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 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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Raising The Next Generation


    Every singer out there with songs on the radio is raising the next generation – Taylor Swift.

A couple weeks ago 60 Minutes, CBS’s news magazine, aired a broadcast from last November which included a segment about popular singer Taylor Swift. During the conversation with Lesley Stahl, she made the above statement.

The most remarkable thing might have been what she said next: “so make your words count.”

How about that! A 21 year old singer understands what writers twice her age don’t seem to get. Sure, she was talking about music, not books. But I don’t think the difference is so great. Screenplay writers, novelists, lyricists, singers, actors–it seems the arts have arrived, and the influence of the arts on culture. Or perhaps, more accurately, entertainment has arrived.

Any idea that books are being kicked to the curb as an influence should have been erased by Harry Potter. Or Twilight. Or Hunger Games.

Kids dressed up like Harry, chose up teams for Twilight. I shudder to think what is out there in conjunction with Hunger Games.

In spite of all this book attention and the widening influence of those developed into movies, some Christian writers still parrot the party line that Christian fiction should not be about “a message.” Perish the thought that fiction should actually have something to say. The main goal–the highest goal–they claim, is for a writer to entertain.

I think Taylor Swift would think that odd. She gets that the words she sings have impact on those kids absorbing them.

Why wouldn’t characters we live with for seven books, or three? Don’t their values become ours for those hours when we inhabit their world? Aren’t we feeling their fear or love or hope? Aren’t we reasoning and planning the next step, as they are?

And yet they have no impact on us?

I dare say, the majority of the writers who hold this view first decided they wanted to pen a story because of something they read.

But horrors if the writer of that book actually intended to communicate the message that storytelling is a desirable thing. Messages can’t be intentional, only accidental, or so the thinking goes of this group of Christian writers. Anything intentional is nothing short of propaganda.

I doubt that’s what Taylor Swift thinks. I suspect she is responding to the fact that a generation of plugged in kids is vulnerable, easily influenced by the entertainment media, wide open to believe whatever their idols say.

Why is it that Christian writers can’t embrace this fact, too? Why is it that if we say, “so make your words count,” we’re advocating turning fiction into propaganda?

Could it be that a story with something to say actually has more depth, not less? Could it be that the difference between an excellent story and propaganda is in the execution not the existence of a message?

I don’t know, maybe most parents are content to have the current singers who are on the radio raising their kids. Maybe they’re fine with the characters in books like Twilight serving as role models.

But wouldn’t it be cool if the writers of those words–the song lyrics and the stories–paid attention to what Taylor said and made their words count in such a way that young girls learned more than to be obsessed with a bad boy? Or that war is as bad as the soldiers say, and to top it off, everyone involved is corrupt.

Personally, Harry is looking better and better. In his story friends matter, so much that they’re worth dying for, and in the end that kind of sacrificial love is invincible. Those words just might count for something worthwhile.

Promotion – What Makes A Work Go Viral?


I suppose every author and musician, maybe every dancer or videographer, movie producer, or TV exec wants to know the same thing — what makes a work go viral?

In other words, why did Harry Potter become such a success? Why Eragon? The Passion of the Christ? Twilight? Hunger Games? Left Behind? Shadowmancer? The Da Vinci Code? The Shack? Is there something these books have in common that brought them so much attention?

The first thing I notice is that all except perhaps Hunger Games made the national news for one reason or the other. In most cases the reason was controversy. Harry Potter received criticism from Christians as did The Da Vinci Code. Christians debated the merits of The Shack. Shadowmancer supposedly angered a faction of Christians and came to the US under a cloud of criticism. And Jews objected to The Passion.

Some of the works received national attention because of a human interest aspect. Christopher Paolini began writing Eragon when he was fifteen, self-published, and traveled the country with his parents hand selling the book until it was picked up by a traditional publisher, and made national news.

