murphy and Levi commiserate about how the plates STILL need to be found, but they’ll get around to it at some point, I guess, no rush.

Then we cut to The Seven.  Farewell, The Seven!  I’ll miss how you Stop At Nothing!

One more fun international jaunt for our international group of supervillains, and for this final trip, it’s Versailles.  Ganesh Shesha says that the Taj Mahal can’t compare to Versailles, which…really?  Why, Phillips Shesha?  Want me to bring race into this?  Because I will, if you make me.

John Bartholomew has big plans for a day of plotting world domination: they will “meander through the chateau grounds and…every now and then we will stop and conduct a little business.”

Well, I take it back.  Apparently they’ll stop at plenty of things.

Phillips also gets in one last dig at Sir William Merton’s weight.  Perhaps sensing that this is the last time he’ll get to do this, he makes a point of saying Merton is not just fat, but “grossly overweight.”

So they wander around, blathering on about oil and how “environmentalists in the United States are so paranoid about drilling in Alaska and other places.”

See, environmentalists?  You’re just playing right into the Evil Future Antichrist’s hands, with your wanting to save the planet!

Then they start talking about “the Boy, who is now a man,” who “will come in all his glory in just a few short days.”

Damn, a few days?  Why are you puttering around Versailles, then, guys?  Shouldn’t you be getting ready to roll???

I guess not, because they continue rambling on and on about destroying Israel and also the “narrow-minded, judgmental” Christians.  But just as they’re planning to stop and head out for a meal, they get a call…that Talon is dead.

Remember, three weeks have now passed.  So perhaps The Seven’s worldwide network isn’t as all-knowing as you might hope and expect.

Jacob Werner is PISSED, and has “fire burning in her eyes,” but John Bartholomew is more sanguine.  In fact, he’s had a person waiting in the wings to take down Murphy if Talon failed…and in fact, this person has been ready to kill Talon, if necessary, to get to Murphy.  Now, since Bartholomew says he found “someone,” an “individual,” I had hope for half a second that he was referring to a woman, perhaps even Summer Van Doren.  Alas, this is all just Bartholomew being weird, because it’s a man.

And we end our time with The Seven with them planning to “put forth the marking system” soon.

Hey!

***

Finally, back to Murphy one last time, as Phillips sets the stage for the romantic triangle that would never appear in the never-written fifth book.  One month has passed and Murphy is done with his physical therapy, and actually spares a thought for the Bulgarian professionals who helped him:

With his Irish temper and his struggle with weakness, he hadn’t been the perfect patient.

His struggle with weakness?  GAWD, but this man is annoying.  Yeah, dude: right or wrong or somewhere in between, most people get frustrated when they’re injured and need help and can even snap at the people who are there to help them, either out of love or out of professional responsibility.

But once again, a common, even banal observation is presented as something specific to Michael Murphy’s oh-so-interesting personality.  Hey, I wonder if that’ll happen again in this, the final chapter?

He unlocked the door [of his house] and stepped in.  The floor was piled high with bills, letters, and magazines.  Too bad someone couldn’t have taken care of all the bills too.  The postman had shoved two months’ worth of mail through the mail slot.  That should be fun to go through.  I wonder how many late charges I’ll have?

Gee, if only he had access to a phone or the internet.  In Bulgaria.  (I have a sneaking suspicion that Murphy thinks any country not THE U S OF A would not have working phones or internet.)

Anyway, Murphy dumps his shit all over the house, because I guess the maid will take care of it or something.  And then…he calls the Parchments of Freedom Foundation and, like a stalker, asks about Isis’s schedule!

It’s very important to remember here that although we, the readers, know that Isis is not RTC, Murphy does not know this.  As far as he knows, absolutely nothing has changed since he dumped Isis for Very Important Christian Reasons.  And we have no indication of what has changed for Murphy other than an internal comment that he “had thought [about contacting Isis] all the time while he was recuperating.”  But what was he thinking about this?  Has he changed his mind and started agreeing with Isis’s idea that they can keep trying to have a relationship and let the religion thing take care of itself over time?  Did he get some sort of hint from God that Isis is now RTC and Permitted?  I dunno, and frankly, it seems Phillips doesn’t know, either.

