Monday, January 31, 2011

Interview with Julie Gwinn, Fiction Manager for B&H Publishing

In order to help readers and potential readers of Christian fiction understand and get to know the different publishing houses of Christian fiction and their purpose and mission, I have requested interviews with the editors and publishers of fiction at many different houses. I am so excited to share these interviews with all of you and I think it will increase our understanding and make our conversations more productive. I hope you find it a valuable resource!

B&H Logo
I am happy to welcome Julie Gwinn of B&H Publishing today.

What genres do you publish?
Romance, Contemporary Women's, Historical (both romance and suspense), Thriller, Suspense, Speculative

Does your publishing company have a mission statement?
Yes: Biblical Solutions for Life.

Do your books have a strong faith message?
The faith message is an important part of our fiction. But it is not preachy.

Is profanity ever acceptable in your fiction? Never

Do you publish books that are considered by the market to be edgy?
Because we are a part of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest protestant denomination in the world, our fiction must follow true Biblical doctrine. The novels can reflect edgy issues, but resolution is based in the Truth.

What is your approach to literary fiction?
We love literary fiction and feel our novel The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pam Ewen was literary.

Who do you see as your primary audience?
Women ages 18-55

What are some of the books you have published that readers that epitomize your mission?
Rooms by James L. Rubart, where the story is unconventional, but the Biblical foundation and faith message pivotal.

Do you welcome feedback from readers and if so what is the best method for readers to give your their feedback?
Absolutely. Through email or our Facebook group.

Thanks Julie! Visit B&H's website to learn more about their books. You can also follow them on Twitter.

If you are the editor or a Christian publisher and have not received my interview questions, please email me at mypalamy@gmail.com


Amy

Please note I'm an Amazon affiliate. If you click on a link and make a purchase at Amazon, I may receive a small commission.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review: The Pirate Queen by Patricia Hickman

The Pirate Queen
On the day Saphora plans to leave her husband, he comes home and announces he has terminal cancer. He has only a short time to live, and wants to go to the very same beach house Saphora was planning to retreat to, in order to be treated and prepare to die.

Feeling a bit trapped into this, Saphora heads there with him and their grandson, Eddie, since their son doesn't have anyone to take care of him. Almost immediately upon arriving, they meet a young boy Eddie's age who is a bit of an old soul and immediately charms them. With family coming in and out, surgery and treatment for Bender, Saphora finds herself examining her life and her relationships.

Okay here's the truth. Any synopsis I write of this book cannot possibly do justice to just how beautifully written and deeply introspective it is. I read that synopsis and think it sounds like nothing special, but in truth, this is a very special book.

Hickman is a fantastic and literary writer, and this is a very deep examination of the soul of Saphora. Hickman knows this character fully and so does the reader as the book progresses. Saphora is unflinching in her honesty. Even as her husband is dying of cancer she resents him and this turn her life has taken. She's had years to feel like nothing more than a trophy wife and now her own personal plans have been thwarted again. At the same point in time, she longs to bring some reconciliation to their relationship in these end days. Every character is so well drawn--the family love and tension is so well realized on the page. Saphora has very frank thoughts about her adult children and where they have succeeded and failed.

And then there's Tobias. Tobias is the young boy they meet on the beach. To avoid spoilers I won't say too much about his condition, but he has one and I love everything about his struggle is portrayed. It's a wonderful way of emphasizing and enforcing the gorgeous theme of this book.

The Pirate Queen is published by a Christian publisher, and I fear that's going to scare some people off. And while there is a spiritual thread it's so well done, so real without ever being preachy, it's everything I ever hope to discover in the best of faith based fiction. It's authentic, beautiful, and offers hope. But it deserves to be discovered by a wide audience, and not confined by genre and market expectations it's just that good.

The Pirate Queen is a stunning story about living fully present in your life, and unearthing the treasures that exist around you everyday in the people you know and in yourself. Never sentimental, never cliched, and never despairing, it epitomizes what I long for in fiction. I laughed, I cried, I went along on the journey--to the low points and the sweet hopeful conclusion. I just can't believe I've waited this long to read anything by Patricia Hickman, but how wonderful to discover she has an extensive backlist for me to discover.

Rating: 5/5
Source of Book: Review copy from publisher
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (Random House)
Amy
Please note I'm an Amazon affiliate. If you click on a link and make a purchase at Amazon, I may receive a small commission.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Amy's List of Awesome (1)

First, A Short Intro
I read a ton of blogs, and for a long time, I've been trying to figure out the best way to share the wealth of great content I come across with those of you who read this blog, but maybe don't have time for all blogs. Doing link round-ups always made me feel terribly defeated because they were so time consuming. So, I've decided that I'll try to limit myself to around 5 items of things I think are REALLY cool that I've come across on the internet, or people have sent to me, etc., along with any other announcements I need to make about this blog and my own projects. If you are interested in all of the things I think are worth sharing, I suggest subscribing to my shared items in google reader or occasionally checking out the little box in the sidebar. Because I use a different email address for google reader, you might not find me there automatically.

So this week's list of awesome!

Jennifer Trafton's Query Letter
You may remember that I interviewed Jennifer back in December, that she's the author of the well reviewed (and hopefully soon to be reviewed on this blog) middle grade book, The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic. She was also an attendee at Hutchmoot 2010, and is a very nice person. She tweeted this link to her query letter and wow! You will definitely want to read her book once you read it. Also, I dare you not to proceed to read every query letter with agent analysis on the site. I spent a good hour of my life doing that. Fascinating stuff. But Jennifer's is so clever and fun, you'll probably rush right out the door to buy her book once you're read it. Just don't forget to come back here.

Jason is one of the best bloggers I know at reading a book and then actually raising a discussion about the issues instead of writing OMG I LOVED IT! Which is what I end up doing sometimes. He tackles sexual heterogenity (heterogenity! New word for me!) in a recent post and in comments I come clean about how much this lifestyle fascinates me. Go on now, be appalled at me and read all the really smart comments made by others.

Speaking of personal blogs, Claudia Mair Burney, awesome author of Wounded and other books, keeps one of the most raw and honest blogs I know. She loves God very much, so if this is a turn-off for you, you won't enjoy it, but I LOVE it. Also she's just such a beautiful writer and her rough first draft of the first chapter of her memoir is posted and it's stunning.

This item's a bit older, but I think it's a piece of sheer brilliance. Lisa McKay, author of the stellar My Hands Came Away Red (is pregnant! but that's not what I'm going to talk about) coined the term Amazturbation to refer to author's checking their sales ranking on Amazon. I seriously almost spit out my drink when I read this. Yes checking blog stats has got to be a similar phenomenon. (Did I just lose readers for posting this?)

No this is not a writing blog, but yes, my last link is also from a writer's blog. As one of the few people, it seems, who was a huge fan of The Girl Who Stopped Swimming I loved this post on Joshilyn Jackson's blog. She's talking about taking risks and changing things up in your writing in order to create conflict and tension. This is the part I loved:

I drowned a girl I loved once. I fought the scene, looked SO hard for a way out for her—Nope.

In the end, she said it was okay.

