CFBA Blog Tour –Dark Pursuit by Brandilyn Collins

brandilyncollins5I suspect, if you do much blog hopping, you’ll come across other authors featuring Brandilyn Collins’s newest book, Dark Pursuit (Zondervan). In which case, you’ll probably see her author photo—the one on her Web site, blog, and books. Well, there’s considerably more to Brandilyn than that rather artsy, staid profile—as you can see in this photo taken this past March at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference autograph party. Or this one earlier in the week when I was preparing for the mentoring class in the lounge and found Brandilyn hard at work there, too.


All this to say, Brandilyn is one of the most gracious, fun, helpful, giving people I’ve met in this writing business. Not to mention that she is one talented lady. I respect her ability as a writer and have learned so much from her, at conferences and on her blog. She continues to be generous with her time despite an incredible writing schedule, made more incredible with the addition of several young adult novels she wrote in conjunction with her daughter this year on top of her regular adult suspense.

But none of this is about Dark Pursuit, and that’s what I’ve promised to write about as a member of CFBA.

For as long as I can remember, Brandilyn has referred to her novels as Seatbelt Suspense. As anyone who has hung around A Christian Worldview of Fiction for long knows, I’m not a big fan of suspense. But, as you might suspect, I am a big fan of Brandilyn Collins. Consequently, I broke down and read one of her books, then another, and another until I’d read all of her Kanner Lake series and several of her earlier novels. And none of them gave this Big Honkin’ Chicken any trouble. I could read them at night, alone, whatever, and never did I have a nightmare or any untoward emotions that made me question my decision to read another Collins. Until Dark Pursuit.

Here is a book filled with danger and suspense—the slasher-movie kind where you want to bonk the stupid girl yourself for walking out into the dark alone at night to investigate the strange sound she hears in the woods. Brandilyn’s characters were properly motivated, but time and again they took tacks that led them into the heart of danger, and frankly, I came to a point where I would not read the book at night any longer.

For those who love suspense, I’d call this a home run.

But I have two things against it.

The first has to do with “Spiritual Themes and Content.” I felt this book would have been much better if it had been called clean suspense rather than Christian suspense. The spiritual element felt painfully forced onto the story, for no apparent reason, and I didn’t find it particularly believable.

The protagonist supposedly had come to God as part of a twelve-step program after having spent jail time because of her drug addiction. Nevertheless, she got pregnant by her boyfriend, who turns out to be an abusive killer, and lies about having any family in the area because she’s in a grudge match with her grandfather.

Hmmm. Her Christianity doesn’t seem to have taught her forgiveness. Or given her any discernment, put her into a good circle of friends (does she go to church?), or influenced her moral decisions (she wants to keep the baby because she wants to give it love, not because of any idea of obeying God). In addition, she rarely (ever?) prays when she’s in desperate straits. I’m not sure I see a story reason why she is a Christian.

The second problematic area for me was the end. As I said, this story was incredibly suspenseful. I couldn’t help asking myself why I thought this one was so much more frightening than other Collins novels. I could be wrong, but what I came up with was that in Dark Pursuit I knew early on who to fear. In other stories, ones which were sort of suspense/mystery combinations and I didn’t know for sure who the perpetrator was, I didn’t feel fearful for the character when she was most in danger. In this story I did.

That’s not the problematic part. In her characteristic style, Brandilyn introduces several twists at the end, but I found those to be unnecessary, even implausible, and they didn’t add to the sense of danger.

Let me qualify that. The major twist seemed implausible. Another significant twist enhanced the description of the other main character, crusty grandfather Darell Brooke. In particular, I found him to be well drawn and extremely believable. In many ways, this is really his story. I can only wish it was more so. But helpless girls make better victims for suspense, I suppose.

I’m beginning to think that’s what I have against this genre.

For you suspense fans, be sure to pick up a copy of Dark Pursuit. This book will have you holding your breath.

Published in: on December 4, 2008 at 12:40 pm  Comments (5)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – Scarlet, Day 2

Scarlet logoSo what’s your first thought when the central piece of art on a book cover is a hangman’s noose? Then when you turn to Chapter 1, the first words you encounter are these:

So, now. One day soon they hang me for a rogue. Fair enough. I have earned it a hundred times over, I reckon, and that’s leaving a lot of acreage unexplored. The jest of it is, the crime for which I swing is the one offence I never did do. The sheriff will have it that I raised rebellion against the king.

I didn’t

I don’t know about you, but I was hooked. With that opening of Scarlet (Thomas Nelson), author Stephen R. Lawhead had me. Here was a character I did not yet know, but he was condemned to die for a crime he didn’t commit, and I immediately felt sympathetic.

From that point, I became intrigued. The story, for the most part, is a first person recitation to a priestly amanuensis who is recording the condemned man’s “confession.” The storytelling device intrigued me as a writer, as did the frequent interruptions to show a growing relationship between the scribe, Odo, and the condemned, Will.