Whatever the reason, Murphy jets off to Washington, D.C., to surprise Isis.   No, he has not told her he’s coming.

When the taxi drives him past the Lincoln Memorial, Murphy looks at it and thinks, “What a great man of character.”

Heh, and also a person of very complex religious beliefs that really don’t align with RTC-ism, Murph!

Murphy then picks up two dozen roses for Isis, because nothing says, “I’m controlling and don’t care about your feelings” like showing up at your ex’s workplace unexpectedly in the middle of the day with flowers and an offer to Try Again!

But hilariously, and THIS IS HOW THE BOOK ENDS, Murphy shows up at the Foundation and tracks down the tour Isis is supposed to be giving (WHY is their best linguist scheduled to give a random tour in the middle of the day?), but Isis…is not there after all!

Nope, she’s been sent off to Jordan to…yanno, do what her job is, which is to translate some shit.

And so Murphy’s ending moment for the entire series is this: because he missed a surprise encounter with Isis that she knew absolutely nothing about, he is understandably disappointed, but irrationally extrapolates the whole situation to mean that “Maybe we’re just not meant to be.

Yes, because if you make an elaborate plan to surprise an ex with an offer to try again, don’t tell her you’re coming to her place of business in the middle of a random workday, and it turns out she’s not at the building at that precise moment because Work and ALSO YOU DIDN’T TELL HER YOU WERE COMING, it means you are not to meant to be.

This is such a wonderfully fitting end to Michael Murphy’s story.  And the wonderful part is, I doubt LaHaye and Phillips even knew it.  This was clearly meant to be a setup for the next book, in which the love triangle would be resolved and Murphy would discover Isis’s newfound RTC-ness and they would be Raptured/die happily ever after, but instead, the series ends with Murphy being a self-absorbed prick with no understanding of other people’s feelings or lives, or even that other people have feelings or lives.

It is so fitting and it makes me so happy.

It’s a good ending to this series, and a good start to this year’s War on Wintermas.

Coming tomorrow!

 

TEoD: Chapters 64 & 65: This Could Have Been Foreseen

Murphy has, against all odds or reason, managed to find the backpack holding the brass plates from Noah’s Ark.  To give credit where it’s due, at least it took Murphy ten hours and a nap to get to them, because given what we know of Our Murph, I seriously would have guessed it would have taken him thirty minutes, tops.

But OH NO Talon has found Murphy.  See, Talon (and I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear this) has stolen one of the subs from Istanbul.  Yanno, those subs that the Mossad knew about and directed to, the subs that Murphy went and looked at and then fell asleep next to, the subs that both Murphy and the Mossad KNOW that Talon knows about because Murphy SAW HIM EXAMINING THE SUBS.

Yeah, Talon stole a sub.  What a shocking twist for this book’s climax.

What is perhaps a more shocking turn of events is that Talon decides that the best use of his stolen submarine is to have a submarine fight with Murphy’s submarine.  And by that I don’t mean a logical submarine fight involving torpedoes.  No, I mean a fight wherein Talon bashes his submarine into Murphy’s submarine.

It makes so much sense!

Except for the facts that these are both research submarines, not remotely intended for physical altercations of any kind.  I’m not even sure there can be a “winner” in a melee submarine fight.  I mean, not to put too fine a point to it, wouldn’t it be kinda like smashing two intricate Play-Doh figures together?  They’ll BOTH get effed up, right?

Well, I guess not, because Talon rams Murphy’s sub, and Murphy is flung across the cabin, breaking three ribs, with one of them puncturing his lung.  He also sustains a head wound.

Talon, in the meantime, was putting the Carson submarine in reverse.

What, like a car?  Isn’t your submarine broken now, Talon?  These aren’t Monster Trucks, you know.

But I guess it’s fine, because Talon just backs up and rams Murphy’s sub a second time, this time breaking Murphy’s leg (I think), and causing a leak in the sub.  I would think this would cause a leak in both subs, but it’s pretty clear based on this that I am no expert.  Though probably Phillips isn’t an expert, either.

Talon then pulls a Bond Villain and heads off to retrieve the backpack and leave Murphy to die.

And, finally remembering that he is in a Christian novel, Murphy prays.

***

Meanwhile, Yosef Rozen meets up with Levi Abrams, but not before having a downright Michael Murphy-ish epiphany:

Standing around in airports was not one of the things he liked to do.

Yes, because so many people enjoy standing around in airports purely for fun.  Jewish or not, Yosef, looks like you’ll fit in around here just fine.

Anyway, he greets Levi as he gets off his plane, and Yosef is all, “I’ve been in Istanbul for five years, it’d be much cooler if I was home,” and Levi’s all, “Tell me about it, I’be been chillin’ in North Carolina doing karate with a self-important college professor who thinks I’m going to Hell.”

Nah, actually all Levi says about Murphy is that he “had experience with mini-subs when he was in the armed services of the United States.”  Which is pretty funny, since this series has stated outright on several occasions that Murphy was Army, not Navy, and his service primarily involved Operation Desert Storm.  So where he got training in mini-subs is anyone’s guess.

But they realize that Murphy has been gone too long and not radioed back, and also that one of the mini-subs was stolen and that “it has to be” Talon…

…but sadly there is absolutely nothing these trained Mossad agents can do, because…

“The Black Sea is very large.”

“I know, Yosef…I know!”

This reminds me of when Trump informed us that water is wet and hurricanes are not good.

***

Back in his sub, Murphy sees that Talon is about to get the plates.  So he manages to turn on his sub and head towards him.  Talon initially flees, but then thinks better of it and turns back around to try to ram Murphy again.

How is Talon’s sub still intact after ramming another sub twice now?

I guess it doesn’t matter, because Talon accidentally kills himself.

Yep, it’s just that anti-climactic.  Talon maneuvers his sub to get a better shot at Murphy (HOW?) and he just bashes himself into a sunken ship.  Specifically, the “crane arm” of the ship, which pierces his window.

Does this little exploration sub not have a proximity alarm, or is that just in Star Trek?

Ah well, so I guess it’s kinda Talon’s own hubris that dooms him, like if he hadn’t turned around to finish off Murphy, he’d be fine.  And Murphy sees some poetic justice in how Talon dies (though strangulation and drowning aren’t really the same thing).

And to be honest, I’m kinda impressed with how Murphy takes this whole turn of events. Perhaps it’s not very Christian of him, but he gets closer to the drowning Talon (stuck in his own submarine seat with the seatbelt stuck) and even shines the sub’s light on him so he can see him drown in living color.

Sweet Laura’s justice has finally arrived.

Not that I’m not sympathetic, Murphy, but that’s a really weird way of putting that.

And so the grievously injured Murphy has to leave behind the plates (though he certainly knows exactly where they are now), because he has to jet his damaged sub to the surface.

Oh, and pray.  He prays again.  Because we don’t have much longer to go in this very Christian novel where a man just watched another man drown, trapped and alone.

TEoD: Chapters 62 and 63: Moar Subs

So I made a mistake in the last installment: apparently the subs that Murphy saw were just some subs that the friendly Mossad agent mentioned that just happened to be at that dock. But they’re not the sub the Mossad actually procured for Murphy.  That sub is waiting for him in Varna.

Okay, so if it’s at Varna, and Varna is the best jumping-off point for this expedition, why did the Mossad put Murphy up in a hotel in Istanbul?  Why not just get him to Varna ASAP?  And why did Murphy waste his time with walks and naps when he could have been getting to Varna?

Another mystery for the ages.  But hey, if that had happened, Murphy wouldn’t have seen Talon, and gotten to beat the snot out of the Moar Arabs.

So, despite his fears that Talon will steal one of the subs he was clearly casing, Murphy just charters a short flight to Varna, and gets a crash course in mini-subs and metal detectors.

Then Murphy just sets out, all alone, with a few whole hours of training, and spends TEN HOURS (and five pages) searching the ocean for the backpack with the plates.  He sees some cool fish and some sunken ships and even some sharks, and I am making it more exciting in writing it than it is to read about it.  Oh, and he takes another nap, too.

