Wednesday, March 26, 2008

CFBA Tour - For Pete's Sake

Shifting gears, here's what my wife thought about the latest book for the CFBA - For Pete's Sake.

"I really liked this book. The setting was described so well, I felt I was there. I wish I could meet the characters, I felt I knew them so well. The author was so natural in describing each one. Overall a great book, quick read, and I highly recommend it."

The synopsis:
ABOUT THE BOOK

For Pete's Sake is a remarkable story about the unlikely live between a grown-up tomboy and the millionaire next door.

Ellen Brittingham isn’t sure true live exists until she contracts to do the landscaping of the estate of the sophisticated widower next door, Adrian Sinclair. Adrian has it all—at least on the surface, He’s engaged to a beautiful woman who helped him build a successful business and he’ll soon have a mom for his troubled son Pete.

Yet, from the moment Ellen rescues a stranded Adrian on her Harley, his well-ordered world turns upside down, cracking his thin fa├žade of happiness and revealing the void of faith and love behind it. Even more, his son seems to have his own sites set on Ellen – as his new mom.

As Ellen’s friendship grows with Pete, she realizes that his father is about to marry the wrong woman for the right reasons. And despite her resolve to remain “neighbors only” with the dad, the precocious boy works his way into her heart, drawing Ellen and Adrian closer. Close enough for heartbreak, for Pete’s sake!

But how can her heart think that Adrian Sinclair is the one when he’s engaged to a sophisticated beauty who is everything Ellen isn’t. When Ellen’s three best friends see she’s been bitten by the love bug, they jump into action and submit her to a makeover that reveals the woman underneath her rough exterior and puts her in contention for Adrian’s love.

But Ellen must ask herself whether she’s ready to risk the heart that she’s always held close. Will Ellen be able to trust that God brought this family into her life for a reason? Or will her fear of getting hurt cause her to turn away from God’s plan and her one true chance at love?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

CSFF Tour - Review of Dark Sea of Darkness

What do you get when you take a talented songwriter, put him in a fantasy land, and allow him some whimsy as he tells a story? You would do pretty doggone good if you ended up with On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.

Andrew Peterson has made several critically acclaimed albums, and now he turns his talent to a tale of adventure, peril, lost jewels, and the fearsome toothy cows of Skree. Edge is the first book in the Wingfeather Saga. It is being marketed as a young adult (YA) series, but it is such an enchanting tale it shouldn't be missed by an adult audience.

The story features Janner Igiby, his brother Tink, and their crippled sister Leeli as they go to enjoy the Dragon Day festival in their town of Glipwood. These three children live with their mother Nia and their peglegged ex-pirate grandpa Podo, and they are greatly loved. Their life would be perfect, if not for the occupation of Skree by the Fangs of Dang, led by a Nameless Evil (called Gnag the Nameless). Janner, as the oldest, is tasked with keeping an eye on his siblings, but finds this duty is harder to fulfill than originally planned. Soon they are in the midst of great adventure and danger, such as haunted houses, aforementioned toothy cows, sock men, and giant Nuggets.

This book reminds me of the movie and book The Princess Bride. Peterson creates a well-thought out fantasy world that has a wink and a nod to it. The reader can tell he had fun writing it, and the enjoyment comes out in the little goofiness sprinkled throughout. He creates little touches like fake references to Skreean literature such as "Taming the Creepiful Wood" (in footnotes, of all places!), and having examples of the shovel request form in the appendix.

The characters resonate, from gruff Podo to the bookish Oskar N. Reteep. The action moves along with 51 short, well-paced chapters. The tone is often kept a little light, but the tension areas will still have the kids holding onto a pillow and begging for one more chapter. The story is not an allegory, and there is not a strong overt spiritual tone (keeping in line with books like Narnia), but the underlying theme is potent for those with eyes to see.

I greatly enjoyed the book overall. It was a quick read, yet I can still pick it up while preparing for this post and find myself delighting in the story. There are a few points where he jumps into another character's head, making me as a reader stop and wonder what just happened to the perspective. However, these are few and minor overall. I must state a warning though: reading this book in public may cause you to be the recipient of funny looks from people, as you read a clever passage, process it, and giggle like you just got a joke.

If you want to read a witty, light-hearted, yet poignant tale from a talented new author, then pick up Edge and enjoy the ride. When you're done, you'll be saying along with many others it's "jouncey as a two-ton bog pie."

