Wednesday, December 23, 2009

12 Days Of Christmas/ Deck the Halls in Africa?

And now, for your listening pleasure, here's another medley, albeit a confused one. 12 Days of Christmas like you've never heard it before.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Silly Merry Christmas Video--25 Christmas Songs in 3 Minutes

I claim no connection to this video, but I thought it was kind of cute and appropriate. It's rush, rush, rush, so who has time to listen to a WHOLE song?



Friday, December 18, 2009

LITERARY LAPSES 101, Part 4--Apostrophes



It seems like nearly everyone gets confused about apostrophes now and then. Even though we all 'learned' about their proper use back in elementary school, there often hasn't been a refresher course since then. For many of us, let's admit it, that was an eon ago.

Basically, with a few exceptions, apostrophes have two uses. 1) They are used in contractions to replace the letters that have been removed. 2) They are used for the possessive form of NOUNS (not pronouns). Let's look at the two main uses first, then a bit about exceptions that are fairly common.

1) Contractions. The main difficulty here is just where to put the apostrophe, and sometimes then how to spell the rest of the word. Apostrophes replace letters that have been removed. Can not becomes can't--the ' replace no. She will = she'll. It's = it is. In poetic language, we get 'tis for it is and o'er for over. There are a few contractions that mess with normal spelling ( one thing you can count on in English is an exception to every rule) like won't for will not. Of course, there's the curious case of ain't which seems to replace just about any negative to be verb in nonstandard English. Contractions come in quite handy for writing dialect: somethin', 'cause (because), s'up? (what's up--contraction of a contraction), gov'nor, ha'penny, 'ere now!, 'at's right...

   Special contractions to note: Ma'am--this is really a contraction of Madam
                                              Y'all-- If I had a nickel for every time I saw this one mangled! It means YOU
                                                         ALL, so the ' replaces ou in you

2) Possessives of Nouns. Placement is again part of the confusion. It mainly depends on if the noun is plural or singular.
     Singular (and plurals that don't end with s)--write the word followed by 's: the boy's hat; John's mother; the dog's bone; the children's homework; the men's  bathroom
     Plural with final s--the ' comes after the s: the dogs' food; The Smiths' car; the girls' laughter; my cats' meows.

  This is for possessive of NOUNS, not pronouns. Therefore, it's means it is and not belonging to it. HOWEVER . . . a few exceptions, as always, for some indefinite pronouns:
   anyone's guess; everyone's business; somebody's fault; one's best

Important: Apostrophes are NOT used to make plurals. . . Usually...
Many of us are under the mistaken idea that we need an apostrophe to form the plural for letters or numbers. Actually, this is an old style that is out of favor now (see grammar.about.com  and Write Express ) Most of the time those plurals are like all the others: PhDs; CDs; your Gs look like Js; there are too many 4s in that zip code; Heather was born in the 1990s.
EXCEPTION: if the meaning might be otherwise unclear. Remember to dot your i's--if you write is, it looks like the verb. The 0's are smudged. Here it means zeroes, but without the apostrophe could be confused for capital Os. AND for certain phrases and clich├ęs: watch your p's and q's (confusion for ps); no if's, and's or but's (I don't know the reasoning behind that one).

Is this helpful or more confusing? I hope it serves as a quick refresher and useful guide.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

2010 Reading Challenges

As I was loitering around various blogs yesterday, I stumbled across a couple of reading challenges that caught my attention, so I'd like to share them. One I already signed up for, but I'm still debating whether or not I can meet the other one.


The big one is at J, Kaye's Book Blog: 100+ Reading Challenge For 2010. Here the goal is 100 books or more read in 2010, and this means you only count those you start reading from January 1, 2010 on. She has a Mr. Linky thing set up to link to all those who are  participating. At this moment, there are 236 signed up. Yeah--that's why I call this the big one. If this interests you, you can go to the link, read the details, and sign up. I'm not sure if I can manage two books a week every week. I like the idea, though, and I'm goimg to try it.

The challenge I already accepted, though, was at Writing For Christ. She considered that 100 is not a reasonable goal for many of us. Instead, this one basically invites us to set individual goals that are realistically attainable. I have put  a link in my sidebar for this one. The rules are simple:
~Only CHRISTIAN books count


~Only books started on January 1st count

~This is not a genre specific contest, read whatever genre you love!

~Every Friday on her blog, post how you are doing and she'll keep a running tally on a side bar

~Tell others on your blog about this- let's get the challenge out for others to know about! You might even win a book that you can read for this challenge!

Why even bother with committing to a challenge like these? I think most of us, if we are honest about it, need a little accountability and a little push to carry through with good intentions. Or to stretch a bit beyond the comfort zone. It also helps with organization (something I really need) and as a reminder. I have no idea how many books I read this past year; not that it really matters, but it would be interesting to know. I do know thatt there is still a huge TBR pile; well, SEVERAL piles. Then there are all those books on my wish list...

I'm going to further my challenge for myself by keeping a list here of what I read each month. There will be reviews for many of the books, but I make no promises about gettung them all in. I'll try.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Interview With Author Sara Zarr

A few days ago I had the oportunity to interview Sara Zarr, an author who has just released her third novel for teens, Once Was Lost. Her first two novels, Story of a Girl and Sweethearts, are not only critically acclaimed but popular reading among teens as well. Story of a Girl was in fact a ribbon-winning finalist in the 2007 National Book Awards. Her latest novel, Once Was Lost, takes on matters of faith in the life of a  pastor's teenage daughter in a very real but flawed family and world.



Thanks for taking time to chat with me, Sara. Before I ask about the books, could you just tell us a bit about yourself? Family, a little background?

I grew up in San Francisco in the seventies---it was a really interesting place and time in which to be raised. My parents were both creative people who met in music school; my sister and I played instruments throughout childhood and adolescence. By the end of high school I was more interested in writing and theater than in music, but when I went into college I didn't feel like I had "permission" (from myself, I guess) to go into creative writing. I started as an English major, hated it, and switched to Organizational Communication. I didn't start seriously pursuing writing until I was about 25, then it took ten years before I sold my first novel.



 What did you like to read when you were younger? Were there any authors or books that you feel influenced your own writing or your desire to write?

When I became an independent reader and through about age twelve, I loved all kinds of books: fantasy, historical fiction, science fiction, realistic fiction. Once I got into junior high, I was much more interested in realistic fiction, I think because I wanted some kind of understanding or company as I went through all the complicated things you start going through in junior high and high school. I remember a few books in particular that stuck with me and made me want to write: A Separate Peace by John Knowles, The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier, I Stay Near You by ME Kerr. I liked the way those authors seemed to get complex emotional experiences right.



Can you tell us a bit about your journey as a writer? What made you take this path? And why write books targeting teens?

Writing was something I'd wanted to do from way back, and always had pieces of stories and ideas written in journals, but it wasn't until after college I got brave enough to give it a serious try. There was never any question that I wanted to write young adult fiction. It wasn't so much a conscious choice. Every story I thought of had a teenage character and was set in a high school environment---it's just my natural writing voice. Once I got serious, I wrote three complete novels without any tangible success...a lot of rejection, a lot of discouragement, and some near-success experiences. Then I wrote the book that became my first published novel, Story of a Girl.



I read that your first book, Story of a Girl, was a National Book Award finalist. Congratulations.  I'm sure that was an exciting experience.

Thank you---it really was exciting, and an honor. I couldn't have asked for a better start to my career.


What prompted you to write Once Was Lost?