“You couldn’t help it,” she told me. “I was a Christ figure. If you don’t have the spine to kill Christ, how do you ever get to Easter?”

She was RIGHT. I wrote the whole book to get to Easter… And you know what? She came back. In this new book I just finished, I found my dead girl lurking in the guise of a new character. She looks a little different, but I recognized the substance of her. She was exactly herself, without the symbolism. Reader, I SAVED her. She gets SO saved in this book it isn’t even funny. She gets the love she was so hungry for in the other book, too, in a little aside I tucked in there all for me and her and you, too, beloveds, if you have been paying very close attention, you will know her. OH, it felt SO good to give the scene to her, at least, at last.


So that's a few notable reads of the week!

What's Coming Up?

So glad you asked! I'm currently reading The Pirate Queen by Patricia Hickman, which is so unexpectedly fabulous I'm just beside with my joy! A review of that will be coming up today or tomorrow, and there are likely to be several reviews this week of current titles as I somehow managed to over commit myself. Furthermore, there will be another #CFChat Monday at 1 PM EST/10 AM EST and we'll be talking GENDER and Christian fiction (yes men I noticed you were MISSING last Monday)!

I want to remind you as well of Frederick Buechner week coming up at the end of February. If you're interested in contributing, shoot me an email and let me know (I do not have any more books to send). I'll be buckling down and working out some details this week and I'm really looking forward to it.

And I'll be putting together a schedule and sign-up for the John Adams readalong as well. Not to mention that we'd love to have you pop in for discussion on Certain Women on the 26th. Community reading can be found here, yes it can.

A Few Other Announcements

I am Jodie's little helper on Nerds Heart YA this year and the application for judging is now open! I have buckets of admiration for Jodie who manages projects extremely well. Nerds Heart YA is going on its third year, and seeks to recognize under-recognized YA books of diversity in many areas. I REALLY hope you'll consider participating because it's LOADS AND LOADS of fun.

And speaking of books and awards and trying to find the right ones, we're accepting applications for a board member on the INSPYs. We're actually hoping to find more than one person and if you have any interest at all, I hope you'll consider applying. If that's too much of a commitment, we also have some support positions opening up once we fill the board, so stay tuned.

Happy Sunday All! What will you be reading today?


Amy

Friday, January 28, 2011

Faith and Fiction Saturday: The State of Christian Fiction

Welcome to Faith and Fiction Saturday, a weekly discussion of the intersection of faith and fiction. I invite you to write a post on your blog about the topic or participate in comments. Check the schedule for future topics to be read in advance!

About a week ago, I started a discussion on Christian fiction and the people who read it or would like to read it. Read post one and post two. Also check out the transcript for the first #CFChat on Twitter. The next chat is this Monday at 1 PM PST/10 AM EST.

The responses have been great so far and really given me a lot of food for thought. I've really enjoyed reading everyone's take on this issue and possible solutions and ways to move forward.

Hannah of Word Lily suggested a discussion about the definition of Christian fiction. I think this is a very fair point to bring up. How do you define Christian fiction? For purposes of this discussion, I've been defining it as books published specifically for the Christian market that are fiction.

Another point that's been brought up is that there are more than two camps. I do agree with this. It's very hard to ever categorize readers because each person is very unique and has a set of values that is uniquely their own, and things they prefer in fiction that is all their own. But I do think it's worth repeating that we're talking about readers who want to read faith driven fiction. The "two camps" are really just a way for us to understand generalized preferences and values. We certainly don't want a war!

Sherry from Semicolon Blog brought up in the #CFChat that she doesn't want racier fiction or Christian fiction, she wants good truthier fiction. I want to point out that I don't really want RACY fiction, I just don't want life to be sanitized so I don't recognize it. I agree about wanting good fiction, but again this is a discussion about faith driven fiction. I do like this statement very much, though.

While I enjoy camp one books at times, I think what I really long for are excellent, well written, compelling stories that resemble life, that ask hard questions, and that don't necessarily try to answer them. I'm not as concerned about receiving answers or "right message" as I am being allowed to explore those ideas for myself through fiction. Yet I long for these stories to include faith--in the lives of the characters or as a rational idea at the very least. Does this make any sense? I hope I have communicated well.

What kind of books do you long to read?

Again: Please join us at 1 PM EST/10 AM PST for the second round of #CFChat where we'll tackle gender and Christian fiction.

Amy

Review: The Rhythm of Secrets by Patti Lacy

I've been hearing good things about Patti Lacy's books for quite a while--mostly that they have beautiful writing. But time always passes so quickly and there's so little time to read that it's taken me until this point to finally sit down and read one.

The Rhythm of Secrets centers around a woman named Sheila. One day out of the blue the son she gave up for adoption years ago calls her and requests a meeting. There are many things he wants to know and understand about his own history. She has kept him a secret from her husband so she agrees to meet with him privately. And so begins her story--a recounting of her years growing up in New Orleans, the loss of her family, giving birth to him, and meeting her husband at Moody Bible Institute. Interspersed in her story, is the story of her son Samuel and the love of his life--this story ends up taking center stage at the end of the book. This is a historical fiction novel that begins during World War II and concludes during Vietnam.

Patti Lacy does have a lovely way with words. Her language is descriptive especially in a sensory way....sights, sounds, smells. The majority of the story is told through Sheila's perspective and as such, she's the only really nuanced character. The other characters feel a bit flat and one dimensional. In some cases this makes sense since it's likely the exact way Sheila saw them, but sometimes I wished for just a bit more. Additionally, the pacing lagged at times for me...I found myself impatient for the story to pick up pace.

Having said all of that, I deeply appreciate many things about this book. In recent conversations about Christian fiction, we've talked about a lack of diversity, and a lack of real life responses to situations. What I found so refreshing in this book was that Lacy demonstrates a strong knowledge of the church history in this country and while it doesn't scream off the pages, it felt very accurate to me. Sheila's worried what her husband will do when he finds out about the secret she's keeping because he's a pastor involved in the early stages of connecting the evangelical church to politics. Some of the time, Sheila is with nuns and they are also portrayed very fairly I think, what they do may seem cruel but it's apparent they are acting out of love and what they think is best. When a church service came up I almost groaned, certain the big conversion scene was coming and was I ever wrong! Sheila's "conversion" feels so authentic and true to life that I wholeheartedly approve of its portrayal. It's beautiful the spiritual journey Sheila takes throughout the book. She questions God now and again--who is He? What is He like? But it's a journey that reaches it's heights in the final pages well past conversion. And Sheila is also biracial but passes for white, but her son is clearly darker skinned.

And the way she writes sexual attraction is so...ON! I've read a few romance novels in my day and I'm not sure anyone has managed to capture it quite so well before. This is not meant to scare anyone away, I just appreciated how very REAL this book felt. Sometimes I think we (all of us, not just Christians) are guilty of trying to sanitize our fiction. I think Patti Lacy masterfully captures reality and depicts it in it all its messiness without descending into the crude. This is really a rare feat.

Also, the book is one long love letter to music. Every chapter is the name of a song and music is the healing and creative force in Sheila's life.

