Wednesday, June 24, 2009

CFBA Tour - The Firstborn

The latest book in the CFBA tour is The Firstborn, by new author Conlan Brown.


When the Nazarene died on a cross 2000 years ago, the ancient writings record tombs that opened up, and dead who rose to walk again. What was unknown was those who rose awakened with a gift. Some could see the past, some the present, others the future. They were meant to be a guide for those who followed, but the different perspectives led to conflict and separation into three different orders.

When the orders meet to work out issues, one leader dies and another disappears. Three disparate members of the groups must band together to discover the mystery of the battle within the Firstborn, as well as a looming tragedy of a suicide bomber within the United States. Will the different sides find unity in order to thwart the danger, or will an evil they can't see destroy them first?

Conlan Brown delivers a palpable action/adventure thriller as his first novel. The pages shouldn't stop turning, as he keeps a fast-paced suspense moving (maybe careening!) along from San Antonio to D.C. and rural West Virginia. The book starts with one of the Firstborn as a kidnapped hostage and the rescue, and the ending provides a capstone fitting for a summer blockbuster.

I think it is fitting that during the summer season of movie thrillers that this book comes out. It is a good distraction and easy, entertaining read. The characters are given various traits to make them stand out, but they don't come across as deeply developed. There are some themes that are clearly shown, but they almost get drowned out by the bullets and fists that are frequently flying. It also becomes a little disturbing to see these "Christian" groups with fully armed militias running and gunning. I appreciate an exciting adrenaline-fueled adventure, but the premise went a little over the top at points.

Overall, I thought it was a solid debut for the author. The book should appeal to guys who like explosions and lots of action, which doesn't always happen in the Amish/prairie romances of other CBA fare (I'm sure the inability to use modern detonators hampers an Amish action romp) or other adrenaline junkies. There were problems in characterization and plausability that I'm confident can be developed in further work. I'll be interested to see what Mr. Brown comes up with next.

If you would like to read the first chapter excerpt of The Firstborn, go HERE

Thursday, June 18, 2009

CFBA Tour- A Bride in the Bargain

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing A Bride In The Bargain Bethany House (June 1, 2009) by Deeanne Gist.

Jason says: My wife has become a big fan of Deeanne's books. Unfortunately with moving she has only just started this book. Maybe I'll get her thoughts posted down the road.


Deeanne Gist, the bestselling author of A Bride Most Begrudging and The Measure of a Lady, has a background in education and journalism. Her credits include People magazine, Parents, and Parenting. With a line of parenting products called "I Did It!® Productions" and a degree from Texas A&M, she continues her writing and speaking. She and her family live in Houston, Texas.

Since the debut of those novels, her very original, very fun romances have rocketed up the bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere. Add to this two consecutive Christy Awards, two RITA nominations, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you’ve got one recipe for success.


The Wedding Is All Planned...
Someone Just Needs to Tell the Bride

In 1860s Seattle, redwoods were plentiful but women scarce. Yet a man with a wife could secure 640 acres of timberland for free.

Joe Denton doesn't have a wife, though. His died before she could follow him to Seattle and now the local judge is threatening to take away his claim. In desperation, he buys himself a Mercer bride--one of the eastern widows and orphans brought to the Territory by entrepreneur Asa Mercer.

Anna Ivey's journey west with Mercer is an escape from the aftermath of the Civil War. She signed on to become a cook--not a bride. When she's handed over to Denton, her stubborn refusal to wed jeopardizes his land. With only a few months before he loses all he holds dear, can he convince this provoking, but beguiling, easterner to become his lawfully wedded wife?

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Bride In The Bargain, go HERE

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

CFBA Tour - Ghostwriter

The latest book for the CFBA Tour is Ghostwriter by Travis Thrasher.

Dennis Shore is the latest, greatest horror writer. His books have sold millions, but since his wife's death he has been unable to write at all. Desperate to keep up with medical bills, he sends in a manuscript from an undiscovered writer, Cillian Reed, and it becomes his latest smash novel, with critical acclaim. He is already haunted by the guilt of his crime, but the true author begins harrassing Dennis. First with words, then with demonstrations, Dennis becomes caught up in his own horror story. Will he find the way out, or will he become like too many of his characters before him?

There's been a few books I've read on the topic of a horror writer unable to write anymore. From the contemplative (Dave Long's Ezekiel's Shadow) to the humerous (Rene Gutteridge's hilarious Boo series), it seems like a rich theme to mine. Ghostwriter aims for the straightforward suspense/horror aspect.

I had a hard time with this book on several levels. The main character Dennis Shore is not someone I wanted to root for. He stole the manuscript, so he brought things on himself to a degree. There was some mild sympathy in the loss of his beloved wife, but they didn't tug the heart strings. The antagonist Cillian Reed and his friend Bob were similarly thin, without much to recommend them as fully developed characters.

Suspense is built up at times, but it starts slowly and builds in a disjointed fashion, as Dennis wrestles with his wife's death. There is a point to this, but in my opinion it distracted from the flow more than it provided emotional punch.

There is a major twist that is handled very well-it surprised me and renewed my interest in the book for a while. It ended up being too little too late. The ending turns quickly and felt pretty contrived to me. Too convenient to bring around a happier ending.

If readers have an aversion to violent imagery, there is some in this book. It seems appropriate for a mild horror novel, and it is not excessive by my reckoning, but sensitive people should be aware.

Overall, I was fairly disappointed and struggled to finish the book. Ghostwriter has an intriguing premise and some moments that work, but overall there weren't many goose bumps on my arms by the time I hit "The End".

If you would like to read the first chapter of Ghostwriter, go HERE.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


We're getting situated in the new house. It has been almost 2 weeks since we moved in. It is always going to be an adventure. The interesting thing about this house is that it was built 50 years ago by the family we bought it from. They have lived there for the whole time. There are all these little quirks that have been worked into the house over this time.

"Let's see-to have the power on in this room the lights have to be on."

"Operating the pump for irrigation-switch on, valve open, no water. Oh right, prime the pump with some water!" (I proceeded to open the chamber on the pump, put water in, and got drenched by the water that gushed out of the chamber I neglected to re-cover).

We certainly prayed about choosing a house, as we have been looking for 3 years before finally finding a place we liked. It is a wonderful house, but not one I would have necessarily chosen in the past. This year, however, it felt...right. Still, it required more know-how and work, and I am not a handyman by any means. To quote from Star Trek, "I'm a PA, not a plumber."

As we were waiting to move in, I believe the Lord spoke to me about the new house. This house was about taking ownership. Basically: It's time to grow up some more, son.

Our first house was very appealing because it had recently had major work done, with new floors, windows, siding, roof, etc. I didn't have to do anything! We did do a little remodeling, but nothing too arduous. It was a good house, but we always knew it was a stop-over house.

The new house has been taken care of very well, but it is still 50 years old with some dated appliances, cupboards, and carpet. There's more garden and things to take care of. I don't want to live for a house, but I see how I need to step up and be a little more responsible, as a husband and father. We got comfortable and a little complacent in the old place. Time to step up.

(Don't worry, some things won't change, like my love of goofiness. This blog is pledged to stay away from being old and stodgy.)

Between getting the old house ready to sell and the new house established, I've learned more about home maintenance than the previous 5 years. I guess the training wheels are off. Hopefully this will spill over into other areas of life, like writing!

Here's to ownership, and being a good steward. Thank you Lord, for how you bring me along as Your son.