In summer 2002, a girl named Elizabeth Smart here in Salt Lake City went missing. It was a case that got national and international attention, and definitely dominated the news locally. 2002 wasn't a great year---9/11 wasn't that far behind us, the war in Iraq was gearing up, the economy was bad, and it seemed like the country was generally depressed and tired of bad news. I know I was. Smart's kidnapping was another tragedy piled on top of tragedy on top of tragedy. I was working at a church at the time, and also attending my own church regularly, and very saturated in this faith that said God was good and loved us. Yet I found myself feeling extremely hopeless and cynical about all of it, unable to find any comfort. All of my experiences and feelings began to take shape as a story---a kidnapping in a small town seen through the eyes of this pastor's daughter who was asking the same kinds of questions I was.



It seems like most books that deal with ministers and their families fall into two widely divided camps: the super-Christian, squeaky-clean type where the pastor has all the right answers and acts according to what-would-Jesus-do; or the side where it's all negative with sham, pretense, power-hunger and phony hypocrisy. You didn't take either side, instead presenting a more honest, real-life family.  I know you didn't grow up as a PK, but did you put some of yourself and those you knew into the characters?

I didn't grow up as a PK, but my mother was the secretary of the church I grew up in, and I spent a lot of time there. And I worked as a church secretary myself for about three years. So I've had a long time to see church culture from the inside, both as a kid/teen and as an adult. In all of my church experiences, the pastors and members were all just regular people, sincerely trying to live their faith in a complicated world. I was lucky in that I never was in a community where phoniness or hypocrisy were the norm. That isn't to say people weren't flawed, or never made bad decisions, never acted wrongly, never hurt anyone, never spoke an insincere word. There were always a few people sprinkled in who were difficult, or self-righteous and overly focused on outward shows of piety. But all in all people were a lot like Sam's dad and others in the book: making sincere efforts, but usually falling short, as we humans tend to do. When I was a teen, I never found a young adult novel that portrayed faith as this kind of normal, everyday, up and down thing. As you say, it was always one extreme or another. I wanted to write about a family that had the kind of faith I was familiar with: sincere, but complicated.



 I'm going to make a little confession here. I'm 57, but in so many ways I could identify with Sam. I remember my own feelings and conflicts when I was a teen, as well as those of my close friends. And I found myself crying as I reflected on the story after I finished reading. So do you hope to appeal to just teens or more?

I always say my books are for teenagers and anyone who's ever been a teenager. I don't think you ever forget what it felt like to be fourteen or fifteen or sixteen, feeling unsure about your identity, feeling frustrated with your family as you start to develop independence from it, wanting to hold on to some of the things from childhood while at the same time wanting to strike out on your own. I've got a lot of adult fans, and I'm happy to have them.


What do you hope the readers will take away with them after reading Once Was Lost?

My first hope as a writer, always, is that any reader just comes away with a great reading experience---that the characters and situations feel real to them, that when they finish the book they think, wow, that was good, and, hopefully, that they're still thinking about it for a while after they finish. There's other stuff to take away in the book (and in all my books), depending on what experiences and ideas a reader has. On one level, the book is a mystery. It's also a family drama. There's also plenty there to think about in terms of faith, and how faith changes as you transition from childhood to adulthood---that could be religious faith, or faith in family, faith in one's identity, faith in the basic goodness and safety of the world. Some of the things I thought about as I wrote the book, questions I was interested in exploring, were: Is any situation/relationship beyond hope? Can you ever really say "it's too late"? If so, how do you know when?


What stories are you working on now or have ready to go?

I'm working on my fourth young adult novel. I can't say too much at this point, but it's got two narrators from very different worlds. It should be out in 2011.


 Thanks once again for agreeing to do this interview with me. I know our readers will be interested in knowing more about you. Is there anything else you'd like to share before we part?

I love to hear from readers, and I always reply eventually. Anyone should feel welcome to drop by my web site, sarazarr.com, where I blog regularly about writing and life and faith and a lot of other random stuff. I'm on a blogging break for Advent, but will be picking it up again after the New Year. Thanks so much for having me!


Good-bye for now. I hope you and your husband enjoy this Christmas-time together.

Thank you; you, too.

Friday, December 11, 2009

ONCE WAS LOST by Sara Zarr


Sara Zarr has written a third outstanding novel that hits home with contemporary teens, but Once Was Lost will particularly appeal to Christian young people. Actually, this incredibly realistic story is going to shake up readers of all ages who have experienced the tightrope walk between faith and the real world. Neither saccharine-sweet nor worldly-wise cynical, Once Was Lost examines the life of a preacher's teenage daughter, her family, her church, and a mysteriously missing young member of that church.

Samara Taylor is the fifteen-year-old daughter of a pastor in a small town who is facing a crisis of faith while she and her father live a lie in public. Everyone thinks her family is the perfect picture of all things a pastor's family should be, but the chinks are showing, and growing, right from the beginning of this modern tale. People at church aren't sure why Sam's mother has been missing the past couple of weeks; the official word is that she is not feeling well, but there are these rumors. The truth is that the perfect preacher's wife has been a closet alcoholic who couldn't contain her problem any longer and is now in rehab. This leaves Sam with multiple battles that a girl her age shouldn't have to deal with all on her own. Yet she doesn't have her beloved mother to lean on, and her father--well, while he is quick to support and help everyone in the congregation, he doesn't seem to have a moment to spend with his daughter. He is struggling to keep up appearances, dealing with his his own hurts and demons, and quite oblivious to the pain that Sam is going through. In fact, Sam is at a point where she doubts the existence of this God she has heard about all her life. Add to that a financial situation that is spiraling out of control while Dear Old Dad kind of ignores it, an overly pushy young-lady-youth-group-leader (who is spending way too much time at Sam's house), and Sam's feelings of invisibility in the youth group...well, the sum is in negative numbers. Oh, and then there's the thirteen-year-old who just disappears without a trace right after church one Sunday. Sam finds herself more and more inclined to ask if there is a God at all. And if there is, how can He let so many terrible things happen?


Make no mistake about this: Sara Zarr doesn't tie it all up in a pretty package with a bow on top. She draws from her own experience and faith to write an honest account of the way life is, not the way we really wish it would be. Now I know most of us want that happily-ever-after stuff, but teenagers in particular sense when they are being snowed. They seem to be more open to honesty, even in fiction. This isn't to say that the ending isn't satisfactory--I think it is--but it doesn't follow a neat little formula. Come to think of it, neither does God. To quote C. S. Lewis, "He is not a tame lion."


I am far from being a teenager these days, but I still have left-overs in my very core from that period of my life, left-overs that are deeply affected by the struggles, the loneliness, the feelings of insignificance and confusion that Sam faces. Actually, I found myself crying at a certain point because the story so affected me. I can honestly say that I never really questioned God's existence once I came to know Jesus, yet I am painfully aware of the way many feel He has either abandoned them, doesn't care about them, or just doesn't exist. This novel isn't giving pat universal answers to the masses, but hopefully will make some connections that many need. The suspense and action of the story will certainly keep the pages turning. While the main character is a girl and there is a touch of romance, the emotions, the themes and the mystery will engage guy readers as well as girls. This is not chic lit.


Sara Zarr has written two other popular and critically acclaimed teen novels: Story of a Girl and Sweethearts. Story of a Girl was actually a finalist for the 2007 National Book Awards, a very big deal in literature. You can learn more about the author and her books at her blog here.




Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
Publisher: Little, Brown Books (October, 2009)
Hardcover edition: ISBN-10: 0316036048, ISBN-13: 978-0316036047
Kindle edition: ASIN: B002ONPGIC
Audiobook: ISBN-10: 0307582302


Available at many bookstores everywhere and online at such site as Barnes & Noble and Amazon.


Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher Little, Brown and Company for the purpose of writing a review. However, I make no promises of positive reviews to any author or publisher and tell the sender this before any book is sent. In fact, there are several books I've received that never appeared on my blog sites because I couldn't honestly approve them.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Interview with James D. Maxon, Cat Man and Upcoming Author



This week The Christian Fiction Blog Review is touring The Cat That Made Nothing Something Again by James D. Maxon (NOT to be confused, by the way, with The Cat Who... series). Once I began reading this book, I felt like I had discovered a precious little gem that has been hiding from the view of many, kind of like a certain turtle in the tale. And once I started learning about the author, I came to the conclusion that here, too, was one of God's precious treasures who only a few know about so far. I believe God has brought him out of circumstances that could easily have stifled someone else and raised up a young man who can reach others, especially youth that might have had some of his struggles. You'll see what I mean as you read the interview. And now, may I introduce you to James. D. Maxon.



Thank you for taking time to answer a few questions and chat a bit with me.
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to discuss my story.”

First of all, could you share a little with us about you personally? Origin, family, 'real life' occupation and interests?
“I was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and at the age of three my parents were divorced so I moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota with my Mother, Sister, Aunt and Grandmother. I’ve been in Minnesota ever since and now live with my wife, Cindy, in a suburb of Minneapolis. I also just recently became a father of a little girl who is now six months old.
“I graduated from a Computer Graphics / Multimedia college which is my main career path. I have also composed Electronica style music, dabbled in drawing--along with other forms of visual art--developed Web sites, print materials, and I work as a Senior Designer at an advertising company as well as contribute my experience in computer technology.
“For me I consider writing as just another avenue to express myself creatively. There are many tools for creative expression, and writing just so happens to be one of the best. There are many opinions out there as to what classifies one as ‘a writer’ but for me it started before I even put ‘a pencil to paper’ so to say. The stories are inside of you, the tool is simply a way of getting them out.
“Whenever I have a moment of free time I like to watch anime, play Video Games, write (of course), read, and play racquetball.”


Congratulations on your daughter. I know she must be the joy of your life.
How did you come to a personal relationship with Jesus?

“My earliest memory of developing a relationship with God comes when I was around five-years-old. I had suffered from a barrage of frightful dreams, and one night my mother told me to call on the name of God while I slept. The next night I dreamt that I was standing by a lake and a large, white sea dragon reared its head out of the water and was about to attack me when I shouted out the name ‘Jesus.’ The dragon hesitated, and then I scolded it, shortly after it disappeared back into the water (with its head hung low). I then started to walk down the path when I passed by a clamshell, which somehow sucked me inside. I was in what looked to be a dark cave with pillars all around me. Behind the pillars were the red eyes and twisted voices of demons. I called out the name of God again and they suddenly fled, screaming in fear.
“In my story, ‘The Cat That Made Nothing Something Again,’ when the cat is about to be attacked by the enemy (sponges) he pauses to pray. This causes a fear response in the sponges, which came directly from my own situation in my childhood dreams.”


Wow, that's an amazing story. And another example of how God reaches down to each of us right where we are. It's so good that you had a mother who was able to direct you to calling on God.So what led you to write?
“Ever since I can remember, my mother would read me story books. They have always been a part of my life, and it was only natural for me to try and write my own. When I was thirteen my mother bought me a Smith Corona Typewriter, and that was the beginning of my first attempts to write. I actually started working on my wizard story back then, which many years later I’m getting close to finishing as my first full-length novel.
“What’s ironic is that I grew up with a learning disability and spent most of my school days in Special Education. English was one of my most difficult topics, but in High School I wanted to master my weaknesses and so I studied long and hard to understand the written word. In doing so I grew a fondness for writing.”



Considering all the things you do now, it's hard to imagine you had a learning disability. That in itself should be an encouragement to young people who are struggling though their own difficulties.
What kind of books do you like to read yourself? Has your own writing been influenced by any authors or books in particular?

“I tend to read several books at a time, including listening to audio books in my car on my way to and from work. I like the genre of Speculative Fiction (which is mainly Fantasy and SF) and usually ones written towards youth. Also, I am often reading a non-fiction book to help improve my skills. For example, right now I’m reading ‘Webster's New World Punctuation,’ by Geraldine Woods.
“I believe that every writer is asked questions like, ‘what famous writer are you most like?’ at one point in their lives. Where I understand the reason for the question, I think if a writer pulls a name out of their hat they risk being accused of being a copycat. The truth is that reading books dose influence a writer, but they do not make the writer. As C.S. Lewis said, ‘Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.’
“That said, I’d say the writer whose works most influenced me is Michael Ende, who is probably best known as the author of “The Neverending Story.” If I can become even half the writer he was, then I will have achieved more than I could have dreamed.”



Good answer. I never ask anyone if he or she is comparable to another author; No one, for example, is comparable to C. S. Lewis, for example, yet his work has profoundly influenced scads of writers.
I read some of your blogs at BooksForYouth.com. It seems that you have a special feeling for kids?

“To be honest, most of my life I have felt uncomfortable around kids. I had to grow up pretty fast and there was a lot I missed out on. When around children I often saw their behavior as odd and something I had a hard time relating to.
“Now that I’m older I’m becoming less like a grownup and more like a child . But seriously, my heart goes out to the children who are struggling as I did. Children often have negative messages locked into their hearts from a young age, and it is my desire to reach them by providing messages of faith, hope, and insight before the negative ones get engraved into their hearts and minds.
“My review blog is mainly provided to aid parents in knowing what their children are reading. Both for the sake of the parent and the child; sometimes parents can be overprotective. As I say on my site, ‘education not isolation.’ In each of my reviews I provide an opportunity for discussion. As I stated in an article I did in the Minnesota Christian Chronicle (http://thecatthat.com/files/MNCrChronical0809_TheCatThat.pdf), it is important for children to discuss the stories they read. My site is there to make it a little easier for parents to do so.”



I also noticed a lot of the reviews are for manga. Is that due to your personal preferences or another reason?

“For those who don’t know, manga is similar to comics. They are Japanese graphic novels. I actually didn’t start reading manga until a few years ago. The reason for me adding them to my reviews is due to their increased popularity among children and teens today, and I think it’s important for parents to know what their children are reading.
“Another reason is that I am fond of anime (Japanese animation), and a lot of anime originates from manga.”



Where did the idea for TCTMNSA come from?

“The house I grew up in had many cats, and I had an idea to write a fairytale story about one in particular named Sam, who was my mother’s favorite cat. I wanted to write a story about him mainly for her, but after receiving such positive feedback from people I decided to put the story into book format.”



Just curious, do you prefer cats or dogs, and do you have any pets yourself?

“If you asked me this question a few years ago I’d have definitely said that I like cats better. However, after my wife convinced me to get a dog I have to say he is the best dog I’ve ever known. He is a Japanese dog called a Shiba Inu, which looks similar to a fox. Needless to say he won me over. We also have a cat who we nicknamed Sybil because one minute she is the sweetest cat in the world and the next the worst terror one can imagine. At this point I have to say in general I like cats better, but right now I like my dog the best.



In your own words, could you give us a brief summary of The Cat That Made Nothing Something Again?

