CSFF Blog Tour Wrap – The Orphan King / Fortress of Mist


csffbannerThe accomplished novelist Sigmund Brouwer reworked an earlier set of novels to create the books in his new Merlin’s Immortals series, of which The Orphan King is book one and Fortress of Mist is book two. The CSFF Blog Tour had the good fortune to feature both books last week.

Twenty-six bloggers took part in the tour, posting a total of forty-five articles. Among my favorites were Rebekah Loper‘s comparison of the series upon which the Immortals is based with this new iteration. I also loved Stever Trower’s Tuesday Tunes with the new slant toward telling the story with his song selections. Very clever and fun! Several of us discussed magic, and many of us compared book one with book two.

But now it is your turn to determine which articles rose to the top. Here are the bloggers eligible for the February CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award:

Thanks in advance for your help selecting the winner (and can we please bring an end to the ties we’ve been having? 😉 ).

Voting ends midnight (Pacific time), March 4. That’s a week from today.

CSFF Tour Wrap – Angel Eyes


csffbannerWhat an interesting group of posts we had for the Angel Eyes tour. This first in the trilogy by the same name, written by Shannon Dittemore, comprised 39 posts by 21 participants.

We had everything, from one of our members losing (nearly) his man card for admitting that he had read the Twilight books (cough, Jason) to a thoughtful discussion about healing and a scholarly look at the history of halos.

As always, we now have the enjoyable task of choosing a winner of the CSFF Top Tour Blogger–this one the first in 2013. The cool part about this is that it gives us a chance to revisit some of the articles. Here are the eligible candidates and the links to what they wrote:

The poll will be open until midnight Tuesday, February 5. Thanks for your participation.

Published in: on January 29, 2013 at 2:27 pm  Comments (3)  
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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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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.

CSFF Tour Wrap – The Spirit Well


This week thirty-five members of the CSFF Blog Tour spent time discussing The Spirit Well, book three of the Bright Empires series by Stephen Lawhead. We had a creative interview of one of the antagonists by Robert Treskillard, a discussion about why some people refer to speculative literature as “weird” by Shannon McDermott, a look at how The Spirit Well stacks up and fits in with the other books in the series by Janeen Ippolito, and much more.

In all, we were treated to fifty-eight articles, with two yet pending. What’s more, there was near universal acclaim for this book. Though some participants found the pace slower than is common today, most agreed that this book moved the story forward and was a great addition to the series.

The only way, of course, to know if what we said is true would be to read the books for yourselves. 😀

Here are the participants, having posted all three days of the tour, who are eligible for this month’s Top Tour Blogger Award. The check marks provide direct links to each article.

You’ll have until midnight (Pacific time) Monday, November 5 to scan the articles and vote for the blogger you think was creative, thought-provoking, interesting, or made you laugh the most. You get to decide what criteria to use and who meets them.

You might also wish to vote in a poll about genre choice.

Published in: on October 26, 2012 at 5:52 pm  Comments (1)  
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CSFF Tour Wrap – The Telling


Some tours generate controversy, others wide acclaim. I wouldn’t say The Telling by Mike Duran achieved the latter, but it hardly stirred up controversy either. I suspect that CSFF members who would have questioned the Biblical accuracy of some of the speculative elements simply chose to sit this one out. Hence, the numbers are somewhat down for this tour, but the praise is quite widespread. Not unanimous, certainly, but by far more participants praised the book than found fault with it.

In the end twenty-five bloggers posted thirty-nine articles over three days, with three yet to post (scheduling issues).

So here are the *participants eligible for the September CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award:

I invite you to review the posts of our eligible participants, then vote for the one you think is most deserving of the award. You’ll have just one week. The poll closes midnight (Pacific time), October 8.

*Lest anyone should think I inadvertently left off Steve Trower, I’ll mention that I decided not to include him since his Monday post was primarily a review of the Ross Lawhead book we toured while Steve was becoming a new father. I appreciate his due diligence a great deal and encourage any who haven’t stopped by his site to do so. You might especially like his regular Tuesday tour feature–Tuesday Tunes.

Published in: on October 1, 2012 at 6:03 pm  Comments (6)  
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Tour Wrap – Eye Of The Sword



It’s been a long time since the CSFF Blog Tour has had a controversial tour such as we had last week for Karyn Henley’s Eye of the Sword, book two of the Angeleon Circle. While the majority of bloggers participating in the tour agreed that the book was well-written, the story engaging, the characters well-drawn, a good number had trouble with the way angels appeared in the book. It’s certainly a question I felt needed to be addressed, and the side of the issue a person falls probably determines how they reacted to Eye of the Sword.

In all we had 32 bloggers post a total of 48 articles featuring author Karyn Henley and/or the book.

Most enthusiastic award goes to Theresa Dunlap for her fine review. We have a good group of participants who posted all three days of the tour, making them eligible for the Top Tour Blogger Award:

All that’s left, then, is the voting. The check marks beside each post link to a tour article. Take some time this week to pursue the articles that interest you–reviews, an author interview, discussions on the use of angels, personal growth, and more. Then vote in the poll below for the blogger you think deserves the recognition of Top Tour Blogger for August. The poll will remain open until midnight, Sunday, September 2.

Thanks in advance for taking part.

Published in: on August 27, 2012 at 6:43 pm  Comments Off on Tour Wrap – Eye Of The Sword  
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CSFF Blog Tour Wrap – Beckon by Tom Pawlik


With school ending and summer creeping in, CSFF squeezed in a blog tour for Beckon by award-winning author Tom Pawlik. The modest tour for this adult speculative thriller included thirty-seven posts from twenty-five bloggers.

Those who posted all three days of the tour are eligible for the CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award for May. Below are the links to the articles of each participant up for the award.

So now the power shifts into the hands of the readers, and it is time to vote (just a little Survivor lingo there, for your entertainment. 😉 ) You have until midnight (Pacific time), Sunday June 10 to review the posts and make your decision.

And while you’re voting, why not click over to “Change and the Books You Read” and vote in that opinion poll as well. You’re participation in both these is greatly appreciated.

Published in: on May 25, 2012 at 6:27 pm  Comments (1)  
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CSFF Blog Tour Wrap – Night Of The Living Dead Christian


Thirty of us were talking, and we ended up with sixty-seven posts — all about Night of the Living Dead Christian by Matt Mikalatos. So much conversation is a sure sign that the book stirred something in those who read it. Was it controversy? I mean, an allegory comparing Christians and monsters could get a little dicey. Was it praise for the author? After all, his work has received some heavy-hitter endorsements.

No and no — well, OK, somewhat, in that last one, but that wasn’t the most popular subject. The main topic of discussion that came up most frequently was how the book — the message of it — affected the reader.

Here are a few samples:

  • Bruce Hennigan: All in all, “Night of the Living Dead Christian” is a powerful allegory of what most Christians are like today, including me. It is well worth the reading, well worth the laughter, and ultimately, well worth the tears of joy.
  • Steve Trower: there were plenty more like it, snippets of dialogue that contained real thought-provoking truth. As a writer, moments like these serve to remind me of the power that stories can have – even silly stories about vampires and zombies. As a flawed and arguably monstrous human being, this particular moment was really a little closer to home than it had any right to be!
    • Theresa Dunlap: Yes, you will find zombies, werewolves and vampires and even a mad scientist and a robot – um – android, but there is such a powerful message hidden in the story that one is likely to not forget it easily. To put it as simply as possible, this book is a story about transformation – a true transformation.
  • Thomas Fletcher Booher: something Mikalatos did very well was point out that faith must involve works, and he pulls from the book of James to support this. True faith is a working faith, and a faith without works is not a true saving faith.
    • Tori Greene: If I really believe that Jesus is God become man to save us from sin, if I really believe in the things that he taught, then the way I live my life should reflect this. Jesus calls us to live in a radical way – to put Him first, to love our neighbor, to reject the false promises of the world. My life should be transformed as I seek to pick up my own cross and follow Him

    Not that the participants were unanimous in their opinions, by any means, but that so many focused on what the story meant is unusual for a book also recommended because of its humor.