So overall I do recommend The Rhythm of Secrets. While not perfect, it's still very enjoyable and greatly appreciated.

Rating: 4.5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: Christian fiction, including depictions of life at Christian places in historic times like, Moody Bible Institute. Also use of racial slurs recently removed from Huck Finn.
Source of Book: Received from publisher for review
Publisher: Kregal Publications

Amy

Please note I'm an Amazon affiliate. If you click on a link and make a purchase at Amazon, I may receive a small commission.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Vampire Diaries Discussion and Recap 2.12: The Descent



I don't know how all of you felt about this episode, but I thought it was pretty amazing. I actually cried! Every good vampire story has to travel down the path of examining the loss of humanity...and in this particular episode we were invited into the heart of suffering via Rose's death and Damon's unraveling. It was painful, for sure, but it was excellent television.

So the end of last year left us hanging with Rose having been bitten by new girl werewolf in town, Jules. The legend was that a werewolf bite would kill a vampire, but what our Mystic Falls vampires didn't know was that it wasn't an instantaneous death, but rather a long drawn out painful death that would cause madness and loss of control. Our gorgeous Salvatore brothers had no clue about this, and decided that Elena was the best person to leave behind with Rose. Rose quickly turned mad, though, and went after Elena, believing her to be Katherine. Soon, Elena had to barricade herself in a room to stay safe. When the sun went down, Rose took off to kill.

And so Damon goes and finds her and brings her back and tenderly cares for her as she progressively gets worse. And somehow creates a shared dream where they are both easily sitting in the sunlight of Rose's favorite mortal place and basking in the warmth of life, setting aside temporarily the burden of all they are. Rose questions if she'll be able to see her family and Damon says she'll be able to see anyone she wants. Outside of dreamland, Damon cradles an ill Rose and with tears streaming down his face, he stakes her.

He takes her body to the sheriff so that the issue of the vampire is cleared up. Elena tries to tell him to hold on to his good feeling in the thick of the pain. She even tells him her friend! She hugs him and he begins to break down a little bit and she leaves.

Oh Damon! The struggle within Damon--to love, to be good, to come to peace with being a vampire and never human again is the most heart wrenching and interesting character arc on the show. He's so deeply flawed, and constantly at war with himself that he comes across as feeling more real than the other characters who seem predominantly "good" with a dash of bad. So it was no surprise to see a tortured Damon trap a girl on the road, share with her the secret tearing his life and sanity apart and then, of course, kill her.

This entire story was to me beautiful and charged with emotion and I loved it. But there was other stuff going on as well:

*Matt kissed Caroline. They exchanged I love yous and Caroline tried to give him the brush off
*Tyler kissed Caroline. I'm far more interested in this couple, unfortunately things don't look good, because Jules has exposed Caroline's secret--she's not the only vamp in town and I'm sure this shake the entire foundation of trust Tyler has in her.
*Jules says there are more werewolves and they're coming!
*Uncle John is back.

I did miss Bonnie and Jeremy this episode but not as much as I could have, because I quite enjoyed the show as it was. Hopefully, they'll be back next time.

How did you feel about the episode?

Amy

My review of Listen by Rene Gutteridge over at Wordlily

Did you know Hannah of WordLily is hosting a week celebrating one of her favorite authors, Rene Gutteridge? She's been posting lots of reviews and other fun stuff. I had never read Rene Gutteridge before so I volunteered to read one of her books which was on my TBR pile, Listen. You can read my review over there now.

Also, you might want to check out Hannah's letter to Rene and Deborah's guest post--they include chances to win a book!
Amy

Taking a Step to Fight for the Future

2008.11.12 - The letterphoto © 2008 Adrian Clark | more info (via: Wylio)


Last night when I couldn't sleep, I wrote a letter to the president in my head. I'm not exactly sure why I felt this was the best use of my restless not-sleeping minutes, but I felt really fired up about it. It was, in my head, a gorgeous piece of really informed writing and a passionate plea for the preservation of literacy. I have strong feelings about literacy, because of my past work with adults who struggle to read and the way it's so easily discarded by our governments terrifies me. I'm not kidding. Of course my whole world view--everything that I am is so sharply defined by my ability to read and my easy access to reading material. Not just books, but blogs, and news, and magazines. I have always been a curious and voracious reader and in my adult years I have been very open to letting what I read impact and change me.

Reading for leisure is not a value that needs to be shared by everyone, but in our first world society, I do feel being able to read with ease and efficiency is a fundamental right. Not being able to read or even struggling to read puts an individual at a severe disadvantage. Furthermore, it puts their children at the same disadvantage because valuing reading in the home is an important step in one's reading development. Being able to read with ease greatly raises an individual's chances at succeeding in school and finding a career or job that will satisfy them.

I would love for our country to come up with more practical ways we can all pitch in and ensure that our children are provided with books, that they are read to, and that they are shown that reading is a key to unlocking more possible futures than anything else. To me it is vital we rescue our libraries because information is a right for all. We must fight to put books in the hands of children and let them discover for themselves how wonderful it is. The only future way out of our current dark times is to prioritize education.

As silly and impossible as it seems, I think I will try to write my letter to the president and then to every other politician I can think of. So often I feel paralyzed in my inability to offer concrete help to this problem that looms larger every day. I often feel jaded and cynical about our government and political process but maybe I should exercise my own right and participate in my own way more. Maybe I need to make my own words just a little bit more solid and more permanently a record of my generation's and my online blogging community's effort to save a culture of literacy and a future of our children...ALL children not just those with parents who care about reading.

Will you join me?











Amy

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Review: Digitalis by Ronie Kendig

There was a period in my life when I read and most enjoyed romantic suspense. Now I read it much less frequently, but when I do find a good romantic suspense it's still a complete delight. While all romances are heavy on emotions and feelings that seem to sit just underneath the surface, the suspense element of romantic suspense books seems to make everything that much more urgent. After all, someone's life is usually in danger so there's no time to waste waiting to fall in love. Romance is one area where I generally prefer the Christian marketplace--there's usually just enough sexual tension to be believable and delicious but no explicit sex scenes.

Ronie Kendig's Discarded Heroes series is about a black ops military group. These fine men have all suffered for some reason from their military service and are now in an off the record group. This serves them well...they have missions but they are tightly connected and don't have to bare the military name outside of their missions. Each story focuses on a different member of the team and what is really interesting about that is how hero-centric these books are. While we do get the heroine perspective and point of view, it feels like they tip in favor of the hero.

Digitalis focuses on Colton "Cowboy" Neeley. Cowboy suffers from PTSD flashbacks mainly centered around the death of his sister five years ago. He's also a single dad who has some guilt over what happened with daughter's mother. He's really attracted to Piper, a young cashier at a local store, and the two form a tentative relationship. But Piper is hiding some pretty serious secrets of her own. When these secrets lead to tragedy, can Colton and Piper find a way forward in love?

I love Ronie Kendig's writing because it's everything this kind of book requires. Every sentence is just bursting with charged emotion which enables you to imagine the scene and the feelings of the characters. The pace moves forward steadily with many different twists and turns thrown into Colton and Piper's path.

