Category Archives: Book Reviews

CSFF Blog Tour- The Skin Map, Day 2

Yesterday I wrote about the cool parts of The Skin Map. Ley lines, time travel, other dimensions: all the things that make for a great science fiction. Today I want to explore the Writing Factor of this book.

Stephen Lawhead has been around for a while. He is probably most famous for his fictional work on the Arthurian legend and early Celtic History. His most recent work is a retelling of Robin Hood (I have not yet had the pleasure of reading the series, but it is on my list). All that to say, Stephen is good. Really good. And I found that to be true of The Skin Map.

One way I like to rate books is how fast I want to get back to reading the book again after doing housework or other mundane things in life. Some books can feel like homework (ok, gotta finish the book). Some are somewhat interesting (yeah, the plot is kinda engaging). Some are good (I look forward to reading it some more). And then some make me come up with an excuse why the dishes/laundry/and sometimes kids can wait until the book is done because I have to finish it. The Skin Map fell between good and I have to finish this book.

Why is this? I like to dissect a book and see why I found myself engaged so I can include it in my own writing. One thing that pops out at me about books I find myself loving are the characters. I have to fall in love with at least one character to hook me. If I’m not invested in a character or characters, I will eventually not want to follow the book anymore. Same goes for tv, movies, etc…

The plot was engaging, the descriptions great (Stephen Lawhead includes a lot of food descriptions… I constantly found myself hungry when reading J). But what hooked me was one of the characters: Wilhelmina. Funny enough, the main character was okay (Kit Livingstone). I related to Wilhelmina because she acted like I think any strong willed no nonsense kind of woman would act in her place: scared, but with enough wits to navigate her way in the world and time she found herself in.

I won’t give away any spoilers, but I really enjoyed this book. The Skin Map is fast paced, moving between time and dimensions, but also realistic in how the characters deal with their surroundings and the ley lines. That can be a pet peeve of mine: people who don’t really act surprised when they find themselves in a different time or place.

Stay tuned tomorrow as I explore the Spiritual Factor of The Skin Map.

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

CSFF Blog Tour- The Skin Map, Day 1

It’s the end of October and time for another book review brought to you by the CSFF Blog Tour (Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy for those still trying to remember the acronym :)). This month we are reviewing The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead. I would highly encourage you to click on the book link. An awesome book trailer opens up the website and explains the premise of the book more than I could ever do justice to. But just in case you want me to try and explain anyway, here I go!

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.

Cool Factor: I had briefly heard of ley lines before reading this book. This book brings those ideas to life. The thought that there are other dimensions of our world, shaped by choices we did not make in this world are fascinating. What if the Confederates won the Civil War? What if Luther had never protested the Catholic Church? What would our world look like then? (these are not mentioned in the book, I just mention them to illustrate what dimensions of our world could look like. Stephen uses examples of British history changed in his book).

Along with different dimensions are different times. Sixteenth century Prague. Ancient Egypt. Our modern times. How would you cope if you were thrown into another time? Wilhelmina (who became my favorite character in this book) faces this obstacle when she follows Kit through a ley line and ends up in Sixteenth century Prague alone. I was rooting for her as she faced her fears of being in a different time period and making the best of it (she came up with a Kaffe House and being a coffee fan, I loved reading her chapters how she survives by introducing coffee to Europe).

Tomorrow I will take a look at the Writing Factor. Until then, click on the links below to see what other CSFF Bloggers are saying about The Skin Map:

Red Bissell

Thomas Clayton Booher

Keanan Brand

Grace Bridges

Beckie Burnham

Jeff Chapman

Christian Fiction Book Reviews

Valerie Comer

Karri Compton

Amy Cruson

CSFF Blog Tour

Stacey Dale

D.G.D. Davidson

George Duncan

April Erwin

Tori Greene

Ryan Heart

Bruce Hennigan

Timothy Hicks

Christopher Hopper

Becky Jesse

Cris Jesse

Becca Johnson

Jason Joyner

Julie

Carol Keen

Krystine Kercher

Shannon McDermott

Allen McGraw

Matt Mikalatos

Rebecca LuElla Miller

Nissa

John W. Otte

Gavin Patchett

Sarah Sawyer

Chawna Schroeder

Kathleen Smith

Rachel Starr Thomson

Donna Swanson

Robert Treskillard

Steve Trower

Fred Warren

Dona Watson

Phyllis Wheeler

Nicole White

Elizabeth Williams

Dave Wilson

 

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

Book Review: Hero, Second Class

Let me start off by saying this isn’t my usual category of book. I’m usually a more dark, gritty, intense, character driven kind of reader. So when I was given Hero, Second Class to review, I wasn’t sure how much I would like it. After the first few chapters, I was blown away (or maybe laughed away). I loved it!

