Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mira Sorvino on Human Trafficking

Mira Sorvino has become a U.N. Goodwill ambassador regarding the issue of human trafficking. She has really immersed herself in this issue, traveling and speak out for this cause. She isn't a figurehead, but she is passionate about it and is involved with the nuts and bolts. She has visited with victims, and is collecting their stories so she can disseminate them to the unknowing world.

I'm highly impressed with Ms. Sorvino, and I encourage you to check out this short video.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau is a stylish, romantic "what if" movie that doesn't underestimate the importance of good headwear.

I've be trying to get my wife to the new thriller with Matt Damon, The Adjustment Bureau ever since it came out. I was interested anyway, then Breakpoint with Chuck Colson highlighted it as an intelligent movie that can open the door for conversation about God, sovereignty, and free will.

Yes, please!

Matt Damon is strong as David Norris, a young hot shot politician who almost nabs the New York Senate seat. Almost, because a picture of him mooning classmates at a reunion adds to his impulsive reputation and kills the election for him.

As he practices his concession speech in the men's room, he is interrupted by Elise (Emily Blunt), a woman hiding after crashing a wedding at this hotel. There's an instant connection, and after she flees the hotel staff, David throws out his canned talk and gives a candid performance that impresses the voters and pundits again.

He didn't get Elise's name, but he happens to run into her on the bus Monday morning. Coincidence? Well, according to snappily-dressed men in fedoras following David, it wasn't supposed to happen. It wasn't "part of the plan."

These shadowy men kidnap David and reveal themselves as part of the Adjustment Bureau, a group dedicated to making sure things go according to the plan. Misplace your keys lately? Spill coffee on yourself (like me) recently? It may have been an accident - or it may have been the Bureau making slight adjustments to keep things flowing in the right way. David is informed that he can't reveal them, and he should stay away from Elise.

Three years later, and David is still taking the same bus hoping to catch her. He manages a glimpse of her in the crowd, and chases her down. Against the plan. Now David must choose between pursuing a woman that has captivated him like no other, or let destiny play out the way it should.

I'm easy to please in a movie, admittedly. Well, maybe I should amend that. I'm picky about the movies I go to, so if I choose to go to one, I'm usually happy. Still, it is the rare movie that makes me giddy as certain elements come to pass. The Adjustment Bureau is one of those movies.

The plot is good, the suspense continues throughout the whole film, and I never felt sucked out of the world they were bringing. However, this movie shines through the main actors. Matt Damon carries himself believably as a young politician that is caught in the balance of using his youthful drive for his benefit and not letting it stumble his ambition. Emily Blunt is flirty and vulnerable as the contemporary dancer that makes David swoon. The two together have a palpable chemistry, and it is enjoyable to see the sparks on screen. I groaned once in the film, when they kiss after only meeting for a few minutes. Does this really happen? Ever? Without alcohol involved, I mean? Otherwise, the audience is rooting for their romance all along.

Some reviewers were tripped up by the plot device used by the Adjustment Bureau guys to bop around New York City - I enjoyed it though. Properly attired, these guys can travel through doorways and use secret passages to end up all over the city. Terence Stamp has a great voice and gravitas as the heavy brought in to rein in David, and the actor who plays the ultimately compassionate agent portrays a man conflicted.

Breakpoint was right - there aren't a lot of movies that make people face questions about weighty topics like predestination, free will, and who really is in control. And highly entertaining to boot! The Adjustment Bureau manages both of these points, and I am looking forward to seeing it on blu-ray down the road.

Anyone else seen The Adjustment Bureau? Share your thoughts below!

Friday, March 25, 2011

CFBA Tour - Vicious Cycle

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Vicious Cycle by Terri Blackstock


When fifteen-year-old Lance Covington finds an abandoned baby in the backseat of a car, he knows she's the newborn daughter of a meth addict he's been trying to help. But when police arrest him for kidnapping, Lance is thrust into a criminal world of baby trafficking and drug abuse.

His mother, Barbara, looks for help from Kent Harlan---the man whom she secretly, reluctantly loves and who once helped rescue her daughter from a mess of her own. Kent flies to her aid and begins the impossible work of getting Lance out of trouble, protecting a baby who has no home, and finding help for a teenage mother hiding behind her lies.