If there was one thing that gives me pause about this book, it was just how angry Cowboy was. There were times he was so angry with Piper and said things to her I felt were unfair...she was almost unwavering in her love of him. Even so, given his background, he was extremely lucky to find a woman patient enough to endure the hurt he threw her way and of course, his occupation.

Fans of Christian romantic suspense are sure to love this story of two people coming together despite the different and difficult circumstances in their path and the way they learn to trust God and each other.

Rating: 4/5
Things You Might Want to Know: Christian fiction
Source of Book: Review Copy Received from Publisher
Publisher: Barbour

Wolfsbane, the third book in the Discarded Heroes series will be available in July.

In other news, Ronie Kendig recently announced a new series she'll be doing! While there are still two books left in the Discarded Heroes series, I think these look pretty awesome!


Amy
Please note I'm an Amazon affiliate. If you click on a link and make a purchase at Amazon, I may receive a small commission.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review: Drought by Pam Bachorz


I really liked Pam Bachorz's Candor. I thought it was one of the more thought provoking YA dystopian novels I'd read, not settling to be merely sensationalized, it raised a series of thought provoking questions and had a bold ending. So I was really looking forward to Drought, her newest offering.

I've seen Drought classified as dystopian, but that seems wrong to me. I would say instead, it's a kind of fantasy novel that explores what life would be like in a cloistered, cult like environment. The world outside the woods where Ruby lives seems to function normally. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Ruby lives in the woods with her mother and the rest of their congregants. They all believe in their god, Otto, whose blood has sustained them. By drinking a drop of Otto's blood each week, they have managed to live for close to 200 years...their aging has slowed. Unfortunately, slowly after moving onto this land, they were trapped on it by landowner, Darwin West. They told him the secret to their health was drinking water collected off flowers, and now they are forced to collect water and dew off flowers and trees all summer long. Darwin sells the water. He treats them cruelly and beats anyone who doesn't meet their quota.

Ruby is the youngest of all on the land. She doesn't remember Otto, but he is her father. He went away, leaving only vials of his blood. When the blood runs out, Ruby discovers her own blood has the same saving power. She becomes the savior in a way of her friends and family...but her mother won't let her tell anyone else.

Ruby starts to imagine a life away from Darwin, but her mother doesn't think this is the solution. Ruby dreams of freedom but everyone's life depends on her blood. Will she go against the wishes of her loved ones to obtain freedom for herself?

I have to admit that while reading this book, I had some major believability issues. I never knew why Otto and then Ruby's blood had this power. Were they vampires? Immortals? Huh? But the power was real. Ruby's blood would heal the wounds her mother got from beatings, and saves a life in the book. So it's not some sort of lie being told to control the congregants or Ruby.

So with these questions, and the odd nature of the story, I felt disappointed when I first finished. But as I continued to think about the story, I realized that it's really quite a powerful examination of faith and control in many ways. Bachorz is the kind of author who very carefully chooses the names of her characters. It felt more obvious to me in this book than in Candor, but I was still gratified to see this is so on her blog. For example, we have a group of believing people who are suffering under the control of Darwin West. Whether you want to imagine Darwin stands for survival of the fittest or science, and West as capitalism and money, or something else entirely that I'm missing, is up to you. But I thought it was a fitting name for the role he plays. Ruby is a precious jewel, and her blood is of great worth.

Many times the group is praying to Otto and having faith that Otto will reappear. However, power actually exists in Ruby's own blood, child of Otto. She decides at one point, that perhaps what is needed is a mediator, someone to bring their wishes to Otto. Her yearning to break free is heavily dependent on this. But all along, the power of salvation exists in Ruby's blood alone and while she allows them to inform her choices and impact her decisions, she is really the one who truly possesses the power. It isn't until love enters the picture that Ruby grows strong to begin to think on her own terms and make decisions that go against the grain of her indoctrination.

This the reason I think that Bachorz is one of the most important writers of YA today. While you might find the story simply entertaining, for thoughtful readers there are layers of ideas to be explored--about the cultish life, faith, the power we have in ourselves, and self-sacrifice.

Furthermore, it would seem Bachorz has a strong word to say about parents. In both Candor and Drought the single same gendered parent of the protagonist is the true oppressor. It is only in rising above the parent's wishes and acting in defiance of them that the protagonists achieve freedom and knowledge of self. And once again in both books, love serves as the impetus for change.

Drought is in that case a fascinating, slightly odd book that provides a searing examination of self, faith, community, freedom, and the struggle over ideas.

Rating: 4.5/5
Source of Book: ARC received from publisher
Publisher: Egmont

Amy

Please note I'm an Amazon affiliate. If you click on a link and make a purchase at Amazon, I may receive a small commission.

Monday, January 24, 2011

What Can Be Done About Christian Fiction? (Part Two)

Please read the first part of this discussion before continuing.

When discussing what can be done about Christian fiction many different issues come up. I have to admit that maybe addressing Christian fiction is futile, because the real issue is the evangelical Christian subculture.

I've started to notice something in the Christian fiction books I read. While difficult issues are brought up, the main characters are never "guilty" of what we consider to be the major sins. Christian fiction readers don't want to read books where perhaps the characters are guilty of looking at porn, causing death, being thoughtless, or sexting, for example. (these are some of issues in the the books I've recently read that come to mind) We don't want to read characters who have done these things, because we want to identify with the characters and we don't want to believe ourselves capable of what we consider ugly behavior.

The problem for a reader like myself, is that I know I'm capable of acting against what I perceive to be my values. I know sometimes that I'm thoughtless, selfish, and even cruel. So when I read books that scratch the surface of life in its difficulty but where the characters don't feel truly capable of behaving in such a way, I feel disappointed and alienated from what I'm reading.

Believing in God doesn't make a person better. Believing in Jesus doesn't mean everything in your life will turn out. It means only that you are allowed to hope in that which you believe, and to trust the one promise I believe we have--that you are never alone.

For goodness sakes, even our Biblical stories have "characters" who were so completely flawed it's meant to be a blessing to know they were chosen by God. What I don't understand about our own evangelical subculture* is the myth we perpetuate that we are somehow above the ugliest of all behavior, and the way we support bottling up the truth of who we are to save face. I don't really understand our sanitized messages and the safe God we talk about in books and songs. I fear at times these messages are far more harmful than letting real life seep in.

I mention this because I was reflecting on how I used to have these same conversations about Christian music. The Christian radio stations drove me bonkers with their "safe for the whole family" messages and their happy worship songs with troubling theological messages. I just didn't see the Christian artists I loved--Andrew Peterson, Justin McRoberts, and others to be a threat to my faith--but rather in some cases, the reason I still had it. I wondered why my story was of so little importance to those in control of the airwaves and if there were others like me. I now know there are others like me.

And now I find myself having these same conversations about Christian fiction and receiving the same message. I trust that this is not the message that anyone INTENDS to deliver, but the reason we're having these conversations is because this is the message that has been RECEIVED.

