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 – Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore, Day 3


Broken Wings coverI don’t know if I’ve actually come out and said it before in my posts about CSFF’s January feature, Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore, but here it is: I love this book! And in a few short weeks, book two of the trilogy, Broken Wings, is scheduled to release. I can hardly wait!

As I mentioned in my Day 1 post for this tour, I was fortunate enough to have received Angel Eyes earlier, so reviewed it then. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to recommend the book and series to those interested in a supernatural story written from a Christian perspective.

Here are my top seven reasons, in reverse order, for liking Angel Eyes:

7 The writing is excellent. It drew me into the story immediately. Here’s the opening:

The knot in my throat is constant. An aching thing. Shallow breaths whisper around it, sting my chapped lips, and leave white smoke monsters in the air.

6 The storytelling–the way the events unfold and the presentation of the characters–is equally strong.

5 The main character has a quirk and believable motivations that make her seem unique, not a plastic cutout of an angsty teen.

4 Our protagonist develops in a gradual, realistic way.

3 Intrigue pulls the reader forward into a plot that grows much larger than the opening might suggest.

2 The supernatural elements, rather than contradicting Scripture as so many angel/demon stories do, uses Scripture to undergird them, starting with a fictionalized account of Elisha opening the eyes of his servant so that he could see the army of God’s angels ready to protect them from the enemy surrounding the city (See 2 Kings 6:15-17).

1 And the number one reason I love this book: God wins! And He does so in a believable way, properly foreshadowed, and without any preachiness. What some call preachy is reality, given who these characters are. They act and speak naturally, based on their beliefs, doubts, fears, faith, or whatever, prompted by the demand of the circumstances.

Our tour is bringing out some interesting discussion. Megan opened with a thoughtful article about brokenness: What does broken mean? And what does the Bible say about broken people?

Shannon McDermott gave a thorough comparison of the angels in Angel Eyes with angels in the Bible.

Several people addressed the comparison of Angel Eyes with the Twilight books, none better than Jason Joyner: I do not believe Angel Eyes is the Christian Twilight. It stands on its own, with some shared conventions since they are both YA, both romance, and both supernatural in nature.

Jeremy Harder concludes that Angel Eyes “has it all”: I totally love well-written books that feature scenes of good colliding with evil, angels battling demons, and, of course, happy endings, and fortunately Angel Eyes has it all!

Phylis Wheeler, like me, enjoyed the book so much she gave a second endorsement after having reviewed it months ago.

And perhaps my favorite so far, Beckie Burnham highlights the truthful theme of Angel Eyes: The message of Angel Eyes is profound. God exists, His plans are eternal, and our choices and circumstances matter to Him and His economy. Dittemore doesn’t pretty up the evil in this book. Its real and real scary. But neither does she downplay the ultimate victory that will be God’s.

Of course, not everyone sees books the same way, so I suggest you stop by the other participating sites (list available, with check mark links to the articles, at the bottom of my Day 1 post) and see what each of them has to say.

You can also visit Shannon Dittemore’s Facebook page or follow her on Twitter.

Published in: on January 23, 2013 at 12:42 pm  Comments (2)  
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CSFF Tour – Angel Eyes By Shannon Dittemore, Day 2


Angel Eyes coverThis month CSFF is featuring Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore, and as you might guess, it can be classified as an angels book. Or supernatural. I don’t think those two are the same or that angel books are a subset of supernatural, but Angel Eyes would fit into both.

These classifications are significant, I believe. Supernatural stories encompass a broad range–pretty much anything that isn’t “natural.” Generally speaking, however, the supernatural elements are central to the story. This category includes fictitious supernatural creatures such as vampires and zombies as well as real supernatural agents such as demons and angels. Ghosts fit here, too–whether a person views them as real or pretend.

Other supernatural creatures such as faeries, witches, and wizards generally fit into the fantasy category rather than the supernatural category because they are viewed, as most stories use them, as make-believe.

Of course witches and sorcerers do exist, but usually stories with these creatures are not referencing beings that claim power from an evil source. Rather, they can, like regular humans, choose good or evil (e.g. the witches in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the wizards in Lord of the Rings and in Harry Potter). Their power is most often innate, though they can learn to use it more effectively.

I mention this particularly because angel books have the same issues as witch and sorcerer books–angels do actually exist, but writers can, and have, treated them as mythical beings with their own tropes.

Anne Rice may have started the latest surge of angel books when she declared at the beginning of her Songs Of The Seraphim series back in 2009 that angels were the new vampires. At any rate, following in the tradition of such films as It’s a Wonderful Life and TV programs such as Highway to Heaven, books have popped up with angels that bear little resemblance to the actual, factual beings mentioned in Scripture.

As a result, I’ve become … shall we say, cautious, about angel books. I have less trouble with those that bear no resemblance to Biblical angels than I do with quasi-accurate ones. The former I simply write off as make-believe creatures, little different from elves or hobbits or faeries.

Imagine my surprise when I read Angel Eyes and discovered a story that represented angels in a way consistent with Scripture.

Of course, there is still speculation–this is fiction, after all. For example, in one interview, author Shannon Dittemore said she developed the idea for the story by thinking, what if angel halos were actual solid objects? [And I’d add, what if angels actually had halos? 😉 ] From this key piece of pretend, the Angel Eyes story grows.

There’s more coming, too. The second book in the series, Broken Wings, is scheduled to release next month, and the third, Dark Halo is due out in August, I believe.

Take time to visit other CSFF tour participants and see what they’re saying about the book. You can find the entire list (with check marks providing links to the posts) at the bottom of my Day 1 article.

CSFF Tour – Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore, Day 1


shandittyAt last! This is a tour I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. I reviewed Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore some months ago and was happy when the CSFF administrators added it to the list of books we’d feature. Our tour was scheduled for November, then chaos broke loose. OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I have to say, it makes you wonder when a book about angels, with a distinctly Biblical worldview, is mired in unusual circumstances that delay its tour.

But I’m putting that aside.

What I’d like to address today is something I read in a couple Amazon reviews–that Angel Eyes is a Twilight wannabe or the Christian answer to Twilight or some other comparison to Twilight. Here’s one:

I’ve never actually read any of the “Twilight” books, but even I can see the resemblance in the underlying “romance” thread in the book. I can certainly see that this book is geared toward the “Twilight” crowd, just with a Christian slant.

And then this:

I was struck immediately by the similarities to Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Unlike some of my readers, I was a huge Twilight fan, reading and rereading them multiple times. Angel Eyes struck me as a Christianized version of the popular series with angels and demons as our stars instead of vampires and werewolves.

Since I haven’t read any of the Twilight books but have heard some specific criticisms, this comparison shocked me. I could see, perhaps, the idea that the Twilight vampires had been switched out for angels and that both stories involved a teen romance, but from what I’ve heard, there were no other similarities that I knew of. Besides, the angels and vampires were not “switched out.”

Add in the fact that the main character in Angel Eyes has a lot more on her mind than an obsessive relationship with a “bad boy.” Further, there is no love triangle. In reality, Angel Eyes is more of a mystery than a romance.

I received a little more insight about reviewers making the Twilight/Angel Eyes comparison from the post of one of the CSFF tour participants, Anna Mittower:

The first chapter and indeed the set-up of the story in the rural town of Stratus reminds me of the first few pages of chapter one in Twilight. And that’s not a good thing. Both have a girl who’s not happy moving to a small, dreary town in the middle of nowhere. And both are complaining about it. Dreading it in fact.

Ah, OK. Similar openings. I suppose for someone who read Twilight, the opening would immediately put you in comparison mode, thinking of the other book and hating this one because it make you think of the other one.

Interestingly, Ms. Dittemore, in a style that reminded me of chick lit, made a number of pop cultural references, including a couple about Twilight. I thought those deflected any comparison–as if the character’s own awareness of the Twilight story made it abundantly clear that this was not that story, retold.

It’s clearly not. But I’ll have more to say about what it is as the tour continues.

For now, check out what the other participants are saying.

Published in: on January 21, 2013 at 6:31 pm  Comments (10)  
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Books Make Good Gifts


Just have to point out the rare occurrence: today is 12-12-12. We won’t see that month, day, year number being the same … well, ever, unless you live a really, really long time. 😉

– – –

I’m assuming that there are people like me who haven’t finished up their Christmas shopping. (I’m sorry, but half the fun is hunting down the right present at the last minute. It gets the adrenaline pumping. 😉 ) Might I make a suggestion? Think, BOOKS.

I’d even suggest narrowing that down. Think, Christian fantasy.

There are four books that I think come in at the top of their category, and I can happily and whole-heartedly recommend them to you.

Angel-Eyes-Cover1First in the category of young adult novels for girls, I suggest Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore. Amazon reviewers have given it, on average, four stars, but they lie. Well, OK, not lie so much as disagree with me. 🙂

Interestingly, in the reviews that lowered the average, there were two main complaints I saw.

First, some people didn’t like the “Christian themes that have gone overboard.” (I’m not sure what that person expected from a novel about angels.)