In this latest novel of suspense and family loyalty, bestselling author Terri Blackstock offers a harrowing look at drug addiction, human trafficking, and the devastating choices that can change lives forever.

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

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

CSFF Tour - The Resurrection: The Wrap Up

I told you it would be interesting!

The CSFF Tour is wrapping up its feature of The Resurrection, the debut novel by Mike Duran. There's a lot of interesting opinions out there. The book was well-received by most, but there were a few who thought it didn't meet its potential. Becky Miller keeps track of all the posts, and Mike has highlighted a few posts that stood out to him. You can find my interview with Mike under part 1 and part 2. Thanks Mike for taking your time with me and my questions! Although...I never did see an answer to question 8...

I reviewed the book a couple weeks ago, getting ahead of myself. Still, I wanted to comment on some things that came out from the tour.

 1. It's not horror.
For those who can't handle Stephen King and Dean Koontz, don't fear. The Resurrection is a very suspenseful novel. You may be on the edge of your seat. But it doesn't cross over into the horror category IMO. But be warned, Mike's next book may be treading into that territory, from what I've heard.

2. There's a lot to ponder.
I think a book that stands out not only entertains, but makes the reader think. Several people on the tour have noted this about The Resurrection. The part that has amazed me is the variety of themes and ideas people have gotten from it. I saw the themes of faith, modern philosophy vs. the gospel, and the real continuing battle between good and evil in the book. A lot of other thoughts were pulled from it as well. For this Mike, you should be proud.

3. People are interested by something other than a "standard" literary evangelical Christianity.
In CBA there seems to be a general feel for a church. A church in these books may be modern or traditional, but seem pretty middle of the road. Actually, Canyon Springs Community Church in this book is as well. The fact that there's a resurrection, a miracle, sets the book apart. There is an interesting discussion at Becky's blog regarding the gifts of the Spirit that is encouraging to me. It would be nice to see a little more of the wide variety of Christian expression in CBA novels. If the church is made of "every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb," (Rev 7:9), then we should see God's vast character highlighted in Christian fiction, right?

4. Spiritual warfare = Frank Peretti.
I didn't think The Resurrection aped Mr. Peretti too much, but a lot of people made that connection. His Darkness novels are still standouts in my mind for Christian fiction, but just because a novel touches on spiritual warfare themes, it doesn't make it a Peretti knock-off. Not knocking those who see that. Not knocking at all really...moving along....

5. Readership for CBA novels is evolving.
I thought there would be a little MORE controversy over The Resurrection, since it features miracles, ghosts with catchy monikers, and the spiritual warfare angle. Mike likes to provoke thought at his blog Decompose, so I teased about controversy with this tour. However, the participants didn't fuss over this book at all. There were honest critiques and discussion over whether plot points (like the ghost) worked. But no one quit the CSFF over a lack of doctrinal purity (this has happened before, I'm not kidding). We have a lot of new folks lately and I really love CSFF Tour time because of the thoughtful exploration of the books we feature.

6. You need to buy The Resurrection.
Enough of sitting in front of your computer and reading this! Go here, order the book, and you'll have a great way to pass the time when (if, in Idaho) spring arrives. Thanks for stopping by!

CSFF Tour - The Resurrection Day 3

Day 3 dawns on the CSFF Tour, leading into Part 2 of my interview with Mike Duran, our feature author for March. Yesterday he talked about his debut novel, The Resurrection, and today he shares writing lessons learns and the one big change he would do if he were in charge of the CBA for a day.

Yes, I set him up.

See what the others in our CSFF crew are saying on Becky's blog, where she tracks all the posts. I'll post once more with thoughts about the tour and The Resurrection.

5. Your blog draws a lot of interest when you discuss the CBA and the issues around it. Many people on the tour are aspiring authors, obviously with a love for speculative fiction. What advice would you have for them in this journey?

MIKE: I believe that Christians should be the most wildly creative community on the planet! Our craft should be impeccable, our ideas lavish, our wit sharp, our humility great, and our perseverance unwavering. (How’s that for rallying the troops?)

I am not convinced that speculative fiction and the Christian market are a great mix. That said, there is so much great craft and market advice out there. With a little research, the aspiring author can have a lot of great info at their fingertips. My advice would probably revolve around three things.