If you are interested in discussing ways Camp Two and the potential Camp Three can be reached, Deborah and I are hosting a Twitter chat today. We want to have a respectful dialogue about Christian fiction and/or faith driven publishing. I hope you'll show up and share your thoughts on what can be done. Join us on Twitter today at 1 PM EST/10 AM PST using the hashtag #CFchat. See you there.

Amy

*I recogonize this doesn't even take into account the fact that the term Christian fiction has been co-opted by evangelical Christians and there are many other Christians in the world.

Review: Never Been Kissed by Melody Carlson


Elise's mom got a new job and so as a result they've had to move to a new town about 40 miles away for her junior year of high school. Elise is hoping to get off to a great start, but so far she only has one friend...a freshman girl in her apartment complex. Fortunately, an old friend from her old school introduces to her a gorgeous guy at her new school before classes begin. As a result, Elise has a fantastic first day in which she's warmly welcomed into the popular crowd.

But the second day of school, things change. Elise can't figure out what's happened, but Asher (the gorgeous guy) emails her later and explains that his girlfriend was jealous...can they keep their relationship secret for awhile. Elise agrees and so begins their separate public and private lives relationships.

But then something happens and pretty soon the whole school thinks that Elise sent a nude photo of herself to Asher. Elise knows she didn't do this, but no one seems to believe her and she has to prove her innocence.

The first half of this book started out great for me. I found it really interesting and enjoyed watching the story unfold. The second half dragged a little bit because I was pretty sure of what was going on way back in the beginning and as a result, Elise's naivite just got on my nerves. Now I'm an adult reading this and it's possible I've seen a bit more of the world, but I suspect teen girls who have to be so much more savvy about this stuff would also guess straight away.

Another thing I found annoying was that this was a story using ideas of sexting, but Elise barely used her phone or email. I just didn't find that very realistic for a girl of 15 years of age, whose mother hasn't put any limitations on her use of said items.

Additionally, the faith elements bordered on cheesy and uncomfortable at times for me and never went beyond a surface exploration.

So while I found the first part of the book to be quite compelling, I feel it ultimately failed to live up to its promise.

Available now at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Rating: 3.5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: Christian fiction
Source of Book: Received from publisher for revew
Publisher: Revell Books

Amy

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Sunday Salon -- Bloggiesta Update and Awesome News

So this weekend I've been pecking away at Bloggiesta, and while I'm not accomplishing as much as I'd like, I have managed to get the bulk of my three reviews written, as well as a few details on projects. I did take a break to watch several episodes of the second season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles which is so achingly strong in these last episodes I know I'll feel a sense of loss when it's over.

So I hope to get a bunch more done today--like those stinking RSS buttons! And a few more posts written. But really, I have many different days in my week that are like mini-bloggiestas.

In other news, Beth Kephart has revealed the cover for You Are My Only, her new book coming from Egmont in October. Personally, I love it!* Read more on Beth's blog.

You Are My Only

In the Lunch Community, I asked the question, Will the Physical Book Go Away Completely? Come join in the discussion!

At the Underground Lit Society, we shared our most recent podcast--a personal favorite--ZOMBIES! I hope you'll check it out since it talked with both Mira Grant, author of Feed, and Jesse Petersen, author of Married with Zombies and Flip This Zombie.

And just a reminder, tomorrow at 1 PM EST, 10 AM PST Deborah of Books, Movies, Chinese Food and I will be on Twitter hosting a chat about Christian fiction. We're really hopeful a lot of people will show up for the chat and engage in honest respectful dialogue. Even if you don't see any problems with Christian fiction as it is, we encourage you to come and listen. Deborah recently wrote a very brave and honest post about how she feels about Christian fiction and Hannah of Wordlily also shared some thoughts. I've heard rumblings that a few more bloggers might post their own thoughts as well. I hope they do and also join in on our Twitter chat!

Coming this week:
More thoughts on Christian fiction, reviews of Never Been Kissed by Melody Carlson, Drought by Pam Bachorz, and the return of The Vampire Diaries, plus much more!

Have a wonderful Sunday! If you're bloggiesta'ing, reading, or doing something else, I hope it's wonderful!

Amy

Please note I'm an Amazon affiliate. If you click on a link and make a purchase at Amazon, I may receive a small commission.

*In my brief days doing online publicity, I worked with Beth Kephart. But I have loved her books long before that.

The 2011 Faith and Fiction Round Table Books

FNFRT
This year, the 2011 Faith and Fiction Round Table will be reading the following six books. The group of participants have agreed to read each book and we will be hosting various discussions on the topics and themes of the books. That way, you can pick and choose which books you want to read with us and there will be plenty of places for you to discuss it!

Our schedule is below. We sincerely hope you'll join in for the discussions that interest you!

Certain Women

Certain Women by Madeleine L'Engle

Emma Wheaton has interrupted her successful stage career to attend to her dying father--the legedary screen actor David Wheaton. As the master performer grapples with an obsession over the one great role that has eluded him--that of the biblical King David--Emma confronts both the painful and healing memories of her tumultuous past. The stories of these two Davids and the women in thier lives are simultaneously woven together and unraveled in a narrative rich in theatrical tradition and archetypal wisdom. In Certain Women, Madeleine L'Engle gives us an unforgettable portrait of the private struggles and blessings of family life.

Discussion Date: February 26th

What Good is God
What Good is God? by Philip Yancey

Journalist and spiritual seeker Philip Yancey has always struggled with the most basic questions of the Christian faith. The question he tackles in WHAT GOOD IS GOD? concerns the practical value of belief in God. His search for the answer to this question took him to some amazing settings around the world: Mumbai, India when the firing started during the terrorist attacks; at the motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated; on the Virginia Tech campus soon after the massacre; an AA convention; and even to a conference for women in prostitution.

Discussion Date: April 30th

Canticle for Liebowitz

A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter Miller Jr.

Winner of the 1961 Hugo Award for Best Novel and widely considered one of the most accomplished, powerful, and enduring classics of modern speculative fiction, Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz is a true landmark of twentieth-century literature -- a chilling and still-provocative look at a post-apocalyptic future.

In a nightmarish ruined world slowly awakening to the light after sleeping in darkness, the infant rediscoveries of science are secretly nourished by cloistered monks dedicated to the study and preservation of the relics and writings of the blessed Saint Isaac Leibowitz. From here the story spans centuries of ignorance, violence, and barbarism, viewing through a sharp, satirical eye the relentless progression of a human race damned by its inherent humanness to recelebrate its grand foibles and repeat its grievous mistakes. Seriously funny, stunning, and tragic, eternally fresh, imaginative, and altogether remarkable, A Canticle for Leibowitz retains its ability to enthrall and amaze. It is now, as it always has been, a masterpiece.

Discussion Date: June 11th

Small Town Sinners

Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker

Lacey Anne Byer is a perennial good girl and lifelong member of the House of Enlightenment, the Evangelical church in her small town. With her driver's license in hand and the chance to try out for a lead role in Hell House, her church's annual haunted house of sin, Lacey's junior year is looking promising. But when a cute new stranger comes to town, something begins to stir inside her. Ty Davis doesn't know the sweet, shy Lacey Anne Byer everyone else does. With Ty, Lacey could reinvent herself. As her feelings for Ty make Lacey test her boundaries, events surrounding Hell House make her question her religion.

