Category Archives: CSFF Blog Tour

CSFF Blog Tour-Captives

Captives by Jill WilliamsonThis month I have the pleasure of joining the CSFF Blog tour (Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy). The book featured is Captives by Jill Williamson.

Captives is a dystopia novel that revolves around a futuristic world where most humans live inside a walled city known as the Safe Lands. These humans, however, are infected with disease that has made them sterile. So now they are searching outside their city for uninfected blood by which to reproduce the human population.

Outside the Safe Lands are pockets of uninfected humans who live in small, rural communities. The protagonists of Captives are three teen brothers who live in one such community. The youngest brother longs for something more than the bare life he has and a chance to please his harsh father. So when an opportunity comes up for him to leave the outside and join the Safe Lands, he takes it. Unfortunately, he doesn’t realize that by doing so, he has turned his entire community over to the Safe Lands to be breed for future human beings. The middle brother is captured by the Safe Lands and the oldest seeks a way inside to save both his people and his fiancée.

I really enjoyed Captives. The feel of the book reminded me of the Syfy show Defiance and The Hunger Games. The three different brothers and their story arcs were interesting to follow; each one presented a different picture of the Safe Lands and their own place in their family (the beloved oldest brother, the smart middle brother, the artsy youngest brother who doesn’t fit in).

I highly recommended Captives for teen readers and up who enjoy futuristic dystopia novels.

To find out more about Captives and what others on this tour had to say, click on the links below!

 

Julie Bihn


Thomas Fletcher Booher


Keanan Brand


Beckie Burnham


Jeff Chapman


Pauline Creeden


Emma or Audrey Engel


Victor Gentile


Timothy Hicks


Jason Joyner


Carol Keen


Shannon McDermott


Meagan @ Blooming with Books


Rebecca LuElla Miller


Joan Nienhuis


Asha Marie Pena


Nathan Reimer


Chawna Schroeder


Jojo Sutis

Jessica Thomas


Steve Trower


Phyllis Wheeler

 

Rachel Wyant

 

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

 

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CSFF Blog Tour-Night of the Living Dead Christian, Day 3

Spiritual Factor: Night of the Living Dead Christian is full of spiritual questions, lessons, and thoughts. What I found most interesting is how Matt categorized different people into different monsters, each with their own inner issues and needs.

The werewolf represents those of us who succumb to our baser instincts. We see how destructive we can be when we let loose the beast within. We hurt our friends, our families, and ourselves. We want to be free and desire to not hurt others anymore. But the wolf beckons and we answer the call, turn savage, and leave a trail of blood behind us.

The vampire represents those of us who leach life out of other people in order to give life to ourselves. In other words, we use people. And once we’ve used them, we ditch them to the side and look for another fresh life to use up. We don’t like to look in the mirror because we are ashamed of what we do and do not want to see what we have become. But we lack the ability to stop.

The zombie represents those of us who mindlessly follow others without rationally thinking for ourselves. We buy a particular leader’s books, podcasts, and videos. We never learn to read and understand God’s Word for ourselves. Instead, we let leaders tell us what to do and then heavy handedly encourage others to do the same. Disclaimer: it is not a bad thing to follow church leaders. But when we lean heavily on a leader for our spirituality, it usually means we are not leaning heavily on God.

The robot represents those of us who, if we lived in the world of Star Trek, would have been born Vulcan. We tend to over think and have a hard time feeling. Everything is a cold calculation. The problem with that is we forget to love people the way God loves people.

The mad scientist represents those of us who have an answer to everything. And because we have the answer, we don’t listen to anybody else. It also means that we think we can fix the world. In other words, we have a big problem with pride.

There are other monsters listed in the back of Matt’s book, but I list the top five that show up during the story. As you can see, it’s kinda funny to compare people to monsters. And yet look how scarily accurate the descriptions are?

We are all monsters. Or as the Bible would say, we are all sinners. And no matter how hard we try, we cannot get rid of the monster inside of us. Only God can. Only God can bring true transformation, transformation that starts from the inside out.

I highly recommend Night of the Living Dead Christian. And if you really want, I also recommend Matt Mikalatos’s first book My Imaginary Jesus.

CSFF Blog Tour-Night of the Living Dead Christian, Day 2

I love the humor used in Night of the Living Dead Christian. Humor is a powerful tool. It can disarm the reader, making one chuckle or laugh out loud, and then a second later, grow sober and realize a good point has been made.

Through the story, we follow a werewolf. In reality, he is a man with a troubled past and a problem with anger (major problem). But by turning him into a werewolf, Matt puts a light touch on a dark subject. On the outside, we see the werewolf. He grows hair and claws when he loses his temper. But on the inside, he is just like us: beastly and scary. And is willing to do anything to get rid of the beast within and become a man again.