“In a fairytale land, there is a cat that lives in a small town. He is a selfishly content cat, having everything he could hope for, but there is one problem: life is boring. The reason for his dull existence has to do with a pair of living-sponges that drained the moisture from everything and everyone. Children forgot how to play, birds forgot how to sing, trees dried up, and adults never engaged in anything fun or exciting.
“Taking it upon himself to get things back to normal, the cat goes on a journey to figure out a way to return the moisture. Along the way, he meets some colorful characters, including a wise old turtle, a seemingly sinister troll, a smart little bird, a childish fool/jester, and a simple seed who remind him how important it is for people to do what’s right and take care of each other.
“Of course good wins out over evil in the end, and the moisture returns, but in a most unusual way. Anyone who has ever owned a house cat will appreciate the irony in the villains’ demise.”



You're right about the irony. I laughed when I got to that part. I didn't see it coming, either.
What do you hope readers will take away with them after reading the story?

“First of all I hope that the reader would have enjoyed reading the story, and I don’t mean just children. Michael Ende used to say that he wrote for children ages eight to eighty. I write in a way that can reach all ages, providing stories that children can understand, yet still giving enough depth and symbolism for adults to relate to. I believe I have achieved this with TCTMNSA.
“There are several messages in the story, but the main one is that of doing for others as you would have them do for you. In other words, it’s a story that attempts to thwart the idea of selfishness.
“One of the other main messages is that of worth. I created a character called ‘the seed.’ The nameless cat finds the seed--which a farmer dropped by accident in the middle of the path--and tries to help him to no avail. He decides that the best course of action is to eat the seed and put him out of his misery. Later in the story we find that the seed becomes the main tool in defeating the dreaded sponges. The message here is that every life, no matter how hopeless it seems, has a purpose.”



Some worthwhile goals, and I believe you have succeeded if my own reaction counts.
Do you have any more books in the wings or in the works?

“I'm currently working on a story about a 15-year-old boy who dreams of becoming a wizard. Even though his father is known throughout the land as a powerful wizard, both he and his mother have forbidden Traphis from learning magic. A year after the death of his father, Traphis finds new doors opening and the world of magic more than he bargained for.”

Thanks again for chatting with us. I hope we'll be seeing a lot more of your writing in the future.
“It was my pleasure. Readers can follow my latest updates on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/James-D-Maxon/57187132704) and I post new reviews weekly at http://booksforyouth.com/ (or you can follow on Twitter: http://twitter.com/booksforyouth). Please feel free to drop by and share your thoughts.


Check out these other member blogs this week for more info.

So What About the Cat That Made Nothing Something Again?




This is a little fable-type story, even a parable of sorts, that is written for children but also targeted for adults. Personally, I found it delightful, but I don't want to base my reviews solely on personal reactions.

A cat-with-no-name lives in a medieval type town in a country where evil, greedy sponges have sucked the moisture out of everything and everyone. They didn't kill them, but the lack of moisture took the important signs of life away. It left boring, dry people with no interests, no love and no energy. This cat got tired of a boring existence with no petting and no one concerned about him, so he decided one day to try to bring the water back. The story goes on to follow the cat's adventures all the way to the king's castle and back.


It's fairly easy for adults to make a connection between this water and Jesus as the Living Water. As the cat travels, he finds many examples of how people and all life, even trees, were affected when their life-giving substance was taken from them. All the good was gone, leaving squabbling, apathy, folly, lack of creativity, no joy and general misery. Most people didn't even seem to notice the sad condition they were in; they just went through the drudgery of their existence like automatons. And it isn't only people that are affected. Along the way, he tries to climb a tree that has turned to stone. This tree has an importance later in the story, but I don't want to give any more details here.

The narration is clever and witty with some unexpected events along the way. A couple of surprises for me had to do with a seed which reminded me immediately of the Parable of the Sower that Jesus told. The parable was there, but it went further. That's all I'm saying... I saw many places in the story that would be prime for discussions with a child who is reading the story, possibilities for discussing several character points and themes from Scripture. The way it is written, it would be easy to just slide into such discussions.


[Little SPOILER] Yeah, spoiler, but you are probably expecting it. The best part of the story is all the changes that happen once the cat achieves his goal, changes that again present some great talking points for parent, or even a discussion group with a class of young readers. Chief among these changes: the transformation of the cat himself. Yes, he had a desire to seek the water and made the effort to find it, but even before it was possible, he had to come to terms with the Creator of all. It was only then that the miracles of life could begin.


Back to a personal note, this was one of my favorite reads this year, juvenile though it may be. I think that the themes are so well expressed, so cleverly written, that it transcends a mere children's tale. This is one that I would hope becomes well-known and often-read.




ISBN-10: 1440485275
ISBN-13: 978-1440485275

ASIN: B001P05M8O (for Kindle edition)
Available at Amazon in paperback ($6.99) and Kindle edition (presently $2.99)


You can learn more at James D. Maxon's website, and even get a copy of the book (free download) there.



Disclaimer: I was given a copy of the story for review purposes, although I will not give a favorable review of anything if I don't really mean it.



Check out these other member blogs this week for more info.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Book Trailer for TCTMNSA







As a little teaser to whet your appetite, enjoy this short book trailer for The Cat That Made Nothing Something Again.






I'll be posting a review tomorrow and interview on Tuesday. For now, I want to say that this may be a children's book, but the message and the clever writing definitely will appeal to adults as well.


Pleas visit the author's website.




Purchase The Cat That Made Nothing Something Again at
Amazon or download for FREE from the Author's Website

Check out these other member blogs this week for more info.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Cat That Made Nothing Something Again



This month, CFRB presents The Cat that Made Nothing Something Again by James D. Maxon.


About the Book:

A nameless cat lives in a town of dry, unhappy people devoid of moisture, joy and creativity. How did the townspeople get this way? Who stole the moisture? And how can one crafty cat return moisture -- and life -- to his town? The Cat That Made Nothing Something Again tells the tale of how a feline hero discovers these answers. On his journey he overcomes obstacles with wit and determination, finds new friends in unexpected places and learns the simple joy -- and transcendent power -- of helping others.






About the Author:

James was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and now lives with his wife, Cindy, in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. A writer of stories, poetry, expository, narrative and persuasive genres, James targets children and teens with messages of faith, hope and insight. Current work in progress is A Wizard Tale, which is a story about a fifteen-year-old boy who is involuntarily forced to walk in his father's footsteps-after his death-and finds himself fighting against a powerful and opposing force.



Visit the author's website.

View the
book trailer
.




Purchase The Cat That Made Nothing Something Again at
Amazon or download for FREE from the Author's Website
.

Check out these other member blogs this week for more info.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Suggested (Gift?) Books for Teens, 2009 Releases, Part 2


So many books, so little space! If you read my previous post, this is the second part of a very incomplete list of good reads for teens featuring 2009 releases. Yesterday I featured speculative fiction because I know guys are more likely to read those than a lot of other books. Today's list has some other books that guys would enjoy, but the chic lit selections are mostly read by girls. I am really trying to emphasize just 2009 releases, although there may be one or two that I just discovered and reviewed this year. There are tons more good books that are a couple of years old. Unfortunately, the bookstores don't carry them all for one reason or another. If I miss some of your favorites (or your teen's favorites), please feel free to add a comment.

As with the first list, I will put links to the author's website (with the author's name) and links to places to buy the books online (with titles). I try to choose the best prices. Many titles may be available in bookstores such as Borders, at times in larger Christian bookstores; online many are available through Christianbook.com, booksamillion.com, and target.com. I think all of them are available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I am sorry to say I don't know good connections for Canada and other countries. All of my orders online have been delivered quickly. By the way, these books are in no particular order as far as my favorites or the date released.


