Archive for September, 2011

30
Sep

Book Review: ‘Grace for the Good Girl’

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

Grace for the Good Girl

by Emily Anne Freeman

Inspirational / Women’s

Release Date: September 2011

Synopsis:

You’re strong. You’re responsible. You’re good. But . . .graceforthegoodgirl

. . . as day fades to dusk, you begin to feel the familiar fog of anxiety, the weight and pressure of holding it together and of longing left unmet. Good girls sometimes feel that the Christian life means doing hard work with a sweet disposition. We tend to focus only on the things we can handle, our disciplined lives, and our unshakable good moods.

But what would happen if we let grace pour out boundless acceptance into our worn-out hearts and undo us? If we dared to talk about the ways we hide, our longing to be known, and the fear in the knowing?

In Grace for the Good Girl, Emily Freeman invites you to release your tight hold on that familiar, try-hard life and lean your weight heavy into the love of Jesus. With an open hand, a whimsical style, and a heart bent brave toward adventure, Emily encourages you to move from your own impossible expectations toward the God who has graciously, miraculously, and lovingly found you.

 

My Thoughts:

You know what? I don’t have a whole lot to say about this book, and that’s because I think the title, trailer, and the synopsis speak for themselves. If you’re a Christian ‘good girl’ who has lived her life trying to attain perfection, this is a book for you.

Freeman is honest, caring, and not afraid to hit the ‘good girl’ with some hard truths. Chances are, if you’re a ‘good girl’, you need God’s grace just as much as anyone else, but you’re likely unwilling to admit it. It’s not failure if you can’t do it all on your own. It’s called being human.

If you’re a ‘good girl’, or you know of a ‘good girl’ in your life, I recommend picking up this book. Have your tissues handy, and come with an open heart. There is grace enough for all of us.

 

About the Author

Freeman_EmilyEmily Freeman is a writer who loves to read and a speaker who would rather listen. She writes for DaySpring (a division of Hallmark) and has also traveled as a writer with Compassion International to raise awareness for the needs of children in poverty around the world. She attended Columbia International University to study the Bible and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where she earned a degree in Educational Interpreting for the Deaf. She is married to John, a student ministries pastor, and together they live in North Carolina with their three children. Emily extends a daily invitation on her blog for women to create space for their souls to breathe. Come join the community of grace dwellers at www.ChattingAtTheSky.com.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. 
Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group
".

29
Sep

Book Review: ‘The Doctor’s Lady’

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

The Doctor’s Lady

by Jody Hedlund

Historical Fiction / Inspirational

Release Date: September 2011

 

Doctor'sLady_cover.inddSynopsis:

Priscilla White knows she’ll never be a wife or mother and feels God’s call to the mission field in India. Dr. Eli Ernest is back from Oregon Country only long enough to raise awareness of missions to the natives before heading out West once more. But then Priscilla and Eli both receive news from the mission board: No longer will they send unmarried men and women into the field.

Left scrambling for options, the two realize the other might be the answer to their needs. Priscilla and Eli agree to a partnership, a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God’s leading into the mission field. But as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the unexpected turnings of their hearts.

My Thoughts:

I accepted this book for review because I used to read Hedlund’s blog on a regular basis, and I found her to be personable and very open about the writing process. I remember reading her agent post… and her selling post… and her post about having that first book out on store shelves. The Doctor’s Lady is her second book, and while I haven’t read her first, this sophomore piece is a clear indicator of the strength of her writing and storytelling ability.

Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that the story itself is based on a real historical figure, which I found fascinating. Hedlund includes a few pages at the back of the novel with details about the real person / journey her book is based on, and reading this after finishing the story really sold the book for me.

I’m typically very picky when it comes to inspirational historical fiction, but I found the characters in this book believable, likeable, relatable, and realistic. The journey the characters took, while slightly repetitive and monotonous in reality, was kept interesting and engaging by Hedlund’s ability to introduce conflict and romantic tension in a way that didn’t have me rolling my eyes or reaching for the cliche checklist.

All told, the book likely won’t be up the alley of anyone who isn’t a Christian or a regular reader of inspirational fiction, simply because of the pervasive Christian worldview and commentary, though this is reflective of the time period and expected of characters based on real missionary travelers (these aspects come directly from the historical document as well).

Overall, a worthwhile read. If her work continues in this vein, I expect Hedlund to become a respected and well-known household name for readers of this genre.

 

About the Author

Hedlund_Jody-May2010retJody Hedlund is a debut historical romance novelist who was a double finalist in the 2009 ACFW Genesis Contest in Historical Romance. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in central Michigan, with her husband and five busy children. Visit her website at JodyHedlund.com.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. 
Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

28
Sep

Update on… Things?

