Reviewing The CSA Final Five

Final Five

Curious about what other readers are saying about this year’s CSA final five? As part of the ongoing introduction of the finalists, today we offer additional excerpts from readers posting on their blogs or reviewing for online organizations.

* Liberator by Bryan Davis

I found myself highlighting great quotes throughout the book, as the characters struggled to free the slaves, cure disease, live up to their individual callings, determine who could be trusted, and ultimately, reconcile their worlds with the Creator who designed them. This is a complicated series with a lot happening on different levels, and this last book will keep you on your toes as you follow the exciting adventures.
Hammock Librarian

    The most compelling aspect of Liberator is the way in which Davis uses the tropes of high fantasy literature – crystals, swords, shape-shifting, and, yes, even those dragons – to deal with universal themes in a symbolic way. . . Though the language is advanced and the mythology complicated, it’s a sure bet that young readers with an appetite for these sorts of stories will hunger for more of Davis’ dragon tales.

Davis has written a fast-paced, action-packed novel with a pinch of romance that is sure to capture the interest of teens who love fantasy. Mythological characters such as dragons, Diviners, and starlighters fill the pages and pull the reader into the world of Starlight. Plot driven, this book reveals each character more through their actions than their inner thoughts. There is a clear theme of good versus evil as those who serve the Creator fight to free those enslaved by the evil dragon forces.
Christian Library Journal

* A Throne Of Bones by Vox Day

    I enjoyed it immensely. Vox Day isn’t the prose stylist George R. R. Martin is, but he’s not bad. On the plus side we have a complicated, complex story with interesting and sympathetic, fully rounded characters. There are few out-and-out villains – everybody is doing what they think right. And unlike Martin’s stories, the fact that someone is virtuous and noble does not guarantee them a painful and ignominious death. In terms of pure story, Vox Day’s book is much more rewarding. And Christianity is treated not only with respect, but as a true part of the cosmos.

But overall this is a very readable book that made me want to keep on reading. It is, in turn, humorous, shocking and exciting. There are beautiful moments, there is clever dialogue, there is deep mystery. It took some level of genius to write it. I recommend you read it.
The Responsible Puppet

    What makes this book both an entertaining and fascinating read is that Vox draws on his rather tremendous depth of knowledge and literary theory to create a world that is quite imaginative and “realistic,” which is in turn populated with characters that are interesting, sympathetic, and multi-dimensional.
    Allusions of Grandeur

* Mortal by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee

The duo of Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee have pooled their talents once again to build a story world reminiscent of another Dekker hit, The Circle. Dekker’s zealous and sometimes nearing maniacal emphasis on the themes of darkness and light is evident in full force and Lee’s power of prose paints word pictures to be remembered (emphasis in the original).
t.e. George

    The world Dekker and Lee created when they wrote this series is compelling and symbolic in a number of ways. I found myself pondering the redemptive meaning of Christ’s sacrifice and the use of His blood for our atonement in a deeper way because of this book. I also saw in the story how deception hardens the heart and at the same time how intense and overwhelming our Savior’s love is for mankind despite our many flaws.
    Michelle’s book review blog

What I love about Dekker’s and Lee’s books is not that they are gripping and intense reading, although they are, nor is it the great writing. It’s the fact that I’ve grown in my understanding of myself, and my relationship to my Savior, and others when I finish them. Their books are the best fictional allegories to the Kingdom of Heaven, and the life of being a true follower of Christ that I have ever read.
Reading Reviews

* Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

    My Thoughts: This had to have been my favorite of the [Tales of Goldstone Wood] series so far. I absolutely loved it. The imagery is amazing, the setting so detailed, and the characters are a hilarious. I could barely put this book down for wanting to know what would happen next.
    Like a lot of fans, I absolutely love Sir Eanrin and was so glad to find out that he would be a main character in this story. Usually I don’t like cats, but he is an exception. 🙂
    Backing Books

Here are the things I did in fact enjoy about the book:
1. The world building was excellent, far better than I thought it would have been. I really got the sense of being there right along side of the characters.
2. The story itself. I really enjoyed the plot, mystery, and how the story unfolded with each PART within the book. The book was written in three parts, one in the present day, one the past (part 2), and then once again back to the present where there the story as a whole begins to make complete sense. The ending was beautiful and I dare say I cried a bit. *tissues may be needed*
3. Starflower. She was a real and believable character. I found her to be very kind, and self-sacrificing for the ones she loved. Her jounany [sic] and hardships made her stronger, not bitter.
Bittersweet Enchantment

    the story is not driven by action. Instead, it delves into character–not simply the beings, whether mortal or Faerie, but the very lands in which they dwell, as well. One could practically smell the lushness of the jungle-type atmosphere Starflower grows up in; the Merry Halls of Rudiobus become ingrained in one’s mind. And the fallen city of Etalpalli IS a character–a very wrathful, dangerous creature. The way Stengl wrote the scenes in which the very streets do not stay still…. it gave me shivers.
    And if you’re the type of reader who wants action in a novel, well, it’s definitely here. Whether it’s facing demonic wolves, running from a giant hound, or leaping off bridges, there is something there for everyone. But the action is not the sort that precedes and overwhelms the substance. Starflower is a novel to be savoured for the layers it weaves.
    The Other World

* Prophet by R. J. Larson

Its YA tone will likely make Prophet most engaging to teen readers, but all ages will be able to relate to the spiritual themes. As a historical fantasy, this has the potential to engage a wider range of readers, especially those with an interest in Biblical history. And if you’re looking for something unique in the Christian fantasy market, you may want to give this a try.
Sarah Sawyer

