Tag Archives: Christian book reviews

Seabird by Sherry Thompson, a review

Seabird by Sherry Thompson, a review
Book One of the Narentan Tumults
Published in 2007 by Gryphonwood Press, 349 pages
Worldview: Christian

At the beginning of this young-adult novel, Cara Marshall, age 17, is beginning a beach vacation with her family. She buys a silver seabird necklace. When she puts it on, she is suddenly transported to another world, Narenta, a place like our world and yet not like it.

The Narentans make it clear they expect great things from her. They tell her she has a perilous task to do, as an Outworlder, to help them. But Cara isn’t attached to Narenta and sees no reason to help the people there. She wants no part of the quest they would impose on her. She demands to go home, but finds no way to leave. A new twist on Oz!

She flees and finds she is placing herself and others in deadly peril, as evil sorcerers seek to kill her. She repents and decides to help the Narentans, but not before a kindly couple is dead because of her detour.

Cara is rescued by two enchanters, who do “good” magic and are followers of Alphesis (Jesus), and two seabirds who are sentient beings on Narenta, larger than eagles and full of warmth and good humor. Together, their path leads to a monastery island where Cara meets Alphesis and learns more of her task. She gradually learns to trust Alphesis and becomes braver.

Meanwhile, the evil sorcerers are declaring war on the good Narentans. Cara’s quest, if it succeeds, will allow the good Narentans to win. If it fails, they will lose.

Does she succeed? And does Alphesis allow her to return to our world?

I really enjoyed this book. Sherry Thompson excels at character development. She gets inside Cara’s self-centered head very well, and also shows her gradual turnaround. Other characters are shown in consistent detail as well. Cara must learn to trust that Alphesis will tell her what her next step is at the right moment. So this book does model the Christian walk well.

The world Thompson creates is one where good and evil may be easier to spot than in our world. Alphesis is front-and-center: there is no one who thinks he doesn’t exist. His action in history is obvious, destroying a sorcerer’s castle and locking the sorcerers up for millennia. We glimpse Alphesis’ action in history in snatches here and there, Tolkien-style.

But there are plenty of illusions as well, created by the evil sorcerers and by the good enchanters. There are imaginative details, such as woods full of copper-colored leaves, not green leaves, and “serpent-hawks.”

A drawback: a number of the characters have names starting with HA. Halprin, Harone, Hathel. I had a little trouble keeping them straight, even though they are very different characters. The two seabirds also have similar names, which also was a stumbling block for me. In addition, the opening scene (which gets the plot rolling) is disconnected from what follows immediately, and so I forgot it completely until I went back to look over the book after I had finished.

Because the protagonist is a typical 17-year-old girl who is eventually enabled to do brave things, I expect girls will like this book. There is also a minor love-interest, which may widen the appeal. The book also has plenty of action. Sherry Thompson is working on a sequel, Earthbow. I’ll be looking forward to reading it.–Phyllis Wheeler

Thinking of buying this book? You can help support this blog by buying it through me.

Middle-grade reader recommendations

A Christian mom emailed me and asked for recommendations for her middle-grade reader who likes science fiction.

So I asked Becky Miller of A Christian Worldview of Fiction what she would recommend, since I didn’t know. She kindly responded. She only knows of Christian fantasy, not science fiction, for that age group. Here is what she recommends:

  • The Landon Snow series by R. K. Mortenston starting with Landon Snow and the Auctor’s Riddle (Barbour)
  • The Wilderking trilogy by Jonathan Rogers starting with The Bark of the Bog Owl (B&H Publishers)
  • The Knights of Arrethtrae series by Chuck Black starting with Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione (Multnomah Books)
  • The Codebearers series by the Miller Brothers starting with Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow (Warner Press)

Flashpoint by Frank Creed, a Review

Flashpoint by Frank Creed

Book One of The Underground, published by The Writer’s Cafe Press 2007, 190 pages.

Worldview: Christian

At the beginning of this book, a loving father tells his two kids to jump from his slowly moving car, sending them to hide in the support beams of a highway overpass. Then he drives home to be arrested for a terrorist crime–being a Christian.

In Frank Creed’s grim Chicago of AD 2036, America has succumbed to control by the One State, based in Belgium. Technology allows the government to monitor everyone’s whereabouts, based on numerous video cameras , and on ID chips embedded in people’s left hands and in their cars. Chicago is barely recognizeable, divided into Wards. What were once highway tollbooths have now become checkpoints for crossing from one Ward to another. The One State version of Nazism scapegoats the Christians. Christians when found are arrested and sent to “rehab” where their DNA is rearranged and they forget who they really are.

Against this backdrop, the two kids, aged 16 and 20, are rescued from the highway overpass by the Christian underground, which they join. They are spiritually and physically “re-formed” with super-tech powers. They take new names: Calamity Kid and his younger sister e-girl. The two dive into a breathlessly fast-paced set of adventures, seeking first to aid some widows and orphans, and then setting out to rescue their family members from rehab. Calamity’s now a Sandman–an elite fighter who doesn’t kill his foes, but instead puts them to sleep. E-girl aids him as a “hacker” on the Internet.