The effect was to give the story a bit of a herky-jerky feel, especially when occasional chapters popped up written in third person from the point of view of the antagonist. But rather than spoil the story, I felt the unique twists added dimension, and clearly, as the tale played out, were absolutely necessary.

But there was more. As others on the CSFF tour have noted in their reviews, The King Raven Trilogy upends the Robin Hood legend by re-situating it in Wales and re-identifying the central figure, not as Robin of Locksley, but as Rhi Bran a Hud—King Raven the Enchanter.

I thought the premise was intriguing, and from that point on I was soaking up the story. Hooked in the beginning, intrigued by the story. Scarlet had all the promise of a great read.

And Lawhead delivered. Mind you, it was not a fast-action thriller. The story unfolded, giving time for character development and relationships to be established.

Despite the familiarity with the Robin Hood persona, I still found lots of surprise. I felt like Lawhead steered the story away from the predictable.

Another plus was Lawhead’s command of language. His writing is rich without being tedious, clear without being pedestrian.

Scarlet, in my opinion, bled research without feeling teacherly. Whatever historical references or explanations came into the story seemed necessary and welcome—they were delivered when the reader needed and wanted them.

Simply put, the book was an enjoyable read.

But I have to pause here and consider, why then didn’t I LOVE it?

I’d have to say, for me, the story didn’t have a lot of depth. In other words, I didn’t see a lot happening under the surface—something I’ve grown accustom to in traditional fantasy.

The spiritual themes that existed seemed as clear as the political ones, both delivered in a rather straight-forward manner. Nothing wrong with that, certainly, but I don’t see anything to encourage me to read the story again and to delve deeper.

Recommendation. I’m very glad I read Scarlet. I would be poorer literarily if I’d missed out. I highly recommend the book for those who like to read, and it is a must read for Stephen Lawhead fans.

Check out what others on the tour are saying (those in bold are ones I know have posts up already—doesn’t mean the others haven’t posted, but perhaps haven’t linked here or haven’t pinged Technorati).

Trish Anderson Brandon Barr Wayne Thomas Batson Jim Black Justin Boyer Grace Bridges Amy Browning Jackie Castle Valerie Comer CSFF Blog Tour D. G. D. Davidson Chris Deanne Jeff Draper April Erwin Linda Gilmore Beth Goddard Marcus Goodyear Andrea Graham Jill Hart Katie Hart Sherrie Hibbs Timothy Hicks Christopher Hopper Becca Johnson Jason Joyner Kait Karen Dawn King Tina Kulesa Mike Lynch Margaret Karen McSpadden Melissa Meeks Mirtika or Mir’s Here Eve Nielsen John W. Otte John Ottinger Lyn Perry Deena Peterson Rachelle Cheryl Russel Ashley Rutherford Hanna Sandvig Chawna Schroeder James Somers Rachelle Sperling Steve Trower Speculative Faith Robert Treskillard Jason Waguespac Daniel I. Weaver Laura Williams Timothy Wise

Landon Snow and the Volucer Dragon-A Fall into Reading Review

Callapidder Days My fall reading list, which I posted as part of Callapidder Days’ Fall into Reading challenge, is as follows:
Auralia’s Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet (WaterBrook).
Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead.
Crimson Eve by Brandilyn Collins (Zondervan).
The Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin.
Wish list:
DragonFire by Donita Paul (WaterBrook).
Landon Snow and the Volucer Dragon by R. K. Mortenson (Barbour).
Restorer’s Journey by Sharon Hinck (NavPress).
Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince by J. K. Rowling.

So, yes, I actually got to read a book that was on my wish list. And I’ll probably get another one or two in these next couple weeks. I’m still waiting for a review copy of The Restorer’s Journey. I don’t think it will release in time for me to buy it before December 20 which is when the challenge ends, I think.

I did want to do a review of sorts of Randy Mortenson’s Landon Snow and the Volucer Dragon.

Landon Snow and the Volucer DragonI have to say, this is by far my favorite Landon Snow book. Randy captured my interest from the beginning and held me the whole way through. The pages flew by. And what was especially intriguing to me was the fact that he began to weave in elements from his first book that had seemed random and disjointed—very Alice-and-Wonder-ish. in this fourth installment of the Landon Snow series, Randy skillfully brought threads together, some for the first time. And still there are questions, many, many questions left open at the end. This book reads less like a stand alone than the others.

The thing is, I already love the characters and am committed to rooting for them. I especially like Landon and his uncertain wisdom. But Bridget takes a more significant role in this book, and I found her more and more endearing.

Randy’s imagination continues to impress me, as does his ability to bring in spiritual truth as a natural part of the story.

Wonderfully, the final book, Landon Snow and the Auctor’s Kingdom, is also out, so anyone interested in buying the entire set for Christmas has that opportunity. The books are so nicely packaged. They really are the kind a reader would love to have on the bookshelf.

And just now, I discovered they are also out in paperback, which makes them appreciably affordable. I highly recommend this series. You’ll find it builds to a wonderful crescendo, with each book toping the one before it.

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