Friday, August 29, 2014

Real worlds, and reading more

Wasn't there a song once about "Time keeps slipping away." I may have remembered it wrong, but it runs around in my head as I try to catch up with a backlog of posting book reviews. I have been reading while building furniture, racing around stores, succumbing to a stomach bug, and editing Jerusalem Journey. But the product of my reading resided in unposted reviews on my computer, so... my apologies to anyone whose book review is too far overdue. I will try to catch up!

Starting today with real-world terrorism, small-world journalism, broken-world politics, and a small town in Utah where a native American teen wants to grow up into the warrior his grandfather promised.  War Party, by J. Drew Brumbaugh, creates a very real threat and smoothly blends interesecting story arcs. Well-balanced between multiple cultures, it's one to enjoy with a well-balanced smooth 3-star coffee.

You'll want a five-star darker brew for Second Wind's second Rubicon Ranch novel, Necropieces. The scene is desert dust and richly appointed California houses. But the murder is most assuredly gruesome as this author team comes together again to create something seamlessly fascinating, with the question of whodunnit yielding blood-red herrings at every chapter. Great fun. Enjoy.

Beautiful scenery and dangerous threats populate Terry Odell's When Danger Calls too. This one's set in Colorado, where a well-trained danger-seeker is hiding his wounds and a secretive school-teacher is hiding her night job. Great dialog, fun romance, and exciting action adventure, all smoothly written, enjoy with a smooth, well-balanced 3-star coffee.

Burn in Hell, by Marian Lanouette, is set in a world of gambling, casinos, and places to escape. When casual relationships turn serious, and casual crime turns deadly, the drama's intense and tragedy looms every closer. Billed as a Jake Carrington mystery, this seemed more of a romantic suspense to me, but it's a good read; enjoy with a dark intense 5-star coffee for the gathering gloom.

All these books, except possible the first) are parts of series. This next one is first in a historical series, and gives an interesting insight into the world of the American South during the Civil War. Interesting characters, complex relationships, and an honest willingness to see the good and bad in people characterize Sun's Parting Ray, by Mishael Austin Witty, a tale of a widow's growing relationship with a married man, her failing relationship with her father, and her tense relationship with faith and God. Enjoy this one with a well-balanced smooth 3-star coffee.

Finally, for something completely different... I said I was editing Jerusalem Journey; well, one of the books I'm finding invaluable as I look for Bible backgrounds, explore traditions, and seek out new details to include in my stories is The Catholic Bible Dictionary. I got it from Blogging for Books and I'm very grateful to them, and I really like it. Have some elegant complex 4-star coffees to hand as you do your own research.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Magical Worlds and the gift of reading

I've built Ikea furniture. I've bruised my wrist holding pieces of wood together, then scratched my knee on a straying screwdriver. I've twisted, turned and hammered, leaned and fallen. And now my son's new home looks, well, nice enough to live in? Meanwhile I sit at a metal desk that was second or third hand when we bought it. I look at mismatched bookshelves gathered from random countries over the years. The elderly rocking chair mocks me with memories of when said son was just a babe. And the sofa sags where he jumped too heavily into position in front of the Simpsons, years ago. I could build more Ikea furniture and make my own home look coordinated and nice. The question is, are my bruises or my memories telling me not to?

Still, I can dream more Ikea furniture and the perfect home. Then I can read and dream a perfect world, or an imperfect one. Here are some more book reviews, and coffee recommendations. Which reminds me, I can dream and drink coffee, both at once!

Starting with tales set in magically different worlds...

I reviewed River Fairchild's Diamonds and Dust a little while ago, the first in her Jewels of Chandra series. And now I've read the prequel novella, Fall of Shaylar, and the second novel in the series, A Dragon's Lament. Fall of Shaylar is a satisfying expansion on hints of history and mystery in Diamonds and Dust. It has the epic tone of myth, combined with some really neat twists on characters whose natures are changed by events, some cruelly, and some to surprisingly good effect. Setting the stage for the series, it's a treat for anyone who's wondering how the tragedy began. Meanwhile in Dragon's Lament, the hero's classic quest continues, with some great new characters interacting with the team, cool dragons and mystery, and, of course, those ever-increasing hints of betrayal. Enjoy both of these with some elegantly complex 4-star coffee.

