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Christian Book Review: Collide: Birth of a New Race by L. A. Ramsey

CollideOK, I snookered myself into a romance. Under the guise that it is a fantasy, I promised accept a free copy—then read it and review it.

It’s a fun read

Though it’s classed as a historical romance, there’s little history here. What is presented is vague history of an unspecified different world. The cultures are only defined very loosely. There is no map. Seekers of fantasy will be disappointed.

I kept having questions like: How does a two-legged person with hooves for feet ever balance himself well enough to even walk? There are no answers to issues like these. A reader looking for fantasy will be disappointed. But…

As a romance, it’s a fantasy

This is fairytale romance, and well done. Even though I don’t like romances, I enjoyed this one. Two delightful people are prophesied to form a union and it’s a fantastic event. Please remember the definition of fantastic. Modern, informal usage aside, it means: imaginative or fanciful; remote from reality. Yet, Ms. Ramsey pulls it off. It’s just a believable story that the reader accepts. That’s a feat in itself.

The characters are compelling. The romance is joyful. Through all the problems, it’s ultimately very hopeful. As a romance, this one is a lot of fun. It’s good, clean fun.

Spiritually, it’s at the lowest level

This is unspecified deism, with a Creator who is actively working in His world. He communicates with His Creation through prophecy. The centaurs and elves trust Him to bring the prophetic to pass and praise Him for who He is and what he does. They are presented as naturally pure and undefiled believers in the Creator and His power and love.  There is no evil spiritual force mentioned. The enemy is human intolerance. The humans in the tale consider prophecy a joke at best. This is a nice story, well told—and that is enough. It gently broadcasts seed, and that is its intent.

If you like your romance with a touch of fantasy, this is a book for you.

Blog Train: Indie Christian Authors: Jansina Grossman, Rivershore Books

Jansina

Jansina

I’ve never done one of these before, so I’ll probably break some protocol somewhere. Indie Christian Authors is a closed FaceBook group of 450+ members.

It’s one of the better groups I’m in. Almost everything I do on FaceBook is in closed or secret groups. It’s the only way I’ve found to get to know people with similar interests, to network, and get answers to questions or problems in the new self-publishing opportunity for Christian authors.

With all the panicky people, authors who don’t know the Lord often bombard us with incessant promos, marketing gambits, and all the rest you are certainly familiar with. Even Christian Authors come in all flavors from nominal to radical. These groups give me a chance for friendly conversation about topics in which I am involved without the excessive noise. They all have strict rules about how much you can scream, “HELP ME! I’M SCARED TO DEATH AND I’M NOT SELLING ANY BOOKS!” Actually, that’s a bad example, because if you do scream that, you will get wise counsel and comfort from people who are genuinely concerned about you. It’s the best part about social media. If you haven’t tried a closed or secret group yet, you should start looking for one in your area of interest.

Here’s the  ICA blurb:

Indie Christian Authors is a place for self-published authors or those interested in self-publishing to connect and network. We have a wealth of information that each of us has gathered about how to write, market, and sell our books. Here we can help, learn, and encourage each other as we travel down the road of self-publishing.

What the blurb advertises, they do provide. Today, I’m interviewing Jansina of Rivershore Books, a fellow Minnesotan from one of the northern suburbs of Minneapolis who’s a member of ICA.

Rivershore Books

1. What or who inspires you to write? Is there a “real person” you pattern either your protagonist or antagonist after?

My inspiration comes from a lot of different places; songs, situations, and discussions are a few. As an example, the idea for my two-book series, Shrouded Jewels, was originally sparked by the musical King David. (I haven’t seen it, but we own the soundtrack.) I appreciated the way Michal was given a voice and a personality, and wanted to expand on that in a modern setting.

I actually make a point not to create characters based on people I know. Even so, after a story is written and I start editing it, I sometimes realize the protagonist or secondary characters match the personalities of friends or family members. So far, no one has turned into an antagonist – so those who know me can rest easy.

2. What keeps you writing? What is God calling you to do? Is Rivershore the center of your call, or is it the writing?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love words. Now I write every day, but there have been times I’ve gone weeks without picking up a pen. I always felt something was missing. That “something” would fall back into place once I returned to my notebook. I’ve taken that as God’s gentle (sometimes not so gentle) nudging. Writing, and seeing my books in print, is the passion God gave me.