Always Watching and Last Breath by Amber and Brandilynn Collins. ( Only 11.99 for both at Christianbook.com) Books1 & 2 in the Rayne Series. Excerpt on my blog here. This mother-daughter team has coined the term Seatbelt Suspense™ for their young adult suspense.

#1-- The daughter of a rock star, 16-year-old Shaley O'Connor has everything---until she discovers her friend's body backstage. Is Tom Hutchens's death connected to her? Soon, frightening messages appear and paparazzi begin to stalk her. Can Shaley find Tom's killer before he strikes again? Where's God when she needs him? Ages 13 to 16.
#2--With his last breath a dying man whispered four stunning words into Shaley O’Connor’s ear. Shaley is reeling after two murders on the Rayne concert tour. But she has no time to rest. If the dying man’s claim is right, the danger is far from over. Shaley’s quest for the truth leads to the mysterious and wrenching past of her mother and father. Could what happened to them so many years ago threaten Shaley’s life now?




Beyond the Smoke
, Terry W. Burns. A western recommended for teens. I haven't read it, but I'm familiar enough with Terry Burns that I feel confident in recommending it. He does a great job with westerns and has a rock-solid faith in Jesus. If the teen has read Hatchet by Gary Paulsen or The Sign of the Beaver, it has that same youth-surviving-alone theme. Popular with the kids.

When Bryan Wheeler's parents are killed by Comanche raiders, he wonders how he will survive without them. With a few supplies, two guns, and his mother's Bible, he sets out to create a new life for himself in the western wilderness. During his travels he meets new friends, including an eccentric trader, a Texas ranger, and an orphan girl. But enemies lurk in the West, too, forcing Bryan to make difficult choices to survive.




To Save a Life, Jim and Rachel Britts (didn't find actual website). You can read excerpt at sales site. It has been awarded the Silver Medal in the 2009 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards in the category of Young Adult Fiction – Mature Issues. I am looking forward to reading the book and seeing the movie when it comes out.

Based on the movie (in theaters January 22, 2010), the novel is a story about the real-life challenges of teens and their choices. For anyone who has struggled with regret, loneliness or pain, it is a story of hope. For all of us, To Save A Life is a story about living a life of significance. Through Jake's journey, readers are challenged to answer the question: what's your life going to be about? Jake and Roger grew up as best friends. But in high school, Jake becomes a star athlete who has it all: a college scholarship and the perfect girl, an ideal life that comes at the exclusion of his childhood friend. Meanwhile, Roger no longer fits in anywhere and becomes tired of always being pushed aside. He makes a tragic move that spins Jake's world out of control. As Jake searches for answers, he begins a journey that will change his life forever. More resources at ToSaveALifeMovie.com




June Bug by Chris Fabry (mid grade). June Bug is an updated version of Les Miserables, apparently loosely based on the great classic story of great sacrifice. For younger teens, even upper elementary, and maybe reluctant readers. Excerpt here.

It all begins in a nondescript Wal-Mart parking lot where nine-year-old June Bug sees an artist's rendition of herself on a missing child poster in the store where they've parked their broken-down RV trailer. With questions galore, June Bug starts pestering her dad about their RV vagabond life and where they're headed next. Johnson, little June Bug's father, is obliged to face his past in short order as a series of unexpected media events force his hand and reroute his life. Afraid and emotionally battered, Johnson returns to the scene of the crime and discovers what he thought was lost forever. Fabry's retelling of the world-renowned Victor Hugo tale is a stunning success, and readers will find themselves responding with enthusiastic inner applause.




Once Was Lost, Sara Zarr. A really emotionally stirring book from Sara Zarr who has two quite popular titles already out. She is not known particularly as a Christian author, but this book hits home for many. I have a review pending that will appear on my blog later this week. Hopefully, I will also have an interview with Sara Zarr next week. Although the main character is the daughter of a pastor, I know from comments by guys that the audience for the book is quite broad. I cried when I read it: it struck a nerve from my own past.

Samara Taylor used to believe in miracles. She used to believe in a lot of things. As a pastor's kid, it's hard not to buy in to the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reason to doubt. Her mother lands in rehab after a DUI and her father seems more interested in his congregation than his family. When a young girl in her small town is kidnapped, the local tragedy overlaps with Sam's personal one, and the already-worn thread of faith holding her together begins to unravel. In her third novel, acclaimed author Sara Zarr examines the coexistence of affliction and hope, and what happens when everything you thought you believed---about God, about your family, about yourself---is transformed.




I Know Why the Angels Dance, Bryan Davis. (There's an excerpt on Bryan Davis' site) This one is actually a contemporary adult book, but suitable for teens. Most of Davis' work has been targeting teens; besides, it's quite seasonally appropriate.

When atheist psychology professor Phil Grayson loses his only child to disease, he's furious at John Hanson's attempt to console him based on his daughter's deathbed conversion to Christ. While Phil seems blind to the truth, John struggles to grasp the concept of "weeping with those who weep." Can another remarkable child bring them together?




If Only You Knew by Canadian author Mags Storey. My review is here. This is properly young adult, as in 20-year-olds, but quite appropriate for teens. Especially older teens. While it is a kind of love story, there's a lot more to it, lots of intrigue and danger that make it a book guys would like as well.

"Perhaps I should have read something into the fact that when I first laid eyes on Sam some girl was yelling at him, and when I first met Kevin he nearly killed me." Jo's summer is off to a good start when she meets Kevin, an amazingly attractive guy, and Sam, her soon- to-be best friend, on the same day. Now all she needs is a summer job, college or career plans, life goals... She'd also like to know why no one talks about Nate's horrible accident. Last summer, she saw someone hit Nate with a sports car outside a church and leave him to die. If she hadn't called 911, he might have done just that. Soon after she and Sam look into the incident, a couple of creepy guys start stalking her and someone threatens her life. In the midst of this craziness, Jo finds herself turning to an intriguing group of friends who believe in the God she thinks has forgotten her. With the help of her friends and a renewed trust in God, Jo tries to unravel the mystery and piece together her life.



{The rest of the list mainly consists of "girlie" books. Sorry, guys.}


New York Debut & Lost in Las Vegas (Carter House series), Melody Carlson. Melody Carlson is a perennial favorite with teen girls and has probably released more titles this year than the three I have. In fact, it would be a good idea to check her website to see all the latest titles.

New York Debut--Mix six teenage girls and one ‘60s fashion icon (retired, of course) in an old Victorian-era boarding home. Add boys and dating, a little high-school angst, and throw in a Kate Spade bag or two . . . and you’ve got The Carter House Girls, Melody Carlson’s new chick lit series for young adults! The New Year promises to be lively for the Carter House girls. No sooner does the calendar page turn and the girls are forced to confront a whole load of difficulties. There is constant pressure from Mrs. Carter as the household prepares to participate in the high stakes Spring Fashion Week in New York City. Competition flares from all directions as the girls vie for top billing, premium outfits, and attention from favorite guys. Stresses mount and some personal challenges grow into serious problems. Will the girls survive the big city experience and the even bigger trials that come along with it?