Monday, March 24, 2008

Really Important Answers - the CSFF Blog Tour Day 1

There are some really important questions out there nowadays, and the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy (CSFF) blog tour is committed to bringing you MORE really important questions! For instance:

Is a young meep smaller or larger than a flabbit?
What is the best way to rid your garden of thwaps?
Why don't totatoes belong in a maggotloaf?
Who is the Appreciator of the neat, the strange, and/or the yummy?
What is the proper technique for handyball?
Who won in the great battle between Peet and the (innocent) street sign?
Do scholars agree that Ulambria is a good-sounding name for a city?

And finally, who sang the grand duet with the singing dragons?

If these questions intrigue you, (and you know they do - or if not, they should) then check out the blog tour for Andrew Peterson and his new book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. Find out more at his web site - http://andrew-peterson.com/ or the author moderated blog - http://www.rabbitroom.com/.

Finally, see my fellow tourmates for more information, and check back tomorrow for my review (and maybe a few of the promised answers).

Sally Apokedak
Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Green
Jill Hart
Katie Hart
Michael Heald
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Kait
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Margaret
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Pamela Morrisson
John W. Otte
Deena Peterson
Rachelle
Steve Rice
Cheryl Russel
Ashley Rutherford
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Donna Swanson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Robert Treskillard
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Next Few Posts

So last week was kinda busy. I ran around to a couple of different appointments to find out that my wrist may not quite be broken - still waiting to find out for sure. With all that, and work and life in general, I'm having a hard time posting here regularly. The next few days are committed to blog tours, so I'll finish my thoughts on God's sovereignty in fiction after these tours. For the two or three that are reading, that is...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Resurrection - Surely God is with Us

From Rich Mullins' posthumous album, The Jesus Record:

Surely God is With Us

Mark Robertson and Beaker
Matthew 1:23, Matthew 5:1-12, Matthew 13:54-57
Matthew 21:10-11, Matthew 27:50-54, Luke 7:34-35
Luke 23:33, John 6:14, John 6:35-43
John 7:37-41, John 8:19, John 20:26-29

Well, who's that man who thinks He's a prophet?
Well, I wonder if He's got something up His sleeve
Where's He from? Who is His daddy?
There's rumors He even thinks Himself a king
Of a kingdom of paupers
Simpletons and rogues
The whores all seem to love Him
And the drunks propose a toast

And they say, "Surely God is with us.
Well, surely God is with us."
They say, "Surely God is with us today!"

Who's that man who says He's a preacher?
Well, He must be, He's disturbing all our peace
Where's He get off, and what is He hiding
And every word He says those fools believe
Who could move a mountain
Who would love their enemy
Who could rejoice in pain
And turn the other cheek

And still say, "Surely God is with us,
Well, surely God is with us,"
Who'll say, "Surely God is with us today, today!"

They say, "Surely God is with us
Well, surely God is with us"
They say, "Surely God is with us"

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Heaven belongs to them
Blessed are those who make peace
They are God's children
I Am the Bread of Life, and the Way"
You hear that Man, believe what He says!

Tell me, who's that Man, they made Him a prisoner
They tortured Him and nailed Him to a tree
Well if He's so bad, who did He threaten?
Did He deserve to die between two thieves?
See the scars and touch His wounds
He's risen flesh and bone
Now the sinners have become the saints
And the lost have all come home

And they say, "Surely God is with us (Surely God is with us)
Well, surely God is with us,"
They say, "Surely God is with us today!" (Today!)

They say, "Surely God is with us
Well, surely God is with us"
They say, "Surely God is with us today"

Lyrics from Kid Brothers.

Monday, March 17, 2008

God's Sovereignty and Christian Fiction - Day 4

I'm not going to be too prolific tonight. I found out today I cracked a wrist bone at the base of my right thumb, and it makes typing a little...challenging.

So how does an author reconcile God's sovereignty and a good heroic character in fiction? I must say that I see a lot of Christian fiction books that deal with this issue in a variety of ways. There may be a non-Christian hero who acts without turning to God until a conversion toward the end of the book (though if a unsaved person is just not acknowledging the leading God is giving them, what is the difference?). The action may happen so fast and furious that the characters can only react, and don't have time to really "give it to God". I am reading a book currently where some of the characters are in mortal danger and mainly dealing with the trouble with occasional "help us God" prayers, but there are other saints interceding for them.

The books The Shadow and Light and The Legend of the Firefish are pretty distinctive in how they clearly address the issue. Oh, and in thinking about this subject, the series Legend of the Guardian King also shows the characters wrestle with sovereignty throughout the action.

Okay, this typing thing is getting tricky for today. I'll pick it up tomorrow most likely.

Friday, March 14, 2008

God's Sovereignty and Christian Fiction - Day 3

Continuing on from my March 8th post, how can writers show the sovereignty of God along with a strong hero or protagonist? I used two examples from The Shadow and Night and The Legend of the Firefish, where two heroes believed very strongly that God was in control. These books had some very good, rich spiritual themes that they were communicating. I want to state up front that what I'm drawing out of these books to discuss are most likely not points the authors were trying to make. Please don't read too much into my analysis, because I'm using the stories to try and explore a different question.

Having said that, is there any problem with my question? If we go to Webster's Universal College Dictionary, sovereignty can be defined as "3. supreme and independent power or authority in a state." The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology states the sovereignty of God is "the Biblical teaching that God is king, supreme ruler, and lawgiver of the entire universe." To sum up, God is in control.

In fiction, generally a hallmark of a good story is a protagonist who acts. Stories and plots can carry a hero along, even one who is rather weak and not actively doing something. Usually though, readers prefer a strong leading man or lady - someone who may be thrown at times by what is happening within the framework of the story, but then finds a way to face the conflict and triumph over it. Many writing books talk about the need to have the main character ACT - to do something and not just be pushed around like a rag doll.

I think the potential conflict between God's sovereignty and a strong hero becomes more evident with these definitions. I'll look more at this conflict next.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

CFBA Tour - The Perfect Life

The CFBA blog tour for Monday - Wednesday this week is the latest book from Robin Lee Hatcher, A Perfect Life. Robin is a highly prolific and talented author. When I asked my wife if she would like to read one of her books for the tour, I got the most enthusiastic response from any time I've asked her.

So without further ado, a special review from my wife, Beccy:

Robin Lee Hatcher is one of my favorite authors, so I was excited to get to read this book (in one day!) For a start, I loved this book because it was set in Idaho - a place I'm familiar with. It talked about a good Christian woman who had ministered to so many ladies with broken marriages and lives, and she was now thrust into the same type of situation.

This book is about heart issues. When faced with the same things she had said to others, she didn't believe what her own advice had been. She had to come to the bottom of despair to realize that God was there for her, as well as the other women she had counseled. It made her a stronger, wiser woman.

The characterization was great. The reader knows the characters from the inside out. The realism in these people kept me interested enough to finish in one day. I don't know what more to say, because it was a well written, enjoyable story.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

God's Sovereignty and Christian Fiction - Day 2

I left off my last post for this series introducing the books The Shadow and Night and Legend of the Firefish. So what is it that links a far-future sci-fi story with a fantasy-based pirate novel?

In Firefish, Packer Throme is a failed seminary student who ended up studying swordmanship. He intends to find the elusive Firefish, hoping the discovery will help save his village and prove his worth for his love interest. Packer maintains his faith despite his aborted seminary training. Through his adventures he ponders the way God is moving him through the different scenarios. Interestingly, Packer leans into God's sovereignty in a few different episodes in the book. He stops even in times of great peril to decide that everything is God's will, and he almost passively sits by to accept whatever happens. (I have more thoughts on this book in posts from a prior blog tour here)

The Shadow and Night starts slowly, as forester Merral D'Avanos stumbles across minor attitude changes in the redeemed world of Farholme. Soon, little quirks that seemed odd unrelated fluctuations start pointing to a return of something that has not been seen in the Assembly of Worlds for over 10,000 years: evil. Merral is in the center of all that is transpiring, yet he often is slow to act because he also is content to trust in God's will. His confusion in the face of renewed evil is very understandable - since evil has been absent for such a long time, Merral and his colleagues have only ancient reports of how to act in the face of this adversity.

Is the theme I'm drawing out becoming more apparent?

I'm not discussing this as a criticism of these two books in this series. I want to discuss the idea of God's sovereignty and how that can affect how a protagonist acts in a novel. These two books happen to be strong examples of the idea of sovereignty entering into a story of tension. We'll continue on this track next time.

Friday, March 07, 2008

CFBA Tour - Truffles by the Sea

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Truffles by the Sea by Julie Carobini.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Julie Carobini is an award-winning writer whose stories often spotlight her family, the sea, and God's timely work in the lives of those around her. She lives with her husband, Dan, and their three children in Ventura Beach, California.

She also likes to blog! Go leave her a comment at Waves of Grace.

Julie left you all a special message:

To celebrate my upcoming CFBA tour March 5-7, I'll be giving away a copy of Truffles by the Sea AND and a 1/2 lb. box of yummy truffles to three of your readers.

All they need to do is drop by my blog
http://juliecarobini.blogspot.com/ during the tour and leave a comment and a way to contact them if they win!

ABOUT THE BOOK:

If you read, Julie's first book, Chocolate Beach, then you might remember Gaby as Bri’s dramatic, lovesick best friend. Unfortunately, things get worse—much worse—for her before they get…well, best not to give it away.

Sometimes all a girl has left is chocolate...

Gaby Flores has a penchant for drama and an unfortunate knack for dating Mr. So Wrong. After breaking off yet another relationship, watching her apartment building burn to the ground, and discovering that her dippy delivery guy has run off with most of her business, Gaby decides it’s time to turn things around.

So she moves to a tiny waterfront loft and takes on a new motto: “Be gullible no more!” With help from her friends, she works to rebuild her flower shop—and her life. But when legal troubles and quirky neighbors and two surprising romances enter her beachy world, Gaby’s motto and fledgling faith are put to the test.

Can a young woman prone to disaster in both work and love finally find happily ever after?
"Truffles by the Sea is delightful! Julie Carobini has a new fan in this reader, and she's earned a spot on my keeper shelf." --Kay James, RomanceReaderatHeart.com
"This book is a delight to read, and the author has us rooting for Gaby from page one. This girl's never-say-die attitude is incredible, and her life is filled with all kinds of foibles. This is chick lit with heart – about so much more than finding a man.... While keeping the light chick lit tone, this book satisfied while avoiding the tired old formulas. Just when I’m ready to give up on the genre, I stumble across an author who can write without relying on stereotypes." --Cara Putman, writerinterrupted.com
"I liked Julie Carobini's first novel, Chocolate Beach, but her sophomore release, Truffles By The Sea, greatly surpasses it. I thoroughly enjoyed Carobini's second book and felt her writing was much stronger throughout. The characters are deeper and yet funnier – a great combination.... It's a great read for a cold winter day – you can curl up with the book, a nice fire and pretend you're the one by the sea." --Jill Hart, RadiantLit.com

Sunday, March 02, 2008

God's Sovereignty and Christian Fiction - Day 1

On the 26th I suggested that there was a theme or thread between two books that have been reviewed by the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Blog tour. The most recent was The Shadow and Night, a pure science fiction novel, while the other reviewed a few months ago was The Legend of the Firefish, a fantasy tale featuring pirates. I had a few attempts at trying to guess where I am going with this group of posts. (Congratulations to Nicole for her winning the 10 year Cowboys calendar to decorate her favorite computer office! I'm sure it will be displayed with the respect due such a thoughtful gift...) While good guesses, I'm going in a different direction.

I suppose I need to offer a quick synopsis of each book to put it into context.

I'll borrow from my previous preview of The Legend of the Firefish:
The Legend of the Firefish sets the reader in a new world, starting in the kingdom of Nearing Vast with young Packer Throme. He has a mysterious past as the son of a local fisherman who started off in seminary and has returned to his village with a talent for swordplay. He is in love with the beautiful, if sheltered Panna Seline, daughter of the local priest.

His motivation is twofold- to restore the fortunes of the declining fishing villages of his home region and to be worthy of the love of Panna. His plan entails hooking up with Scat Wilkins, notorious pirate captain of the Trophy Case, and tracking the elusive, legendary Firefish. This beast is a true sea serpent that is dangerous to all who dare hunt it, but its meat confers healing and power to the person who eats it.

Getting near Scat won't be easy with his security officer, the mysterious Drammune woman Talon, whose infamy with the sword is only equaled by her cruelty and her mysterious powers.

As for The Shadow and Night, it takes place over 10,000 years in the future on a world that humans have terraformed and colonized called Farholme. It is the farthest world from Ancient Earth, at the end of a series of Gates that allow interstellar travel. The Assembly of Worlds have seen the reign of the Lamb come, and they have a society that is fully built on His Word and His ways, without any known evil since the Jannafy Rebellion thousands of years prior.

As the colonists continue to help shape the world, a forester named Merral comes across some minor anomalies that foreshadow a greater threat growing across the world. As the unthinkable happens and their world is cut off from the rest of the Assembly, Merral must confront the return of evil both externally and internally.

As for the connection between these books - hmm. Seems I'll have to return to this thought in another post...