It’s interesting that you bring up my calling, because God has been surprisingly clear about it with me. This is my goal, based on what He’s shown me: “My words, and others’, will magnify His.” It’s a two-part calling, and although they seem separate, they’re part of a bigger whole.

With Rivershore, it was created to help fellow authors see their books in print. Sometimes that means answering a few questions, and sometimes it means doing everything from editing to publishing. I believe many people have worthwhile stories to share and I’m grateful to be a stepping stone in some of their journeys.

With my own stories, I’m seeking to fill what I believe is a void: (hopefully) realistic romance for Christian young adults. I sometimes bring in tougher subjects like abuse because they’re important to talk about

3. What social media do you use? Which is your favorite and/or most productive? Why?

I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr, I host two blogs, and I have a monthly newsletter. (Phew!) I’m the most active on Facebook and my blogs. Facebook because it’s been the most interactive (I like that people have a variety of ways to respond to posts), and my blogs because they’re my “home bases.”

4. What one piece of advice do you have for other authors?

Spend time writing the difficult parts. For me, that’s the endings. Although I spent much of my free time writing, I was 19 before I completed a full-length novel. The more you write [insert your personal challenge here], the easier it becomes.

5. What book project/s are you working on right now?

Tomatoes Don’t Judge is my current work in progress. It’s a novel about a girl who meets a boy and falls in love…with his family. She comes from a family that neglects her, so being involved in daily things (i.e., planting tomatoes) is huge.

The prequel-of-sorts to Tomatoes is called Potatoes Still Bruise. It’s the main character’s journal from her early years. Just like a small bruise can affect the entire potato, Kara’s scars have an effect on the way she views the world.

While this book is first chronologically, I think it makes more sense to read Tomatoes before it, so it’s on the back burner for now.

Here are some links for Jansina

As Fairy Dust Settles ForgottenMemories LifeIsCrumbly Shrouded Jewels

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/gp/entity/Jansina/B006QKN7BM

As Fairydust Settles: The Shrouded Jewels sequel follows Mical and Davey as they struggle with deception, temptation, and a sometimes-bitter reality. Will they find happily ever after?

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The first post on the train: Elizabeth K. Writes
The second post on the train: Me

 

 

Christian book review: Oil: A fanciful prophetic interpretation of the near future

OilJudeHere comes the Madhi, 12th Imam, Islam’s messiah. This speculative tale about the revealing of this man is tense and exciting. It’s believable. And it stops dead, before anything is resolved. I can understand why, but it’s very irritating.

Jeff Nesbit has done this to us before.

Jude is a similar book, and here is my entire review:

It’s not much Christian, but as a possible scenario for the Antichrist, it’s really good. It’s an excellent story with interesting characters well developed.

I can say exactly the same thing about Oil:

It’s not much Christian, but as a possible scenario for the Madhi, it’s really good. It’s an excellent story with interesting characters well developed.

The key is “It’s not much Christian.” There are a few vaguely Christian characters. At least we are told they are Christian, but there is no evidence of it in the book. The prophecy speculations are interesting, but they are really not talked about in either book.

But it’s going beyond irritation for me

We’re back into my common complaint of Reader Abuse! Both of these books are well-written, fun reads, but they are not books. In a very real way, they are both huge prologues to the real book Nesbit hasn’t figured out how to write yet. Well, he needs to get a grip! No one knows how it is going to play out.

However, this idea of starting an excellent book, getting the reader involved, and then dumping him or her well before it is finished without explanation or apology is very mean-spirited. Both Oil and Jude are exciting pilots for the real show, prologues for the real book, or something. But please don’t let your lack of imagination slap me in the face. At least tie up the rest of the story and then tell us that no one knows how it will turn out. But it will happen, in some shape or form.

Don’t waste your money!

Working with the Holy Spirit on your book

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. If the Holy Spirit is deeply involved in your conscious life, He offers you help of which the world has no concept. Paul tells us that Jesus is our righteousness and our wisdom. The Holy Spirit knows what the Father wants from your book, and if you ask, He’ll share that with you. You know how subtly he works in your life. How would that wisdom transform the twists and turns of your plots and story lines? He’s always delivering me in ways I would have never imagined. He can show you how to do that with characters.