Las Vegas--In a whirlwind, DJ accepts “lonely” Taylor’s invitation to join her mom’s tour in Las Vegas during Christmas break. DJ soon discovers that the unsupervised Taylor is focused on one thing only—partying with a capital “P.” She’s invited Eliza, too, and DJ is quickly overwhelmed by the behavior of the wild duo. Desperate, she calls on Casey for help and prays for a miracle to help Taylor before she self-destructs.




It's a Green Thing: Diary of a Teenage Girl, Melody Carlson. One in a series of teen diaries. I wonder if Melody Carson ever sleeps? It looks like all she ever does is write!

For the first time that she can remember, Maya Stark is beginning to feel like a "normal" teenager. Even with her mother in jail for drug possession and her pop-star father away on his comeback tour, Maya's new life with her uncle Allen and cousin Kim is coming together. Summer vacation's just beginning, and with a new job, a new boyfriend, and a new car (hybrid, of course), things are finally starting to look up.
But that doesn't mean life is about to get any easier. Maya's still devoted to living Green, and her uncle offers her a Green column in his newspaper. With the opportunity to make a difference in the town's attitude toward the environment, Maya wonders how this fits with her new-found commitment to Christ. And if she can really consider herself a Christian when her feelings toward a fellow youth group member are anything but loving
.




So Not Happening (The Charmed Life), Jenny B. Jones. Chic lit. with a serious subject: children of divorce and the traumatic changes it can bring. As with other chic lit. though, a healthy dose of humor.

Isabella Kirkwood had it all: popularity at a prestigious private school in Manhattan, the latest fashions, and a life of privilege and luxury.
Then her father, a plastic surgeon to the stars, decided to trade her mother in for a newer model.
When her mother starts over with her new husband, Bella is forced to pack up and leave all she knows to live with her new family in Oklahoma. Before her mother can even say “I do,” Bella’s life becomes a major “don’t.”
Can Bella survive her crazy new family? Will the school survive Bella? How can a girl go on when her charmed life is gone and God gives her the total smackdown?





It's Not About Him, Michelle Sutton. The second book by "the edgy inspirational author" follows Suzie and Jeff, two characters first introduced in the first book It's Not About Me. Although the characters are carry-overs, this book can stand alone.

When Susie discovers she is pregnant, she has no idea who the father is. She considers having an abortion, but decides to place her baby for adoption instead. Following through ends up being more wrenching than she'd imagined, but she's determined to do the right thing for her baby.




Ruby Unscripted, Cindy Martinusen. Make that Cindy Martinusen-Coloma. Maybe she got married recently? Anyway, she even got an blurb from Melody Carlson for her book.

Small-town girl Ruby Madden has moved to Marin County, California; home of high-dollar homes and green living. The girls wear shoes that cost more than her entire paycheck at the Underground Coffeehouse & Theater, and the students are well-traveled and full of life experiences that Ruby can only dream of. All the stresses of adjusting to her new life have put a strain on her ability to trust God. Yet when mysterious and eye-catching Kaden invites Ruby to join the school's film group, the puzzle pieces start to fit. Her love of art finds perfect expression and the film friends seem to really get her. When a major Hollywood director hosts an amateur film contest, Ruby and her friends are stoked. But Ruby's old life is tugging her backward and her frantic balancing act throws her new life totally off track. To top things off, Ruby makes a mistake that could cost her the chance of a lifetime. Life would be so much easier if Ruby just had a script to follow with a happy ending guaranteed. But what's the fun in that?




Truth or Dare and All That Glitters, Nicole O'Dell (young teen and tween; interactive).

Scenarios Series Description: Decisions, decisions! How is a girl supposed to choose? Lessons of right and wrong are put to the test in the Scenarios series, where you can test your decision-making abilities in an eye-opening, but safe, way. Each book follows a character up to the point where she has to make an important, life-changing decision—then it’s your turn to choose. Will your choices lead to a happy ending?

Truth or Dare--Lindsay Martin is faced with a tough choice: Does she give in to peer pressure and make her friends happy or does she do what she knows is right—even if it means losing her friends forever? Tween readers make the choice in this interactive story and see how the consequences change Lindsay’s life. Includes a contract and prayer to remind the reader of the importance of making godly decisions.

All That Glitters--Drew Daniels finally has what she thought she wanted—popularity and a cute boyfriend. But now she’s faced with choosing between pleasing her boyfriend and doing what’s right. Tween readers make the choice in this interactive story and see how the consequences change Drew’s life. Includes a contract and prayer to remind the reader of the importance of making godly decisions.





All About Us series (It's All About Us, The Fruit of My Lipstick, Be Strong and Curvaceous, Who Made You a Princess and Tidings of Great Boys) by Shelly Adina. Talk about an author with a busy year! I read the first three books and found them to be quick-witted, fun stories. Very, very girlie yet very Christian. I had excerpts from the first two with a short review here. All the stories deal with girlfriends attending Spencer Academy, a Christian school, but each book can stand alone as each focuses on a different girl.

It's All About Us--Lissa Mansfield is used to being in the "in" crowd--but being accepted by the popular girls at posh Spencer Academy boarding school in San Francisco is a lot harder than she thought. And then there's her New-York-loudmouth roommate, Gillian Chang, who's not just happy to be a Christian herself--she's determined to out Lissa, too. If Lissa can just keep her faith under wraps long enough to hook Callum McCloud, the hottest guy in school, she'll be golden. But when Callum pressures her to go all the way with him, Lissa has to decide how far is too far. How can she see that line when he's so gorgeous and popular and God seems so far away? Between that and shopping for a knockout dress and booking the hottest celeb for the Benefactor's Day Ball . . . who knew finding a place at Spencer Academy would be so complicated?

The Fruit of my Lipstick--New Yorker Gillian Chang starts her second term at posh Spencer Academy boarding school in San Francisco prepared to focus on her studies, her faith, and her friends. She plays a dozen musical instruments and can recite the periodic table of the elements backward. She's totally prepared for everything--except love! She's falling hard for Lucas Hayes, who isn't even a senior yet and is already aiming at a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford. The problem is, she never seems to be able to measure up and be the girlfriend he wants. He's under a lot of pressure from his parents to achieve--maybe that's why he's short-tempered sometimes. But even a thick-skinned girl like Gillian can only take so much. With her heart on the line, Gillian conceals more and more from her friends. So when she's accused of selling exam answer sheets, even her girlfriends, Lissa Mansfield and Carly Aragon, wonder if it can be true. Can Gillian hang onto her integrity--and her faith--when she loses her heart to Lucas?

Be Strong and Curvaceous--After spending spring break in Mexico with her grandparents, Carly Aragon can't wait to get back to school at Spencer Academy in San Francisco. With Lissa Mansfield and Gillian Chang by her side, she's ready for anything ... except a new roommate. Lady Lindsay MacPhail, flamboyant daughter of the Earl of Strathcairn, quickly becomes Carly's worst nightmare. "Mac" not only swoops in and steals Carly's privacy, she's also stealing Brett Loyola--Carly's biggest crush! But when Mac starts receiving strange, threatening e-mails, she and Carly must come together to figure out who's behind them and why. In the end, the fate of one girl will lie in the other's hands. Will the two learn to trust one another and trust God?

Who Made You a Princess?--Shani Hanna always thought her parents sent her to Spencer Academy to groom her for a career in her dad's company. Little did she know it was to advance her family's interests in a much more personal way! Shani returns to Spencer Academy after an amazing summer with her friends and a new hottie: Danyel Johnstone. The two are just starting to generate some heat when it's time to hit the books again. But a new addition to the student body has all the girls buzzing. Prince Rashid al Amir is doing an exchange term at Spencer Academy—and he’s set his sights on Shani. It turns out that Shani's family and the prince's go back for generations. In each generation, members of the two families have expanded their business interests through an archaic and inescapable tradition. Will Shani put aside her feelings for Danyel to become a princess? Or will her headstrong ways put her feelings, her future—and her faith—at risk?