And then he finds the backpack.  But gasp, choke, cliffhanger…Talon might be hanging around!

TEoD: Chapter 61: Heroic Taxi Drivers

Chapter 61, and Murphy actually spares a thought, for a grand total of about a minute, for Isis.

Murphy let out a long sigh.  He missed her.

Aw, poor baby.  Hey, YOU dumped HER, remember?

Since time is apparently not at all of the essence, Murphy takes a walk away from his hotel, down around the Bazaar.  Then he has a relaxing dinner and takes a taxi down to the pier to check out his very own minisub.

And since the world exists to smooth the way for everything Murphy does, the cab driver not only offers to wait, but, when Murphy refuses, advises the dumb American that this is not the place for Americans to wander around alone, and then gives Murphy his personal cell phone number so he can call him, anytime of day or night, for a ride.

Murphy wanders over to look at the subs, remembering with perfect clarity a magazine article he read, about this very type of mini submarine and how they can go 1,000 feet deep and sustain one man for 16 days with its life support.  I mean, you’d die of thirst first, but whatevs.

Bizarrely, Murphy chooses this exact moment to sit down on some nearby crates and have a nap of an hour and a half.  Seriously, he does this.

And he probably would have slept there all night like a bum, except that Talon and two henchmen show up.

I mean, is Talon ever NOT three steps ahead of Murphy?

They check out the subs but don’t seem to do anything to them, then head off to some dark warehouse (natch).  Murphy follows them, master of stealth.

And speaking of the bad guys always being way ahead of our Murph, they knew they were being followed the whole time, because before he knows it, he is “surrounded by warehouse walls on two sides and Arabs in front and back.  Talon had disappeared.”

Oh, and we’re back to this again.  MOAR ARABS are attacking Murphy!

So Murphy charges one of the Arabs, ducks his knife (of course), and smashes the poor Arab’s nose.

For a moment [the Arab] tottered and then toppled backward like a giant tree that had been chopped down.

And so, almost four entire books in, we actually have a bit of Indiana Jones-ish humor.  Big man fall down.

Before Murphy could shout “Timber!” the second Arab had closed the distance.

Yes, Murphy is just smug enough to yell “Timber!”, I think.  He seems to have immediately forgotten how easily he was ambushed….ten seconds ago.

So of course, being Murphy, he tackles the second Moar Arab to the ground and knocks him out.

Then he calls for his personal taxi.

Yep, a true Action Hero.

TEoD: Chapter 60: Four-Star Travel Mossad

I know, guys, I am super slow right now.  It’s the busiest time of the year for me at work, and I’m researching new cars, too.  But if there’s one thing I am determined to do, it is get in my usual BLACK FRIDAY CHRISTIAN ROMANCE BOOK, so I am gonna rip through the last few chapters of this mess of an Indiana Jones-Christian-lite book, then get to it!

So, in the continuing mission, not to capture Talon, but to smooth the way for Michael Murphy’s travels as much as humanly possible, another Mossad is pulled off his no-doubt very important duties to greet Murphy.  He’s even holding one of those airport name signs, like he’s Murphy’s chauffeur or something.

While Murphy was in the air, the Mossad figured out that Talon was traveling with a Swiss passport under the name of Emile Cornelle, but not in time to catch him.

Murphy was disappointed, but not surprised.  Talon was a slippery one.

But even through his disappointment, Murphy is still able to make request upon request of this guy:

“Did you get him?”

“Were you able to get any information about the ship lines?”

“Was Levi able to secure the use of a mini-submarine?”

“And what about metal detection?”

“How about bronze?”

So yes, the agent (Yosef Rozen, if you care) has answers for everything: a file of info on passenger ships like the one Murphy and Talon and Isis were on when the plates went into the deep, a small sub that Murphy gets to use for a week, no questions asked, with readers onboard for the bronze plates.

And all this happened, by the way, in just a few hours: the flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul is quite short.

Oh, and Yosef got Murphy a hotel room.  And Yosef helpfully explains that it is near the Grand Bazaar in case Murphy feels like doing a little shopping.

So basically, the Mossad has turned into Murphy’s own little travel agency.  Lucky him.  As he wishes.