Ramblings

Awards Ceremony Ramble

aeroplane-air-travel-aircraft-249581Everyone has wanted an invitation at one time or another. As a child, maybe some of you watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and wondered what it would be like to find a golden ticket. Or perhaps you waited expectantly for your best friend to call you over for a sleepover.

A few days ago I received an email…

YOU ARE INVITED: Two events honoring Christian fiction on November 7in Nashville

The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association is hosting their annual Christy Award Gala as well as an Art of Writing Conference, and I was asked to attend!

Granted, I think this email is generically sent out to hundreds of book reviewers who express interest, and it’s not even free ($99 for both events) but I still had a little bit of child-like wonder opening up that email and imagining what it would be like to go.

If you haven’t heard of the Christy Awards before, they are given out each year to recognize novels of excellence written from a Christian worldview. Like the Academy Awards only for fiction written with a Christian worldview, various new books are nominated each year in different categories (romance, historical, suspense, etc.) and the winners in each division are announced at the Christy Awards ceremony. This year’s featured speakers include Francine Rivers and Charles Martin, bestselling authors–among others.

While I don’t really think I’ll be able to spend money on tickets to Nashville next month, I will be very excited to see which books are finalists (and which ones win.) I’ve been known to look through lists from past years (take a look at wikipedia’s here, covering 2000-2014) to get reading inspiration. My Hands Came Away Red is just one of the great books I’ve discovered!

Will you be going to the Christy Gala? Would you want to?

Ramblings

Hoopla vs. Overdrive for Christian Fiction Readers

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I don’t know about you, but since none of my rich uncles have decided to die and leave me untold fortunes (I don’t think I even have a rich uncle) I’m always open to exploring affordable ways to get my hands on books and audio books! Recently I’ve been trying two apps my local library subscribes to, hoopla and OverDrive.

If you haven’t heard of them before, basically both apps are designed to give library patrons access to thousands of free ebooks, audiobooks, and more. If your local library subscribes to these two popular “vendors”, all you need is your library card and a device to get started.  Each app is a little bit different though, so today I’m going to share a few of the pros and cons I’ve noticed as I’ve tried them out, particularly in regards to downloading/streaming Christian fiction.

First off, hoopla.

Your library pays a small fee every time you borrow an item through hoopla, which means the vendor is motivated to have a really good variety of books available in the hopes you will find what you want and digitally “check it out.” As a result, the selection on here is fantastic– even with the less popular Christian fiction genre.  I’ve found semi obscure books like Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard, for example, or the futuristic The Shadow and Night by Chris Walley. Personally, the selection alone makes this app my favorite of the two options we’re looking at today! Some other thoughts:

  • There’s no way to search “Christian Fiction” and just see a mix of that genre, which makes it more difficult to discover new titles and authors.
  • I can’t find any way to recommend titles be added to the collection if they don’t have what I want.
  • All the books I’ve looked at have a loan period of 21 days.
  • You can “favorite” an item to come back to it later if you don’t want to borrow it now
  • At the end of the loan period the item is “returned” and removed from your device if you downloaded it
  • Limited borrows (may not be an issue depending on your library.) Through my library I am allowed to check out up to five items per month.

OverDrive

Each library or school that utilizes OverDrive picks the digital content they want for their users, so the selection available to you may be far better or worse than mine. More than likely, this is directly correlated with budgeting, so in my case I’m not surprised that it’s difficult to find anything but the most well known Christian fiction authors. On the upside, you can recommend an item for purchase and will be emailed if the item is added to the collection. Also:

  • In a roundabout way I can search Christian fiction; after bringing up a Christian fiction title and then clicking on it for more info the app lists the genres it falls into. From there I can click “Christian fiction” to see a selection of similar items
  • There are only a certain number of digital copies available of each book—so you might have to wait by putting the item on hold
  • Haven’t had any troubles downloading this to any of my android devices, including old nook
  • Like hoopla, there are limited borrows allowed. I’m not sure if this varies by library, but for me the limit is 7 items per months.

Both apps are worth looking into if you haven’t used them before. If you have, which do you prefer? What did you like (or not?)

 

 

Ramblings

Sneak Peek and Ramble, Hind’s Feet on High Places

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Recently I’ve been reading an old allegory by Hannah Hurnard called Hind’s Feet on High Places. Similar to Pilgrim’s Progress in ways, the main character (named Much-Afraid) is traveling up a mountain with the help of the Good Shepherd, hoping to someday make it to the High Places. Along the way she learns lessons and encounters various interesting characters. Continue reading “Sneak Peek and Ramble, Hind’s Feet on High Places”

Ramblings

A Handful of Children’s Picture Books

I have a slightly different (and more colorful!) review post for you today! I thought I’d take a rabbit trail into children’s picture books and see if I could find any with good Christian messages you could add to your collection or check out from the library. Being an Auntie myself, I’m always bringing a few hardcovers home to read to my nieces and nephews, but it’s difficult sometimes to find any with Biblical messages. Here are a some brief thoughts on what I’ve come across lately!

Continue reading “A Handful of Children’s Picture Books”

Ramblings · Turn Back the Page Thursdays

Turn Back the Page Thursdays (Are Retiring)

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said “There is nothing permanent except change.”
I disagree with him on one point, since there is someone we can always count on to be invariable– as Hebrews 13:8 puts it, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

I’m a little more inconsistent, however, and as I’ve been slowly building this blog I’ve also been learning a little bit about what works (and doesn’t) for me. As a result, I’ve decided to retire Turn Back the Page Thursdays. Hopefully that isn’t too disappointing, but I’ve found that scouring the internet for photos that are old, interesting, and also not protected by copyright is a lot more time intensive than I thought it would be. It doesn’t really build the blog long term in any way, and I’m starting to feel as if it doesn’t fit very well with the overall theme of book reviews.