Moving from dragons to kobolds,Into the Heart of Evil, by Joel D. Babbitt continues from the end of Trials of Caste, but could easily be read on its own. Here the young hero kobolds, newly anointed as adults, head out into a world where cultural rules might change, strange dangers might lurk, and betrayal may not even be the greatest of dangers. It's an exciting tale of an exciting quest, and it certainly has me looking forward to the next in the series. Ever wished you had a tail? Enjoy with some more elegant complex 4-star coffee.

Two Degrees Closer to Hell, by David Fingerman, offers a collection of short stories, where the real world's evils become scarily real, and myth breaks through. They're truly haunting, beautifully crafted, and perfect for a cool October evening. (Are we really this close to October? No-o-o-o-o!) Enjoy with some deep dark 5-star coffee.

And finally Mist on the Meadow, by Karla Brandenburg, gives those scary paranormal strangenesses a gentler face as a 25-year-old woman learns her powers and meets her man. Enjoy this paranormal romance with a brighter, livelier 2-star cup of coffee.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dark Arts and Shadows over Somerset

Virtual Tour Author: Bob Freeman Featured Book: Shadows Over Somerset

I'm delighted to welcome author Bob Freeman to my blog today, and I'm eager to read his new novel, Shadows Over Somerset. Just look at that wolf on the cover! How can I resist? And if that's not dark, intriguing, and haunting enough for you, read on to find out more about Bob Freeman's Dark Arts.

The Dark Arts by Bob Freeman

BobFreemanEven though we've been warned against it since childhood, we do judge a book by its cover. First impressions are everything, and face it, a book's first impression has little to do with the writer thereof. That's why it is paramount that the publisher, author, and cover artist are on the same page.

As someone who has been known to wear the artist hat himself, I understand this very well.

Cover illustrations are a kind of magic, designed to ensorcell the prospective reader and put them under the spell of the book at hand.

It's something I take very seriously.

I fully intended to handle the art chores on the Cairnwood Manor series myself, but I found that I was under the proverbial gun, with pressing deadlines that were soul suckingly devourous of both my time and energy... and the last thing I wanted was to short change my first born.

So I turned to Stephen Zimmer, Grand Magus of the Seventh Star, and fell on my sword. He, in turn, introduced me to a wonderfully gifted young artist named Enggar Adirasa.

I sent Enggar cover art my brother and I had put together a decade before, using photoshop, and suggested he use that as his template. Soon after, the finished art appeared in my inbox and I was blown away. It had more than met my expectations.

Enggar had taken my idea and breathed life into it. The muted pastels and delicate line work spoke to the dark romantic atmosphere of the novel.

It was pure unadulterated magic on a digital canvas, the very embodiment of the dark arts, if you will.

I was even more thrilled by the two interior illustrations. For each, I sent a chunk of the scene from the novel itself and then wrote a full description of the characters to be represented covering their clothing, hair-styles, and the like, as well as the locations they were in. I even sent a few phootgraphs along to ensure Enggar was as home with these creations as I was.

As you can see, he didn't disappoint.

I consider myself extremely lucky. I already believed in the words. Now, with Enggar's art added to the mix, the spell was complete.

About Bob Freeman: Bob Freeman doesn’t just write and draw occult detectives, he’s also a card carrying paranormal adventurer who founded Nightstalkers of Indiana in 1983.

A lifelong student of witchcraft, magic, and religion, Bob’s studies are reflected in his art, both as an author and illustrator.

Bob lives in rural Indiana with his wife Kim and son Connor.
He can be found online at

Twitter: @OccultDetective

ShadowsOverSomersetCoverAbout Shadows over Somerset: Michael Somers is brought to Cairnwood, an isolated manor in rural Indiana, to sit at the deathbed of a grandfather he never knew existed. He soon finds himself drawn into a strange and esoteric world filled with werewolves, vampires, witches… and a family curse that dates back to fourteenth century Scotland.

In the sleepy little town of Somerset, an ancient evil awakens, hungering for blood and vengeance… and if Michael is to survive he must face his inner demons and embrace his family’s dark past.

Shadows Over Somerset is the first Cairnwood Manor Novel.  It can be found online at

Amazon Links for Shadows Over Somerset:
Kindle Version:
Print Version:

About the Blog Tour:

8/25 Jess Resides Here Interview
8/25 I Smell Sheep Interview
8/25 Beauty in Ruins Guest Post
8/25 Shells Interviews Guest Post
8/26 The Cabin Goddess Review
8/26 Kentucky Geek Girl Top Ten List
8/26 The Official Writing Blog of Deedee Davies Top Ten List
8/27 Stuart Conover's Author Page Interview
8/27 Blog of Sheila Deeth Post on Art
8/27 Deal Sharing Aunt Top Tens List
8/28 Horror Delve Top Tens List
8/28 SBM Book Obsession Guest Post
8/28 Armand Rosamilia, Horror Author Guest Post
8/28 Willow's Author Love Top Tens List
8/29 Bookishly Me Review
8/29 The Rage Circus Vs. The Soulless Void Interview
8/29 Azure Dwarf Guest Post
8/29 Vampires, Witches, and me, oh my Guest Post
8/30 Sapphyria's Book Reviews Top Tens List
8/30 Bee's Knees Reviews Review
8/30 A Haunted Head Interview
8/31 Horror Tree Guest Post
8/31 The Rage Circus Vs. The Soulless Void Review
8/31 Seers, Seraphs, Immortals and more! Interview

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Reaping 101, with Crymsyn Hart


Virtual Tour Author: Crymsyn Hart Featured Book: Death’s Dance

Crymsyn Hart, author of Death's Dance was almost my guest on my blog today. But a familiar character from life, death and fiction has come in her place (I do hope she's okay). So please read on and see if this is a class you'll want to take.

Reaping 101

“So you’re dead. Suck it up and deal with it. There isn’t anything you can do about it anyway. Just except that your body is six feet under and your soul is no longer attached to it.”

Sometimes those are the things I would enjoy saying to the souls I reap. Most of the human race seems to have a difficult time to accepting they are dead or moving on. None of this has anything to do with religious affiliation. When you’re dead you’re dead. Nonetheless, I don’t tell this to the souls I pick up and ferry to the other side. And I instruct new reapers not to do the same thing.

Being a grim reaper isn’t difficult, but it can be confusing for those who awaken to the job, whether they are created or they were once human and elevated to being a reaper. These days most reapers are raised souls who used to be alive, but that still makes them angels. The original reapers were angels assigned to the souls so we knew what we had to do, but the newbies have no idea.

Here are the basic instructions to the new reapers: 

1.       Always be kind to the souls you ferry.
2.       Never bend time to change the past no matter how tempting.
3.       Never scare a human intentionally.
4.       Always follow the list you are giving on collecting souls. It doesn’t matter if you go out of order, just collect them.
5.       If someone requests to take them beyond the veil, then tell them it is not your place.
6.       The cemetery you manage is a reflection of you. You shape it and bring souls through it.
7.       If you come across a soul not on a list who wants to be taken, then bring them peace.
8.       If a soul does not wish to go with you, then you can try numerous times, but no matter what you do, we can’t force the spirits to go.
9.       You’re cloak has a mind of its own and will always protect you if it senses danger.
10.   The scythe we carry are one of the few weapons that can kill us.

If the fledging reapers follow these rules all should go smoothly. If not, I’ll be there to help out. I’m Than, by the way, or Thanatos, and Kerstin is my partner in death, but I’m sure you know that already from reading Death’s Dance. If not, well I might see you one of these days. 

However as the song says: “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”

Okay.... But here's Crymsyn, just to confirm she's alright. Welcome Crymsyn, and thank you for this cool introduction to Reaping 101.


About Crymsyn Hart: Crymsyn Hart is a national bestselling author of over seventy paranormal romance and horror novels. Her experiences as a psychic have given her a lot of material to use in her books. She currently resides in Charlotte, NC with her hubby and her three dogs. If she’s not writing, she’s curled up with the dogs watching a good horror movie or off with friends. To find out more about Crymsyn:

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DeathsDance1200X800Being a psychic, you would think talking to the dead was a walk in the park. However, it’s not always that simple. The hooded specter haunting me is one I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid. One day, he appeared in my bedroom mirror. Good. Evil. I don’t know what his true intentions are. Enter Jackson, ghost hunting show host extraordinaire, and my ex, to save me from the big bad ghost.

From there…well…it’s been a world wind of complications. My house burnt down. I’m being stalked by an ancient evil and gotten myself back into the world of being a ghost hunting psychic. Jackson dragged me, along with a few other psychics, to a ghost town wiped off the map called Death’s Dance.

From there things went from bad to worse.

Death's Dance is Book One of the Deathly Encounters Series

Death’s Dance Buy Links:
Amazon           Barnes & Noble          Kobo
Want to know more? Follow the Tour!