    Truly, the “Infinite” of Ela of Parne is the Lord I love and serve as well. I found some of the parallels and words of wisdom presented in a way that touched my spirit and really spoke to my heart.
    I thought this story was well thought out, believable and yet still held that fantasy element to it that drew me in. I can’t wait to pick up book two [of the Books of the Infinite series]!
    A Simply Enchanted Life

R. J. Larson brings the biblical stories to the present and makes it easy for a younger reader to relate to. The author has an excellent use of concise prose, and draws the reader in with her multifaceted characters. The cover is beautiful, and the story of a young girl who deals with her unworthiness of being called as a prophet is believable and not overdone. Personally, I loved this book and will be reading the rest of the series as they are released.
Readers’ Realm

Don’t forget, voting ends on Sunday at midnight (Pacific time).

Cross posted at CSA.

Fantasy Friday – Focus on Faith

First, I’d love to have more feedback on the Charismatic Characters poll. If you haven’t participated yet, please take a moment to let your opinion out. 😉

Second, on Monday, voting for the Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction – Readers’ Choice gets under way. There’s still time to read the minimum two required nominations to participate because the voting will continue throughout the month of August.

And now, faith. The first Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference I attended, Ted Dekker was one of the speakers. One of the most impressive, inspirational parts of the conference was his tale recounting his journey to publication, including the part where he and his family started selling off some of their non-essentials in order to make ends meet. Ted, you see, believed God had called him to write, but he was running out of money.

If God calls me to the task of writing, should I be afraid of what lies ahead?

Over and over, the believer has God’s promise that He will be with him, go before him, live inside him, and will never leave him or forsake him or fail him. As a result, we’re told not to be shocked, not to be afraid, not to tremble or be dismayed.

Why? Because God is going to make us best sellers like Ted Dekker? We have no such promise.

We do know that God is good, that He is trustworthy, and that His plans involve eternal matters, so we can put our unqualified confidence in Him, knowing that light affliction might await us now, but now is not the end of the story.

Any novelist knows, conflict deepens the closer we get to the climactic scene. But how sweet the resolution when the character faces Mount Doom and survives.

When Christ Who is our Life is with us and for us, should we expect less? Do we think we novelists can write a better story than the Author of life?

Too often our problem is expecting resolution in the middle of the story, or expecting a conflict-free story.

Faith sees the big picture, however, not just the dark night of the soul when all of life seems to be at odds with our calling. If God put me on this path, I might ask, why are things hard?

I suggest there are several possible answers, though I am sure there are others. Things might be hard in order to:

  • glorify His name by giving me patience through the uncertainty
  • teach me what I need to know to be a better writer
  • teach me what I need to know to love Him more truly and trust Him more deeply
  • prepare and bring those who will read my work
  • encourage others who come along behind
  • glorify His name by accomplishing He purposes through my writing in His time

When Daniel was caught praying and sentenced to the lion’s den, did that mean God had failed or abandoned His servant? We who know the end of the story can say emphatically, Of course not!

Yet too often we look at the lions-den circumstances of our own lives, our own writing careers, and think God isn’t going to come through for us. He’s let us down. Forgotten us. Failed.

Oh, we of little faith. Too little faith!

Published in: on July 30, 2010 at 4:09 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags: , , ,

Creating Buzz with Blogs—Book Buzz, Part 3

Kim mentioned blogs in her comment to Tuesday’s “Trusting an Author” post. Without a doubt, blogs have given the average Jarred and Josephine a voice in the public arena, one not previously found except in Letters to the Editor or a possible five-second sound bite in front of the local news crew. (So, what do you think about Katrina? about Kobe Bryant? about Brittany? about the latest American idol?)

But the amazing truth is, finding blog readers is really no different than finding readers for a book: it also requires buzz. The difference is, there are people out there who know what it takes to build up a blog’s profile, if you’re willing to work at it. These things include ways to position your blog on search engines and exchanging links with others.

It also means joining in with others who have similar interests and forming a community or communities of people who might be interested in what you have to say. This can be done in a somewhat informal way through blog rings or in a more defined way through sites like MySpace or ShoutLife or Linkdin.

There are also numerous discussion boards, some started by authors, such as Stephen Lawhead or Ted Dekker; some started by editors such as Faith in Fiction; some connected to membership groups, such as ACFW; and some connected to webzines, such as Mindflights. The point is, there are many, many places on the web to put your name out, and with it, your blog address.

The thing to be aware of, however, is that blogging, and trying to create a buzz for your blog, can serve as turn-offs rather than positive invitations for people to listen to what you have to say. In fact, Nicole just posted on this subject on her blog, Into the Fire, in an article entitled “Saturation Point.”

There is a large range when it comes to the types of blogs. Some can come across like mass-market mailing. These are sites that exist to sell things, and ninety percent of the posts are contest offers designed to introduce the reader to a product. Those can sometimes have a healthy number of visitors—people looking for a bargain.

Other sites, however, are designed for personal use—a real journal of thoughts or events in which others are invited to read along.

Still others are somewhere in between, having professional goals but with a personal spin.

Any of these can work, but the key is, if you’re doing a mass-market mailing, don’t lead your readers to believe they are receiving a personal note. Blogs that promise one thing and deliver another are disappointing and can turn readers off.

We’ll continue buzzing about buzz, and if you have questions or suggestions, I’d love to hear them.