Discussion Date: August 13th

A Passage to India

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster

When Adela and her elderly companion Mrs Moore arrive in the Indian town of Chandrapore, they quickly feel trapped by its insular and prejudiced British community. Determined to explore the real India', they seek the guidance of the charming and mercurial Dr Aziz, a cultivated Indian Muslim. But a mysterious incident occurs while they are exploring the Marabar caves with Aziz, and the well-respected doctor soon finds himself at the centre of a scandal that rouses violent passions among both the British and their Indian subjects. A masterly portrait of a society in the grip of imperialism, A Passage to India compellingly depicts the fate of individuals caught between the great political and cultural conflicts of the modern world.

Discussion Date: September 24th

Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee

Four hundred eighty years have passed since civilization's brush with extinction. Perfect order reigns. Humanity's greatest threats have all been silenced. There is no disease, no malice, no hate, no war. There is only peace.
Until the day when one man discovers the truth: Every single soul walking the earth is actually dead. The human heart has been stripped of all that makes it human. Now only he is alive and only he has the knowledge that can once again awaken humanity.
But the way is treacherous and the cost is staggering. For, indeed, in that day life itself is...Forbidden.

Discussion Date: November 12th

That's it! I hope you will all join in on at least one of these really different sounding books!

Please note this Monday Deborah and I will be hosting a Twitter chat about Christian fiction. You can read the details on this post, What Can Be Done About Christian Fiction (Part One). We'd love to have you join in. Next week's Faith and Fiction Saturday will recap some of the discussion and bring in new points. Check out the schedule for Faith and Fiction Saturday.

Amy

Please note I'm an Amazon affiliate. If you click on a link and make a purchase at Amazon, I may receive a small commission.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge: Setting Goals

Bloggiesta

Welcome to Bloggiesta #4 amigos!

Are you wondering what Bloggiesta is and what you're doing here?
Bloggiesta is:

In short, it’s a blogging marathon. A opportunity to cross those nagging items off of your to-do list and improve your blog while in the good company of other awesome bloggers doing the same thing. Our awesome mascot Pedro (Plan. Edit. Develop. Review. Organize) is ready to break out the nachos, enchiladas, drinks, mariachi music and whack a pinata or two! It’s nothing short of an awesome fiesta!


I am welcoming you here today to discuss goals for your blog. Since it's the start of the new year, you may have already made some resolutions, but now's a good chance to really consider what YOU want YOUR blog to be.

There are many things to consider when evaluating your blog and deciding on goals. There are many different kinds of goals you can make as well. But first you might want to consider your blog as a whole.

I have a story to share with you. I have been blogging for close to six years and simply can't imagine my life without it. My blog has gone through many changes during that time, and suffered from a lame name the entire time. But recently I heard an author say, "write the book you want to read." When I applied that to my blog, it completely changed the way I viewed blogging. I realized I wasn't writing the blog I wanted to read. I decided to set out to write a blog I would want to read. So that's my major goal for 2011...to keep trying to write the blog I want to read.

How about you? What are your goals for 2011? Do you set blogging goals? Or do you just go where the spirit takes you?

Here are some things to consider when making blogging goals.

  • Think about you blog as a whole. Do you feel that your blog reflects who you are as a person? Do you have a mission statement or purpose for your blog, and if so, are you meeting it?
  • What isn't working? Are there design elements or technical problems you'd like to change or fix?
  • What do you love about your blog? What do you think you're doing right?
  • What do you wish you could do with your blog?
  • What are your favorite blogs to read? (not your favorite bloggers as people!) Why do you love them? Can you figure out what they have in common?

Now that you've considered these things, it's time to think of some concrete goals. One of the worst parts about making goals is that it can seem overwhelming. So it's really helpful if you make goals according to what can reasonably be accomplished. For example:
My overarching goal for 2011 is to write a blog I want to read.
By July, I'd like to have move my blog to wordpress with a new design and higher functionality.
By March, I'd like to have developed a rhythm and schedule for posting so that I'm not always flying by the seat of my pants.
By Sunday, I'd like to have changed my RSS buttons and be caught up on reviews.

As you can see, I have a lot of goals, but I've set them out according to timeline so they seem a bit more reasonable. This is one way of tackling your blogging goals.

If you'd like to participate in this mini-challenge, I need you to do the following.
1) Make sure you're signed up for Bloggiesta!
2) Leave a comment and tell me what some of your blogging goals are after reflecting on the above questions. Even if you have no goals, tell me that your goal is to have no goals.

Everyone who follows the above two steps will be entered to win a prize from a publisher!

Good luck everyone and have a fabulous Bloggiesta!

Amy

My List of Goals for Bloggiesta!



Bloggiesta is the ever fun blogging marathon created and hosted by fabulous Natasha of Maw Books Blog.

Basically in the spirit of blogging camaraderie, we all dig into that ever increasing to-do list and try to knock as much of it out as possible. Usually I have some sort of timing conflict with bloggiesta, but this time I don't and I'm thrilled to buckle down and get a bunch of work done. I won't be working the whole weekend, but I will devote a few chunks of time to getting things done.

So what's on the agenda?

1) Write reviews. I actually have very little of this to do...3 reviews to be exact, but I'd like to get them finished. Two of the books don't come out for awhile, so it's important I force myself to do this now. It will be nice to have this done so that when they release I can simply publish!

2) Work on the BBAW newsletter. I need to figure out the template and process for the awesome little crew working on this.

3) Finalize some other BBAW details. It's about time to get that show on the road, believe it or not.

4) Work on the RSS buttons on the sidebar of this blog--they are kind of small which I have liked but realize that some people don't see them.

5) Research options for design and moving this blog. It will be a huge project, but I'm ready to make some changes. Additionally, I'd like to figure out something new for The Friendly Book Nook which also needs a lot of work.

6) Work on the Lunch community. I want to add a few more reviews.

7) Work on a few resources I'll be offering here--sorry to be vague, but you know how it is!

8) Create buttons for a few features and also send out more emails to get them figured out.

9) Write posts for my other blogs, Intimate Strangers and Brave and Bittersweet.

10) Delete spam comments on the BBAW blog.

11) Update my review index. (ugh)

12) Start framework for two major projects that have been on the wait list for far too long.

13) Update goodreads group for Underground Literary Society.


I like having this list, because while I'm unlikely to get even a fraction of this stuff done, it reminds me of everything I want to eventually get done. And that's worth quite a bit! Will you be participating in the bloggiesta?

Amy

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What Can Be Done About Christian Fiction? (Part One)

When it comes to the question of Christian fiction, there seems to be two major camps.

Camp One is perhaps the market I feel is most catered to. This is the group that wants what they see as "clean" fiction. What is clean fiction? No profanity, no explicit sex, and characters that are enormously likable and while they may fail, they do not cross certain lines. If they do cross certain lines, they are brought back to redemption by way of appropriate consequences. Additionally, this camp probably prefers a strong message about right and wrong or a strong thread about how the characters apply faith in their lives. They will also prefer the stories not be too dark, but light and everything works out in the end.