Hero, Second Class is about a young man named Cyrus Solburg who is apprenticed to Crimson Slash. Between P.L.O.T. Devices, narrating Heroes, and Villain Monologues, Cyrus has a lot to learn before he can become a proper Hero and join the Heroes Guild.

Quick wit and puns run rampant in this book. Imagine Monty Python and the Holy Grail, only clean. If you love to laugh, but tired of the same old trashy humor out there, Hero, Second Class is the book for you.

For more information on Hero, Second Class, click

http://www.marcherlordpress.com/books/hero_second_class.html

 

* I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in order to review.

CSFF Blog Tour- Venom and Song, Day 3

Today I want to look at the Spiritual Factor of Venom and Song. What makes this book different than all the other YA fantasies out there? What are the spiritual elements of this book?

The elves of Allyra worship a being called Ellos. Since this is a Christian fantasy for young adults, I automatically assumed Ellos was God in our world. Later it is explained that he made the world and the elves would quote ancient scripture.

So the question I had while reading this book is why do these teenage elves follow Ellos? How do they know he is real other than taking the word of Grimwarden and some of the other elves? I have not yet read book one, so I do not know the religious background of these seven teenagers, but in Venom and Song, they all seem to believe in Ellos. No one questions his existence, no one questions that he is on their side, no one questions that they are doing what Ellos wants them to.

But Ellos does not seem to be a part of their own personal lives. It felt like Ellos is God, out there, looking down on them, but not necessarily a part of their everyday lives.  To be honest, it felt a lot like how I think many of us view our own Christian lives. We know God is here, everywhere. We know God loves us. But I think a lot of times we go days, even weeks where we live our own lives. Sure, we toss up a prayer when bad times come. But if we’re honest, we don’t really connect with God on a deeper level.

Note here: I am not trying to pick on this book. I think it’s a good book, especially for the audience it was written for (10-13 yr olds). And in a world where more and more of this age range is reading fantasy (I know, I’ve seen what my library and bookstore has to offer and some of the fantasy out there for these kids scares me), its good to have an alternative.

But I think there could have been a more personal spiritual factor. So many of our church kids grow up hearing bible stories and God, but it never goes below the surface. Going back to my post yesterday, that personal spiritual understanding of Ellos and how he is an intimate part of these teenagers’ lives could have been better understood if the story had been told from just one of the teenager’s viewpoints.

For example, show that teenager struggling with leaving his life back on earth, his new role, emotional garbage he’s carried about being an orphan, and does Ellos really exist and care about him. And not just one scene, but a whole sequence of scenes throughout the book, showing the journey of that elf as he comes to see himself in his new role and see Ellos for who he really is.

So there’s my spiritual take on the matter. Do I recommend this book? Definitely yes. Unless you’re arachnophobic 😉

CSFF Blog Tour- Venom and Song, Day 2

The Writing Factor: Yesterday I wrote about the cool stuff of Venom and Song. Today I want to talk about the writing.

First, I thought Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper did a great job capturing the tone and language of their teenage characters. They also gave colorful descriptions of Allyra. From the caverns of Nightwash to Whitehall where the teenage elves trained, I felt like I could see everything.

And action. Lots and lots of action :). This is not a slow paced book. Between escaping warspiders, sliding down zip lines through the forest, training in the danger room and fighting a war, there was no time to sit and sip tea for these teenage elven lords (yes, that was a pun for anyone who finished the book lol).

Here is my one problem with the writing: there were so many characters I was trying to follow that I was never able to engage in the story. I think the story would have been stronger if it had been told from the point of view of one, two, or maybe three characters. Instead, I was constantly jumping around between the seven main characters along with a couple of the minor characters. There were too many heads for me to follow.

Like I said above, this book is filled with a lot of action. Action is good. You don’t want to hear the story of a well-written character that cleans the lint of his toes while he contemplates the universe. But action doesn’t mean a lot to me unless I care about the characters first and what happens to them.  And because I was constantly jumping around between all the characters, I wasn’t able to connect with any of the characters. I was never given enough time with one character to build that connection.

That is the one thing I wish differently about the book. I believe the story would have been stronger told from just one of the teenagers. But that’s just my opinion :). Tune in tomorrow where I will take a look at the Spiritual Factor of Venom and Song.

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

CSFF Blog Tour- Venom and Song, Day 1

As part of the CSFF Blog Tour this month, I had the privilege of reading Venom and Song by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper. I have broken my review down into three parts: The Cool Factor, The Writing Factor, and The Spiritual Factor. Today I will be looking at what is absolutely cool about this book (after all, you can’t have a science fiction or fantasy book without having cool stuff :)). So let’s get on with it!

The Cool Factor: Venom and Song is the second book in the Berinfell Prophecies. We follow seven teenagers who find out they are not humans but really elves living in our world. And not only are they elves, but they are the seven lords of the elves. The first book in the series (Curse of the Spider King) ends with these elves escaping our world through a portal back to their own world of Allyra.

