Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Pastors in Fiction: "Failstate"

Today, I'm starting a series on Pastors and how they are portrayed in various media, but focusing on Christian fiction. I'll be covering "PG" (Pastor Grant) from Failstate, which I reviewed last Friday. I'll try to keep these posts spoiler-free. 
This shirt just makes me laugh.

I was reading Failstate about the same time that I read The Messengers: Discovered and was struck by the different portrayals of Christianity and pastorhood in the novels. Curiously enough, I discovered that both authors attend the same church denomination that I do. (Which is surprising, since we're a relatively small denomination). I decided that I would cover these books first since they're fresh in my memory.

Anyhow, onto Pastor Grant! (I may or may not taken some ideas from Heather's Walden-Bond Index posts on villains *looks away guiltily*)

Name: Pastor Grant, a.k.a PG

Book: Failstate, by John Otte. Christian Speculative Fiction.

Role: Supporting Character

Personality: Rather cheesy youth pastor who has way too much on his mind. He may occasionally frighten his parishioners with his enthusiasm.

What he brings to the table: His church serves as a meeting ground for many of the main characters (who just so happen to be superheroes). His sermons and conversations support the characters and bring a spiritual element to the story. He also helps the heroes at one point in the story.

Spiritual role: Pastor Grant offers spiritual and emotional support to the heroes of the story. Although Failstate, the protagonist, does not go to him for counseling over a personal loss, many of the other characters do.

Worship/Pastorly Notes: PG leads a very "contemporary" style worship and delivers the sermons. This is a normal action in the world of Failstate. (Essentially, he's not being persecuted or anything else that one typically finds in Christian fiction).

Ninja status? No, not really. PG is very much your "normal" pastor. He offers spiritual advice, but he's not a hero directly. He lacks any specialized skills that would make me consider him a ninja.

Further discussion: 

It's interesting that Mr. Otte (the author of the book) is a pastor himself. I'd be curious to see how that influenced his portrayal of PG.

I would like to know more about PG and how he handles superheroes in his worldview. I think that might be an interesting discussion. Perhaps it's covered in one of the later books.

Overall, Pastor Grant is a supporting character who brings a spiritual element to the story. Other than a couple of instances, he is not directly involved with the characters and their quest(s).

What characters would you like to see covered in this series? Are there more questions you would like to see answered? 

Next week, I'll be looking at a figure or two from The Messengers: Discovered. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday Fiction Fix: "Failstate"

The Short:


By: John Otte

4.5/5 Stars

What: A teenaged superhero wants nothing more than to win his vigilante license—but then things start going horribly wrong.

Recommended to those who like: Christian, superheroes, teen

The Long:

I wasn’t sure that I’d like this book when I picked up the ebook for free, but it was a pleasant surprise. It had a nice blend of (often corny) superhero action combined with serious themes. 

Failstate is a contestant on America’s Next Superhero. His goal? To win his vigilante license so that he’ll have fewer restrictions on his nightly escapades to protect his city. But when his problems suddenly become much larger than being overshadowed by his brother and being permanently single, will he be able to overcome his own problems to solve the city’s issues?

I’ve never read a Christian superhero book. It was…different. I wish the author would have answered a few more questions about the world our characters live in, but the worldbuilding was strong overall. Sometimes the Christian message came across a little too strongly, so that’s something to consider while deciding if this book might be for you.

The superhero action was good. I’ve never read a book based on superheroes, so it was interesting to see how the author adapted action designed for the big screen and comic books into print. I also liked that most of the powers demonstrated by our heroes were original to one degree or another.

The Bottom Line: I would recommend this book to those interested in a Christian message with a dash of mystery and lots of superhero action.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

There's More Than You Think

As I mentioned last week, I just moved. My friend (who also happens to be my roommate), Mom, and I all went for a little road trip. As is common with such things, we took a wrong turn.

And stumbled across the best Christian bookstore I've ever seen.

After about an hour and a half, I walked out of there with five books--and about forty fewer dollars in my bank account.

books, students, library
So it wasn't quite this big, but it felt like it.
Picture courtesy of Pexels.

Five dollars for a book I have on my Kindle? Sure.

Wait--a new copy of Raven's Ladder? I've been looking everywhere for that.

 Enclave publishing books in print? In an actual bookstore? Without having to order them in?(Screams silently in sheer elation).

I could have easily bought about ten more books. My mom pretty much had to drag me away from the Young Adult section before I spent my entire budget for the month.

Christian speculative is difficult to find, with the exception of a few big names such as Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti. If you've been following the blog very long, you've probably noticed that you've noticed very few of the books I review in actual stores.