8/18 Jess Resides Here Interview
8/18 The Southern Belle from Hell Top Ten
8/18 Beauty in Ruins Guest Post
8/19 Darkling Delights Guest Post
8/19 Deal Sharing Aunt Top Ten
8/19 Shells interviews Guest Post
8/20 Stuart Conover's Author Page Interview
8/20 SpecMusicMuse Interview
8/20 Azure Dwarf Post on Artwork
8/21 Come Selahway with Me Top Ten List
8/21 Armand Rosamilia, Horror Author Guest Post
8/21 Review
8/21 Blog of Sheila Deeth Character Post
8/21 A Haunted Head Guest Post
8/21 The Official Writing Blog of Deedee Davies Top Ten list
8/22 SBM Book Obsession Review
8/22 Bee's Knees Reviews Guest Post
8/22 Seers, Seraphs, Immortals & More Interview
8/23 Reading Away The Days Review
8/23 Sapphyria's Book Reviews Excerpt
8/23 Horror Tree Guest Post
8/24 Willow's Author Love Review
8/24 The Rage Circus Vs. The Soulless Void Review
8/24 Bookishly Me Review
8/24 LucyBlueCastle Guest Post

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Pinch of Ooh La La, plus jazz and some yummy baked goods

I'm delighted to welcome author Renee Swindle to my blog today. Her new novel, A Pinch of Ooh La La, is described as a story about non-traditional jazz and the ever-embarrassing quest to find true and perfect love in our thirties. Abbey Ross and her fun and jazzy multicultural family of 13 siblings and step siblings, along with 5 ex-wives and one current wife, all get along and everyone has an opinion of Abbey's love-life. After getting publicly cheated on and dumped by a world famous artist, Abbey leans on her family and best friend, Bendrix, and immerses herself in her career as a pastry chef and bakery owner. While Abbey bakes up beautiful wedding cakes for quirky lovers, she daydreams a life of love and jazz musicians past and present. Then Abbey agrees to try her hand at online dating, but never expects to meet a handsome, single, 30-something lawyer...

Knowing Renee was going to visit my blog, I tried to find out a few things about her online, and learned she loves animals even more than I do. So grab a coffee, sit down, and we hope you'll enjoy our conversation.

Sheila: I read that you have lots of pets, not all of them alike, so... silly question; did your animal family influence the creation of Abbey's multicultural family in A Pinch of Ooh La La?
Renee: Ha ha!  Not at all.  Fun question, though.  The only way my dogs influence me, besides making me smile, is insuring that I get my exercise.  I walk them three times a day. Besides helping me keep my weight down, walking is great for helping me to clear my head or daydream about story ideas.
Sheila: How much of you is there in Abbey? Do you love cooking? Do you love jazz? Do you love peach and goat cheese tarts (I learned of them on your website and they sound delicious!)?

Renee: I will gladly and freely admit that like Abbey I love jazz and I also love to bake.  I also pretty much enjoy any baked item, including peach and goat cheese tarts.  Good thing I walk my dogs a lot, right?!

Sheila: Your book covers are gorgeous. Can you tell us something about how they were created?

Renee: Thanks so much.  I wish I could take credit.  The art department at Penguin/NAL comes up with the covers.  They do such a good job I usually only have to ask that certain things are tweaked here and there.

Sheila: Your titles are very enticing too. Does the title come before or after the book is written?

Renee: Ideas for titles come to mind while I’m working on the novel. So far, I’ve used song titles or titles linked to songs.  For instance, A Pinch Of Ooh La La is a play off of the Blossom Dearie jazz standard, “Give Him The Ooh La La.”

Sheila: What's your favorite part of writing a new book?

Renee: I’ve managed to trick myself into loving all parts of the writing process.  When I first start off, I give myself lots of room to “play.”  This is a time to let ideas flow and write messy scenes without an ounce of judgment.  I enjoy the editing process because the foundation is there. At this point I know my characters well enough that it’s time to get out of the way and work toward honest scenes.

Sheila: Is there a question you've always wished someone would ask and they never have? 

Renee: I would love for a film producer to ask me for the rights to Shake Down The Stars and A Pinch Of Ooh La La!

Sheila: Oh, I like that answer! Thank you so much, Renee. I really enjoyed this interview. And I hope you find your film producer!

About the Author:
Renee Swindle is a California native. She grew up in Vallejo and Lynwood and then went on to earn her BA in English from University of California, Irvine and her MFA in Creative Writing from San Diego State University. 
She is the author of several novels including Please Please Please (Random House/The Dial Press, 1999) which was an Essence Magazine/Blackboard Bestseller; and also Shake Down The Stars (NAL-Penguin Random House/August 6, 2013).
Renee has been featured in Essence Magazine and has also been interviewed on KPFA, Blog Talk Radio and various local radio shows and local cable shows. Her writing group, The Finish Party, was featured in O Magazine. Renee’s work has also been published in Germany and Japan. 
Renee currently works as a professor of English at Diablo Valley College at the San Ramon Campus and also at Solano Community College. For the last fourteen years she has lived in Oakland with her dogs and loves it. 

Follow her on Twitter @renee_swindle

Check out the latest and greatest on her website

Monday, August 18, 2014

Snatching reading time from the jaws of Ikea

It was a busy (and long) weekend. Kiddo flew, by the scenic route, from Utah to Oregon, his flight transformed and delayed by whoever ran a baggage cart into the plane, and my drive to the airport to meet him delayed by traffic. In the end a two-and-a-half hour flight took him most of the day, and we avoided traffic jams on the way home by stopping off at Ikea. We bought a mattress,  rug, and some pots and pans.

Next day we shopped all the other local stores, looking for such essentials of life as paper towels, soap, cleaning materials, and occasional cushions to brighten the new apartment. Then on Saturday we helped the lad move in. It's a really nice apartment. The lack of internet and freezer (great fridge though) are certainly a problem--beer but no pizza perhaps, and no computer games--but one he hopes will be quickly resolved.

And on Sunday we returned to Ikea: Kallax cubes to divide the room, sofa bed for guests, a desk, a chair... Much building of furniture ensued, to be continued, and occasional drinks were consumed to revive our flagging spirits. So that's when I snatched occasional miniature patches of reading time, hence this batch of book reviews:

Grab a coffee, or choose your book first and pick your coffee to match...

First is Sanctuary, by Aaron Paul Lazar--a full-length novel that I was just finishing as kiddo's adventures began. It continues the Tall Pines series of cozy mysteries and should be coming soon, to a bookstore near you. And it's a cool blend of fun and terror, where faith, mystery, spirits, healing oils and genuine good humor win over cruelty and murderous intent. Look out for it, or read the first two mysteries in preparation. And enjoy them all with some well-balanced, smooth-flavored three-star coffee.

Next is London, the doggy and me, by Rosen Trevithick, a short and zany British romance about a downtrodden sweet wannabe actress who volunteers to care for a dog while interviewing in London. The audition goes slightly better than the dog-sitting, which is not saying much, and animal lovers may be slightly dismayed by the novella's sad revelation. But it's a fun tale, the tail suffers, and the depiction of London is very evocative and real. Enjoy with a lively, easy-drinking two star cup of coffee.

Another short tale is Ronnie Ray Jenkins' What to do about Arthur. Grim and dark, it tells of a young woman, married to an elderly man, eager to claim his inheritance. But how it will all turn out is a mystery right to the end. Enjoy this dark tale with a bold dark 5-star coffee.

Without Fear, by Vincent Alma, is a lovely fable of fear, loneliness, success and failure as a quietly unsatisfied farmers strive to conquer the fears that hold him back from revealing the hero he must surely be. The language is fluid and unstrained, and the parable is well-told through thought-provoking dialog. Is fear the enemy? Ask its different faces and decide for yourself over a richly elegant 4-star coffee.

Another enjoyable short tale is Cinnamon and Honey, by Annmarie Banks, set at the time of the Inquisition, as Muslims and Jews flee Spain. It offers a brief glimpse into a different world, introduces characters from the author's longer works, and feels wonderfully authentic, from ocean battle to partying policymakers. Enjoy with a short full-flavored 3-star coffee.

Finally, one more short read is Dog’s Coffee-Shop, but Uncle Amos and Edith Ordan, a lovely little picture book for children, where dogs enjoy their drinks under the New York City skyline and discuss the vagaries of their humans. Share this one with the kids, but keep the lively easy-drinking 2-star coffee for yourself.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Of cops and robbers and more

I've read four very different police novels this week, and their differences convince me that categories really wouldn't have helped me know if I'd enjoy them or not. They're all about cops. Two might be called police procedurals (but they're still radically different from each other). One's a romantic suspense (two genres in one already), and one's pretty close to horror. But one's a contemporary drama too, and all four look at relationships, and... well, you get the picture.

Anyway, here are four book reviews, all about cops and robbers and more... Enjoy the coffee too, but watch out for donuts. I hear they're fattening even when cops eat them.

Unnatural Murder, by Connie Dial, contains all the elements of a classic police procedural. The protagonist is a captain--and a woman, which maybe changes the genre a little. Her home life's falling apart, but she cares, especially about her now-grown son, and she's trying to make the right decisions. She's a woman in a man's world, startled by her son describing his father as more "womanly" because he's been known to cry. And the transsexual victim is very much a man in a woman's world. With issues of identity (as mother, wife, captain, and more) at its center, and serious questions about how parenting defines or destroys those issues, this is a well-crafted serious literary mystery, best enjoyed with some well-brewed, elegant, complex 4-star coffee.

Buzz Words, by Doug Lucas, has the same convincing procedural feel, but a very different protagonist in its retired ex-marine video and classic car devotee. Told in first person, the voice rings so authentic I want to drink more coffee and listen to more stories by story's end. Curmudgeonly, cool, honest and wise, he's a good guy, and this cruel series of murders demands a good resolution. Enjoy with some bold dark intense 5-star coffee, but be prepared to smile and laugh out loud at times with match-making and teasing dialog so perfectly rendered.

Kathy Clark's After Midnight (part of her Denver After Dark series) is classic romantic suspense with a pleasingly human policeman protagonist, set in a world where bullets really hurt, even when they hit bullet proof vests. The characters feel very real. The dialog's great. And the mystery's simply enough to keep readers' interest without confusing. Nice romance too. Enjoy with a well-balance full-flavored 3-star coffee.

And finally, The Sorrow, by Azhar Lorgat, offers a much darker view, both of the world and of police life. A sometimes uneasy blend of old gangster noir with modern cop show, the result has echoes of Batman under its dark dehumanizing cloak of violence. Its heavy with introspection, gore and misery, but a thread of hope carries it along. Have some bold dark intense 5-star coffee to hand when you read it.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

What makes it Christian fiction?

I just read a beautiful book about the ministry of Jesus. It's definitely fiction. It's definitely Biblical. But I'm wondering how many of my friends might disagree about its being Christian fiction. It tell the story of Jesus through the eyes of his cat--a character I'd agree can't be found in the Bible. And this cat offers a view of Jesus that might conflict with some popular images. This Jesus laughs. He welcomes sinners. He chooses love over law. And he speaks to non-believers (and a cat) in words they'll understand. He's even open to the concept of God the Mother (though, strictly speaking, so is the Bible). Strictly speaking, this Jesus and this story are both thoroughly Biblical and wonderfully Christian... and highly recommended. And the cat is great! So enjoy The Gospel According to Yeshua’s Cat, by C. L. Francisco, and drink some perfectly-balanced full-flavored 3-star coffee as you read.

By contrast, Operation Dark Angel: The Rise of Nicolaitanes, by Pam Funke, is very self-consciously Christian fiction, with complete scenes devoted to the conversion of a few well-chosen non-believers, while others, who only think they believe, find themselves following the "other" voice. Operation Dark Angel is a weighty tome, in length and in content, and it's only the beginning of an end-times story built on an even more Amerivangelical worldview than most. Not recommended for readers who don't share the world-view, this is one to read with several strong dark cups of 5-star dark intense coffee.

So what makes either or both of these Christian fiction? I guess I might venture to call a book Christian if it's written for Christians, and non-Christian if it specifically opposes Christianity. But what if it only opposes some forms of Christianity? Could I call it denominational then? And if it's faith-neutral perhaps it's secular, though, of course, if those are my definitions, then lots of secular fiction is seriously Christian-friendly. Perhaps I'll need another category for that. Or perhaps I'll just read books and enjoy them all without trying to fit them into fictional boxes, Christian or otherwise. So here are some more.

iDoubt: When Faith Falters, by C. P. Fagan, isn't fiction at all, but I'm including it because, again, it's definitely Christian. The author depicts the doubts that assail us well, and deals convincingly and kindly with them, reminding readers that doubt is a part of faith. But why should evolution be a part of doubt? The science of evolution is no more fictional than the truth of Christian belief, and many Christians, myself included, hold that evolution supports rather than threatens the validity of Genesis. Enjoy this one with a lively, easy-drinking 2-star coffee, but skip the evolution bit if you're a scientist.

If I'm including books that aren't strictly fiction in this post, I guess I should let myself include some that aren't not strictly Christian too. The Pandas and their Chopsticks, by Demi, is a truly gorgeous picture book for children, with delightful two-page fables, each with a nicely drawn lesson to be learned. It's a book that should appeal to people of all faiths and none, but I'm including it here for its wise lessons and values for kids. Enjoy with some more bright lively easy-drinking 2-star coffee.

Then there's Wyndano’s Cloak, by A. R. Silverberry, a beautiful fantasy tale for children and older readers, which also teaches wise lessons in guilt, punishment and forgiveness. This one's not a Christian book either, and some Christians might object to its use of magic. But it's a wonderful story, blending fantasy worlds with Victorian workhouse, magic, mystery and more, and it carries a great message that Christians might surely aspire to. Enjoy this well-balanced blend with a well-balanced 3-star coffee.

Since I'm venturing into science fiction now, I should really include Staying Human, by Adam Bolander, a fascinating young adult novella set in a futuristic world where people are being transformed into animals by a strange virus. It's possible to halt the transformation and "stay human" but there's that human (fallen) instinct to reject the different (and the slightly transformed), making this novella a fascinating exploration of what being human really means--certainly a worthwhile question for readers of any faith. Enjoy its elegant conclusion with an elegant complex cup of 4-star coffee.

And I'll end with Lab Rats from Planet Earth, by Ronnie Ray Jenkins, which offers an entirely different view of the future and what being human means; a non-Christian short story to be read with a dark, intense 5-star cup of coffee.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Walking in different worlds

"Fiction is lies," my brother told me once. But it's not lying, surely, if there's no intent to deceive. Fiction is the chance to walk in a different world--an imagined rendering of history, a fanciful palace of the future, a place outside our time and space, or maybe even the inside of a stranger's mind. Fiction lets us wear, not just different clothes, but different selves, as we walk on different roads and stretch muscles we never knew we owned. "Fiction is freedom" would be my reply. And here are some reviews of fiction books recently read. Don't forget the coffee is rated for flavor, and there's a perfect time for every roast, from one-star to five.

Starting with history and faith, both in one, is William H. Stephens' beautiful novel, Elijah. Combining religion, history, politics, and a wonderfully evocative depiction of ancient Israel, the author invites readers to a world where Jezebel is a politically savvy queen, and a nation struggles to choose between right and might. Enjoy this richly elegant tale with a rich elegant four-star coffee.

The Prince and the Singularity—A Circular Tale, by Pedro Barrento, blends philosphy and religion rather than religion and faith. With allusions from history, fairytale and multiple faiths, a light touch, smooth writing and gentle humor, the author creates a world beyond our own where gods play cards and three magical gifts are bestowed. Enjoy this curiously absorbing walk through parallel worlds with another richly elegant four-star coffee.

Michael West's The Wide Game is a classic teen horror novel with a twist. The surviving teens have grown up, sometimes married and had kids, and now they're revisiting the scene of a dangerous game played just before graduation. Guilt, forgiveness and recovery might all play their part in a novel that adds intriguing questions and mystery to classic scares. Enjoy with a bold, dark, intense five-star cup of coffee.

My Butterfly, by S.J. Byrne, deals with horror of a more mundane kind as it starts with scenes of graphic sexual violence. The victim has much to recover from, and the bulk of the story takes place as she rediscovers her love of art while staying far from home in bonnie Scotland. The accents are strong. The sexuality likewise. But it's an intriguing, thought-provoking tale, of guilt, power and control, and of genuine love. Enjoy with a bold, dark, intense cup of coffee.

Finally, Diamonds and Dust (Jewels of Chandra, book 1), by River Fairchild, takes readers to a whole new world of fantasy, crossing the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with Game of Thrones perhaps. There are some pretty sensual scenes in this one too, and the whole is richly elegant and complex, deserving that elegant complex four-star coffee.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Finding change and hope among WWII's Olive Groves

I've just added another great book to my to-read list: Among the Olive Groves, by Chrissie Parker. And it's coming out today. The author is touring the blogosphere to celebrate, and I'm delighted to welcome her here. But first, here's some information about the book:

Nineteen year old Elena Petrakis adores living on Zakynthos. When World War Two looms, her way of life is threatened by forces that she can't control.  Left with no choice she becomes Partisan joining the island's resistance to fight for what she believes in; her family, her home, and her freedom.  Decades later, thousands of miles away in the Cornish town of Newquay, a young Kate Fisher prepares to celebrate her twenty-first birthday, but her joy is fleeting when she learns that she is adopted.  Kate abandons Cornwall, her parents and her best friend Fletch, to live in Bristol, but her past continues to haunt her.  Fleeing to Zakynthos, she is forced to acknowledge a life that she has struggled to come to terms with, one that will change her future forever. From the beautiful crystal turquoise seas of the Ionian Islands to the rugged shores of the Cornish coast, 'Among the Olive Groves' is a moving story of love, bravery and sacrifice
With my European background, my love for Cornwall (where we've had many an amazing vacation with our kids), and a still unfulfilled longing to visit the Greek islands, I'm sure you can see why this novel has piqued my interest. And, since Chrissie and I have both Oregon and England in common (two very different places) you can probably see why was interested in learning her view of how changes--both planned and accidental--mold our lives, our self-image, and, maybe,our fiction.

So, over to you Chrissie, and thank you for visiting my blog.

Change, by Chrissie Parker

Throughout our lives we go through numerous changes.  Some of those changes are of our own making, others are forced upon us.

When they are of our own making we feel euphoria and excitement.  We look forward to the new chapter in our life, wondering where it will lead us, and what fulfilling experiences we will gain from it.  When change is forced upon us by an unknown or unexpected entity however it can bring on a host of emotions; panic fear and stress.

Writing Among the Olive Groves was a huge challenge for me, as the entire book is about change and characters searching for their identities.  Elena Petrakis, one of the main characters in the book, lives a quiet and peaceful existence on a beautiful Greek island called Zakynthos.  It is the only home she has ever known, and it is a laid back idyll in the middle of the sea.  The real world seems like a lifetime away and her life is normal and uncomplicated.  Elena see’s wonder in everything, be it the dawning of a new day, the blossoming of flowers or the ripening of olives.  Suddenly world war two hits and her life changes, and she and her family are forced into situations she never dreamed possible.

In the process of writing this book I did a lot of research to try and understand what she would have gone through.  I read books about world war two, the Greek Resistance, and what women in particular went through during the war.  Nothing could have prepared me for what I learned.  I was amazed at how many women joined the resistance, to do their bit and fight against their oppressors.  It was one of the few ways they could.  Many of them put their lives and those of their families on the line, and not all of them survived.

Nowadays we tend, as a society, to take life for granted.  Most of us can do what we want when we want.  We have endless amounts of technology at our fingertips to help us out with everything from instant communication, to buying food, to getting around.  Life is easy, food, on the whole, is plentiful, and most of the time we control change.  In comparison to those who lived during the second world war we have it incredibly easy.

So how would it feel for the world you know to suddenly crumble around you?  For your way of life to completely change.  To lose your identity, be made a prisoner of your own town/village/island. To be put under curfew, to have your food and consumables rationed to the point of almost being non-existent.  To feel desperately hungry all the time.  To fear for your life, and those you love.

I have no idea how I would react, I do not think many people do, but in some small way I would like to think I would be a little like my character Elena.  I would hope that I would find the strength as she did, to fight for myself, to fight for my family and for my beliefs, despite the consequences.

So when we go through life day by day, getting up, going to work, visiting our family popping to the pub with friends, we should remember those people who had their lives completely overturned by change.  We should think of those people who sacrificed their lives and showed incredible bravery so that we can live life the way we do nowadays.  We should also remember that change can happen at any time.  We have to hope that if it does, we will have the freedom to manage it and live through it.

 How very true. Our lives may seem so safe and secure, but uncertainties do creep in around the edges. Then we worry, but maybe a novel can remind us, there's a strength we might aspire to that will bring us through. I'm really looking forward to reading this.

About the Author

Chrissie lives in London with her husband and is a freelance Production Coordinator working in the TV, documentary and film industry. 
Chrissie is also an Author.  Her thriller Integrate was released in October 2013.  Chrissie is currently working on two sequels to Integrate called Temperance and Retribution.  Both will be released in 2015.
Other written work includes factual articles for the Bristolian newspaper and guest articles for the charities Epilepsy Awareness Squad and Epilepsy Literary Heritage Foundation.  Chrissie has also written a book of short stories and poems, one of which was performed at the 100 poems by 100 women event at the Bath International Literary Festival in 2013.

Chrissie is passionate about Ancient History, Archaeology and Travel, and has completed two six-month Archaeology and Egyptology courses with Exeter University.   She also likes to read, collect books, make bracelets and listens to music. To find out more about Chrissie visit her website

Other links:

Twitter - @Chrissie_author