New Beginnings


1396134_new_year_13I suspect one of the reasons we like New Years Day is that we like new beginnings. In that, we’re not alone. God likes new beginnings, too, apparently.

For example, He established a thing called the Jubilee for Israel. Among the various aspects of this year-long celebration that occurred every fifty years was the opportunity for debts to be forgiven, slaves set free, and those who had sold their homes to once again take possession of them. These provisions allowed many people to have a new beginning.

God showed His love for new beginnings when He brought Israel out of slavery and led them into the land He had promised Abraham. He showed it again when He brought a remnant of the nation back to their land after their exile.

Most obviously, however, God showed His love for new beginnings by His plan of salvation. His forgiveness of sins gives each person who believes in and puts his trust in what Jesus did at the cross a new beginning with God.

No longer does He look at us as aliens and strangers but as friends and sons or daughters. No longer do our iniquities–the stuff we know we shouldn’t do, but we end up doing anyway–separate us from God. We have a new beginning, a record that says the guilt we incurred has been taken care of and we aren’t in debt after all.

We have a new beginning, a spotless record, one that stays that way because God’s idea of a new beginning isn’t one that becomes old after five minutes. He renews our new beginning as often as we need it–which if we’re honest, is pretty often.

God shows His love for new beginnings also in His promise to give us new resurrected bodies in our life after life.

Of course His Grand New Beginning is His plan for a new Heaven and a new earth.

So happy New Year. May the horns and fireworks and champagne bubbles and Auld Lang Syne and the New York Time Square Ball all remind you of God’s love for new beginnings. As a result, may He give you hope for 2013, no matter what the personal or political or economic or social circumstances you may encounter.

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Published in: on December 31, 2012 at 5:31 pm  Comments (1)  
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Fantasy Friday: The Reality Of Hope


Novel cover collage2Christian fiction isn’t realistic, or so some charge. After all, there’s no cussing, no sex, and everything turns out happily ever after. The last point actually isn’t true, depending, of course, on what kind of “happy” a person is talking about. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Today at Speculative Faith our guest blogger, Shannon McDermott (yes, the same Shannon McDermott who is up for this month’s CSFF Award), wrote an inspiring post entitled “The Echoes of Christmas” in which she discusses what a story would look like if it were written as an expression of Christmas-all-year-long. She pulled out three responses that Christmas generates: joy, wonder, and hope.

For some reason, that triplet rang true to me, but especially hope. In some ways the world this year seemed more prone to despair. The US supposedly is hurtling toward a fiscal cliff, children were gunned down in their school, and no one seems to have an answer for our ailments, or at least one we can agree on.

Stories seem to reflect this kind of harsh reality, whether novels like The Hunger Games or TV programs like Revolution. And in many ways, Christian writers are being told to get with the program. If feels very much like a Job’s-wife kind of admonition–curse God and die. Except for the dying part. But curse, cuss, swear–let the world know that Christians see the way things really are.

Oddly, I don’t hear those same voices saying Christian writers should show the reality of abortion in their stories, or homelessness, or drug trafficking or gang violence or illegal immigration or homosexuality or corporate fraud or government corruption or divorce or an almost endless list of “real.” Instead we’re told, in the same manner as a dripping faucet, that Christian fiction needs to use cussing or cursing or swearing in order to be real.

And sex. Once in a while we’re told that sex ought to get into the stories, though no one seems to think graphic sex scenes are OK.

I have to say, I’m stuck on the definition of “real.”

Over and over I read from Christians in the writing community that the Bible is one of the darkest books around, that it didn’t sugarcoat such things as rape or adultery or murder. That look at the Bible, however, isn’t comprehensive. The Bible doesn’t have a “The End” after the story of David having Bathsheba’s husband killed after he’d slept with her. There isn’t even a “The End” after Judah gets led away into exile or one after Jesus’s crucifixion. There isn’t one after Stephen was martyred or Paul was arrested.

In truth, the Bible is all about hope–in the Old Testament, God’s chosen people hoped for the coming Messiah. And guess what the New Testament is about? The first coming and now the expectant waiting of the Church for the return of that same Messiah.

We long and we hope. We suffer and we hope. We sin and we hope.

As far as I’m concerned, stories that show or engender hope are real stories.

Cussing/cursing/swearing is not what a story is about. There are lots of ways to make a story seem real as far as how characters are painted. And people don’t generally pick a novel to read because they like the cussing/cursing/swearing. The choose a book because they believe they’ll like the story.

I suggest stories with hope will ring the most true and seem the most real.

Published in: on December 28, 2012 at 6:39 pm  Comments (8)  
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CSFF Tour Wrap – Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl


CSFFTopBloggerDec2012Call it small and intimate, but I say it packed a punch! I’m referring to the December CSFF Blog Tour for Starflower, fourth in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.

The book wasn’t controversial, so it didn’t generate long discussions or posts countering other posts. What it did produce, for the most part, were favorable reviews, and a few that fall into the rave category. Clearly, Starflower has earned its author fans among the CSFF participants. That’s a successful tour, I say.

Sixteen of us participated, generating a total of thirty articles. Of those sixteen, these are eligible for the December Top Tour Blogger Award:

I waited to post this wrap until after Christmas, hoping that visitors would soon return to normal blog reading habits after the busy-ness of the holiday season, but of course there is still New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day coming . . .

I hope you can squeeze in some time to review these excellent posts and then add your vote for the blogger you think deserves the last CSFF award of 2012. You’ll have until midnight (Pacific time) Monday, January 7 to vote.

Published in: on December 27, 2012 at 5:01 pm  Comments (2)  
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Saruman or Faramir?


GandalfPresently I’m re-reading The Two Towers, the second volume in the Lord of the Ring epic by J. R. R. Tolkien. The first half of the book is devoted to the conflict between Saruman the White, once head of the Council of wizards and Gandalf’s superior, who secretively aligned himself with the great Enemy in the East, and those who aim to forestall the evil sweeping the land.

For years Saruman counseled patience and waiting rather than active resistance as their Enemy grew ever more powerful. Saruman acted the part of a friend, but in reality he was undermining the efforts to withstand the Great Evil.

In the second half of the book, the protagonist Frodo and his servant Sam fall into the hands of a man named Faramir, charged with patrolling the border between the Evil Lord’s stronghold and that of Gondor, the land taking the brunt of the conflict.

Faramir is rightly suspicious of these two hobbits who say they are travelers. There are no travelers here, he says, only people for the Evil Lord or against him. His inclination is to take Frodo and Sam with him back to Gondor.

At some point during Faramir’s inquisition of Frodo, Sam interrupts with these lines:

It’s a pity that folk as talk about fighting the Enemy can’t let others do their bit in their own way without interfering. He’d be mighty pleased, if he could see you now. Think he’d got a new friend, he would.

These two characters seem to me to reveal the dilemma of the Church. On one hand there are people pretending friendship, even high up in authority, considered wise, people with influence and standing who others listen to and follow. Yet all the while, they are working for the enemy.

On the other hand there are those who seem wary and suspicious, who want to interview and question, who insist on details in order to be sure which way a person is aligned, all the while delaying and perhaps discouraging those from the work they have set out to accomplish.

Either there is lax acceptance leading to betrayal, or scrupulous investigation leading to division and potentially the undermining of significant work.

Interestingly, in the last sixty or seventy years the Church has tried to utilized the equivalent of passwords to alleviate the problem: Jesus people, born again, Bible believing, Christ followers. All are designed to alert others of a person’s true beliefs so that Family members can find one another.

The reality is, Saruman ended up showing his true colors when he held Gandalf captive. And Faramir showed his true colors when he let Frodo go free. In the end, their actions, not their words, showed their allegiance.

I suspect the same is true today. Whether or not a person claims some sort of connection with Christ matters less than whether or not they actually listen to Christ, put their trust in Him, obey Him. Who is taking up their cross? Who is seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Who is dying to self and living to righteousness?

Handsome is as handsome does, Sam says to Faramir at one point, and the old adage is still true. Christians don’t need to talk the talk as much as live the life. Then it will be quite apparent who is Faramir and who is Saruman.

Merry Christmas


The_Wise_Men023
Isaiah 40

“Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God.
2 “Speak kindly to Jerusalem;
And call out to her, that her warfare has ended,
That her iniquity has been removed,
That she has received of the Lord’s hand
Double for all her sins.”

3 A voice is calling,
“Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness;
Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.
4 “Let every valley be lifted up,
And every mountain and hill be made low;
And let the rough ground become a plain,
And the rugged terrain a broad valley;
5 Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
And all flesh will see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
6 A voice says, “Call out.”
Then he answered, “What shall I call out?”
All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades,
When the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.

9 Get yourself up on a high mountain,
O Zion, bearer of good news,
Lift up your voice mightily,
O Jerusalem, bearer of good news;
Lift it up, do not fear.
Say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
10 Behold, the Lord God will come with might,
With His arm ruling for Him.
Behold, His reward is with Him
And His recompense before Him.
11 Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes.

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
And marked off the heavens by the span,
And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure,
And weighed the mountains in a balance
And the hills in a pair of scales?
13 Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord,
Or as His counselor has informed Him?
14 With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding?
And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge
And informed Him of the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales;
Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.
16 Even Lebanon is not enough to burn,
Nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
17 All the nations are as nothing before Him,
They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.

18 To whom then will you liken God?
Or what likeness will you compare with Him?
19 As for the idol, a craftsman casts it,
A goldsmith plates it with gold,
And a silversmith fashions chains of silver.
20 He who is too impoverished for such an offering
Selects a tree that does not rot;
He seeks out for himself a skillful craftsman
To prepare an idol that will not totter.

21 Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
23 He it is who reduces rulers to nothing,
Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.
24 Scarcely have they been planted,
Scarcely have they been sown,
Scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth,
But He merely blows on them, and they wither,
And the storm carries them away like stubble.
25 “To whom then will you liken Me
That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”?
28 Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
29 He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
30 Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
31 Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

Published in: on December 25, 2012 at 4:00 pm  Comments Off on Merry Christmas  
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A Child Will Be Born


Nativity_Scenes004Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:6
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

A child born, not a son born. The Son is pre-existent, the I AM, and did not come into being that day when Mary gave birth. God gave us His Son. He left heaven, emptied Himself, took the form of a bondservant, and was found in the likeness of Man.

He who fashioned Man in His image, took the likeness of the one He had fashioned. And as a child, He was born–the humble relinquishing of His place at the right hand of the Father in order to secure for us a place at His heavenly banquet table.

What does Christmas mean to you, one Facebook friend asked. I was stymied for something short enough to fit into a comment, but now the short version seems clear: Christmas is God come down.

Published in: on December 24, 2012 at 5:42 pm  Comments (1)  
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Solomon: The UltimateTestimony To Man’s Success


businessmanFor years I’ve had a problem with Solomon, King of Israel, son of David. I’ve complained about his life style and even declared his book of Ecclesiastes my least favorite book of the Bible . . . until his book of Song of Solomon edged it out this year.

Of all the people in the Bible, I understand him the least. I mean, this guy had it all. His father was “a man after God’s own heart,” so Solomon had a spiritual heritage. As a newly anointed king, he himself had an encounter with God.

Unlike David, Solomon never lived in a cave, never had to run for his life, never experienced a civil war or open rebellion.

Though he stockpiled horses and chariots–the military might of his day–Israel lived in peace. Other kings paid tribute to him and allied with him.

His building projects succeeded, his trading ventures brought in incredible wealth. His influence expanded.

Solomon didn’t know defeat or failure or financial ruin. He never lost his job or went bankrupt or faced foreclosure.

I’ll say again, he had it all. He was the ultimate success. Status? He had it. Fame. Yep. Money, comfortable lifestyle, bling–he had all that too.

Oh, yeah, the guy was wise. His counsel was sought after by other rulers. He apparently amazed the Queen of Sheba when she tested him by asking him questions, to the point that she said, “How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom.”

From my point of view, the guy had no excuse for what happened toward the end of his life. Solomon had it all. All. Everything people dream of. He is the ultimate testimony to success. And here’s what he did with it:

When Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not follow the LORD fully, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon. Thus also he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods. (1 Kings 11:4-8 – emphasis added)

So Solomon is a testimony to the truth that Mankind’s success means nothing when it comes to the eternal things of God.

In contrast, the Apostle Paul said, his weakness made room for God’s strength.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.(2 Cor. 12:9-10)

God lays it out clearly in Jeremiah,

Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD. (Jer 9:23-24)

What’s of lasting value, what matters most is that we understand and know God.

The events of these past few weeks ought to make this lesson clear. The US has more military might than any nation before us, and we couldn’t stop a gunman from shooting down children in school. We are a people boasting in our own wisdom, riches, and might. We are not boasting in our knowledge and understanding of God. We know less and less of His lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness–the things in which He delights.

In other words, we are Solomon. And we should be Paul.

Published in: on December 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm  Comments (4)  
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Joy To The World


Philippines TyphoonYet another individual tragedy this past week. A well-loved Christian radio personality here in the Los Angeles area died of injuries he received a month ago in a motorcycle accident.

For whatever reason, many US citizens continue to struggle to cope with the violent deaths of so many school children in Connecticut a week ago.

Then I learned on Tuesday that a killer typhoon hit the southern Philippines. Hundreds of fishermen are lost, children are traumatized, the death toll has reached over a thousand, and tens of thousands have been displaced from their homes.

Joy to the world?

I’ve had it, some people are saying, Christmas is over. Who can celebrate when the world is in such turmoil, when sorrow is so present, when there seems to be so little to engender joy?

But isn’t this precisely why we must celebrate Christmas? Not the Christmas of Santa and Fa-la-la-la-la or Black Friday Greed. Not that Christmas.

What we need to celebrate is God, come down to rescue us from the trauma of sin that puts puts evil intent in the hearts of people and corrupts the very fabric of our planet.

Christmas is proof that God hasn’t left us to cope on our own, that He has a solution.

Good news! the angel said to the shepherds, that night Jesus was born; this joyful announcement is for all people–you have a Savior.

Who needs a Savior? Not those living contentedly, convinced of their own ability to heal the woes of Mankind. Not those untouched by fear or grief or devastation.

Who needs the joyful announcement, The Savior has come? People aware of their need for a Savior.

In the midst of an obviously broken world, Jesus appears with comfort and assurance. For those who trust Him, He gives His presence through the dark and His promise that things won’t always be like this. Sin won’t win. There is a future and a hope.

That’s good news, joy for the whole world.

Published in: on December 20, 2012 at 7:10 pm  Comments (4)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Day 3


StarflowerGrimm or Tangled? Once Upon A Time or Snow White? Since fairytales aren’t what they used to be, readers may not be sure what they’re getting when they pick up a book touted as a fairytale fantasy.

Starflower, book four of the Tales of Goldstone Wood series by Anne Elisabeth Stengl is somewhat of a mix of the two extremes. While the covers of each of the books in the series might lead a reader to think along the lines of the happy-ever-after stories, there’s a great deal of the dark side of fairytales in the pages behind those placid pictures.

A Review

The Story Eanrin, a faery who can take the shape of a cat, is the poet of Rudiobus Mountain. He, like the others in this faery kingdom, is light-hearted, self-assured, perhaps a little bored. His world turns around when he sees the Golden Hound–something that would not have happened if he hadn’t stopped to help a mortal girl caught in a curse because she went too close to the river.

The girl turns out to be cursed in more ways than one because she cannot speak. Against his better judgment, Eanrin saves her more than once and determines he must see her safely out of the faery realm.

The problem is, he’s on a mission. The professed love of his life has been taken captive by a dragon woman. In order to win his love’s hand, he must rescue her before Glomar, the captain of the guard, does. The race is on! But the cursed mortal makes Eanrin’s life … confusing.

Starflower is cursed, but not in the way Eanrin thinks. After he saves her from certain death, yet again, she determines she will help him rescue his professed love. To do so, she makes a bargain with the dragon that unleashes more than the captive faery.

Strengths. There are many things to love in this story. The writing is beautiful; the characters memorable, unique, creative, realistic; the plot, unpredictable; the theme, woven subtly into the fabric of the story.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the story is the portrayal of the title character. The mortal girl Starflower is a heroine to love. She is not weak and helpless, suffering as a victim, awaiting someone to rescue her. Nor is she a macho woman, out to conquer or to shed blood trying.

Rather, she is a character who withstands. She chooses to do what is right when it goes against her culture, to love when she is shamed for it, to sacrifice rather than give in. She is truly noble.

I also loved the way the theme is subtly woven into the story. There is no long exposition detailing how and why and who at the appearance of the Golden Hound. He simply is who he is.

Another wonderful strength of this book is the creativity of the world. From the river to the enchanted and vacant city of Etalpalli to the lands of the Crescent Tribes, the world is rich, detailed, unexpected, sometimes magical in the best sense of the word and sometimes in the worst.

An interesting aspect of the story is the humor–the light-hearted behavior of the faeries who don’t take too much in life seriously, who have little worry and less fear. Eanrin in particular reminds me most of Shakespeare’s fairy Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He’s not such a great prankster, but he has the same “faery-ness.”

