Category Archives: Report

Reflections on Captives by Jill Williamson

captives Captives by Jill Williamson, Book One of The Safe Lands series
Published 2013 by Zondervan, 381 pages
Genre: Dystopian suspense, young adult and up

Four months ago I posted a review of Jill Williamson’s latest book, Captives. Today, for the CSFF blog tour, I am reflecting on the book, which I liked.

I don’t know about you, but I am getting a little tired of dystopias. The settings are so antagonistic and dreary. But I was happy to read this one.

What I remember the most is that this story seems to mirror the biblical story of Daniel. Mason, the middle of three brothers, finds himself in hostile territory working for the good of his captive clan. It’s a great tale, well told.

Williamson left a giant clue about this: a quote from the book of Daniel at the beginning. So I’ll be interested to see where her tale leads us in future installments: to interpreting handwriting on the wall? to a lion’s den?

This post is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog tour. Check out my review from April, and be sure to check out comments from other blog tour members as well.
Julie Bihn
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
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

Author’s website

Hunger Games Books 2 and 3: questions for discussion

I’ve had a chance now to read Catching Fire and Mockingjay, books 2 and 3 in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. I am not as taken with them, especially the last one, as I was with the original book. They’re pretty dark.

Your children may have read these books, and if so, there are some good questions you could ask your kids, to help them consider the works from a Christian point of view.

1. Does Katniss have a sense of hope at the end of Book 1? Book 2? Book 3? Does Peeta? Does Gale? At the end of Book 3, what have they each gained? and lost?

2. Does the Bible give us a sense of hope for our lives? If so, can you find some specific passages about our hope? (Hint: look at the end.)

3. How does Katniss deal with adversity in the third book? Is it the same or different from the way Harry Potter or Frodo Baggins (or your favorite hero) deals with adversity? If different, how so? How would you like to see yourself dealing with adversity?

4. Snow, the villain, uses psychological warfare in the final book. Do you think the author should have added this to Snow’s arsenal? Why or why not?

Lawhead talks about his research

Stephen Lawhead, whose latest book The Bone House we are examining at the CSFF Blog Tour this week, has some research ideas for writers that you might find interesting. From an interview on his website:

Q: So you’ve been to Egypt, and Prague and Oxford, and all those places?
A: All of those places, to be sure — and others that are yet to appear as well. Oxford is where I live, so that’s a location that I’m becoming increasingly familiar with on many levels.

Sometimes – and this has happened with other books, it’s unavoidable – I can’t travel to the place I need to write about. That may be for political reasons, such as the country being closed to Westerners, or it may simply not be worth travelling to some far-flung place if it only makes a fleeting appearance in the story. It may also be that, now in the 21st-century, it is almost pointless to go to a place and be able to get much inspiration for how it was hundreds of years ago. For example, if I wanted to know what Manhattan Island was like in the 1200s, a week in New York City, as much as I might enjoy it, really isn’t going to be much help.

So, in the past, I have used experiences gained in one place to stand in as another. For example, years ago I visited Haiti – still very primitive in the hinterland – to inform descriptions of India. In The Iron Lance I let a visit to Kairouin Tunisia, stand in for medieval Baghdad, as the ancient walled city was closer visually and historically than the bustling modern metropolis in Iraq would have been.

Pretty neat, huh? Envision Lawhead visiting all kinds of out-of-the-way spots on the globe for his books. No wonder it takes him a year to write a book!

In The Bone House, he describes a trip down the Nile in a small boat. Not surprisingly, he’s done it himself:

And the Nile. Of course, now the Nile has been dammed at Aswan and that has affected the countryside dramatically throughout Egypt, so you have to imagine what it was like when the Pharaohs ran the place. But I made an effort, by spending a week in small wooden boat – a dahabiya – sailing from Aswan to Luxor, berthing on the riverbank each night, and observing along the way the villages and people I could see, and even visiting some of those villages.