Tidings of Great Boys--Finals week is approaching, and Mac is still undecided on where to spend the holidays. Normally she’d go home to Scotland, but spending two weeks alone in the castle with her dad isn’t as appealing as it used to be. So she invites Carly, Lissa, Gillian, and Shani to join her for the holidays! Mac is determined to make this the best Christmas ever. She even decides to organize the traditional Hogmanay dance for New Year’s Eve. If she can get her mother involved, maybe her parents will finally get back together. But when Mac and the girls arrive in Scotland, they are faced with bad news: The castle is falling apart and Mac’s parents are struggling financially. Not only that, but Shani is in big trouble with Prince Rashid’s royal family. Can the girls find a way to celebrate the holidays, get Mac’s parents back together, save the castle, and rescue Shani ... and will Mac believe it's all part of God's plan? There’s only one way to find out!



Whew! Well, I hope you found something in these thirty-odd books that will appeal to the teenagers in your life--or even yourself. Happy reading!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Suggested Books (and Gifts) for Teens, 2009 Releases, Part 1


2009 exploded with new offerings for Teens and Young Adults, and I'm just thinking about those with a Christian worldview. No doubt this list has missed a great many that came out in 2009, but these are the ones I know about and feel confident in recommending. It was an especially good year for speculative fiction--science fiction, fantasy and thrillers--but also chock full of the girly chic lit. A lot of other genres are represented as well. I am sure I will miss some of the more romantic titles, but then I don't follow those as closely as others do. If you want to add your favorites in the comments, please do.

There is no way I can do justice to all the titles on the list, but I give links to websites (click on author's name) and a place where you can buy online (click on book title). And if I wrote a review on the book, I'll give a link to that as well. Most of these you can get through Borders or other bookstores; several are available at Christian bookstores.


Let's start with the speculative, which will appeal to the guys and many of the girls:


By Darkness Hid, Jill Williamson . (See my blog). In this fantasy novel, young Achan Cham dreams of serving in the Kingsguard Knights, but he is a stray--worse than a slave--and such aspirations are out of his reach. Worse, Achan is beginning to hear strange voices in his head, and wondering why his masters force him to drink a tonic every day, though he is not sick.
Half the land of Er'Rets is permanently shrouded in Darkness. Forces on both sides of the Evenwall want Vrell and Achan, and their powerful gifts.
This is a terrific fantasy adventure with romance, betrayal, cruelty, and unexpected hope. Because above all the other voices in Achan's head, he hears a new one calling him to faith.


The League of Superheroes, Stephen L. Rice (also has a blog and a wiki page. I have blogs here, here and here). World need saving? This looks like a job for . . .Geeks? Yeah, geeks. I mean, who else is going to figure out how to use a super suit? Not some jock! I'm Tom Reilly (Darklight), a language geek; Rod Davies (Titan) is the math and physics genius, the smartest guy in high school; Allen (Tachyon) is our hacker; and Charlie (Micromegas) is our doctor wannabe. Then there's Clarice, Allen's little sister. You know how kids are. And Genie, of course—the self-described little girl we know only from chat rooms. She's the smartest person in history—and probably the most endangered.We've got to save her and the world. I hope we don't get grounded.



Forever Richard, Sue Dent. (Second book in the Thirsting for Blood Series. Book one was Never Ceese) (Other information here. My blogs are here, here, here and here) He's ba-a-ack. Our favorite redeemed vampire and his sister Ceese, who used to be a werewolf, and who is still tormented by the one who cursed her. Twilight fans like this series, but the comparisons aren't that close. There is romance blooming, but so much more going on. Guys like it, too.

The saga of redemption and spiritual triumph readers enjoyed in Never Ceese continues in Forever Richard...Cassie Felts, graduate student and reluctant believer of such things as vampires and werewolves, couldn’t be happier for Richard and Ceese Porter. Their curses lifted and after hundreds of years apart, they can now celebrate being brother and sister once more. Even Rodney, Cassie’s college roommate and former nemesis, shares her relief. But will the faith that saved Richard and Ceese be enough to defeat the new evil that threatens them all?


North! Or Be Eaten (sequel to On the Edge of the Sea of Darkness) by Andrew Peterson. (I loved this title--how could it not get attention. My review is here and an excerpt here).

Reviewed by Novel Teen Book Reviews (Oregon), October 14, 2009
This story starts out where the first book left off: in Peet the Sock Man’s tree house. Janner, Tink, Leeli, Podo, and Nia are about to set off for the Ice Prairies, but they don’t get going soon enough and end up on the run from the Fangs of Dang. It’s a long, long journey to the Ice Prairies, and the Igby children are waylaid by some pretty horrifying setbacks. Will all in their party survive the trip? Will they get caught before they make it? Oh, I likes me this book a way bunch! It makes me wanna talk like Podo, which I probably don’t do as well as the old coot, but still I give it me best shot. I liked this one better than the first, which is such a great thing. The characters were even better this time. I love the parallels with Janner and Peet. Two Throne Wardens struggling to do what they must even when it is nearly impossible. Andrew Peterson’s style is funny and clever while telling a dangerous tale of woe. That’s what makes his writing so unique. He’s a wonderful writer and storyteller. I highly recommend this series. I cannot wait for book three. And I love the illustrations in the book. The Snickbuzzard with the belly button, especially.


Dreamhouse Kings series (House of Dark Shadows, Watcher in the Woods, and Gatekeepers), Robert Liparulo. Kind of creepy; supernatural thrillers. My blogs are here and here. It will be easier to follow the story if you read them in order; it is possible, however, to get into the tale without reading all of them. I missed the first one and still got creeped out ( in a good way). It did make me put the first book on my wish list.

"If you like creepy and mysterious, this is the house for you! Every room opens a door to magic, true horror, and amazing surprises. I loved wandering around in these books. With a house of so many great, haunting stories, why would you ever want to go outside?" --R.L. Stine (Goosebumps)


Angel of Wrath, Bill Myers. My blog is here. Mainly older teens and adults. Supernatural thriller, high on the creepy scale. I wanted to rush through it to find out what the monster thing really was and to discover the truth about the cult leader/murderer.

Thirteen-year-old Jazmin, her ex-Special Ops uncle Charlie, and former FBI agent Lisa are reunited in the second of the Voice of God series to stop an assassin driven to murder members of a megachurch led by Lisa's brother. This assassin has drawn in a coven of teens toying with satanic practices to support his efforts. The naive youth engage in ceremonies that appear to usher in the death of each of his victims. When their rituals open a portal into the spiritual realm, a terrifying and mysterious entity crosses over to our world. ...



On the Run, also by Bill Myers. (My blog with excerpt here) This one could easily be enjoyed by middle school age and up. Still very much into the supernatural. (Note: Bill Myers is a prolific writer with many titles for all ages. If you go to his website, you'll see much more)

Zach and Piper aren't the only ones to notice their little brother's supernatural gifts. Something evil is also paying attention. Now the kids must learn to draw strength from heaven while being pursued by the powers of darkness. The only thing more bizarre than the miracles Zach and Piper's six-year-old brother; Elijah, performed is the strange note from their parents. So begins a wild chase across the country as the two attempts to find their father and mother and protect their brother. Unfortunately, trying to look "normal" isn't easy for three kids on the run in a borrowed motor home. And Elijah's habit of performing miracles doesn't help! Will aid from a mysterious stranger be enough to assist in their escape from the evil pursuing them?