The Holy Spirit is so gentle and loving in His work that you will not have to worry about offending people, or missing the point. He can get the message across without preaching or bludgeoning the readers with your Bible. He’s so creative that blowing apart writer’s block is a small thing. He can give you characters who truly touch the hearts of your readers and get them deeply involved in the world you create. Remember, he can create out of nothing. It’s easy for Him to help you create a world and populate it. As far as I can tell, He loves helping me do that.

More than that, the Holy Spirit gives me discernment when I use a word which will offend—when that is not my intention. He gives me the wisdom to touch your heart—because he knows your heart as well as he knows mine.

________________________________

This is an excerpt from my new book, “Writing In Holiness: Yet Keeping It Real.”

It about getting your books in alignment with God’s call on your life and His vision for your work. How to write books, fiction and non-fiction, which transform lives and sell to all the people the Lord wants to read your work.

 

Christian Book Review: Descent into the Wilds by Terry L. Craig

Scions of the Aegean CThis is a very interesting book. I was given a free copy by the publisher through Book Crash in return for an unbiased review.

But it starts with several strikes against it. First of all is the name of the book. It’s nonsense to me, and I don’t have any idea why it’s called this even after I read it. Actually the way the cover is laid out, it looks like Scions of the Aegean C is the title and Decent into the Wilds is the series name. Scions of the Aegean C is what it is called in the emails I read to get the review copy. But, when I get to the title page of the book, I find the reverse is true. The name of the book is Descent into the Wilds which is Book #1 of the Scions of the Aegean C series. Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, et al call it Scions of the Aegean C. This is a marketing nightmare.

Then there’s the cover: Random abstract color does not give us any indication of the story. Plus, as I mentioned, the book name confusion is made worse by the cover layout. Then the fonts used are very iffy—unrelated to the book aesthetically or emotionally, and very poorly spaced.

I accepted the review because it was described as science fiction. Two thirds of the way through I was disgusted because it seemed to not be science fiction, but a romance on a distant planet. The science fiction aspects are peripheral to the first book. They may be more in play in the second. (Of course, the second is not released yet.) In addition, it’s very hard to know where the story is going, because like many in the new paradigm in self/indie publishing, this is not a book, but the first part of a book. The descent into the wilds is a brief event at the very end of the book. That’s where the excitement starts. And all I have is  wish that the book was all here.

I guess I should mention the $8.99 price for the Kindle version. Absurd!

So, after all these negatives, here goes. I have to say it:

I enjoyed the book!

The character are interesting. The culture is done quite well, and it’s useful as a way to examine religious assumptions that our culture is dealing with. Believers have been reduced to a place of non-influence in the culture. They are almost entirely from a despised race of slaves.

The culture has religious remnants of belief, but basically they are a medieval version of modern day America. But this is a feudal government. So, it does give me a chance to look at religion and faith though different eyes. There’s a lot going on, and it’s a bit of work keeping it all straight. But all of this makes the story interesting.

The belief level? Mainline protestant? Hard to say

The faith mentioned throughout may just be an Old Testament thing, but it actually seems more like modern mainline beliefs—without a personal relationship. God acts on behalf of His people as an outside force which cannot be avoided, I think. But that’s Islam, not Christian. It’s not Evangelical, and certainly not Full Gospel. It’s hard to tell, because all the true faith will be covered in the next book—I think.

Even with all of this against it, I enjoyed reading this book! I’m frustrated that the story stopped in the middle. It seems as if the meat of the book will be in the 2nd book. I would not have read it if I hadn’t accepted the review. Having said that, I’m glad I did. Are you confused yet?

My recommendation: Include the second part with the first and re-release it with the actual title of the book, Descent into the Wilds

Christian book review: The Enclave by Karen Hancock

The EnclaveThis is yet another excellent book by Karen. It is typical mainline Christian publishing—Bethany House for this one. That now assures us that there will be nothing radical as far as the belief structure is concerned.

It’s hard to call this one an exceptional story

It does have compellingly interesting characters. The bad guys are a bit too stereotypical to be terrifying. But they are interesting nonetheless. Cloning is one of the new bad guys. It’s acceptable to hate them [not really].

The story does have a nice little touch of romance. The good guys win. All the pieces are there, character arcs, plot, language, clean, nice, almost boring. It does have excitement, but there is no praise or worship. It’s just a nice, fairly predictable modern Christian urban thriller.

I guess I’m expected to say it’s evangelical

But it’s not. There are no real radical rebirth conversions. The relationships with the Lord are there and spelled out well, but there’s no real intimacy with the Lord. I just don’t believe there’s much going on spiritually. Christianity is a decision you make, not a radical transformation and transfer out of the world into the Kingdom. Am I being too critical/ Maybe. But there’s nothing edifying. It’s too predictable.

The only real question dealt with is, “Do clones have souls?” The book’s answer, probably—but there’s no Biblical reasoning given. It’s in the same class as the “love is all that matters” argument for homosexual marriage.

Sad to say—I’ve read it all before and I’m not impressed. Especially with a writer like Karen Hancock. I expect more from her. But I imagine that will not be forthcoming unless she goes independent and breaks the shackles of traditional publishing editorship. While the book is good and there’s nothing wrong with it, it could be so much better in showing the reality of a true Christian walk in the modern world.

Give us some meat next time, Karen! Show us some real walking in the Holy Spirit, please.

Christian book review: Gemworld by Jeremy Bullard

GemworldThis is the first book of The Facets of Reality series, and I loved it! It is an exceptionally inventive piece of speculative fiction—probably in the fantasy genre. But, it’s so much more.

The characters are compelling. The action is exciting. The story is what we all look for in a thriller. This SEAL transferred to a parallel/mediaeval world is a compelling hero. As a romance, it is a bit lacking, but that is certainly not uncommon in a book like this—though for a Christian novel it could have been so much more.

This is an exceptional Christian novel

Reality [of God, Jesus, and the Spirit] is largely subliminal, but it’s definitely there. This is not a Full Gospel book and barely Evangelical. However, it is far above the “clean read” non-spiritual books commonly offered as Christian books. If you like speculative fiction, fantasy scifi, you’ll love this book as I did.

It’s actually (probably, or at least close to) cutting edge, paradigm-shifting speculative fiction. The environment it lives in is medieval with radical magic abilities woven into it. Jeremy has created a wonderfully compelling world which is different enough to allow him to say things which might not be heard in a more “normal” book. I’m praying he’ll take it to the next level of reality also. But only he knows the vision the Lord has for the book. I’m eagerly awaiting the rest of the series.

It’s also an exceptional cover—though the right half of the photo seems a skosh high. I believe it’s Mary Findley’s work, and she is getting very good.

Christian book review: The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

I read one of my well-loved favorites from my hippie days, to cleanse the palette, as it were. The memories were far better than the reality.

I first read this book in 1967 or ’68. It was a major influence on my life at the time…living as I was in the counter-culture among astrologers, tarot card readers, and reading Gurdieff, Timothy Leary, plus running my life with the Chinese divination book of the I-Ching. It was exciting stuff, promising power that we only dreamt of.

Now after 40 years of spiritual warfare and growth into Truth, as a teacher of the Bible I can see this has almost no tie to reality, good or bad. Ged, known as Sparrowhawk, is prideful, self-centered, rebellious, commonly rude, in many ways the worst of man. He is forcibly humbled and becomes the better for it. He’s just a kid without friends, family or guidance.

It’s a very sad book—masterfully written, intriguing, compelling, yet empty of reality. But yet I can never forget how wonderful I thought it was in my drugged stupor in the late 60s.

Spiritually, it had nothing of the Truth either good or bad
There nothing of the Christian truth, of course. But I was surprised to discover there is nothing of the true nature of evil either. Spiritually, it is basically non-existant. Of course, by definition that makes it tend toward evil. But there’s not enough reality here to make it serious in any form.

It makes magic the religion of the world, but there’s no creator and no understanding of spiritual reality of any kind. It’s fluff. Pretty close to intriguing but worthless drivel.

Christian book review: Chasing Redemption by Bruce Fottler

Chasing RedemptionAn excellent military thriller set in space, i.e. a Christian science fiction read.

I wouldn’t call it excellent Christian fiction

I see it as very good science fiction with some Christian characters. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, and I recommend the book. There is certainly nothing wrong with good, clean fiction written by Christian authors. Bruce has definite Christian characters strewn throughout this story. The story is much better because of it. But it is not the type of book I am looking for. It’s what I read when I do not have a good Christian fantasy or science fiction story.

For the spiritual level, it is better than just Old Testament. It’s not evangelical. I’m guessing, but I would say it is probably the output of a truly believing mainline protestant. Since that is where I started, so many years ago, it was comfortable spiritually. But this is not primarily a spiritual book. This is a military book

This is a military thriller set in space in the future

It feels like a Dale Brown book with a bit of W.E.B. Griffith. It’s an exciting thriller. The technology is not nearly as plausible as a Dale Brown. The military mind is not nearly so well developed as W.E.B. does it. It’s a fairly standard Navy thriller using space ships instead of boats in space instead of on the Earth.

If you like that type of book, this is a very good example. The characters are very interesting a well developed. The relationships are well built. The conspiracy behind everything is never fully revealed, but the hero saves the day and there is a reasonable hope that he’ll get the girl in righteousness.

Christian book review: Ransom on the Rock and the Gateway to Gannah series

Ransom In the Rock

I’m only showing the cover from book #3, because I {and Yvonne agrees} do not consider the covers of the first two books to be professional. They were done outside of her control by the publisher.

Great Christian science fiction by Yvonne Anderson!

But you need to understand what I mean when I say that. I’m not saying that the series is on the level of LOTR or Dune or The Foundation series or the EarthSea chronicles. It is true that the Gateway to Gannah series is a very good story, well written, intriguing plot, excellent character development, and all of that. I am eagerly awaiting the release of book #4 in the series this Fall.

However, my emphasis is on Christian in that statement. I do not rate books by how well they are written. I rate them by how much Truth they tell. By truth, I mean does it show people’s lives being tranformed when they come into a relationship with Jesus or the person who is the Messiah in the book whatever his name. It wouldn’t be Truth, for example, if the Messiah was female, or sinful, or only a human and not God.

Gateway to Gannah delivers edification

The Story in the Stars is exceptional. Words on the Wind is more standard survivalist fare, but still very good. Ransom in the Rock is the best of the three.

Why are they so good! They offer a good look at what a complete society culturally committed to Jesus would look like. Sin rarely happens, for example, because it’s simply not a conceivable option to people raised in this society. Marriage is a strongly Biblical model [which might offend some]. Righteousness is expected and usually revealed in the lives of the Gannahan people. The Messiah is called Yasha by Gannahans, but Jesus by Earthers. They are the same person we know and love.

Most importantly, Yasha is active in their lives in a very realistic manner.  I have experienced what these character live through in my own life. So, I can verify the reality of this level of communication. It is true that Yasha is more available than He normally is in America in the new millennium. But Yvonne presents Yasha in a very real way which embodies truth. I wish we got a meah like what is found in Gannahans when we are born again from above. It’s not a Pentecostal, Full Gospel, or spirit-filled book. But it is far beyond most evangelical living. AS a Charismatic from the 1970s, I found it a real joy.

What a great book! While I don’t find it as inspiring as Guy Stanton’s books, that is only because the principles are two strong women and I’m a man. They are done wonderfully well. But Guy’s books speak to me directly as a Christian male, as he always has both a male and a female lead.

The Gateway to Gannah series is exceptional culturally

The main strength of Ms. Anderson’s books is in how saving faith and the Messiah of God works within a culture when it is the guiding force of that culture. The books are never preachy. But there is a lot of excellent reasoning for the whys of how society works in the Lord. It strongly touches my theocratic political beliefs. [Yes, I am neither Democrat nor Republican. Even Libertarian doesn't quite do it. I want the righteous King who is promised to us.]

If you are a believer, or if you want to find out how God could transform society and civilization if we let Him, you need to read these books.

The Story in the Stars Words in the Wind

The covers of the first two books