First, resolve your calling. The devil will always attack us at the level of our calling. If we are unsure whether God has “called” us to write, we will be vulnerable to depression, defeat, and doubt. That would be my first suggestion: Are you writing as a hobby or for publication? Do you believe God wants you to really dig in – as in “career” digging in – or are you doing this recreationally? That perspective is important to your approach.

Second, develop a thin skin. That’s right – a THIN skin. Too many writers are too defensive. We hedge against critique, rejection, and advice. We develop chips on our shoulders and spout about artistic liberty and subjectivity. Of course there is a time to ignore the critics and press on. But sometimes, especially when interest in our material is waning, we need to ask, “What am I missing? What do I need to work on?” A thin skin will help us learn from our mistakes, readjust, grow, and heed the advice of others.

Thirdly, find a good critique group. I can’t stress this enough. Other writers who can review your material and provide tough critique are THE MOST IMPORTANT factor in your growth. We cannot be so beholden to praise that we do not allow others to dislike our writing. Finding a good critique group, those who will critically evaluate your stuff, will take time. Nevertheless, it is one of the most aspects of growing as a writer.

6. You are king of CBA for the day, and you are allowed to make ONE change to the industry. What would that be? (Pushing you out on a limb here...)

MIKE: I would start over.

7. Can you tell us about your next novel? How is the process different than writing the first one?

I was thrilled to learn that my publisher included the first chapter of my next book in The Resurrection. It is tentatively entitled The Telling. It’s about a disfigured modern-day prophet who must overcome his own despair in time to seal one of nine mythical gates of hell. The story includes a llama ranch, a black cherub, a roadside attraction, a haunted mine, and cactus jelly. Not necessarily in that order.

Writing the second book has been hugely different than the first. Most notably… I now have a deadline. I would encourage all aspiring authors to ponder this word and what it means: DEADLINE. This deadline has produced consternation and self-doubts. Am I a fluke? Am I a one-hit wonder? Can I do this again? About half way through the second novel, I had a meltdown of sorts. Between blogging, working full-time, family, and the next novel, I hit a wall. When I finally peeled myself off, I realized I had a good thing going.

All that to say, time management has become awfully important for me. I no longer have the luxury of perusing blogs and lounging on the sundeck like I once did (okay, the sundeck thing isn’t true). Things have become really busy, really stressful, and kind of exciting.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

CSFF Tour - The Resurrection Day 2

Heya! The Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy tour is witnessing The Resurrection. Well, we're discussing the debut novel by Mike Duran with that title, at least.

The book is generating some good buzz with a lot of the other tourmates. Becky Miller keeps a running tally of the posts for the tour right here. Check them out for varied responses and thoughts. 

Mike has been kind enough to answer some questions for me in an email interview. I'm running the ones dealing with The Resurrection today. Tomorrow I will post the rest dealing with writing in general, along with some final thoughts on the tour and the book by yours truly.

1. The Resurrection is a deep book with a lot of ideas. Where did you get the idea for some of the Mesos (pagan gods) and what type of research did you do? (There is an anthropology professor who studies pagan religions, and these Mesos play a key role in the book - Jason)    

MIKE: Jason, the concept of the Pantheons, which the Mesos are a part of, is one of my favorite parts of the book. I have a pastor friend who has started several churches in the Peruvian Amazon. He always returns with wild tales of superstition, witchcraft, curses, and Indiana Jones style adventure. That vast area is home to some of the world’s only unreached people groups. In those parts, religion is not monolithic, but tends to be an amalgam of beliefs, from animism to Catholicism. And there are many, many gods. It presents a real challenge to Christian missionaries.

Pagan worldviews often construct a “pecking order” of powers, invisible entities vying for allegiance and demanding obeisance. It is somewhat paralleled by the biblical concept of “principalities and powers.” Scripture describes a world where false gods and hierarchies of malevolent beings wrestle for Man’s fate. In this sense, the Mesos are the pagan corollary to a biblical reality. They are “…the powers of this dark world…the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).

Of course, we Americans are too sophisticated for such nonsense    ;-). Or are we? My thought, when conceiving the book was to speculate what an intrinsically pagan system would look like if it had taken root in a specific American locale. What effects would it have on dull, materialistic Americans? And how would such a “system” reveal itself?

2. What themes did you see when you first started writing The Resurrection? What theme or idea surprised you as you wrote?