Moving forward, I’ll be able to spend this freed-up time reading, acquiring, and photographing more books and writing reviews as well as other book-related posts, so please look forward to continued Monday content!

P.S. Don’t forget to enter the book giveaway going on this week if you haven’t already! 🙂 Details in previous post.

Ramblings

Why Romantic Christian Fiction and I Don’t Go Steady

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We’ve been spending time together (off and on) for quite a few years now, so it may come as a surprise to some friends that I haven’t made a serious commitment yet. Here’s why!

  • He’s so predictable. I mean, I love a guy who’s dependable, but I always feel like I know exactly what he’s going to do and say before he does it.

By nature, Romantic Fiction revolves around… a romance. Before I even open up the pages of this type of novel, I know that the girl will end up with a/the guy by the end, usually married. If she didn’t, it would probably end up categorized as something else. For me, this destroys a lot of the suspense and leaves me thinking “just solve this silly problem already so you can end up together.”

Bottom line: good Romance has to have an engaging plot and a fresh perspective to hold my interest to the end.

  • He’s not always as innocent as he seems.

Sadly, sometimes I think authors, even Christian ones, approach their work thinking something along these lines: “Hmm, how much tension can I stuff in this to keep my readers’ hearts racing and cheeks red without it actually being labeled as lustful?” Kiss scenes especially can go too far, and characters often end up in vulnerable situations even though “nothing happens.” Descriptions of physical attraction are often over-the-top, with men who somehow always end up shirtless and showing off their ridiculously rippling biceps.

Bottom line: good Romance doesn’t feed lustful, objectifying thought patterns.

  • Sometimes he seems pretty spiritually shallow.

The Christian messages in these books can easily fall into the categories of vague or forgotten. How many plot synopses have you read that go something like this:

Marie-Anne Rose travels from x to y interesting location in z—epic, fascinating time period that featured lots of gorgeous clothes and settings. She meets Eric, the handsome (rancher, sheriff, soldier, duke, doctor—pick one) but a big obstacle is in the way of happily ever after. Will Marie-Anne’s faith get her through????

Now, don’t get me wrong, faith in God through trials is an excellent topic. That said, some of the romances I’ve looked at make God almost an afterthought of the book… others give the false impression that strong faith always results in all your dreams coming true.

Bottom line: Good Christian romances point to Jesus, whose sacrifice for mankind is the greatest love story of all. The character’s relationships flow naturally from and further a plot centered on biblical truths.

 I like Romance the best when he pairs up with some of his friendship genres, say History or Adventure! I could mention some other things I’ve noticed about him (maybe I should do a sequel post sometime?) but for now I’ll leave off here. Somehow I don’t think I’ll ever break up with him entirely, but I try to spend time together only when he’s at his best—focused on glorifying God.  

 

Ramblings

Sneak Peek, My Hands Came Away Red

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I’m wrapped up in the beginning of My Hands Came Away Red by Lisa McKay, and so far I’m feeling optimistic! I have a distance to go before I can say whether this will earn four stars, but here’s a glimpse inside:

     “I would like to go to Bible college,” Mani whispered, as if sharing a secret too precious to say out loud. He looked out over the water, unclenched his fist, and let the handful of sand he’d been clutching dribble out.
“My teachers at school know about a Bible college in Bandung. Can you imagine? Three years just to study the Bible and learn about God?” He sounded awed.

Without context I’m not sure if you’ll be affected by this passage the way I was; “Mani” is a young man on a remote island of Indonesia. His father is a pastor there, and the protagonist of the book, Cori, is part of a mission trip to help them build a church.

I’ve reread this paragraph a couple times, touched. While I’ve never been to a Bible college, I’ve had 23 years to study the Bible and learn about God. Easy, convenient access to countless resources, sermons, Godly counsel and all the time I needed to apply myself. Even so, how many times have I been in awe of these gifts?  I may catch my breath a little tonight when I open up the New Testament or reach for the (free) commentary I checked out from the library.

Ramblings

Prelude to Fiction Flops

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I wish I could typewrite all my blog posts… something about this machine makes me feel as if everything I wrote would be legendary!

So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom. ~ Psalm 90:12

In the course of trying to read so many books for this blog, it’s inevitable that I find a few I dislike, or at least don’t enjoy enough to haul them around to all my family members spewing my adoration for the premise or the characters or something else! I’m trying, as best as I am able, to give fair reviews; sometimes I’m not thrilled with a certain genre, for example, but I try to balance that out with the quality of the work so my rating is based more on the merit of the book than my own personal taste.

When I do rate a book less than 3/5 stars, I will be categorizing it under fiction flops, but please do remember that ultimately it is only (however carefully decided) my opinion, and I do not mean offense to anyone who may have read these books and love them. I would be thrilled to hear your input about why I shouldn’t have rated them the way I did!

As far as authors go, I do respect the huge amount of work and heart they may have put into their Christian fiction book, and I’m certainly not “out to get” anyone. One author I’ve been thinking about lately wrote one book I absolutely loved and reread, but also one book I found lacking. A fiction flop (which I use lightheartedly) does not always equal a author flop. My hope is that writers, especially those I ask to interview with me, will be understanding in this regard.

I desire for you to find my reviews fair, reliable, and helpful as you make decisions about what to read. Please remember to pray for guidance and wisdom as you choose how to spend the time our Savior has given you!

All this said, Lord allowing, my next post will be up Monday. Have a wonderful weekend!