    One last part of the tour remains — choosing which blogger to recognize as this month’s Top Tour Blogger. And to add a little something, Matt has kindly offered a prize for the winner:

    to sweeten the pot this month I’m giving the winner of the blog tour a free, signed copy of the book as well as a limited edition NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD poster (the image of which does not match the book cover, is beautiful, and that the publisher has asked me not to share publicly).

    And now those eligible for the Award:

    We definitely can use your help. Take time to look over these posts if you haven’t already, and then come back here to vote for the blogger you think deserves to be recognized as this month’s CSFF Top Tour Blogger. You have until April 16 to vote.

    Published in: on March 30, 2012 at 7:27 pm  Comments Off on CSFF Blog Tour Wrap – Night Of The Living Dead Christian  
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    CSFF Blog Tour – The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead, Day 2



    Day one of the CSFF Blog Tour featuring The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead produced some good posts. I recommend, in particular, Keanan Brand‘s where you’ll find the reaction to The Realms Thereunder by Keanan’s teen niece who happens to be in this book’s target audience.

    Another post not to miss is new member Rebekah Loper‘s thoughtful comments about the spiritual implications of a particular passage in Ross’s story. I love the way Rebekah made the spiritual connection and I love the way Ross resisted any urge he might have had to connect dots for his readers.

    Interestingly, Thomas Clayton Booher, in his day two post, cites the exact same passage Rebekah did and elaborates on the Christian’s responsibility to share the gospel even with those who would rather not “have their bubble burst.”

    The fact that both these readers had spiritual insights stemming from the same passage that was not overtly addressing spiritual issues, shows the power of implicit writing, I believe. Too often we writers feel the need to spell out what we want readers to see, but how much better to let the readers discover truth on their own.

    Which brings me back to the particulars I wish to discuss about The Realms Thereunder. Ross Lawhead, as you may have guessed, is the son of highly accomplished novelist Stephen Lawhead, and therefore is familiar with the work of a novelist. Tim Hicks, who did some research about Ross for his day one post, points out that Ross c0-authored several books with his father and has had a number of other writing projects. This, however, is his first solo novel. And what an ambitious undertaking. I have to admire Ross simply for his effort.

    First, he adopted an advanced story structure, which I mentioned in my day one post.

    In addition, Ross does something few others have attempted — he closely weaves mythology (in this case, Anglo-Saxon mythology) into a present-day story. It’s sort of Once Upon A Time (the current ABC TV series) in reverse.

    Third, he tells a story that mostly happens underground — not an easy thing to accomplish even for short sections of a story.

    Fourth, he writes Christian fiction with a light hand, much the way J. R. R. Tolkien did. Any reader would feel comfortable reading this story, yet as I mentioned above, those alert to spiritual implications will find material with which to work.

    Fifth, Ross is telling a story that is larger than just this one book. The Realms Thereunder is the first of The Ancient Earth Trilogy, so his scope is big. Epic, you might say.

    Sixth, he is developing his characters backwards. Because of the story structure, he is showing character development in the adult characters that resulted from the portion of the story that happened to the younger versions of those characters.

    It’s an interesting aspect of the story, and vital if this past/present back-and-forth was to work. How had the events that took place eight years earlier changed these people? It’s something we may not think about much when we read stories like Narnia.

    Stephen Donaldson in his trilogy The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever touched on this aspect of character development, as I recall. And C. S. Lewis hinted at some repercussions of the other-world adventures in Narnia. But Ross is able to do more because he actually tells part of his story from these scarred and changed characters’ point of view.

    All in all, I’m impressed that anyone would tackle so much in a debut novel. Tomorrow, if things go as planned, I’ll give you my reaction to the book and my recommendation. In the meantime, you might be interested in some of the other reviews:

    • Jeff Chapman has an excellent plot summary.
    • Chawna Schroeder questioned the characters’ goals and how that affected the story.
    • Gillian Adams gave her reaction to the innovative story structure.
    • Steve Trower gave the best reason I’ve heard for not having his review ready for the tour.
    • Sarah Sawyer is holding a book-give-away contest.
    • Nissa is cooking up some kind of special scavenger hunt-ish type of thing at her site. No details yet, but she’s “hiding” things along the tour route. 😉

    Lots more to come, so be sure to get in on the fun.

    Published in: on February 21, 2012 at 1:37 pm  Comments (5)  
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