If you're looking for Christian sci-fi or fantasy, don't get discouraged. It's out there. Some of it might be out of print. Much of it you'll never be able to find in a "real" book store. You'll have to sort through the self-published books that need a lot of work from those that could have been published by a traditional publishing house.

But it's out there. And there's more than you think there is.

Next week, I'll be starting a new series on the role of pastors and other religious mentors in Christian Speculative Fiction. Send me a message in the comments or through the contact form if you're really itching to have me look at a certain book.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Friday Fiction Fix: "Discovered"

The Short: 

The Messengers: Book 1

By: Lisa M. Clark

3/5 Stars

What: In the future, Christian groups smuggle illegal copies of the Bible to keep the Word alive.

Recommended to those who like: Christian, Dystopian, Middle Grade

The Long:

Anyone writing in the futuristic Christian dystopian sub-genre has a tough battle. There are a lot of good books out there (and many mediocre ones) that fall into this sub-category (sub-sub-genre?).

Simon is a high-schooler with a secret that he’s mostly forgotten. In a world of controlled thoughts and information, can he discover the truth that lies in his own past—as well as the truth that began ages before he was born?

Discovered had many aspects that I enjoyed. As someone who enjoys a more traditional style of worship, I appreciated the liturgy and hymns used in this book. You’d be hard pressed to find a novel with more gospel and Scripture in it.

That being said, sometimes that wonderful gospel message trounced over the characters and plot. Long passages of Scripture were beneficial to me spiritually, but they sidelined the story for several paragraphs. Furthermore, I just didn’t like the last quarter of the book or so. I wish I could rant more about it, but I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone who might be planning on reading it.

Part of my view is likely skewed by the fact that I am a young adult and this book is written for middle-grade readers. Younger readers may enjoy this book more than I did.

I still want to read the next book. I think the author might explain more about why the first book ended the way it did. The author has previously written more non-fiction stories, so I am hopeful that she will continue to grow as a novelist as she writes the next book. 

The Bottom Line: Discovered has a promising story world and the potential for greatness, but don’t go into this one unless you’re ready for a few sermons.          

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Brief Hiatus

Hi All!

Sorry for the late notice, but there will be no Tuesday post this week (other than this one) due to the fact that I am moving and I procrastinated on packing. Thanks for your understanding!

See you Friday!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Friday Fiction Fix: "House of Dark Shadows"

The Short:

House of Dark Shadows
Dreamhouse Kings, Book 1

By: Robert Liparulo

5/5 Stars

What: A family moves to a mysterious house that holds many secrets—some of them dark.

Recommended to those who like: Clean, darker stories, teen, quick reads, time travel

The Long:

So, this is one that I hadn’t read in a while. I decided to dust it off and give it a good read.
Man, am I glad that I chose it as my take-to-work book rather than my before-bed book. II forgot how effectively Mr. Liparulo created a creepy/suspensful story. (Let it be noted that I am a wimp when it comes to suspense, however).

The King family has just moved across the state to a new house. Xander, a teenaged aspiring film writer, is immediately fascinated by the darkness of the house and the way sounds come from odd directions. But when bigfoot-sized footprints appear in the dust and a mysterious passage is discovered upstairs, it all starts to seem a little too much like a horror movie.

The suspense is a nice level, the plot is original, and the characters are loveable. Xander, David, and Toria are a totally believable set of siblings in the way they alternately pick on one another and stick up for one another.

The story does contain some awesome speculative elements, but I don’t want to give too much away. 

Be sure to have the second book handy—this one is a near cliffhanger. It’s a quick read, as well.

The book is very clean. I would recommend it for teens and above just for the suspense levels, but it’s written on quite an easy reading level, even middle grade. 

I’ll definitely be re-reading the next book soon!

The Bottom Line: This book would be a great pick for teens and up who enjoy a quick, but suspenseful, read.

Do you like suspenseful books/movies?

Looking for more by Robert Liparulo? Check out The 13th Tribe, another suspenseful book with a speculative twist!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Food for Thought: Fairy Tales

I'm currently swamped with trying to wrap-up summer activities while also moving and starting back to school, so pardon me if there are more short posts than normal. I'd still love to hear from you and interact with  you down in the comments!

Someone close to me once remarked, "I didn't realize that you read so much fiction."

I've mulled over those words for quite some time now. I'm still not sure how to take them.

I certainly think there's value in non-fiction. History is an underrated subject in our American culture, in my opinion. We can learn a lot from history and real-life people. Science books and other educational resources are necessary for life as we know it. I'd like to read more of those books.

But sometimes I think that we devalue good stories for the mere fact that they're fictional. Sometimes it's easier for me to learn lessons when it's in a different setting. Sometimes "Fairy tales" teach me things that I fail to learn from other books. They inspire me in ways real-life struggles to do so.