Of course, not everyone is a werewolf. There are vampires, zombies, mad scientists, androids, you name it. Each one is a monster. Most of them realize this. And want to be human again.

I laughed when I read about the church filled with zombies. They did everything the pastor told them to. They had their study bibles, their podcasts, and their commentaries. The problem was, they never thought for themselves.

As I read that chapter, a part of me pointed and said, “You know these people in real life. In fact, you were once one of them.” That realization made me sad.

I also laughed at the comments the android would say. He was more about logic and calculations that he was about a person’s feelings. But I also knew that some of his comments could have come right out of my mouth.

By using humor, Matt drew me in as a reader. And then held a mirror up for me to see myself. I love books like that :). Tomorrow, I will take a look at the Spiritual Factor of Night of the Living Dead Christian.

 

 

CSFF Blog Tour-Night of the Living Dead Christian, Day 1

The Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog tour (also known as the CSFF) is a group of people dedicated to reading and reviewing Christian speculative novels. This month, we are reviewing Night of the Living Dead Christian by Matt Mikalatos.

I. Loved. This. Book. In fact, I loved this book so much I’ve decided to break it down and blog on it for the full three days of the blog tour. So grab your stakes and silver bullets and get ready for a wild night!

Cool Factor: First thing I loved about this book: the title. It’s one of those that makes you do a double take and stutter, “Say what?” Night of the Living Dead Christian. And yes, that’s what the book is about. Monsters, dark creatures, and things that go bump in the night, Christian style :).

Matt uses monsters like Zombies, Vampires, and Werewolves in a tongue-in-cheek way to show how we as Christians can be. It’s a funny and scarily accurate portrayal at the same time (pun intended).

The story starts off with Matt (the author) on neighborhood watch late at night. He finds two of his neighbors out fiddling with an electric box. One neighbor is a mad scientist. The other is a robot (I mean android).

He finds out they are trying to invent a device that will drive away all werewolves in the neighborhood. When they start up the machine, a bunch of zombies come lumbering down the street in the moonlight. Not quite what the machine was suppose to do.

Then the werewolf appears (yes, there really is one living in the neighborhood). Matt realizes it’s one of his neighbors down the street. Matt follows the werewolf to his house. After a jumbled attempt to capture the werewolf, the werewolf actually captures Matt.

The werewolf explains to Matt that he wants to get rid of the beast within. He has given up on Christianity because the promised “transformation” never happened. He is still a wolf. And now it has driven his wife and his daughter away.

The werewolf pleads with Matt to help him find a way to become a man again. And thus the story begins.

I loved this book. I laughed, I cried (tears of sadness, not humor), and I thought about the book long after I finished it.

Tomorrow I will take a look at the Writing Factor and Wednesday I will dive into the Spiritual Factor of Night of the Living Dead Christian. Until then, take a look at what these other CSFF Bloggers have to say:

 

Gillian Adams

Julie Bihn

Red Bissell

Thomas Clayton Booher

Thomas Fletcher Booher

Keanan Brand

Beckie Burnham

Theresa Dunlap

Amber French

Tori Greene

Nikole Hahn

Ryan Heart

Bruce Hennigan

Janeen Ippolito

Becky Jesse

Jason Joyner

Carol Keen

Leighton

Shannon McDermott

Rebecca LuElla Miller

Nissa

Joan Nienhuis

John W. Otte

Crista Richey

Sara Sawyer

Chawna Schroeder

Rachel Starr Thomson

Steve Trower

Fred Warren

Shane Werlinger

Nicole White

Dave Wilson

 

 

*In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

CSFF Blog Tour- The Bone House

It’s been a couple months since I reviewed a book with the CSFF Blog Tour. This month I’m back and with the next book in Stephen Lawhead’s The Bright Empire series. Exactly a year ago I review The Skin Map, the first book in this series. Today I will be taking a look at The Bone House, the second book.

A quick recap: in this series, Stephen Lawhead explores the idea of ley travel. Here is what I wrote last year: Ley Lines: unexplainable forces of energy around our world that allow a person to jump through time and dimensions. Kit Livingstone possesses the gift to make these jumps. But jumping can be dangerous. You never know if you’ll end up in a tiger filled jungle or on the battlefield. You need a map to help you know where to go.

Such a map exists, tattooed onto the body of a man who has mapped out these times and dimensions. This map is priceless and sought by everyone who knows of its existence. Some of those searching for it are willing to do anything to obtain it, even murder.

Stephen Lawhead goes another step and throws in a couple dimensions in The Bone House. He explores the idea of multiverses (worlds like ours, but different, depending on history and choices made). So the characters are not only jumping to different time periods, they are jumping to different worlds.

I found The Bone House a bit complicated to read because the very nature of the story requires the reader to keep track of different time periods and different worlds. However, Stephen did a good job navigating and most of the time I did not feel lost.

He also did an excellent job with description. He carefully painted each time period and world change, giving description to the food, clothing, and general feel to where the character was at that moment.

However, there were two things I did not like about The Bone House. One: all the characters. Actually, I did like the characters; each one was unique and interesting. But I was never with one person long enough to actually start caring about him/her. And if I don’t connect with a character, then I don’t feel submerged in the story.

Secondly: God was hardly there. Now I’m not saying The Bone House needed to be preachy or overtly about God. After all, the book of Esther in the Bible never mentions God. But you know by the context of the story that He is an integral part of it. I saw none of that with The Bone House. It was no different than any other speculative books I see on the bookshelf. It had a great premise and good writing. But what I wanted to see is where is God’s sovereignty in ley lines and multiverses?

When I began reading The Bone House, I thought something like that would be tackled. Or addressed. Or even debated. Instead, I read about a lot of characters on lots of adventures. But hardly any mention of God. And I was disappointed.

In fact, there were things that made me pause: a detailed account of an entrail reading and a world of cavemen. Now as a writer, I know Stephen was writing from the viewpoint of those time periods and customs and religions. But why were these emphasized and hardly anything written about God? Why not at least have one character bring up the question about God and ley lines and multiverses?

It’s a fascinating question and one I’ve thought about myself. After all, God is not only the God of our time, but He even knows what could have been. As I thought about that while reading The Bone House, I found myself even more in awe about how much more God knows and understands than I do. So to read a Christian speculative book without even asking where God is in all of this was disappointing.

Perhaps God will show up in the third book. I have a year to wait.

Do I recommend The Bone House? Good writing, good plot, interesting characters. However, as a book toted as Christian speculative fiction, I think it missed out on exploring some great questions. But don’t take my word for it, go read it yourself :). And check out what these other CSFF Bloggers had to say!

Noah Arsenault

Red Bissell

Thomas Clayton Booher

Beckie Burnham

CSFF Blog Tour

Jeff Chapman

Carol Bruce Collett

Karri Compton

D.G.D. Davidson

Theresa Dunlap

April Erwin

Victor Gentile

Tori Greene

Ryan Heart

Bruce Hennigan

Timothy Hicks

Christopher Hopper

Janeen Ippolito

Becca Johnson

Jason Joyner

Julie

Carol Keen

Krystine Kercher

Marzabeth

Katie McCurdy

Shannon McDermott

Rebecca LuElla Miller

Joan Nienhuis

Chawna Schroeder

Kathleen Smith

Donna Swanson

Rachel Starr Thomson

Robert Treskillard

Steve Trower

Fred Warren

Phyllis Wheeler

Nicole White

Rachel Wyant

*In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

CSFF Blog Tour- The Ale Boy’s Feast

Its been a couple months since I last reviewed a book for the CSFF Blog Tour, so I am excited to be back this month with the featured book The Ale Boy’s Feast by Jeffrey Overstreet.

I knew this book was the fourth and last book in the series before I even began reading it. But I had heard so many good things about the Auralia’s Thread series that I wanted to jump at the chance to review this book. So here we go!

Quick overview: Auralia is a young woman who brings color into a world where color is forbidden. It is her free spirit and artistry that awakens people to beauty. The four books in this series cover the changes that go on in the world due to Auralia entering it.

That is the briefest summary I could come up with. Trust me, these books are a lot more complex than that. To describe each nuance of the series would take more blog space than I have. That and I would deprive you of the pleasure of reading these books yourself 🙂

So how would I describe The Ale Boy’s Feast? Let me use a food analogy. This is not your “eat a pint of ice cream and watch your favorite reruns on TV while sitting on the couch in an old pair of sweats” kind of book. I have those kinds of books. They line my shelf and when I need something to read, I grab those old friends.

Instead, The Ale Boy’s Feast is like going to an amazing gourmet restaurant. The food is like nothing you have ever tasted. The ambience of the restaurant is candlelight and soft music. You are wearing that dress that you only take out once a year. You spent hours on your hair, face, body, and now you are sitting across from that one person you love more than any other. It is a night you will always remember.

Same with The Ale Boy’s Feast. The writing is so poetic, so flowing with sound and smell and color that you feel like you are savoring a bite of the most luscious cheesecake. There were times I found myself confused by the story, but then the beauty of the story and words drew me in again.