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

flu20_2First, THANK YOU to everyone who weighed in on my voice dilemma. I wrote through it for a bit, then tried some brainstorming, then asked some questions… I haven’t done the interview thing in a formal way yet, so that’s next on the docket. I’m also going back in the story and trying to figure out if maybe things went wrong a little earlier. Or the issue may be with a change of tense. We’ll see. Either way, I’ll figure it out one of these days!

Beyond that, I’ve caught that stupid cold that’s going around and haven’t managed to get a whole heck of a lot accomplished.

Included in that pile of non-accomplishment is figuring out what I’m going to write for NaNoWriMo this year. I have little flashcards with all my novel ideas on it, and no idea which one to pick. I may just draw a big target and throw the cards on it one at a time. Whichever lands closest to the center “wins”.

How’s that for “writing to the market”? HAH.

Anyway, I’ll save you lovelies from my potential rambling (could be delirium from the sickness setting in) and send you off with this word of wisdom:

POPSICLES.

Remember that, the next time you have a sore throat. Then tell me it’s not a word of wisdom.

YOU’RE WELCOME, READERS.

23
Sep

Book Review: ‘The Realms Thereunder’

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

The Realms Thereunder

(Ancient Earth Trilogy, Book 1)

by Ross Lawhead

Fantasy

Release Date: September 2011

 

Synopsis:

realmsthereunderAncient legend tells of an army of knights that will remain sleeping until the last days. The knights are waking up.

A homeless man is stalked by a pale, wraithlike creature with a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth. Maimed animals and a host of suicides cluster around a mountain in Scotland. And deep beneath the cobbled streets of Oxford, a malicious hoard besieges a hidden city.

Freya Reynolds is a university student with a touch of OCD and an obsession with myth and folklore. Daniel Tully is living rough on the streets of Oxford, waging a secret war against an enemy only he can identify. Years ago, they found themselves in a world few know is real. They have since gone their separate ways and tried to put that adventure behind them.

But the mythical world is now bleeding into our reality-a dark spiritual evil that is manifesting itself in forgotten corners of the British Isles. Alex Simpson is a Scottish police officer who specializes in hunting mythical creatures. Together, they must confront the past, the present, and points beyond to defeat the ultimate threat to humanity.

Nothing they’ve seen so far prepares them for what awaits . . . in The Realms Thereunder.

My Thoughts:

Well… I had high hopes for Ross Lawhead’s work. Maybe that’s not fair—how’d you like to spend your whole life being compared to your father?—but at least I’m being honest. I adore most of Stephen Lawhead’s work, and I think he’s a brilliant, highly imaginative writer. Did I happen to transfer some of these expectations to his son’s work? Yes. I did.

And it’s not that The Realms Thereunder is a bad book. It’s not. At no point did I say “I don’t like this” or “I want to stop reading”… but on the other hand, at no point did I say “I can’t put this down” or “what a unique concept”. Rather, I felt I was reading a mediocre debut novel from a new fantasy author.

I also have the sneaking suspicion that it might be an allegory. Please, for the love of all things literary, can we have ONE Christian fantasy novel that ISN’T an allegory?!?! PLEASE?!?! (Actually, I have heard there is one, and I plan to read it soon… *hint hint*… I’ll keep you posted.) I’m going to be very disappointed if I read the next book in the series and find out that it is allegory.

Not that there’s anything wrong with allegory, it’s just that… it’s been done before. And done VERY WELL by people like C.S. Lewis, Madeline L’Engle, and John White. It’s hard to live up to that or do so much better that you won’t get buried under their greatness.

Now, I realize this doesn’t tell you a whole lot about the novel, but let’s face it, you don’t read book reviews for full plot run-downs or potential spoilers, right? I will say this, though—I wasn’t sure, and still aren’t, who Lawhead’s target audience is for this series. The main characters are adults when we meet them, but the vast majority of this installment is spent in childhood flashbacks… and the writing style was reminiscent of YA novels. So, I’m not entirely sure where he’s going with this.

But that’s okay. I’ll give the next book a shot… and keep my fingers crossed that it isn’t, in fact, an allegory series.

PS: Also? There’s a total “what the… Voldemort?!?” moment about halfway through the book. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. That kinda ticked me off… I’m actually a little surprised it made it into the book. You’ll know what it is when you read it.

About the Author

LawheadRoss_7260Ross Lawhead comes from a literary household and has written since he could hold a crayon. He has collaborated with his father on a trilogy of speculative fiction, written and illustrated a graphic novel, and published two volumes of "awful" poetry in a series called "The Colour Papers." He lives in Oxford and this is his first full-length novel. For more on Ross’ musings on comics, movies, books and culture, visit www.rosslawhead.com/blog/

Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson.

19
Sep

When the Voice is Silent

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

What do you do when you can’t capture your character’s voice?