Perhaps I'm strange. But, if you've found this blog, you might also be in the same strange category.

So, here's to fairy tales, sci-fi, and all those other wonderful genres that inspire us in a completely made-up world.

Why do you think fictional stories are important?

Friday, August 5, 2016

Sequel Review: "Son of Truth"

I would definitely recommend reading Daughter of Light before picking up this book. However, this review should be (relatively) spoiler-free. I'll be back with a fresh series next week!

The Short:

Son of Truth
Follower of the Word, Book 2

By: Morgan L. Busse

5/5 Stars

What: Survivors of recent attacks must band together to rebuild. Rowen and Caleb must learn more about their gifts from the Word.

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, allegory, Christian

The Long:

I would strongly recommend reading this series in order. I read Daughter of Light about 3 months ago and loved it, but it was difficult for me to hop back into the series after so long off. This isn’t a series to skip around in.

As such, it did take me a while to get into this book. Once I did, I rediscovered why I loved this series so much. Rowen is still one of my favorite characters. I think a lot of Christians will find it easy to relate to her—she struggles with wanting to do the right thing, but also wanting to be selfish. She struggles with feeling like she’s done everything she could and still being asked to do more. I find her to be a refreshing character in a genre often populated by characters who are either perfect or else who are dealing with a laundry list of problems that magically get resolved at some point in the story.

The supporting cast of characters and other main characters also fulfill their roles nicely.

The plot in this book didn’t quite draw me in as much as the first book did. (What is it with me and the plots of second books? I struggle with liking them, which is odd, considering The Two Towers pretty much ties with Return of the King for my favorite part of The Lord of the Rings.) However, it was still a nice fantasy read with some smaller-scale action.

Sometimes the romance was a little heavy for my taste, but never egregiously so. Most readers will probably enjoy the romantic element or not find it to be a problem. (I'm just decidedly unromantic in my reading tastes, if you haven't figured that out yet.)

The allegorical elements in this installment blew me away once again. It didn’t hit me as hard as Daughter of Light did, but I think that's only because I was expecting it this time around. The spiritual warfare aspect of this book cannot be missed. I’m really looking forward to how that will play out in the final installment of the series.

The Bottom Line: If you’ve read Daughter of Light, don’t miss out on this fantastic sequel. I would highly recommend the series to fans of Christian allegorical fantasy.     

What "stereotypical" character annoys you the most?

Not a fantasy fan? Check out Tainted, the first in a new steampunk series also by Morgan L. Busse. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Reality, Meet Fiction: Natural Disasters

A while back, I covered man-made disasters. Today, we tackle the forces of nature and investigate how they can wreak havoc upon your characters. *Mwahahahaa*



Honestly, I could probably do an entire series on natural disasters. They come in all varieties. Hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides, avalanches, earthquakes, droughts, blights...the list is endless.


While the disasters themselves are, well, disastrous, sometimes the aftermath is what causes more trouble for the people involved. For example, flooding following a hurricane can cause sanitation breakdown, which in turn can create a breeding ground for disease. Or, fires after an earthquake can add to the confusion and devastation. 

There's also the issue of what to do with survivors. Relocation and rebuilding processes can take years. The economy of the region could be set back several years and many businesses may never return. Fear of another similar disaster could dissuade residents from returning. Or, depending on the type of disaster, the region may become completely uninhabitable. 


How can you leverage natural disasters and their aftereffects in your book? 

What disasters occur in  your world? How do they differ by geographical region? How frequent are disasters? What changes in lifestyle or architecture have people made in order to minimize the effects of cataclysmic events? (Examples: storm cellars in tornado alley, evacuation routes in hurricane-prone areas, "earthquake proof" buildings).

Do disasters occur on a regular basis? Is there any way to predict them? What events lead up to each disaster? Are there certain seasons where disasters are more likely?

What response teams are in place for after a disaster? Is there something similar to FEMA that steps in to provide aid for survivors, or are they left on their own? 

How are natural disasters viewed? If you're writing fantasy, do people believe that deities are responsible for the disaster? If so, what steps might they take in an attempt to prevent another disaster from occurring? (The Kinsman Chronicles by Jill Williamson and Legends of Karac Tor by D. Barkley Briggs provide some good examples of this.)

What problems occur after a certain type of disaster? Are there steps to prevent disease from spreading? Do people tend to move out of disaster-stricken areas, or do they stay in their homes? What motivates their decision? (Example: some civilizations would continue to settle on volcano slopes, since the soil was very fertile).

How do natural disasters provide motivation, barriers, or opportunities for your characters?

What natural disasters are likely in your area? How do you prepare?

What natural disaster are you most proud of incorporating into your book? Did you create any new types of disaster for your book?