I was never able to really connect with any of the characters or find myself deeply entrenched in the plot. Usually that would turn me off from a book. But like I said above, the writing itself is so captivating it keeps you in the story. It’s a book I would probably read only once (just like I rarely go to an extravagant restaurant), but the experience will stay with me long afterward.

I highly recommend The Ale Boy’s Feast with two thoughts: 1) Start with the first book, Auralia’s Colors. 2) I would say this series is only for teens and adults due to some dark plots and themes (not immoral, just dark in its content).

If you want to see what others are saying about The Ale Boy’s Feast, check out these links below:

Gillian Adams

Red Bissell

Grace Bridges

Beckie Burnham

Valerie Comer

CSFF Blog Tour

Shane Deal

Chris Deane

Cynthia Dyer

Andrea Graham

Katie Hart

Ryan Heart

Bruce Hennigan

Jason Joyner

Carol Keen

Dawn King

Inae Kyo

Shannon McDermott

Shannon McNear

Karen McSpadden

Rebecca LuElla Miller

Eve Nielsen

John W. Otte

Sarah Sawyer

Kathleen Smith

Donna Swanson

Rachel Starr Thomson

Robert Treskillard

Steve Trower

Fred Warren

Dona Watson

Phyllis Wheeler

*In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

CSFF Blog Tour- The God Hater, Day 3

Yesterday I said that it was the Spiritual Factor, more than the Cool Factor, which drew me into The God Hater. Looking back, I think that’s a first when reading Speculative novels (although now that I think about that, A Star Curiously Singing is a close second, see what I had to say about that here).

But before I dive in, it amazed me the diverse responses to this book by the participants of this tour. Some loved it (like I did), while others found it lacking in different areas. Goes to show you how different people are and how varied our tastes are :). Check out the links I gave on the first day to see what others are saying about The God Hater.

Now, onto the Spiritual Factor.

Yesterday I stated that The God Hater is an allegory. It is a story used to illustrate abstract ideas or principles. Or in my own terms, an allegory gives handles to the basket so we can carry away the idea. For example, try explaining grace. God’s Righteousness At Christ’s Expense (a nice little acronym there). But can you picture that in you mind? All I come up with is a fuzzy grey picture. But when you add a story or illustration (i.e. Jesus hanging on the cross in our place), suddenly I have a picture. I can see Jesus in my mind, bloody and beaten for my sin. See how powerful a story or illustration can be? It helps us see the idea or principle.

As a teacher, this is what I strive to do. Take God’s Word and break it down into pictures that people can see and understand (probably why I write stories). I believe this is why I resonated so strongly with The God Hater. Bill Myers did a fantastic job of presenting the concepts of free will, grace, sin, and even God. And he did it through a means that we would not normally think: through a computer program.

Here are some parts I loved in The God Hater: (Warning, big spoilers)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free will: As the programmers (and Dr. Mackenzie) try to save the digital world, one thing cannot be touched: the digital people’s free will. They cannot be programmed to make good choices; they have to choose to make good choices.

The Law: The Law is introduced when Dr. Mackenzie grudgingly realizes that these people need instruction from an outside source, specifically, from their creators (those who made the program). You can see why he is reluctant; it’s too close to the idea of introducing a god. However, these people need to know there is a greater reality than the one that they are experiencing inside the computer program and that those outside the program can help them. So Dr. Mackenzie gives them one command: “Treat one another as though you are sacred. Treat one another as you would treat me.” That’s all. Just love one another

Unfortunately, the people inside the computer program devise rules to make sure everyone is following this command. And if you don’t, you are taken to the Grid, which sucks some of your life out (how much life is dependent on the crime).

Grace: The digital people are better at following the letter of The Law (as they call the command to love now), rather than the heart of it. Once again, Dr. Mackenzie realizes that in order to show these people what meant, he will need to meet them personally. Through nanobots, an exact replica of him is made and put into the computer program.

As the virtual Dr. Mackenzie interacts with the people, he grows to love them. He is hurt by how they hurt each other and the pain of their own poor choices. He also sees there is no hope for the Lawbreakers because if they were to be taken to the Grid, their entire life would be taken because of how much lawbreaking they did. Near the end of the book, the only way the virtual Dr. Mackenzie sees the Lawbreakers being allowed back into civilization is to go onto the Grid for them and have his own life units taken as payment.

God: God is more complex, more superior, with thoughts so vastly outweighing our own that to compare him to a virtual Dr. Mackenzie is like a raindrop compared to the ocean. That said we get a glimpse of God’s love for us through the virtual Dr. Mackenzie’s love for the virtual people and his willingness to go to the Grid for them.

I could go on for a couple more pages about all the allegories in The God Hater, but instead I’ll say this: Go read the book. I highly recommend it :).