Creed’s Christian worldview is front and center. Calamity and his trainers do their best to live out their faith. Calamity learns to trust the Lord, and gets plenty of direction from Bible verses that the Holy Spirit uses to guide him. I really like that about this book.

What I don’t like is the lingo. This book is a story told by Calamity Kid. He uses plenty of 21st-century slang, some of which I had trouble following. Also, the overall effect is rather cheeky, which doesn’t fit his humble-servant intentions.

It’s a well-written tale, full of action that draws you right in and keeps you turning the pages. It’s a great Christian witness to the gamer generation: its hero, with plenty of techno-superpowers, still must depend on the Lord for any measure of success.–Phyllis Wheeler

If you would like to buy this book, consider buying it through me to help pay the expenses of operating this blog. Thanks!

A contest for a Christian fantasy book

There is a Web site that offers free items appealing to Christians in the form of contests. Today and tomorrow, the contest prize is a Christian fantasy young adult novel by Andrew Peterson. It’s called “On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.”

Here’s the link: http://christiancontest.com/

League of Superheroes by Stephen Leon Rice, a Review

League of Superheroes by Stephen Leon Rice

Published 2008 by The Writer’s Cafe Press, 158 pages.

Worldview: Christian

In this short novel, four 14-year-old boys and a nine-year-old sister of one of them discover a “girl” named Genie in a chatroom. Genie is fluent in 26 languages and knows 17,354 jokes with minor variations. A machine? She also reacts to what they say and do with emotions. A girl? A puzzle, to be sure.

Genie asks them their interests. The boys say they like superhero comics. Genie volunteers to make them power suits conferring special powers right out of the comic books, with some scientific-sounding rationale for all the gadgets. In short order we have four super-heroes with super-powers, ready to take on the bad guys.

As the story develops, the five kids find themselves using the special power suits Genie sends them–to try to rescue Genie and the protector she calls Uncle from some really bad guys. The story resolves, but leaves room for a sequel. During the story, the narrator, Tom, and his friends live out their Christian faith. For example, Tom seeks to save the soul of a dying villain, and Genie’s soul as well.

My opinion?

This book has nice pacing and a strong underlying comic-book-style story, with believable bad guys. However, the four boys are almost caricatures–one of them is really good at computer hacking, another speaks a variety of languages, and so on. Their banter is pretty sophisticated too, invoking Voltaire for example. They’re also highly advanced on the road to sanctification, behaving with grace under pressure in a way that doesn’t seem realistic for 14-year-olds, or for adults either for that matter. But then, this is really a sort of comic book, right? I am supposing that a teen boy reading this might find them inspiring in a variety of ways. Or he might have trouble relating to them. I’m not sure which.

I expect this book will strongly appeal to Christian families who want their sons reading books that demonstrate faith in action. It will also appeal to Christian comic book fans. I enjoyed it, that’s for sure.–Phyllis Wheeler

If you want to buy this book, consider buying it through me to help pay the expenses of this blog. Thanks!

Let’s Take a Look at the Lost Genre Guild Web Site, Part 3 (final)

This is the last day of the CSFF blog tour of the Lost Genre Guild Web site.

I decided to evaluate the site based on its main objective: to increase interest and awareness on the part of potential buyers of this type of fiction. Let’s see how easily someone interested in this type of fiction might find this site.

The first thing I am looking at is its Google Page Rank. This is 3 out of 10. This is fairly good but could be better. I would like to see a 4, which is attainable for a site like this. (My own MotherboardBooks.com has a 4.) A higher Google Page Rank will bring the site higher in the free Google search listings for any particular relevant keyword. (I can find the Page Rank of any site using my Google Toolbar, which I installed to my browser.) The way to bring up the Google PageRank is to get more incoming links to the site, especially links that highlight keywords that people search on, such as “Christian book reviews.”

Next I am looking at the description in the HTML code for the site. This description is what someone searching on Google will see first. Here it is:
“Home page of the Lost Genre Guild. a web community of writers, artists and readers of Biblical
speculative fiction, founded by Frank Creed.”

This isn’t really addressed to the seeker on the Internet, who has no idea what Biblical
speculative fiction is or who Frank Creed is. Let’s imagine this is one of my teenage sons looking
for fantasy works with a Biblical worldview. He is very likely to move on. Here’s a better
one to consider:

“Looking hard for fantasy or science fiction with a Biblical worldview? Tolkien and CS Lewis fans need
look no farther. There ARE books being written in this vein and you CAN find information about them here.”

A set of words that many people use to search for this type of info is “Christian book reviews.”
It would be good to work that into the title of the page, to help the Google rankings. You can
find more using the Google Keyword Tool; just Google to find it.

So, how about the blog posts? Do they further the Web site’s goal?