Once the boat was tied up, the captain – an elegant man who wore a traditional gallabiyah with a light purple turban – would stroll ashore with a plastic bag of something smokeable in his hand. He’d make a little fire, walking around it as he fed in bits of sticks and wood he found on the riverbank. When he got his campfire going, one of his crewmen brought him his hubble-bubble pipe, and he sat there cross-legged smoking sheesha while his crew trimmed the sails, and settled the boat for the night.



For a more general interview:

To read what others are saying, check out these other bloggers on the CSFF blog tour:

More from Lawhead about the Bright Empires series

The Bright Empires series is staggering in its scope. Lawhead gives us an idea in this video:

Check out what other CSFF Blog Tour bloggers are saying about Lawhead’s new book, The Bone House:

Noah Arsenault
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
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
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
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

Future Savior Book One: Conception by Jennifer Hartz, a review

Future Savior Book One: Conception by Jennifer Hartz
E-published by Desert Breeze Publishing, 2010
Genre: Christian fantasy romance suitable for teens and adults

This book concerns Christina, who is somehow zapped from another world into ours as a fetus of four months. When she is born after five months’ gestation at 8 lb, everyone thinks it’s strange, but they just shrug. Funny she doesn’t look like her parents at all. They’re blonde, she’s not. They’re short, she’s tall. So she grows up and becomes a high school physical education teacher. At the age of 30, she finds herself whisked to the other place, Meric. The people of Meric figure out who she is, a princess, and expect her to save them because of a prophecy about her. At first she rejects the idea, but comes to accept it. She does, after all, have some unusual powers–ability to move things around just by waving her hands, and premonitions of things that are just about to happen.

Of course there is a romantic interest, her bodyguard Shaw, who had shadowed her even in our world. And there is a very creepy bad guy with greater powers than hers who plans to kill her.

What do I think?

This book is not as polished as the books from mainstream publishers, but I don’t find that a big drawback for a good story. As the beginning of a series, it ties up one story thread and then begins another, ending with a cliff-hanger. I guess I can live with that. And Christina’s faith journey is not very evident yet, but the author assures me it will continue.

The story unfolds with good pacing and great characterization. There is a mystery at the root: where is the land of Meric, and how is it related to our world? Pretty cool. So, I recommend this book and would love to read the next one.

Win a free copy of Stephen Lawhead’s The Skin Map

Have you been wanting to read Stephen Lawhead’s new sci-fi/fantasy novel, The Skin Map? Here’s your chance to win a copy free of charge. I am holding a contest!

Five winners will be randomly chosen from among those who “like” the Christian Fantasy Book Reviews Reviews Facebook page during the contest period AND post or comment on the page. For each time you post or comment, you get a point. You can talk about why you like Lawhead, why you want to read the book, or you can comment about any other book review post on the Christian Fantasy Review Facebook page. No spam comments, please! They won’t count.

Here’s a way to get additional points: post on your own blog or Facebook page with a link to this post:

Then be sure to email me at info “at” with the link to your post/page so I know to count that entry.

For each point I will assign a number, and then choose the winners using a random number generator. So the more points you have, the more likely it is you will be a winner.

You must have a USA shipping address to win the contest. The contest period ends Sunday, Jan. 30, at midnight, central time. Shipping’s on me.

Tell your friends!

Venom and Song, what others are saying

I went through many of the other posts on the blog tour for this book (Venom and Song by Batson and Hopper), and I’m going to try to summarize. Here’s the summary: those who love fantasy fiction loved the book. That was just about everyone, of course. I thought it was great too, by the way. Let’s have more books like this one, please!

Here are some excerpts:

* Keanan Brand “I liked the idea of the amusement-park-ride-on-steroids that was “the good guys'” journey via an underground river.”
* Amy Browning “This story takes us through so many exciting twists and turns that it’s almost like riding a cavesurfer to Nightwish Caverns. And if you have no idea what that means, read the book.”
* Beckie Burnham
* Morgan L. Busse “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.”
* Melissa Carswell “these books need to be put into movie form, plain and simple. Put in the right Director’s hands, and they could be made into a move that rivals those of Lord of the Rings….Therefore, these books are more than entertainment. . . they are a catalyst for stirring the soul into wondering, ‘What is my gift? What was I created for?'”
* Jeff Chapman Spoiler alert for this post! “Early in their training at Whitehall, Tommy emerges as the natural leader of the seven. He is an unlikely candidate, a misfit back on Earth with little self-confidence.”
* Amy Cruson “I couldn’t put it down! I mean it was consuming me until I finished it… I needed to know what was happening!!! It reminded me a bit more of Lord of the Rings with a touch of Narnia in it – but still holding a uniqueness of it’s own.”
* CSFF Blog Tour
* April Erwin “These authors know how to weave a tale that keeps you up at night turning pages frantically.”
* Tori Greene
* Ryan Heart
* Bruce Hennigan “Overall, the tone of the book is somewhere between a Harry Potter type coming of age and a Lord of the Ring encounter with the forces of fantasy.”
* Bruce Hennigan “And, we also learn that a people who may seem so righteous may also have their darker side buried in rewritten history!”
* Timothy Hicks “Venom and Song is filled with action, plot twists, and more action. The teenagers may survive their coronation ceremony, but will they survive drill camp and train enough to face more of the Spider King’s troops?”
* Jason Joyner “And if you’re going to read to your kids, then the Berinfell Prophecies is a great place to start! Maybe I’m too much of a ham, but I enjoy reading these books because there are a lot of characters to give variety.”
* Krystine Kercher“And what would a good fantasy novel be without a secret weapon? In Venom and Song, the weapon is an artifact called the Rainsong.”
* Leighton “The book is an absolute blast with a strong plot as well as believable characters. If you are considering getting this book, or are interested in any kind of fiction, this is for you. Buy it by all means! ”
* Rebecca LuElla Miller “…these seven teens learn they must work together to accomplish what they need to do. It’s a wonderful point, one made clear through the plot elements. I couldn’t help but think a lot of adults need to read a book such as this to learn about working together rather than pulling apart.”
* Nissa
* John W. Otte“I really enjoyed this book almost from the beginning. It sucked me in completely.”
* Sarah Sawyer “In addition to some “standard” fantasy races (elves, gnomes, etc), the authors have created their own unique creatures and cultures, such as the assassin race of drefids, armed with deadly claws. They also sprinkle throughout the story unusual plants, animals, and places that help bring the world to life.”
* Chawna Schroeder
* Tammy Shelnut “It has a Lord of the Rings feel to me.”
* Kathleen Smith
* Rachel Starr Thomson
* Robert Treskillard “…excellent young adult novel.”
* Steve Trower
* Fred Warren
* Jason Waguespac “And as aside, I loved that one of the teens suggests going back to Earth and getting modern day guns and ammunition to fight the Spider King. So many of these fantasy worlds are only at a medieval level of technical development, so swords and arrows are typically your only bet. Of course, if you could manage to bring some sweet firearms with you, you might have a leg up on things. Of course, the kids are told that inorganic material cannot pass through the portals, so the idea of an 80s action movie montage where the elves enter an armory and stock up on machine guns is nipped in the bud.”
* Phyllis Wheeler
* Jill Williamson “If you love teen fantasy novels, be sure to check out this series. It’s a lot of fun.”

What Others Are Saying About Starlighter by Bryan Davis

blackeggI thought I’d save you readers a bit of work and go through the blog tour posts to date on Bryan Davis’s novel Starlighter, the subject of the CSFF blog tour this week.

I found a variety of opinions, some very favorable, others more reserved. There fun talk from Fred Wilsher about dragons and how writers have written about them, and a fragment of a tale from fellow dragon writer Donita K. Paul about when she and Bryan went to a secular DragonCon.

I found out that Bryan Davis is a former computer guy turned teen dragon writer, and his favorite literary character is Atticus Finch. Now, I’m pretty fond of Atticus too.

So, take a look at the blog posts linked below to see what others have been saying. Note: the tour lasts through tomorrow, so I am missing some.