The second complaint was that it was too much like Twilight because it was about teen romance. So … no book from now on can be about teenage romance without being compared to Twilight? See why I disagree with those reviewers? You can read my much more accurate and truthful review to counterbalance these scurrilous attacks deviant claims contrasting ideas.

dragons-of-the-watch-coverMy second recommendation is Donita Paul‘s excellent cozy fantasy for all ages, Dragons of the Watch. This is the last in the delightful Dragons of Chiril series, and I rate it as the best of all Ms. Paul’s novels. Of course, technically this book ought not be rated with the others in my list because it came out in October of last year (see my review here). Still, I don’t think it’s received the attention it’s due. Perhaps people are scared off by the fact that it’s part of a series. Of all the stories I’ve read of Ms. Paul’s dragon books, this one reads most like a stand-alone. It’s also a good introduction to this series and to the DragonKeeper Chronicles.

new-recruit-coverRecommendation number three is The New Recruit, a young adult boy book by Jill Williamson, winner of two Christy Awards. This novel, published by Marcher Lord Press, is perfect for the reader who wants a fast-pace, soft fantasy. The supernatural elements are minimal. The fantasy really comes largely from the premise–the existence of a Christian spy organization. It’s unique, it’s fun, it’s contemporary, it’s action packed, it’s so very typically teen. Wonderful story. (Here’s my review).

cover_thspiritwellLastly I recommend the adult science fantasy, The Spirit Well by Stephen Lawhead. To be honest, though, this is one that is best read after the first two in the series–The Skin Map and The Bone House. Personally I think this Bright Empires series has the potential to become a classic, so I suggest getting in on the fun now. There’s wonderful character development (something I don’t always find in Mr. Lawhead’s books), intrigue, historical settings, time-ish travel (you have to read the books to understand precisely what I mean there). For a closer look, here’s the review I wrote for this one.

Undoubtedly I’ve left out other good titles. What Christian speculative fiction would you recommend for Christmas?

Angel Eyes – A Review


I rarely do reviews apart form blog tours, but from time to time, I make an exception. Angel Eyes is one, and I am so, so happy with that decision. Angel Eyes, officially releasing tomorrow, is the debut novel by Shannon Dittemore.

If you frequent Speculative Faith, Shannon’s name may well sound familiar. Besides being an occasional commenter there, she wrote last Friday’s guest post.

    The Review

The Story. Brielle, short for Gabrielle, is a talented dancer. An opportunity arose for her to study in the city and pursue what she hoped would be her dream job, but tragedy forced her to return to the shelter of her home.

Now, back in the little town where she grew up, she meets Jake, and he helps her to see the world through different eyes. Some of what she sees is glorious, but then there is the sticky black tar of fear. And danger.

OK, I’m keeping it cryptic because I don’t want to spoil the story. The action unfolds like a rose, each petal pushing outward a little at a time until the whole flower is in view. I have no intention of taking your corsage and yanking the petals apart.

Strengths. What isn’t a strength in this book? The language is beautiful, the setting poignantly realistic. The characters are authentic, down to their fears and sacrifices, their motives and heartaches, their hopes and struggles. There is such gentle (the flower image comes to mind again) character development–believable, gradual change that’s revealed through action.

Speaking of action, there’s plenty of it. Some is anchored in the mundane world of the every day, and that is typically teen and interesting. Most of the action, however, involves the interconnection of the here and now with the eternal. I guess you’d have to call this a spiritual warfare book.

That being said, this is one God-glorifying story, consistent with the Bible. It is faithful to Scripture whenever Scripture speaks of such things as you’ll find between the covers of this book.

At the same time, Angel Eyes is imaginative and unpredictable. About the time I thought I knew what the issues were, like Brielle, I found out things weren’t as they appeared to be.

Yes, there is tragedy and sadness and a look at hard things. As both Brielle and Jack acknowledge, sometimes the hero doesn’t make it. But this book faces the hard parts and asks the harder questions. No easy answers here, but thoughtful, truthful ones.

Weaknesses. I don’t really have anything for this section. The worst thing I can say is, the parts from Brielle’s point of view are written in first person, present tense.

Generally I find that voice annoying, and I thought at first this book would be all about teen angst like so many young adult books seem to be these days. It’s sort of the flip side of chick lit–same tense and person but the snarky, flippant tone has been replaced with the cynical, fatalistic tone of youth that has grown up too fast.

In truth the beginning of Angel Eyes had a bit of that tone, but there was more lurking around the edges. In addition there were occasional chapters from other characters’ points of view that gave a different voice. I appreciated the change. And as the story unfolded, Brielle’s voice mirrored her character development. It was masterful. (I told you I didn’t really have anything in “weakness.”)

Recommendation. I hope Frank Peretti endorses Shannon’s next book. He should. She is marvelously contributing to the supernatural/spiritual warfare genre he established with the Darkness books years ago.

Although this book is directed at young adults, all-the-way-grown-up adults can enjoy it just as well. A must read for Christians. I highly recommend Angel Eyes to anyone who loves a good story.

One last thing: keep your eyes on Shannon. I have a feeling you’re going to be hearing a lot about her from now on.

And yes, the publisher provided me with an advance reader’s copy of the book, though I made no agreement to give a favorable review. That was solely my decision.

Published in: on May 28, 2012 at 5:55 pm  Comments (6)  
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