The Left Behind books found their way in front of network viewers because of their success in the Christian market. (In the same way, Amish stories are now coming out of the ABA — because they continue to sell and sell and sell.) Twilight was a phenom because, of all things, the teenage lovers didn’t have sex.

But the question remains. How did these books garner enough sales to catch the public’s attention?

It seems something first captivated an initial group who started talking. Left Behind had a well-known non-fiction writer as one of the co-authors, and I expect that pulled in a number of initial readers. But I also believe it tapped into a fascination about future events.

The Shack took a different path. The book creators solicited promotion from its readers within its covers. At the end, there were specific action points that were designed to get satisfied readers talking about the book and buying more copies to give away.

Twilight caught the attention of a group of romance lovers with a strict moral code. Perhaps Mormons banded together to support the book initially (pure conjecture on my part).

Shadowmancer, besides claiming religious controversy, also took on the mantle of the “Christian” Harry Potter, possibly earning itself a niche following.

In contrast, The Da Vinci Code may have picked up fans from the new atheist crowd or from any anti-Catholic, and of course once the Pope spoke out against it, the controversy was on.

It appears that the first thing, though, was something within the work itself. The Passion of the Christ had so many unique aspects — a famous actor seeing the project through in the face of rejection from traditional sources (human interest), opposition from a religious group (controversy) which garnered national attention, a non-traditional approach to the subject matter, a highly religious film using Biblical material as its primary source, a select group of unknown actors. In other words, there was lots to talk about.

I already mentioned the content of the Left Behind books. Harry Potter had a unique story world. Hunger Games had a timely, intriguing dystopian concept that tapped into a current cultural phenomenon — reality games.

In other words, either the author or the subject seemed to set the work apart from others, which caused first readers/viewers to pay attention.

In each case, a big budget marketing plan didn’t seem to be responsible for the work’s success. People were. But the people who talked about what they read or viewed first had to have something to talk about, something unique enough that they wanted to pass it along to others.

And viral happened.

The Twilight Phenomenon


Here it is, Fantasy Friday already. Some of you may feel “fantasied out” since I’ve been discussing John Olson’s fantasy, Shade all week. But remarkable, this is also the week of a movie release with the same kind of cultural impact as Harry Potter. Or nearly so.

I’ve heard some in the media refer to Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight as the next Harry Potter. And last night one news program featured a story about the line of movie goers waiting for the midnight showing of the film version of the YA novel.

Why did I say this was “remarkable”? Because Twilight is a vampire story and Shade is a vampire story (no matter what Olson says about it being a vampireless vampire story. A Mulo is, for all intents and purposes, a vampire, and there’s no getting around it). When we planned the Shade CSFF blog tour, we had no information about the Twilight movie release, so there was no intentional connection on our part.

The thing is, what little I know about Twilight, I surmise the vampire may actually be vampires, ranging from good to evil. This idea introduces many questions, some of which one of our tour participants, Nissa, dealt with here and here.

I found this line in particular interesting:

In particular, can a vampire be saved, or are they doomed to hell? I know, worrying about the eternal salvation of imaginary beings is a little silly, but still….

Imaginary beings. Like wizards who can wave wands to make things happen or ride broomsticks?

If J.K. Rowling can fancify witches and wizards, how much more can Meyer do so with creatures that never have existed?

I remember when Bryan Davis’s first book Raising Dragons came out, one critic wrote a scathing review, saying he shouldn’t have changed the “real King Arthur story.” As if there was a “real” story. An established myth, yes, but a real story?

So too with vampires, it would seem.

Honestly, I never imagined myself taking this position. Vampires, after all, live off the blood of others. That is wrong on so many levels. But what has Meyer done with this fantasized creature? Once again the caution seems necessary—no knee-jerk reactions. Take a look at what the story is actually about and, with discernment, measure it against Scripture.

If only I wasn’t so repulsed by the whole vampire idea … 😮

Published in: on November 21, 2008 at 12:33 pm  Comments (7)  
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