MIKE: The initial theme was that of miracle versus materialism. I had long pondered the idea of story that pivots around a bodily resurrection and the various effects it would have on different groups (as miracles often had in Scripture). However, you’re right. As I wrote the story, certain ideas “surprised” me.

One of those ideas was simply “faith.” Ruby became this icon of simple faith to me, someone who does not have all the answers but who still limps forward, refusing to abandon hope. In chapter 3, Ian Clark watches Ruby and ponders, “She’d been through a lot—more than he could imagine—and still she clung tenaciously to her faith. Some would probably call it naiveté, even obstinacy. In a world where science pushed the boundaries of human knowledge, where progressive philosophers ran circles around religious conservatives, how could one continue to believe in a two-thousand year old creed? Ruby Case was evidence enough that those people existed.” Like Clark, I puzzle over, even envy, people with simple faith.

What some people may miss in the story is the role that faith played for evil. In fact, my initial title for the story was “What Faith Awakes.” In a sense, Benjamin Keen had as much faith as Ruby Case. Ruby’s faith literally “awoke” someone who was dead. But Keen’s faith – faith in his system, faith in logic, faith in the gods – also awoke something. Something hellish (which is one reason we should not look lightly upon the varieties of occult belief). So, clearly, one of the themes that surprised and inspired me through the story was this sense of how powerful even the smallest acts of faith can be, and how huge of an impact they can make.

3. In the book Reverend Ian Clark struggles with his faith even as he leads a church. As a former pastor, how much of Clark's battle comes from your own walk?

MIKE: There’s no doubt that my experience as a minister has seeped into Ian Clark’s struggles. Unlike Clark, however, I have never considered agnosticism. However, I have been shaped by several tragedies (like Clark) and am tremendously sensitive to the plight of pastors and their unique struggles. I just learned this week about an old pastoral acquaintance who is no longer a Christian. He and his wife were on staff at a local mega-church. They have since divorced and he now denounces what he once believed. How does this happen?

I believe the average church member would be surprised at how many of our pastors harbor secret struggles, whether theological or emotional. Of course, they must appear to be strong. Like Ian Clark, they must stand and deliver every Sunday morning, only to return to their office and flog themselves. And sometimes our churches are more guilty of wanting a good sermon than wanting an honest, healthy minister. Which is why in The Resurrection, Canyon Springs Community Church is really as complicit as Ian Clark.

4. Spiritual warfare becomes an issue for Ruby and Rev. Clark. What experience have you had with this?

MIKE: From my perspective, the term “spiritual warfare,” is kind of loaded. Yes, there are accounts in Scripture of demonic possession and the clash of supernatural powers (think Moses and the Pharaoh’s magicians or Elijah and the prophets of Baal). And we are warned repeatedly about the devil’s devices and deceptive strategies. However, most spiritual warfare is hardly as dramatic as we like to conceive. At least on our end of things.

In my novel, both Ruby and Reverend Clark spearhead some dramatic spiritual events.  Nevertheless, it was their simple steps of faith that triggered those events. Ruby traveled to Aida Elston’s, climbed the hill to the cemetery, and refused to let Oscar take his own life. And Clark pursued Ruby and then confronted Keen. In both cases, it was their obedience or determination that set things in motion. The same is true for us – small steps of faith have tremendous power.

Several people have compared my book to Frank Peretti’s “This Present Darkness.” While I’m flattered by the comparison, I took great care to NOT show the spiritual realm in the way Peretti did. Though I reference angels and demons, they remain behind the scenes. Rather, the actions of the characters are front and center. This is intentional.

When people ask me about spiritual warfare, they seem to be wanting stories about exorcisms, deliverance, and miracles. I have some stories like that. However, I believe the most important instances of spiritual warfare are the ones that are unannounced and unseen. Loving my wife and sharing God’s grace with my co-workers may have more prolonged effect upon the cosmos than anything I ever do. The biggest victories are probably the ones no one will ever see. I really hope that that concept comes out in The Resurrection.

Monday, March 21, 2011

CSFF Tour - The Resurrection Day 1

Now THIS should be interesting!

The CSFF Tour for March is featuring my blogging buddy Mike Duran (of Decompose fame) and his first book, The Resurrection.