Venom and Song is the continuing story about these young lord and lady elves as they discover their new world and how to control their powers. Cool Factor here: not only are they elves, they have some amazing abilities! Foresight, strength and healing, air walking, speed (like super fast), marksmanship, thought reading (aka mind reading), and fire.

One part of the book I really liked is when the seven teenagers… err… elves are learning how to use their powers together as a team. Imagine the Danger Room for the X-Men elf style :).

This book is a fast-paced, action packed story for young adults (or those young at heart). Tune in tomorrow for a look at the Writing Factor. Until then, check out these other participants of the CSFF Blog Tour to see what they are saying about Venom and Song.

Angela

Brandon Barr

Keanan Brand

Amy Browning

Beckie Burnham

Melissa Carswell

Jeff Chapman

Valerie Comer

Amy Cruson

CSFF Blog Tour

D.G.D. Davidson

April Erwin

Tori Greene

Ryan Heart

Bruce Hennigan

Timothy Hicks

Becky Jesse

Cris Jesse

Jason Joyner

Julie

Carol Keen

Krystine Kercher

Dawn King

Leighton

Rebecca LuElla Miller

John W. Otte

Donita K. Paul

Sarah Sawyer

Chawna Schroeder

Tammy Shelnut

James Somers

Kathleen Smith

Rachel Starr Thomson

Robert Treskillard

Steve Trower

Fred Warren

Jason Waguespac

Dona Watson

Phyllis Wheeler

Jill Williamson

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

August 2010 CSFF Blog Tour: Your Favorite, Day 2

After visiting many of the participating blogs during this tour, it would seem both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were a big influence in our love of Science Fiction and Fantasy. I also discovered some other books while perusing other bloggers’ sites. One I had forgotten was Taliesin by Stephen Lawhead (Phyllis Wheeler posted about this book http://christian-fantasy-book-reviews.com/blog). Great rendering of the story of Merlin (or more accurately, his parents).

I also discovered a book by C.S. Lewis that I have not yet read. Curious? Yeah, so am I. The title is Till We Have Faces. If you want to find out more, Becky dropped hints about it within her post http://rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/csff-blog-tour-your-favorite-day-1/comment-page-1/#comment-2964

For my regular readers, do any of you have a favorite Christian science fiction or fantasy book? Love to hear from you 🙂

August 2010 CSFF Blog Tour: Your Favorite, Day 1

First of all, for those of you who follow my blog and know that I only blog on Fridays, you may be wondering why I’m blogging on Monday. Today is my first day with the CSFF Blog Tour (no, not Christians Saving Furry Friends although I’d probably be all over that :p). It’s the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Tour!

Usually as part of the blog tour, I would read one of latest Christian speculative novels out, then review it along with my colleagues on each of our blogs. But this month is a bit different. We have been asked to share our favorite Christian speculative novel or author.

So I’m going to share the ones that ignited my love for Fantasy: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Yep, oldies but goodies. My dad first introduced me to fantasy with The Hobbit. I loved it! Thirteen dwarves, one hobbit, and one wizard on a wild journey to the Lonely Mountain (just writing that makes me want to go read it again :)). Its book filled with dragons, larger than life spiders, trolls and orcs.

My second exposure to fantasy was C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. My mom began reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to my family when I was in second grade. I’ll never forget finding the book the next day, hiding in a corner of my room and finishing it. Then reading the next one and the next one and the next one :).

My last favorite is one rarely read. The Silmarillion. It’s basically a history textbook for all of Tolkien’s world. For those who have not read it, you’re missing out. One of the best fantasy romances (in my opinion) lays hidden within its pages. The story of Beren and Lúthien.

Want to find more Christian Speculative novels? Check out the links below. Each of these people will be sharing their favorites. Maybe you’ll find a new one too!

Brandon Barr

Thomas Clayton Booher

Keanan Brand

Grace Bridges

Beckie Burnham

Jeff Chapman

CSFF Blog Tour

Stacey Dale

D.G.D. Davidson

Jeff Draper

George Duncan

April Erwin

Andrea Graham

Tori Greene

Ryan Heart

Timothy Hicks

Becky Jesse

Jason Joyner

Julie

Carol Keen

Krystine Kercher

Mike Lynch

Rebecca LuElla Miller

New Authors Fellowship

John W. Otte

Donita K. Paul

Sarah Sawyer

Chawna Schroeder

James Somers

Speculative Faith

Rachel Starr Thomson

Steve Trower

Jason Waguespac

Fred Warren

Dona Watson

Phyllis Wheeler

KM Wilsher

One more thing. The Clive Staples Award voting will be coming to a close this week. Some of you might be going what? It is an award recognizing Christian Speculative writing excellence. To find out more, click here: http://clivestaplesaward.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/2010-clive-staples-award-voting/.

To see the list of nominees, click here: http://clivestaplesaward.wordpress.com/2010-nominations-complete-list/