Weakness. I am a huge fan of Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s, as you can probably tell by what I’ve already said. Nevertheless, I’d prefer a story that had a stronger start. Because the book is entitled Starflower, I’d prefer to see the title character front and center. I realize that withholding her backstory is designed to create intrigue, but since her past is such a huge part of the story and comes out as a fairly lengthy flashback, I think I’d have connected sooner and cared more deeply if the story had started with Starflower and her plight. As it was, I thought the story unfolded too slowly.

That’s my only complaint, but it’s a big one because I can see readers mistakenly setting the book down and not coming back to it, thinking the pace isn’t going to pick up.

I’d like to shout loudly, keep going! 😉

Recommendation. Fairytale fantasy is an interesting genre. Not everyone will enjoy the Alice in Wonderland feel that seeps into Starflower at times. That’s too bad because they’ll miss out on some of the most inventive fiction in the Christian speculative genre.

I personally think “young adult” isn’t quite the right market group. I’d say this one will best be enjoyed by the twenties and thirties crowd. Anyone who is a fan of the fairytale genre, especially the new iteration made popular by the TV shows mentioned earlier, must read Starflower and the entire Tales of Goldstone Wood series.

Faery Stories – CSFF Blog Tour: Starflower, Day 2


Starflower Banner
Good fiction always means something. Literature teachers spend any amount of effort teaching their students to look behind a story to find a greater truth, a universal moral. Fairytales are no exception. In fact, they may suffer from literary snobbery because their themes seem too transparent, too simplistic.

In part I think such snubs come from readers associating fairytales with stories for children, designed to teach them not to talk to strangers or to obey their parents—in other words, stories that don’t demand much of adults.

I believe this view in part comes from the Disney-fying of fairytales in the twentieth century in which they were pushed into the corner of make-believe suited for children.

Welcome to the faery stories of the twenty-first century! These are more closely aligned to the original tales told and retold until they were collected and written down by people like the Grimm brothers and Hans Christian Anderson.

Those original stories were not intended exclusively for children. In fact, they were not set aside as a special class of story. Rather, they constituted the fiction of the day. Instead of being light stories fit for children, most had a dark edge, a bit of the macabre or the paranormal.

In our day of assiduously categorizing our fiction, we have had some work to reclaim faery stories from the trivialized classification of the last century. Authors like Anne Elisabeth Stengl are doing a remarkable job accomplishing this feat for readers of Christian speculative fiction.

Her latest, the CSFF feature for December, is Starflower, book four of the Tales of Goldstone Wood series.

Fourth in a series might scare off some readers–I mean, who wants to jump into the middle of a string of stories and be lost? As Anne Elisabeth herself said, however, Starflower is a great place to start because it is a prequel to the first three books. It reads very much like a stand alone, but knowing the title to the next book, I’m confident there will be a strong connection between that story and this one. In short, Starflower is the book fans of fairytale fantasy need to pick up.

And now a couple tour highlights

  • Meagan @ Blooming with Books has an outstanding interview with Anne Elisabeth. Here’s the first question and part of the answer.
    1) Tales from Goldstone Woods has such a depth to it. Where did the inspiration for this series come from?

    The initial inspiration for this series was simply my love of all things Fairy Tale. I wanted to write a series of inter-connected novels that used classic and familiar fairy tale themes and took them in unexpected directions.

  • Gillian continues her book-giveaway contest with a discussion of the characters in Starflower. Leave your comment to become eligible for the drawing. Leave your comment each day and increase your chance to win.
  • Shannon McDermott, an astute CSFF reviewer, gives her impressions, ending with this:
    The story was unexpected, and landscapes and people rose up brilliantly from the pages. This book was a surprise to me. I had expected it to be good, but I didn’t think it would be incredible.

Are all the reviews uniformly favorable? No, actually not. But one that was sort of so-so, yet nonetheless accurate, was written by Robert Treskillard‘s daughter. Since this book came to us as a young adult fairytale, he asked his twelve-year-old to read and review it, figuring she was bordering the target audience. She herself concluded otherwise, ending her review with this: “Overall I would recommend this book for readers 16 and up.” Spot on, Ness!

Be sure to visit the other participants (listed at the end of this post) and read their thoughts about this book and the others in the Tales of Goldstone Wood.