Camp Two is the camp that wants to read works written by Christians, that enjoy seeing the way faith is represented in fiction, but they don't value the same things in books as camp one. Rather they are looking for life in its gritty messy ways and while they want to see hope and redemption in their stories, they long for realistic characters and life situations they can relate to. Therefore, camp two does not often read Christian fiction, because they've found it doesn't reflect life as they know it. Camp Two would probably say that Camp One's books sacrifice the artistic elements of a story for message.

I guess I fall somewhere in between. My true sympathies lie with Camp Two, but I believe there is a place for Camp One. The problem seems to be finding how both markets can be served. I really believe Christian publishers have closed off an entire market to serve Camp One, because they're the proven customers who have been around longer. The problem is that in so doing, they are alienating a huge possible market.

I read a good deal of Christian fiction and this issue is not a new one for me to address. In fact, the creation of the INSPYs was all about trying to figure out how to serve readers in Camp Two. I believe there's a lot of great Christian fiction being published today, but there's no guide to help readers know if a book falls into Camp One or Camp Two. Therefore you get problems and complaints from both camps. Just last week, I read on Tami of Tree Swing Reading's blog about her frustration with words like "gosh" showing up in Christian fiction because she knows some people in her church will find that offensive. I have to admit it shocked me a little, as I'm on the other end of the spectrum, hoping Christian fiction authors will push the envelope just a little bit more. On the other hand, you have Heather of Raging Bibliomania in her positive review of The Mailbox, say this:
"It showed me that being a Christian is not about being morally smug and alienating others, and that's something most Christian fiction authors don't even attempt to accomplish with their books" (emphasis mine)
So in other words, she finds most Christian fiction to be morally smug and alienating!

Then there's the issue of covers. I attempted to address the issue of covers last year, and I have to admit that while I received a lot of support from readers of this blog, I had a conversation with a publisher that left me discouraged and feeling alienated from the Christian fiction world. The essential message was that the kind of covers I hated sold better, and therefore they would stick to that. It's not that I don't understand, I do. But I feel the thinking is limited and focused on the existing market and not reaching out to Camp Two at all. I was basically told that covers that looked like literary fiction were out.

Speaking of literary fiction, my heart nearly broke when I read this post on Novel Journey about writing literary fiction being a death knell. I don't even particularly like the term literary fiction--it's not very descriptive and its insulting to everything else, but I know what kind of book it generally refers to and I think it should be present and celebrated in Christian fiction. Camp Two wants to see more literary fiction.

I am not the target market for Christian fiction. Neither is my friend Deborah of Books, Movies, and Chinese Food. And this breaks my heart in a way, because if Christian publishers should be trying to woo anyone, it's Deborah! She's a voracious reader of Christian fiction, she reviews it on both her blog and Amazon and she sticks up for it constantly. She's a huge fan, but she often feels as if her needs and desires as a reader are not taken into consideration. She's probably a healthy blend of Camp One and Camp Two, she's Asian American, and she's in her twenties.

What can be done? As I see it, we have two major camps and no way of pleasing either of them. And they can both be loud about what they don't like. But I feel both kinds of readers are important and valuable.

The only solution I can come up with in my mind is branding. Publishers need to do a better job of branding themselves with readers. This may mean the creation of imprints that serve the appropriate camp. As it stands now, many people are unaware of publishers. For example, from conversation I know that Harvest House is a more conservative publisher. And Cook is more willing to take risks and publish edgier fiction. But I'm a book blogger who thinks about books a lot and has spent a lot of time on this issue. The average reader has no idea. (By the way, imprints might make more sense to readers if they could see a logical pattern behind them. The idea of imprints is good, current execution of imprints in publishing as I see it? Not really working)

I do recognize that a major obstacle is Christian retailers. Christian retailers often carry merchandise that is family friendly. This is a more important consideration to them than actual Christian content. But I suspect that with ebooks gaining prominence, this may not be a problem for long.

Deborah and I would love to open up this conversation to more of you. We think that a lot of people have feelings on this issue and would like to express them. We also think that a lot of you might have ideas. We just really believe in keeping the conversation going! So we will be having a Twitter chat on Monday at 1 PM EST/10 AM PST to discuss what can be done about Christian fiction, how people feel about it currently, and share ideas for serving both camps. Please join us on Twitter and use the hashtag #CFChat. (We considered #WhatupCF but thought it might be too irreverent :) Publishers, authors, readers, librarians -- all are welcome. Please please join us!

Finally, I just want to say that I bring this up because I love readers. I love many Christian fiction books and many general market books. It is not my intention to wound by sharing my thoughts, but rather to open up the conversation and see how we can best meet the needs of various kinds of readers. I love faith driven lit and I think that there can be a way that everyone can find books they love to read.

Amy

Review: You Know When the Men Are Gone Siobhan Fallon

You Know When the Men are Gone She bit her lip and wondered if this was the sum of a marriage: wordless recriminations or reconciliations, every breath either striving against or toward the other person, each second a decision to exert or abdicate the self.

Short stories are generally difficult for readers to embrace. In theory we like them, at times we read them, but we rarely jump up and down about new short story collections. So even when I heard the writing was fantastic in You Know When the Men Are Gone, the real appeal was that these were stories about military families.

I sometimes think our country is particularly uncomfortable in dealing with military families. After all, we may thank our soldiers for their service but the fact remains they are sacrificing in big huge amounts...time with family, limbs, life, and peace of mind so that we can live in a world where we talk about the latest celebrity gossip as if it were news. And even worse, we rarely pay attention to the events that shape their existence and impact their families. We often use their stories as pieces of political tug-of-war and forget the full human in that uniform, the beating heart underneath the flesh we trade.

So I looked forward to reading these stories, and I have to tell you I was blown away. What Fallon has done is to find the moments in the lives of military personnel and their wives, mostly, that are teeming with choice and impact. Snapshots that encapsulate the larger lives they lead. Her crisp, precise prose invites us so fully into the scene, we see through the eyes of the characters. We sense their reality, their agony, their sorrows, frustrations, and disappointments. We smell the world around them and can almost reach out and touch the place they live. This is, technically, a collection of short stories, but really it's an invitation to see the many jagged pieces that complete a whole...a very decent look at life in Fort Hood.

Perhaps that's why this didn't feel like a short story collection to me. The main character was Fort Hood, the unifying, centralizing force in the middle. Something bad happens, a terrible event happens, and its effects reverberate throughout each short, each life affected in some way, and often in such different ways from each other.

Lest you think you won't relate to these stories because you live a happily civilian life, I want to reassure you that Fallon's stories are uniquely about the military and yet stunningly universal all at once. These are stories about life and the human heart, first and foremost. Whether that's reflected in the woman who wonders if she's made a mistake in marrying her husband, the man who rages with jealousy at his wife's infidelity, the returning soldier who's girlfriend leaves him not for any fault of his own, or the wife who fears her husband is someone different than who she married, you will find yourself and the people you know here. The emotional truth reached right through the pages and pulled my heart right out...I found myself sobbing at a few of these stories, and gasping with delight at the beauty of the words in others.

You Know When the Men are Gone is already garnering rave reviews from many corners, and I really hope it continues to find itself in the hands of readers. It's a wonderful short story collection, the writing is that rare kind to be savored and enjoyed and Siobahn Fallon is a welcome new voice on the literary scene.

Rating: 5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: Some profanity
Source of Book: ARC received from publisher
Publisher: Amy Einhorn (Penguin)


Amy

Please note I'm an Amazon affiliate. If you click on a link and make a purchase at Amazon, I may receive a small commission.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review: Stopping Time and Old Habits by Melissa Marr (and Darkest Mercy ARC Giveaway)

Stopping Time
It's no secret that I love the Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr. I've been eagerly awaiting Darkest Mercy but also dreading it a tiny bit because it marks the end of the annual tradition of a new Wicked Lovely book each spring....this is the final book that will wrap up all the storylines of the series. Marr does many things well, not least of which is romantic tension. I become utterly consumed and transported in these books and I'm sorry to see them end.

Marr has written two short stories that fill in events between books. While I do not think they are necessary to read to enjoy the series, I decided to spend my holiday Monday reading them to prepare myself for Darkest Mercy. If like me you love these characters, if you particularly love Irial and Niall even a fraction as much as I do, you'll want to make sure to read these. At the moment they are available in electronic format only, but Marr has said on her website they'll be available in print sometime in 2012.

Stopping Time

Stopping Time is a Leslie-Irial-Niall short and as Ink Exchange remains my favorite of the series, I devoured every word. Even though Leslie is off living normal human life, Irial and Niall both keep an eye on her. As a new threat emerges to her, they must figure out what to do about their complicated relationships to keep her safe.

The threat against Leslie, is of course, not what's interesting about this story, it's this relationship between the three of them, romantic in every way, that's so delicious. I was practically drowning in all of the emotions as I read, the longing, the heartache, the desire, the fragile hope. This is a decadent treat for those of you who love this little threesome like I do...oh how I love Irial. Trust me it's beautiful and the ending is pitch perfect--sweet and painful all at once.

Old HabitsOld Habits

While "Stopping Time" felt more like a rich treat back into the worlds of my favorite characters from the books, Old Habits feels much more functional in that it seems to strengthen understanding of court ties and relationships and the way things work. It's also heavy on Irial and Niall but also Sorcha and Devlin. (and a tiny bit of Seth) It works to fill in some of the missing gaps between Ink Exchange and Darkest Mercy. If like me, you love this world and can't get enough, you won't want to miss this one either. I also think it helps and serves as a good reminder of some of the tensions going on heading into this final book. Heavily explored is the relationship between Irial and Niall now that Niall is king.

Both shorts are available in e-format, I got mine for 1.99 each from the Sony Reader Store.

Having opened up the floodgates to this world, I've already begun reading Darkest Mercy. I'm only taking a short break to write up these reviews and then I plan to dive back in! Melissa Marr is a master of addictive fiction and I can't wait to see how it all ends.

Check out this awesome trailer for Darkest Mercy! Please note that it contains spoilers for the first four books so if you haven't read them, you might want to wait until you do!



Also, HarperTeen kindly sent me an extra ARC of Darkest Mercy and I'd love to give it away to someone who loves these books like I do and has been eagerly awaiting the conclusion. To enter just fill out the form below. I'll send this one anywhere in the world and the contest will close next Monday January 24th. Winners will be notified by email.




Amy

Please note I'm an Amazon affiliate. If you click on a link and make a purchase at Amazon, I may receive a small commission.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Intimate Strangers


It's been a long time dream of mine to write for a TV blog. (I dream big, what can I say ;)

I've tried to make it work before, but I didn't have the right angle formulated yet. Recapping shows is super fun, but also very time intensive. Additionally, writing a book blog takes a lot of energy and I was worried there was no way I could keep up with another equally large project. But just like books, TV often makes me think. Sometimes I've let that spill over onto this blog, but the desire to have a place where I was just talking TV remained strong. I'd been talking with Nicole of Linus's Blanket about it (we often rant about our favorite shows together) and she was also interested. And so Intimate Strangers was born.

Intimate Strangers will not be your typical TV blog. We won't be trying to find out spoilerish scoop, celebrity gossip, or breaking news. We won't write straight recaps of shows. Instead, we'll be writing about issues that surface on TV, the things we think about while watching, the narrative trends we notice, how culture is portrayed and shaped through TV, and other things of interest to the thoughtful TV viewer. Additionally, we'll indulge in fannish rants from time to time! I'm so excited to finally have a place for all those posts that write themselves in my head to go and also excited in the way a new writing project always brings excitement. We've already been posting so I hope if you're one of my readers who has enjoyed TV content on here in the past, you'll check us out! Additionally, I don't think you'll have to watch the same shows to get value out the content on Intimate Strangers as the shows are often just a springboard for further discussion.

Wondering about the title of the blog? We were inspired by this quote:

"Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn't have in your home." --David Frost

It's very true, just like books, that through TV we open up our lives and minds to people we wouldn't otherwise give the time of day to and they become in a way, intimate strangers.

Also, no worries, I'll continue recapping the Vampire Diaries here. And oh the wait for it to return is agony!!!

Amy

Review: Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg

Prom and Prejudice
True confession time! I have never read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I'm one of those awful people who loves the movies based on Jane Austen's work but when trying to read the books I've just never made it through. But no worries! I'm almost convinced to give them another try.

None of that stopped me from completely enjoying Elizabeth Eulberg's Prom & Prejudice a fun and adorable retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in high school. Since marriage is a bit ambitious for our modern girls in high school, the event of great chatter is instead, prom.

Eulberg keeps all the names intact, which makes me giggle especially over Charles Bingley. She makes some adjustments so that her story is in fact her own creation and works for its modern setting. Jane is Lizzie's best friend and roommate not her sister, but their relationship, despite it's sort duration, is one of sisters. Why is this?

Because Elizabeth Bennett is a scholarship student at Longbourne, she is bullied. After all, these poor girls can't come in and cause a stir when there are wealthy girls around! Jane never bullies Lizzie and as such they are extraordinarily close. Charles Bingley clearly has a thing for Jane and Jane frequently invites Lizzie along to the parties--which is where she meets Will Darcy. She can tell he forms a quick opinion about her based on her scholarship student status and so she does the same about him and his money. It's an opinion she clings to tightly despite evidence to contrary until circumstances force her into a different opinion...but will it be too late?

I enjoyed this book immensely, reading it cover to cover giggling delightedly and enjoying all the ways in which Eulberg tells her story convincingly for a new setting using all the important elements of the original.

I think even if you are unfamiliar with Jane Austen's story you are sure to enjoy this fun romantic comedy.

Like Elizabeth Eulberg on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and check out her website for more information.

Rating: 4.5/5
Source of Book: Received from publisher for review
Publisher: Point (Scholastic)

The Book Trailer



GIVEAWAY

The publisher has made it possible for me to give away two copies of Prom & Prejudice! This is open to anyone with a United States mailing address. Please fill out the form if you wish to enter.





Amy

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