I’m having a bit of a conundrum. A situation, if you will. frustrated-writer

As some of you know, I’m rewriting my NaNo novel from 2009. It’s going swimmingly (despite the fact that I’m not a very good swimmer), and my main female character’s voice is set. Firm. Mercifully natural, most of the time. I’ve got her down (more or less), and where I’m having trouble with it, I can fix it with a few tries.

Problem?

Halfway through the book… the narrator changes.

Er, if anyone from my critique group is reading this… heh. Spoiler alert. Sorry. BUT NOW YOU ARE PREPARED (and hopefully will throw fewer things at me…).

Without saying exactly who it is (for the sake of my crit group), the narrator changes to a teenaged male. I’ve written male characters before… so this isn’t my first time.

However, for some reason that’s beyond my ability to understand, I cannot get this blasted character’s voice right. First he sounds too young. Then too whiny. Then too juvenile. Then too stiff and lifeless. Then too forced.

WHAT DO I DO?!?!?!

frustrated-writer (1)If you’ve had this problem before, how did you solve it? Did you just write and rewrite and write again until you found it?

The issue isn’t having the right character to tell the story, either. I know this is the right person. He’s just… being difficult about it. Argh.

Heeeeelp!!!

12
Sep

Book Review: ‘Mind Over Mind’

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

 

Mind Over Mind

by Karina Fabian

Science Fiction

Release Date: 2011

 

Synopsis:

Deryl Stephens’ uncontrollable telepathic abilities have landed him in a mental health institution, where no one believe in his powers.  Joshua Lawson, a summer intern at SK-Mental Institute, does something no one else has ever done:  he accepts Deryl’s reality and teaches him to work with it.  As Deryl learns control, he finds his next challenge is to face the aliens who have been contacting him psychically for years–aliens who would use him to further their cause in an interplanetary war.  The first in the Mind Over trilogy, from DragonMoon Press.

 

Trailer: 

Mind Over Mind Book Trailer (by Karina Fabian)

My Thoughts:

What a different, interesting approach to science-fiction! I know books like this are “out there”, but I can’t say I’ve stumbled across them lately… I tend to pick up the space operas, or Star Wars novels, or off-world ship stories. Fabian’s book is definitely not that—she’s crafted a psychologically driven sci-fi tale that centers heavily around character, as opposed to setting or massive world-building.

While the synopsis above focuses on the character of Deryl, I found that he was almost secondary to what was happening with the intern character of Joshua Lawson. There is a lot of character-building activity centered around Joshua and his past, his present internship, his techniques for dealing with clients, and his love interest.

Most of the time, I enjoyed this—I didn’t even mind the heavy focus on Joshua’s romance, though there were moments when I tried to mentally urge the book to get back to the sci-fi aspects instead—but I found the best parts of the book were moments when Joshua and Deryl worked through issues relating to Deryl’s psychic abilities.

These conversations formed the core of the novel, and made what could have otherwise been a very flat story turn into one full of life and conflict. I say “flat” because the vast majority of the book takes place inside the institution, and rarely ventures outside of those confines. It could have easily turned into a plodding, “day-to-day” rote with the occasional “ah-ha!” moment, but Fabian kept the story moving by revealing certain aspects of character and conflict at key moments.

Now, I know this is part of a trilogy, so there are more books coming that will presumably answer all the questions this one raised and DIDN’T answer. I was a bit disappointed that the focus on Deryl’s mental contact with an alien species didn’t get as much play time as the synopsis led me to believe it would. I wanted to see a lot more of this, and I’m hopeful that it’s coming in the next installment.

That said, I really liked that Fabian was able to believably incorporate the Catholic faith into the main character’s worldview—in a way that fit, really truly fit—as well as including characters of diverse ethnic background. It’s rare to see this done well these days (at least in the books I’m reading), it’s refreshing to see faith and ethnicity presented in such a natural, non-cliche/stereotypical manner.

Worth the read? You bet.

About the Author

karina106Unlike her characters, Karina Fabian lives a comfortably ordinary life. Wife to Air Force Colonel Robert Fabian and mother of four, her adventures usually involve packing and moving, attending conventions, or giving writing and marketing advice in one of her many workshops. She’s always had an overactive imagination, however, and started writing in order to quell the voices in her head–characters who insisted on living lives in her mind and telling her their stories. Winner of the 2010 INDIE award, winner and finalist for the EPPIE and finalist for the Global e-book awards, she’s glad people enjoy reading the tales her characters tell. Visit her website at: http://fabianspace.com

12
Sep

Flash Fiction

   Posted by: Faith    in Creating Coldcuts

I have a review coming up later today on a book that’s been getting quite a bit of buzz lately, but until that’s posted, why not head over to Fantasy Faction and read my article on flash fiction? :D

Five Common Mistakes: Writing Fantasy Flash Fiction

Enjoy… and thanks for reading! And come back later for more :)

All right folks… I recently had the privilege of receiving not only one, but two books from Dani Harper’s Changeling series for review, and let me tell you… after all the buzz I’d heard about these ones, I was pretty excited. However, don’t get ahead of yourself—there’s good and bad here, so I’m going to combine the reviews on these and put them together in this one post.