Here’s an admission that the earlier ones didn’t, at
http://blog.lostgenreguild.com/2008/11/and-were-back.html In this post,
Grace Bridges said the blog posters had ceased posting for a time, but that it
had just been decided to start up again with a new goal.
“Where beforehand this blog contained essays by writers and for writers,
henceforth it shall bear tidings of the world of the Lost Genre…for readers.

“Lord willing, this will be a place for fans of Christian speculative fiction to find
what they’re looking for, and even what they weren’t looking for but will definitely enjoy,”
she wrote.

I am glad for the redefinition of direction for the blog, and hope it will be very useful
to readers looking for this type of work.

Check out other posts on the CSFF blog tour:

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Grace Bridges
Valerie Comer
Courtney
Frank Creed
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Kait
Carol Keen
Lost Genre Guild
Mike Lynch
Magma
Margaret
Rachel Marks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Mirtika
Hanna Sandvig
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Timothy Wise

Let’s Take a Look at the Lost Genre Guild Web Site, Part 2

The Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour for December is examining the Lost Genre Guild Web site. I’m taking part. Today is the second installment of examining this Web site.

This Web site was started by a group of writers in the Christian-worldview fantasy-science fiction genre, which they renamed the Biblical speculative fiction genre, for clarification. They put out an anthology of works in 2007. They also are reviewing books in the genre submitted to them, and publishing the reviews for the books that receive three to five stars from the reviewer. Today let’s look at the book reviews on the Lost Genre Guild Web site.

There are ten reviews posted, each linked to a picture of the book cover. Each review consists of a two-paragraph plot summary and then three or so paragraphs of review by the reviewer. I like this format; it’s concise and easy to follow. The books reviewed are for teens and for adults.

Why are there only 10 books reviewed? That seems like a low number to me, for a site that has been around since 2006. The site accepts submissions of books in the genre from authors. Perhaps authors don’t know about the site, or there aren’t enough reviewers. I would love to see more books reviewed here. I know there are plenty more out there! I would also love to see the book cover links contain more information for the reader before clicking over to the review, such as target age-range (young adult, adult) and sub-genre (horror, science-fiction, high fantasy, etc.) . The links could be organized by these categories too. That would make it easier for a reader to pick and choose. Also, I would like to see a site navigation system at the top of each page that easily allows me to go from the book review page to the blog.

Check out the other blogs on the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour:

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Grace Bridges
Valerie Comer
Courtney
Frank Creed
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Kait
Carol Keen
Lost Genre Guild
Mike Lynch
Magma
Margaret
Rachel Marks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Mirtika
Hanna Sandvig
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Timothy Wise

Seed of Seerling by Amy Kennedy, a Review

seerling

Seed of Seerling, first of a series, VMI Publishers, 2008, 281 pages.

Worldview: Christian. The One True God is in charge.

This book is a love story which will appeal especially to girls, I am thinking. The protagonist is Astril, a daughter of the High Priestess in a matriarchal society that is slave to a religion of human sacrifice. They are called the Seerlings. The neighboring enemy kingdom is a patriarchal society, some members of which follow the One True God. They are called the Harkonians.

As a child, Astril is by herself in the woods for a few days, as called for by her religion, when she finds a boy from the neighboring Harkonian kingdom who has fallen off his horse and is injured. She tends him and heals him. This is Toren, the heir to the Harkonian throne.

The two are thrown together later when Astril is captured and enslaved by the Harkonians. Toren recognizes her and protects her. Eventually he falls in love with her. He sends her for safekeeping to a priest of the One True God. While at his remove enclave, she becomes a believer.

However, Astril’s priestess sister, Gallian, comes to return Astril to her mother. As a priestess, Gallian has some magical powers and manages to kidnap both Astril and Toren and bring them back to the grim land of the Seerlings, intending to sacrifice both of them. The story resolves with some intervention by the One True God. But the story is not completely told, and we are left waiting for the next book.

I enjoyed this page-turner. If you have a teenage daughter, this would be a great book for her to read, especially if she is a Twilight fan. You could discuss the similarities and differences. The similarities I see between Seed of Seerling and Twilight are that they are both fantasy love stories where the heroine keeps her purity before marriage. The differences involve the Christian foundation of the Seed of Seerling, resulting in self-controlled and self-effacing actions on the part of the heroine. In Twilight, the heroine is the opposite of self-controlled–she passively lets her feelings rule and decides to forget about what her head might be telling her.

This book does have a few rough edges in the editing, which won’t be obvious to most readers. The publisher, VMI Publishers, is not a traditional publisher, although it is able to distribute the book pretty widely. However it does not appear that VMI was able to get a review for the book in Library Journal or Publishers Weekly, and so most libraries won’t be taking this seriously. That’s a shame, in my opinion. It’s a great story with a solid foundation.–Phyllis Wheeler

If you would like to buy this book, please help me pay the expenses of this blog and buy it through this link: