Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "Raulin, Rise of the Forest King"

The Short:

Raulin, Rise of the Forest King

By: Benjamin J. Denen

5/5 Stars

What: After his family is brutally murdered, a young man embarks on a quest for revenge. But what will it cost him?

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, Christian, sword fights

The Long:

This is a prequel to TheKeeper of Edelyndia. Those who have read The Keeper will likely enjoy the interconnectedness of the story, but this book stands very nicely on its own. You can also read an interview with Mr. Denen here.

Raulin is a young man who tries to learn from his parents as best he can. But when his family is massacred in front of him, everything he was taught is challenged. Setting out to avenge his parents, he finds himself becoming the very thing his father warned against.

The book has a lot of strong, Christian themes throughout and the character arcs are well-fleshed out. Additionally, there are some nice sword fight scenes (can’t beat a good sword fight, right?)

This book was a little more predictable than The Keeper, so I didn’t enjoy it quite as much. There is a significant level of violence in the books, so that’s something to consider. I would certainly say that it’s well done and not over emphasized or glorified. However, it’s still an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy with Christian themes.

If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts below. Please remember to be respectful of Mr. Denen and his work, as well as other commentators. I also welcome comments on what you would like to see included in the reviews. I reserve the right to remove vulgar, hateful, or rude remarks from the comments. Thanks for sharing!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Different View from Space

For a change of pace today, I decided to head out into space and discuss three "new" sci-fi movie releases. I think that one thing we can really see from these different movies is how, even with similar premises, stories can be vastly different.

Gravity (2013)

Dr. Stone, a biomedical researcher on her first space mission, finds herself stranded alone in space, trying to make her way home. 

My rating: 3/5 stars

Interstellar (2014)

In the future, a blight is threatening  the Earth's ability to support crops. Scientists take the plunge through a wormhole near Saturn that they suspect was created by beings who are able to travel among five dimensions. On the other side, they hope to find a new world for the human race to inhabit. 

My rating: 4/5 stars

The Martian (2015)

Presumed dead after a tragic accident on a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney must find a way to survive and contact Earth. 

My rating: 5/5 stars


While all of these movies feature space, return to Earth, some (varying degrees of) realistic science, and survival as common themes, there are quite a few differences between them. 

Gravity was my least favorite of the three, mostly because I really didn't like the main character. She seemed to have limited will to live and the relatively low interaction of characters didn't really float my boat. Much of her success seemed to rely on chance and, while it's certainly good to have a great series of challenges for characters, it felt like nothing at all went right. To me, it felt like more of a chance survival story than a true fight for survival. Others might disagree. 

Interstellar, in my opinion, had much stronger characters that had plights I could more readily relate to. One of the larger themes of the story is fighting for family. It also went beyond a simple survival story into some more abstract science concepts like wormholes, black holes, and the fifth dimension. The added science-y bits appeased my inner nerd. My main complaints about this movie were that it was really long and the ending felt a bit rushed. However, the intriguing concepts combined with the  internal conflicts of many of the characters. made for an interesting movie. 

The Martian was the funniest of the three. Watney's wit and humor added an extra layer to a movie that might have seemed dry and grim otherwise. Besides this, I found it more enjoyable than Gravity due to the fact that more characters are involved (we see some of the politics of what's going on back on Earth). Watney also has a strong will to live, even though he is far from unrealistic in his evaluation of the situation.  

All of these movies are PG-13, so don't go into them expecting them to be completely clean. If you like space-centered science fiction, I would recommend any of them. Even if you don't enjoy space movies, I'd still recommend The Martian. 

Have you seen any of these movies? What are your thoughts? And would you be interested in more articles like this in the future?

There will still be a Friday Fiction Fix this week, but I may be slow to respond to comments both on this post and on Friday's due to traveling. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Sequel Review: "A Time to Speak"

This is a review for the second book in the Out of Time Trilogy. I reviewed book 1 here. Please read book one before continuing. I'll be back with a fresh book/ series next week!
The Short:

A Time to Speak
Book 2 of the Out of Time Series

By: Nadine Brandes

5/5 Stars (and going on the favorites shelf)

What: God seems to be telling Parvin to speak out against the oppression in her country. But what happens when it seems like nothing at all is moving toward peace?

Recommended to those who like: Dystopian, Christian, some romance, and have read the first book

The Long:

Spoiler alert! Please read Book 1, A Time to Die, before continuing on.

Parvin has survived a grueling year—banishment, betrayal, and near death. But it seems like things are worse than ever. Reid is dead, Mother can’t seem to talk to her, and the Council is more determined than ever to control the USE. Jude’s clock invention is about to be used against them.

I really enjoyed this sequel. The characters continue to grow and the stakes are higher than ever. As in the first book, the Christian message is strong (but not preachy) and the characters are beautiful.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has read book one and enjoys Christian Dystopian fiction. I’m going to have a hard time waiting a whole year for the next book!

If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts below. Please remember to be respectful of Ms. Brandes and her work, as well as other commentators. I also welcome comments on what you would like to see included in the reviews. I reserve the right to remove vulgar, hateful, or rude remarks from the comments. Thanks for sharing!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What is a Word War?

If you're doing NaNo and feeling behind, Word Wars are one of your best tools to increase your word count in a flash.

The goal of a word war is to compete to see who among a group of writers can write the most words in a set amount of time. My favorite length of time to war is 15 minutes, but I've seen people war for as short as five minutes and as long as a whole hour.

Do any of you participate in Word Wars? How do you stay motivated to write?

If you're ever looking for a word war buddy, just let me know! I hang out on the NaNoWriMo site frequently in the evenings (ET).

Sunday, November 15, 2015

NaNo Halfway Update

Well, it's been a crazy month.

I've put the pedal to the metal, burned the midnight oil on a few occasions, and burned the candle at both ends more than once--but I haven't burnt out yet.

At the beginning of the month, I said I'd set out to write 30,000 words in a novel I had actually plotted out a bit (feel free to faint right now; this normally doesn't happen).

Miraculously, I've done a lot more writing than I thought I would. My typing speed has improved significantly since last year. So, instead of being able to only type about 500 words in a 15 minute word war, I've been typing 800 or 900.

Which means that it's taking me less time to type my novel for NaNo than I expected. Like, 20 minutes or half an hour of writing a day instead of 45 minutes or an hour to meet word count goals.

So, being stubborn and not one to be told by my more rational self that I should do things in moderation, I decided that I should try to write all 50k this month (so long as I'm staying on top of the rest of my to-do list and still getting 7 hours of sleep a night).

I know I'm crazy. But a lot of crazy stuff has been happening this month--I've surprised myself with my ability to motivate myself, my grades, and my ability to meet goals when I set my mind to it in various aspects of my life. I like the results I get when I push myself and I actually feel better than just trying to scrape by with the bare minimum (most of the time; I'm still human--don't worry). So I've decided to push myself a bit with my writing, too.

Granted, this might change by the end of the month. I might realize a project is going to take longer than I thought, that my grades were a fluke during October, or I might get a sinus infection that knocks me out cold for a week straight.

But right now I'm shooting for 50k. Because I think that we'd all amaze ourselves if we tried to see how far we could actually go.

To the Nano'ers out there, how's your month going?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "Embers"

The Short:

Abiassa’s Fire, Book 1

By: Ronie Kendig

4/5 Stars

What: When the heir to the realm swaps places with her crippled brother, both are burdened with more than they could have ever imagined.

Recommended to those who like: Loosely Christian, fantasy, some romance

The Long:

Haegan has been crippled since he was before he was a teenager, left to rot by his father the Fire King. But when his sister Kaelyria finds a way to swap places with him, he’s left on the run, blamed for what’s happened. The kingdom’s under siege, he’s never had to survive on his own, and he seems to wield a power that should never have been his.

There was some really great writing in this book and I loved the premise of certain people being able to wield fire. The action starts right at the beginning and continues up to the heart-pounding end (I may have stayed up too late reading it).

However, I was somewhat confused about the overall, larger plot of the story. I think I would have really enjoyed a prologue that explains a bit more of the set-up of the story world.

Nevertheless, the characters—especially Haegan—felt vibrant and I’m sad that I’ve had to leave them. I look forward to the next book (although it sounds like it may be a while before it comes out).

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a fantasy novel of a moderate length with some Christian tones to it and a small amount of well-done romance.

If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts below. Please remember to be respectful of Ms. Kendig and her work, as well as other commentators. I also welcome book suggestions! I reserve the right to remove vulgar, hateful, or rude remarks from the comments. Thanks for sharing!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What is Speculative Fiction?

Okay, so this might be a bit of an easy post for me to write...but it's NaNo time!

Seeing as this blog is devoted to Christian Speculative Fiction, it might be useful to define what speculative fiction is.

Speculative fiction is a genre of literature that is based on the idea of creating an imaginary world in which the main story takes place.

You might argue that all fiction uses the concept of an imaginary world, but speculative fiction goes above and beyond by creating a setting for the novel that doesn’t exist. Regardless, it’s still a broad genre.

It’s a broad genre that doesn’t have hard edges, but we’ll try to nail it down a bit here.

The most commonly named speculative fiction “sub-genres” are Fantasy and Science Fiction. These two sub-genres are frequently lumped together, but they are broad in scope, containing everything from the space/time travel A Wrinkle in Time to epic fantasies such as The Lord of the Rings to science fiction classics such as Ender’s Game and the space opera series Star Wars. Each of these worlds has a different feeling, but they encompass just a small sampling of the speculative fiction field.

A speculative fiction author doesn’t always have to start from scratch to create his or her world. Alternate histories are an example of speculative fiction that uses a place (and even a “time”) that does/did exist. Many science fiction novels are set on a future earth that has different technology. While the place (Earth) is familiar, other parts of the setting are unfamiliar (such as alien species or intergalactic travel) and are products of the author’s imagination.

Another characteristic of speculative fiction is that a significant part of the work is devoted to world building. A Victorian Romance may include characters and places unique to that story, but the plot is more likely to revolve around original characters and their conflicts than the type of horse and carriage used by the characters in their quest to save the world.

In contrast, many speculative fiction authors focus on the technology, history, and even geography of their worlds to transport us to another realm that is almost entirely fictional. These stories tend to have a plot that is less personal and more grandiose—“let’s save the world!”, though there are certainly exceptions on both sides.

This presents challenges to spec-fic writers—how can we build a convincing story world that has high stakes without sacrificing character development? In a world that is strange, alien, and foreign, how can readers relate to the characters?

To any spec-fic writers out there, how do you focus on character development while building realistic worlds?

To any spec-fic readers, what books do you think did a great job world-building without sacrificing their characters? 

Also, thank you to all my readers! Over the weekend, I hit a total of 1,000 page views in the history of the blog, which is pretty exciting!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "Knox's Irregulars"

The Short:

Knox’s Irregulars

By: J. Wesley Bush

4/5 Stars

What: On a distant planet in the future, a reluctant soldier is pushed into leadership of a hodge-podge group of militia and army regulars when a long-brewing religious war comes to a head.

Recommended to those who like: Science Fiction, Christian, Military, some romance

The Long:

I can’t say I’ve read a lot of military fiction, so this was a bit of a branching out for me. However, I did enjoy the book. The characters are witty and colorful, the action kept me interested, and there was some unique world building involved.

Randal Knox went into the armored infantry to escape his status as the Prime Minister’s son. But when the neighboring country is taken over by a militant, radical faction, he’s pushed into a leadership role he’s never desired but that God seems to will.

In enemy territory, he’s left with a group of misfits—an explosives expert of questionable sanity, his best friend, a vengeful special ops guy, a crazed pilot who knows just how to press his buttons, and a beautiful medic with a checkered past.

The resulting story loses none of its seriousness in spite of lots of wit and dry humor in it. Although the action started to get repetitive toward the middle of the story, I enjoyed the internal conflicts in many of the characters. There is a significant love element, but it doesn’t overwhelm the story or come across as too cliché. 

The Christian element of the story is strong and deals with Christian morals and trusting God during times of war. It occasionally comes across as a little preachy, but much of it was insightful and well-written.

Overall, I’d recommend this to teen readers and up who are interested in a futuristic military story with strong Christian themes throughout.

If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts below. Please remember to be respectful of Mr. Bush and his  work, as well as other commentators. I also welcome comments on what you would like to see included in the reviews. I reserve the right to remove vulgar, hateful, or rude remarks from the comments. Thanks for sharing!

I'll be out of town for a couple days, so it may take me longer than normal to respond to your comments. I'd still love to hear from you! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What is NaNoWrimo?

The wind has a bite to it now. People have been walking around in costumes for the past week. Readings of Edgar Allen Poe and other frightening stories lend the air a scent of mystery.

But, more importantly for (many) writers, there's something special that happens after Halloween. Because October 31st is followed by November 1st.

Duh. Of course--no month has 32 days and November follows October. What's so special about that?

Halloween at midnight sees a special transformation in many writers. We turn from our normal selves into caffeinated, word-warring participants in National Novel Writing Month, affectionately abbreviated as NaNoWriMo or NaNo.
Essentially, the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in the scant 30 days of November. (That's a scant 720 hours, if you're wondering).

Why would anyone do this?

It's the perfect time to shove your inner editor into her office, broom closet, or personal yacht. There are literally thousands of writers across the world writing in this insane event, developing a certain level of camaraderie And it's a way to crank out a nice rough draft.

Granted, symptoms may also include talking to characters, caffeine overdose, editing withdrawal, and the occasional sleepless night, but I've written some terribly ugly really nice first drafts that I later edited into some novels I'm working on turning into something that might one day be worthy of publication.

This year, my college program is really demanding, so I won't be shooting for 50,000 words. (School is my priority right now). But, I'm shooting for 30,000. Hopefully, I'll be able to get a nice little word count widget going on one of the side columns.

Have any of you participated in NaNoWriMo? What are your goals for this year?