I have to say, some of the most interesting tours and best books that we've reviewed in the CSFF Tour have one thing in common. No, it's not that they're speculative fiction - that category is too wide (sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural suspense, etc).

It is the fact that they are controversial.

Last year we featured Lost Mission by Athol Dickson. It was a complex book both in its writing structure and its themes. Some loved it (like me), and others responses ranged from didn't like to not being able to recommend due to theological issues. 

Mike has been a prolific blogger who asks hard questions about the world of Christian fiction and whether its boundaries are too narrow. It is no surprise that his own fiction pushes said boundaries. I don't think in any way he is trying to do it out of a rebellious spirit - the flow of the story naturally takes him places, and he doesn't dodge the hard stuff.

I've already reviewed the book here, so I invite you to check it out. Tuesday and Wednesday I will be running an interview with Mike, and he has some thought-provoking answers. I'm also interested in what the other tourmates have to say. I'll leave today with my own synopsis of The Resurrection, and you can check out the other good folks on the tour below it.

Reverend Ian Clark is ready to resign his post at Canyon Springs Community Church, being haunted in multiple ways by failures in his past and by his rising doubt. Ruby Case is a young mother with a lifelong limp, a steadfast faith, yet a weariness that there is not more life in their church.

Little does Ruby know how she will help bring life back to Canyon Springs.

When she visits the funeral of a friend's young son, she isn't expecting a miracle. But when the boy sits up after she touches him, a firestorm is lit in this quiet California town. Some people come to Ruby for their own miracle. Some denounce her and the resurrection as a fraud.

Rev. Clark must wrestle with his questions, while both he and Ruby find that other forces do not take kindly to invasion of their dark territory. As the back copy of the book states: When the dead come back to life, someone must pay the price...

One more thing - many of the participants got a free review copy. I paid cold hard cash for this. So my opinion is my own. Thank you. (So is their opinion, they're great people here)
Noah Arsenault
Brandon Barr
Red Bissell
Book Reviews By Molly
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Carol Bruce Collett
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Wanda Costinak
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Janey DeMeo
Cynthia Dyer
Tori Greene
Nikole Hahn
Katie Hart
Joleen Howell
Bruce Hennigan
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Carol Keen
Emily LaVigne
Shannon McNear
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
John W. Otte
Gavin Patchett
Sarah Sawyer
Andrea Schultz
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Dave Wilson

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Linked up

Every so often I will post some writing related links that I have enjoyed over the last week. There's plenty of info out there, but some of it is worth repeating.

Have you ever been told to "kill your darlings?" If so, you might be a writer, and you should check out this post from Wendy Palmer.

What kind of story do you want to tell? It may come down to if you are a dreamer or a keeper. 

If you have other good articles/links, leave a comment or shoot me a message, and I can put them here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Potholes in the Writer's Road

Didn't see it coming!

 I don't know about where you live, but where I live the potholes this time of year have been known to eat cars.

At least it felt like it that one time.

I hit a monster-sized pit on the right side of the road one time. I noticed in the glint in my headlights a hubcap careening off into a parking lot. I pulled over to see if I could find it. Walked around to the right side of the car.

I heard a loud "hissing" sound.

It wasn't snake season, so I looked at my car. The pothole was so bad that it caused a flat tire. I limped my car to the closed tire store, parked it, and begged a ride home. It was ready for the nice repairmen in the morning.

I hit a pothole in my writing this week as well.

I hadn't shown much of my latest work to my lovely wife. Seeing as I have a female protaganist, I asked her to read it with an eye for the female aspect, in case I wasn't accurately writing the female mind (tall task, I know). She came back to me last week with a look on her face that said, "I'm sorry."

She doesn't like my main character.

She called her a "poop" actually. Didn't see anything nice about her. I was a little shocked. Jenna is the woman I spend the most time with aside from my wife (writers are weird like that). I couldn't see it. I read through chapters again, observing areas where I could change a few words. I really didn't think of any major changes.

I guess I have a blind spot.

I have a couple of friends looking at it with a critical eye now, giving me suggestions on why Jenna is acting like such a meanie. It makes me realize that writing is an activity that can't be totally isolated. Yes, I do most of the work with me and a keyboard. I still need other imput to help my blind side and avoid potholes. Hopefully I've got my story in with the right mechanic that can help diagnose any problems.

For my fellow writers out there - what are some of the potholes you've hit in your stories?