That way, when you hit the bookstore, you’ll know which one to pick up and which one to leave behind (see what I did there??? it’s like a spoiler alert for my own review post… aww yeah…).

Got your wishlist handy? A’ight, here we go:

Changeling Moon

by Dani Harper

Paranormal Romance

Release Date: May 2011

CHANGELING_MOON_100dpi-330x501Summary (author’s website):

He roams the moonlit wilderness, his every sense and instinct on high alert. Changeling wolf Connor Macleod and his Pack have never feared anything — until the night human Zoey Tyler barely escapes a rogue werewolf’s vicious attack.

As the full moon approaches, Zoey has no idea of the changes that are coming, and only Connor can show her what she is, and help her master the wildness inside. With her initiation into the Pack just days away and a terrifying predator on the loose, the tentative bonds of trust and tenderness are their only weapons against a force red in tooth, claw . . . and ultimate evil.

 

My Thoughts:

I liked this one! Plain and simple. It took me a little while to get into the writing—Harper has a very distinct cadence that didn’t feel quite natural at first—but I ended up being drawn into the story and characters. Even if the word “wolf” shows up on every page. You know when you were five years old and decided to repeat the same word a hundred times in a row and eventually it didn’t even sound like a word anymore? Yeah. That. Wolf. Wolf wolfy wolf. Wolferoo.

But, WOLF aside WOLF from that (wolf), I really liked the main character of Zoey. She was strong, determined, and yet had enough flaws to make her vulnerable—and therefore relatable. The love interest was manly and capable, and readers are able to see moments of weakness that allow us to really cheer him on. I wanted the main characters to be together—the spark between them was clear from their first meeting, and the journey from meeting to full fledged romance is interesting and sweet without being tedious.

If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I have a low tolerance for cheesy romance. Thankfully, there was enough meat to the story and plot (and the characters themselves) that I was able to enjoy the story along with the natural progression of the romance. I didn’t care for the sex scenes, but thankfully they were few (and not unexpected, considering the genre).

So, naturally, when I found out there was another book in the series, I eagerly picked it up to begin reading. However…

Changeling Dream

by Dani Harper

Paranormal Romance

Release Date: June 2011

changeling_dream-329x501Summary (author’s website):

In times of stress Jillian Descharme has always found calm in her dream of a great white wolf with haunting blue eyes. But she is startled when the visions return and this time seem so real. Late at night he comes to her, speaks to her, touches her.

Thirty years ago James Macleod lost his wife and unborn child to a killer bent on destroying the Changelings. Though he longed for death, his animal instinct fought for survival and James has been a wolf ever since. Yet now a woman has reawakened the man in him, taming wild
instincts but arousing still wilder needs. With his ancient enemy hunting the legendary white wolf, James must fight for new life, new hope, new love.

My Thoughts:

…yeah… plot? Not so much. Enjoyable characters? Not exactly. Story before sex? Heck no.

James Macleod is incredibly broody… Jillian Descharme is ridiculously dense when it comes to men and apparently has absolutely no sense of self-preservation (which doesn’t make logical sense considering her tragic past). This book meanders along without a real villain or sense of direction until the “climax” at the end (though there are plenty of “climaxes” throughout, if you know what I mean… sigh) which seems tacked on, like “oh yeah, we need to have something bad happen and some kind of resolution… okay, here’s a gun and an angry dude, *ta-da*!”

And if you didn’t get my not-subtle-in-any-way hint in the previous paragraph, the book just seems to glide from sex scene to sex scene, without particular concern for story. It was frustrating, and I felt like I was reading a different book from a different author. Not to mention my disappointment that we’d switched main characters from the first book. I wanted more Zoey and Connor!!!

Ultimately, I don’t know if I’ll read the third book. I might page through it in hopes that it’s more like the first, but I’ll put it down quickly if it doesn’t go anywhere. But I would definitely recommend Changeling Moon to fans of paranormal romance, if you can get used to Harper’s writing style and accept the fact that you’ll never read the word ‘wolf’ again without wanting to gouge your eyes out.

Verdict: Read book one, leave book two on the shelf.

About the Author

daniharperDani Harper, author of Changeling Moon, writes paranormal romance, blogs about the paranormal, watches paranormal TV and movies, and reads paranormal books of almost any kind. So it’s only natural that werewolves, faeries, ghosts and other supernatural creatures populate her stories. She lives on an island in Southeast Alaska with her fisherman husband. Her stories get written on land or at sea with the help of her executive secretary, Fiona the Pug.

For more information please visit http://www.daniharper.com/  and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.