Brandon Barr
Beckie Burnham “In discussing Starlighter with my husband, we explored the reasons behind what I deemed cons in the book. We came to the conclusion that the audience for which this book was written, young adults, probably would have no trouble with what I found distracting. Youth today often are exposed to fantasy and modern technology in their video games, movies, etc. and would welcome the blending of the two in this novel.”
Jeff Chapman
Jeff Chapman
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
Andrea Graham” The prince in the black egg: his nature is kept, probably deliberately, mysterious for most of the book—a prophecy hints at a sinister intent towards humans early on, but he plays nice guy, (the egg can talk, too) trying to sound like Jesus, but actually reversing the Lord’s teachings subtly. In the end, the author highlights this without being preachy. It does occur to me, were teens as stupid as all the telling early on would suggest, they might miss this subtly and think he’s the wise counselor he wants others to believe he is. I think not, though.”
Tori Greene
Nikole Hahn“It is a book with all of the right elements of a good story, and though it is considered a book for teens, I would recommend it for all ages.”
Carol Keen “Starlighter is good to read, and leaves you happily waiting for the next book in the series. Many aspects of human frailties and strengths were shown where they were easy to understand, and compared nicely to the traits of the dragons.”
Krystine Kercher “Bryan Davis’s new book, Starlighter, should win some kind of award for most memorable artwork. I’ve had this interesting conversation several times over with teens I know here recently. ‘You have the book with the black dragon’s egg on the front! No fair! That is so waaaaay cool…'”
Leighton “I will tell you that the MAIN reason that I wasn’t to enthusiastic about this book is the ending. The ending not only solved NOTHING, but mixed and matched the wrong people with and separated them without any word as to what became of Adrian!”
Leighton “I had trouble seeing any specific purpose in the plot or anything. There were some ‘Pro-Life’ comments and/or sentiments. That was good.”
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Rebecca LuElla Miller “Betrayal makes for intriguing plot elements. Thinking of Starlighter in particular, I soon found myself questioning who was on the side of right and who the protagonists could actually trust.”
John W. Otte “Davis’s characters were fun, that’s for sure. I liked Koren’s dramatic streak and Jason’s nobility. Tibber the Fibber made me chuckle on more than one occasion. And I especially liked Elyssa.”
John W. Otte “In some ways, the book is an odd blend of fantasy and sci-fi that doesn’t quite mesh well enough and I think that’s why I ultimately had problems really getting into the book.”
Donita K. Paul “I first met Bryan Davis in 2004. We were both braving the very secular DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia to participate in the teen track.”
Donita K. Paul“I love names. Making up names for my characters is probably the most fun of writing a book. Here are a few names from Starlighter to arouse your curiosity.”
Chawna Schroeder
Rachel Starr Thomson
Rachel Starr Thomson “Starlighter is an engaging story, made especially so by its cast of characters. It’s a clean read, appropriate for any reader who can handle a little (non-gory) violence and scariness. Davis writes with good humour and plenty of heart.”
Steve Trower
Steve Trower “It’s the Top Ten Starlight Songs!”
Fred Warren “As for the dragons, their prophecy of a powerful new prince who will usher in a golden age of prosperity is about to be fulfilled. Unfortunately, that shining utopia has no room for humans.”
Fred Warren Comparing the dragons in this book to a variety of other portrayals. “Davis’ dragons are actually rather human, underneath all those scales, and just as ethically conflicted.” “What is a race of creatures hobbled by limited fine motor skills and lacking any visible industry or manufacturing capability doing with all this advanced tech?” “My inner Frodo is okay with the mystery, but my inner Spock needs it all to add up. There are three installments of the Dragons of Starlight series yet to come, so I’m willing to wait for the explanation.”
Dona Watson
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson
Jill Williamson interviewing the author: “You have the chance to spend the day with any character from one of your favorite books (not one you’ve written). Who would you choose and why?” Author: “I would choose Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. He is a loving father who displayed the highest moral character in the face of hate-filled opposition. ”
KM Wilsher

Author blog for Bryan Davis

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