Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

What a fun year of reading, reviewing and writing this has been.

Watch for many more reviews and author interviews coming up in 2009!

Happy New Year!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Restorer by Sharon Hinck

Though I finished this book the day after Christmas, my mind still lingers in Sharon Hinck’s created novel land. First, let me say I rarely read fantasy. So how did I end up with this book? Sharon was a presenter at the ACFW writer’s conference I attended this year. She led a session on keeping God first as a Christian author ("Habits of a Healthy Writer"). Her warm, open, generous and gracious reflection of God’s Holy Spirit so impacted me, I had to investigate her fiction. Her maturity in the Lord and her wisdom intrigued me. Enter…


Here's the back cover copy:

Meet Susan, a housewife and soccer mom whose dreams stretch far beyond her ordinary world. While studying the book of Judges, Susan longs to be a modern-day Deborah, a prophet and leader who God used to deliver the ancient nation of Israel from destruction. Susan gets her wish for adventure when she stumbles through a portal into an alternate universe and encounters a nation locked in a fierce struggle for its survival. Now stranded in a strange culture filled with poisonous enemies, Susan must overcome tremendous odds to deliver a desperate people and restore hope to a world far from her own. Author Sharon Hinck presents a unique blend of fiction written with a woman's sensibility. Female readers will uncover a story of empowerment that encourages a personal pursuit of destiny.

Back to my review:

You know when you’re reading a novel and it’s so well-written that you see yourself in the story, becoming the character? That’s what this reading experience was for me. I became the Restorer, with all her flaws and human weakness. Her transformation, though, was marvelous.

Check out this blurb:
“In a fierce struggle for survival,
don’t mess with a mom.”

I love it! Sharon did a fantastic job incorporating the spiritual truths I cling to—that God’s Word is powerful and that God fights on behalf of His faithful followers. In her fanciful, created world, the People of the Verses thrived, so long as they clung to the One and His verses. But this simple command was as difficult for the People in her story as it was for the Israelites of the Old Testament. Yet, when they determinedly made their choice, the One came through for them. Sharon wisely depicted how negative thoughts can get into people's minds and rob them of peace, dragging them down into depression. Then, she gave the perfect antidote--the Verses. As a reader and a Christian mentor, I appreciated her pointing believers in the direction of the Word of the One to help them break free from the pull of evil, poisonous thoughts.

I highly recommend this first book in the Sword of Lyric series. I believe readers of Christian fiction in general, women's fiction, fantasy, or even allegorical fiction will enjoy this novel/series.

I look forward to her next two books (already released). She has gained another fan!

Note: this book released in 2007, along with the second in the series. Book Three released in 2008. The titles are: The Restorer; The Restorer's Son and The Restorer's Journey.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What Makes You Love A Novel?

When you've finished reading a book, what is it that makes you say "Wow, that was a great novel!"?

Is it the prose (the stringing of words together) or the plot? Was it how the author tied things together and concluded the story? Was it how the author surprised you here or there? Was it the emotions you experienced while reading? How much did the genre influence your enjoyment of the book? What else makes you love a book?

If an author could design the perfect book for you, what would s/he include?

Let's interact. Name your favorites book(s) and tell us what you loved about them. Or, just tell us what your favorite kind of novel would include.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Stones by Eleanor Gustafson

Here's the back cover copy for this January, 2009 release:

With comprehensive detail and flowing prose, Eleanor Gustafson crafts the retelling of King David s life from his teenaged anointing to his death as seen through the eyes of Asaph, a Levite historian. Fictional in scope, yet with amazing scriptural accuracy, The Stones provides a revealing, behind-the-scenes glimpse into biblical history with all the twists, turns, thrills, and romance of the world s great drama. You will be there as: A young teen collects stones to take on a giant. A prideful rebel takes count of his fighting men. A fallible leader succumbs to lust, temptation, and deceit. A poet and musician grows closer to God through prayer and worship. A man after God s heart discovers the unfailing love and forgiveness of his Creator. The Stones is an epic adventure of man s innate need to worship God and rely on Him for strength and how badly things can go when he fails to do so.

Here's the author's bio:

Eleanor K. Gustafson has been publishing both fiction and nonfiction since 1978. Her short stories and articles have appeared in a number of national and local magazines. The Stones is her fourth novel. In many of her stories, Eleanor explores the cosmic struggle between good and evil in light of God s overarching work of redemption. A graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, she has been actively involved in church life as a minister s wife, teacher, musician, writer, and encourager. She has enjoyed a variety of experiences, from riding horses to building houses, all of which have helped bring color and humor to her fiction. She and her husband live in Massachusetts, where he teaches philosophy. They travel extensively, spend time with their three children and eight grandchildren, and enjoy camping at the family forest in Chester, Vermont.

And now for my review:

Eleanor Gustafson’s novel “The Stones” is an insightful approach to the life of King David. I’ve read the stories of David in the Bible, but I did have a hard time following his storyline in Eleanor’s book. Though the story was at times difficult to follow, the prose was so delicious readers will not mind wading through for the nuggets. I appreciated that Eleanor tackled this king’s life story and enjoyed reading about him. There were moments I could feel the tangible presence of God as I read, as I connected with her description of David’s relationship with God. Her depiction of David’s heart life before God was the best element in the book. Throughout the challenges which led him to the throne of Israel, he continued to call on God. As you read the Bible, you see He wrote many Psalms, and sometimes even in the context of the stories you can read his very personal prayer-songs to God. But Eleanor’s interpretation of David’s heart was believable for the most part, and a blessing often. Though the book doesn’t extend to David’s experience of settling down in peace from his neighbors all around, or his indiscretion with Bathsheba, Uriah and his wife are mentioned as they related with David and his wife Abigail (again the author’s ideas of what could have happened.) I would have liked to see the story continue. There was much time spent on David’s attempts to steer clear of King Saul. Perhaps because this was such a training time for David’s character, the author remained here in his pre-coronation days. There were times the story seemed to drag as I waited for David to be made king. But my overall impression, after reading the entire book, is very favorable. This book will inspire your relationship with God. David took his fears, his concerns, his joy straight to God, even in the midst of the people he led. (Imagine doing that in any given moment, say during a business meeting). He chased after God’s heart. You catch a glimpse of what that might have looked like as you read “The Stones.” I highly recommend this novelization of King David’s life.

Look for this book in January out from Whitaker House.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Box

This week I mailed Christmas presents to family out of state, that and a pile of Christmas cards. There I knelt on the living room floor, wrapping little gifts to nieces and nephews, parents and siblings. Lights on the Christmas glowed, holiday music hummed and wrapping paper crinkled. The Christmas spirit was tangible as I filled the boxes.

What does this have to do with writing or reading?

I like reading books that are outside the box. A few authors have inspired me in this. One of them is Travis Thrasher. He doesn't write predictable fiction. Check out any three of his books and you'll see he's not a box-inhabitor. Maureen Lang hasn't fit into any specific box. These two are successful and what makes them interesting to read is their work doesn't follow expected norms. That kind of writing gets people's attention. There's value in not fitting into a known box. Take a peek at The Shack for confirmation. Wayyyy outside the box.

So, unlike those boxes full of Christmas presents, this kind of box isn't fun to unpack. It's routine.

Here's to new and interesting fiction---outside the box.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Balancing Act

I usually try to post every Tuesday and Thursday. Yesterday got away from me. I'm a little busy these days...

I've got a growing stack of wonderful fiction to review, and I'm knee-deep in reading. I've got kiddos, and writing of my own to do. Oh, and it's Christmas....

But my husband reminded me of the key for dealing with all these wonderful responsibilities at once. Take each day as it comes.

So what, the calendar's full until January, 2025?? (jk) I hope to get my Christmas cards out this week, but if they go out next Monday, it's not the end of the world. It'll all come together. Here's my assurance as I balance everything:

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

God will make a way as I follow Him. There will be time for the purposeful things. Whew.... now, back to it!

All the best this Christmas season. Give yourself a much-needed break and READ something yummy.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Writing Update

I just posted the covers for devotional books I've been involved with over the last few years: Penned From the Heart, volumes xii - xv (see sidebar). Their current daily devotional book just released with a couple of my devos included. For more information about Penned, click over to my website: and click on non-fiction.

I've also just posted a blog entry (over at Net's Notes) about reading devotionals and/or having devotional time with the Lord everyday.

As I listened to a teaching today from ACFW's 2008 writer's conference, workshop teacher Sharon Hinck ( reminded listeners/students that to write works of spiritual depth, we must be people of spiritual depth. That happens through daily time with God so He can shape us. Check out the full post at Net's Notes.

It's a balance for me between reading the Bible (an absolute must) and other non-fiction, and all the fiction I read for reviews and entertainment. But God is faithful and gracious to help me keep that balance. Reading is such a gift. (I know, a verb used as a noun, work with me here. ;-)

Happy, edifying reading.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Voluntary Book Reports?

Did you enjoy writing book reports when you were in school? I didn't. I couldn't always put together my thoughts well enough, or remember everything I wanted to include.

Now I'm reviewing voluntarily. Amazing. But I'm having so much fun! Just today I heard back from a new author whose book came out yesterday. I'm so excited to read her novel and post my review and perhaps an interview, if we have time.

What a privilege to get involved in promoting Christian fiction. I still meet people who've never even heard of Christian fiction. That's somewhat surprising to me, probably because I've been immersed in it for over a decade, maybe closer to two (though there were a whole lot fewer books to read back then). I love how it's growing, and look forward to continuing to promote it.

Even if I have to write voluntary book reports. :-)