Monday, March 07, 2011

Stop Human Trafficking

This blog has long made a point of highlighting the plight of human trafficking. The world is slowly growing in awareness about how big this problem has become. It is worse in scope at this time than at the height of the African slave trade.

When I saw CNN launching their Freedom Project highlighting the evils of human trafficking today, I was excited. The global resources of CNN added to the other work done by fine organizations can only bring more light to these dark areas.

I've redesigned my sidebar to the right, collecting links for organizations that fight human trafficking together and placing it more prominently in the list. Small changes, to be sure. I will link to updates from CNN and others as they come.

I encourage everyone reading this to consider participating with me in the Fast for Freedom sponsored by the Not for Sale Campaign. It is being held this Sunday, March 13 around the globe. Talk to your friends about it. Bring it up at church. Consider fasting - remembering the victims in prayer and donating the cost of eating that day to a group that fights this evil.
See Not for Sale Campaign for details

I am making my pledge today. Will you join me?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Book Review - The Resurrection

What happens to a pastor who may be losing his faith when a resurrection happens in his town?

Last week we had another interesting Christian Sci-fi/Fantasy Tour with the book The God Hater. This book was based around a specific message, with the story enveloping it. It was overall popular with the tour, with me in the minority view that the story didn't carry the potent message.

I did a little compare/contrast with the book I read just following The God Hater, Mike Duran's debut novel The Resurrection. Mike's blog is one that I frequent, and have often linked from here for his thought-provoking articles on Christian fiction. I promised a review of Mike's book afterwards, so here we go.

Reverend Ian Clark is ready to resign his post at Canyon Springs Community Church, being haunted in multiple ways by failures in his past and by his rising doubt. Ruby Case is a young mother with a lifelong limp, a steadfast faith, yet a weariness that there is not more life in their church.

Little does Ruby know how she will help bring life back to Canyon Springs.

When she visits the funeral of a friend's young son, she isn't expecting a miracle. But when the boy sits up after she touches him, a firestorm is lit in this quiet California town. Some people come to Ruby for their own miracle. Some denounce her and the resurrection as a fraud.

Rev. Clark must wrestle with his questions, while both he and Ruby find that other forces do not take kindly to invasion of their dark territory. As the back copy of the book states: When the dead come back to life, someone must pay the price...

Mike Duran is a pastor who has hit the place of burnout in ministry, something I'm realizing comes all too often for a profession that doesn't get allowance for struggle or failure. Moved to minister through the power of fiction, he has written a dynamic and haunting first novel that is an excellent exploration of faith, doubt, and the collision between the two.

The story carries an ominous tone throughout, keeping the suspense high as the reader always wonders when something bad might happen. We know books are supposed to have happy endings, but Mike manages to keep the outcome in question up until the climax, which isn't an easy feat. The characters have real struggles. Ruby didn't want to become a miracle worker, and she is challenged when others' expectations are that she can turn the power on at will. She wants to help people, but doesn't have "the formula" handy. Meanwhile young Rev. Clark wrestles with powers both worldly and spiritual as he's forced to confront his doubt instead of nursing it to a full denial of his beliefs.

Ruby is a well-rounded person. I felt a lot of connect with her. Rev. Clark was a little distant, without quite as much depth of character as I would have liked. There's not much on his life outside of being a smart but conflicted minister. Still, he is honest in his queries, and he probably represents a lot of pastors with his concerns. Other characters in the book are vivid and unique, keeping the fictional Canyon Springs grounded as a real place.

There are a lot of ideas in this book. Mike does a good job of bringing them into the story organically. Little seems forced, although there are times when the explanation of the religious theories undergirding the plot get a little too thick. Otherwise, he has a gift for description, and I felt like I was in California with the pictures of local flora and the atmosphere of the town were evocative. There's a few glitches in the craft, like any new author would face, that are minor and shouldn't distract from this enjoyable fiction escape.

I've followed Mike's blog for a long time, and I was excited to see him get a contract. My curiosity could finally be satisfied whether his fiction talents matched his thoughtful blogging style. I'm happy to say that The Resurrection sucked me in, made me think, and has stayed with me after two weeks of finishing. The book is a suspenseful exploration of deep questions of faith, while giving hope in the power of Jesus to touch lives today, even in the darkest night.