The Shadowside Trilogy ( Trion Rising, The Owling and Beyond Corista), Robert Elmer. I have blogs for Trion Rising and Beyond Corista. Only Beyond Corista was released in 2009, but this is another series where the stories are quite connected. On the planet Corista, Brightside residents enjoy sunlight while the Shadowside endures gloomy despair. When Corista is thrown off its axis, global chaos erupts---and the Shadowside inhabitants are blamed. It will take a special young woman to expose the truth and avert the war that's sure to come! Ages 12 and up.



Time Thriller series (Ripple Effect, Out of Time, Memory's Gate), Paul McCusker. Weird travel from one world to another, and time runs at differing rates; there are fatalities and lots of danger. Excerpts on my blog for Ripple Effect and Memory's Gate.

The Time Thriller Trilogy delivers gripping, fast-paced mystery that intrigues and captivates through hours, seconds, and centuries. A long history of strange disappearances and unexplainable occurrences leave clues that the town of Fawlt Line may actually sit on a time fault—a portal to alternate times and unexpected time travels—a twist of fate that puts all of Fawlt Line’s citizens in serious danger. Will they find the faith to hold on to the town and time where they belong? Can truth prevail? Elizabeth thought volunteering at the Fawlt Line Retirement Center would be fun, but she quickly has second thoughts. While most of the residents are wonderful, there’s something about the place—and a strangely familiar man in a wheelchair—that gives her the creeps. When people start disappearing from the center, leaving behind cryptic notes, Elizabeth is convinced the time fault is involved. Her own time-travel adventure may be the key to solving the mystery, but can she convince the sheriff she’s telling the truth before more people disappear?



Echoes from the Edge series (Beyond the Reflection's Edge, Eternity's Edge, Nightmare's Edge), Bryan Davis. I have a blog for Beyond the Reflection's Edge. A newer series by the author of Dragons in Our Midst. No dragons, but there's a horribly creepy guy who kills people and eats their eyeballs. Alternate universes.
His fast-paced adventure fantasy trilogy starts with murder and leads teenagers Nathan and Kelly out of their once-familiar world as they struggle to find answers to the tragedy. A mysterious mirror with phantom images, a camera that takes pictures of things they can't see, and a violin that unlocks unrecognizable voices … each enigma takes the teens further into an alternate universe where nothing is as it seems.
Find out what happens when good battles evil in an alternate universe.





Vanishing Sculptor, Donita K. Paul( she also has a blog). The creator of The Dragonkeeper series has written another tale about the world of Amara. I haven't read it yet, but I imagine her young fans will not be disappointed. Age is around 11-16 (target, but many of us adults like her work as well).

Meet Tipper, a young emerlindian who's responsible for the upkeep of her family's estate during her sculptor father's absence. Tipper soon discovers that her actions have unbalanced the whole foundation of her world, and she must act quickly to undo the calamitous threat. But how can she save her father and her world on her own? The task is too huge for one person, so she gathers the help of some unlikely companions-including the nearly five-foot tall parrot Beccaroon-and eventually witnesses the loving care and miraculous resources of Wulder. Through Tipper's breathtaking story, readers will discover the beauty of knowing and serving God.




Ryann Waters and the Shield of Faith, Eric Reinhold. This is the second book in Eric's Annals of Aeliana series. Currently there s a pre-Christmas sale with a great price break if you buy both books. Only from the publisher. This series is recommended for younger teens or those who like a fast read.

In small-town Mount Dora, Florida, a nighttime visit from the archangel Gabriel sends 12-year-old Ryann Watters on a supernatural mission to find a royal sword. That same night, a fallen angel sends his troubled classmate, Drake Dunfellow, on an opposite quest---to stop him. Both boys are given powerful angelic gifts, but which one will prevail?



Matterhorn the Brave series, Mike Hamel. These tales are about Matthew Horn. He's a brave knight, ...when he isn’t busy being a twelve-year-old boy. Few people have heard of him, which isn’t surprising, for most of his adventures happen in other times and places. He and his friends have been around the globe and off it. Gone under the earth and over the moon. Not bad for kids who don’t even have driver’s licenses. Matterhorn the Brave™ features four adolescents who are recruited by the Praetorians of First Realm—a mirror world of Earth—to keep an eye on the portals that connect all space and time. When heretics murder the king of First Realm, his daughter, Queen Bea, enlists the kids’ help to recover some of the Ten Talis that have been hidden on Earth. The Talis are tangible symbols of the Maker’s power. The heretics need these sacred objects for their scheme to conquer Earth.

The publisher, AMG, pulled the plug on the series this past year with two of the eight books ready to go into publication. So the author decided to sell those two as e-books. He is also selling the first six books at 30 percent off right now. I read the first book, The Sword and the Flute. Delightful. To be honest, I'm going to push this series a bit because the author has been fighting a long and frustrating battle with cancer. It's in his blog. He needs all the support--financial and prayer--he can get. Besides, the books are highly entertaining.



BRAND NEW!!!
The Curse of the Spider King by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper. The cover is sufficiently creepy-looking to catch guys' interest. Reading level ages 9-12.

The Seven succeeding Elven Lords of Allyra were dead, lost in the Siege of Berinfell as babes. At least that's what everyone thought until tremors from a distant world known as Earth, revealed strange signs that Elven blood lived among its peoples. With a glimmer of hope in their hearts, sentinels are sent to see if the signs are true. But theirs is not a lone errand. The ruling warlord of Allyra, the Spider King, has sent his own scouts to hunt down the Seven and finish the job they failed to complete many ages ago.
Now 13-year-olds on the brink of the Age of Reckoning when their Elven gifts will be manifest, discover the unthinkable truth that their adoptive families are not their only kin. With mysterious Sentinels revealing breathtaking secrets of the past, and dark strangers haunting their every move, will the young Elf Lords find the way back to the home of their birth? Worlds and races collide as the forces of good and evil battle. Will anyone escape the Curse of the Spider King?
Learn more about The Berinfell Prophecies at http://www.heedtheprophecies.wordpress.com/. Create your own tribe.




Sir Bentley and Holbrook Court, Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart, by Chuck Black. Both published 2009. The second and third books in The Knights of Arrethtrae series. Ages 9-12.

The Knights of Arrethtrae is a medieval action/adventure series allegory. Building upon the Kingdom of Arrethtrae as created in The Kingdom Series books, these stories fit within the time of the waiting years, between books 3 and 5. This is analogous to the Church Age or the Time of the Gentiles. This is not a chronological series like the Kingdom Series, for each book stands alone and tells of the adventures of individual knights during this time period. The Knights of the Prince are recruiting and training all who will follow the Prince as they wait for His return. During these years, brave knights rise up and take the story of the Prince deep into the heart of the kingdom and to the far reaches of the land. They encounter great adversity and peril as they fight against many strongholds established by the Dark Knight as well as those influenced by his power. Each title allegorically teaches a biblical principle such as loyalty, compassion, courage, humility, and faith while warning against the tools of the devil such as rebellion, greed, doubt, and apathy.


That's enough for today. And these were just the speculative titles! Tomorrow I will continue with books in other genres, even a western. I do hope parents and teens alike will look into these websites and buy some of the books. Nearly all of them are marked down for pre-Christmas sales. You will be sure to find many treasures here.