Ramblings

Thoughts on Black by Ted Dekker

Hello book friends! You haven’t seen me in a while! I’m not going to apologize, because these last weeks have been full, happy, lovely ones for me with family—a birthday party, time with my nieces, a rabbit show (really!), ordering pizza, encouraging sermons from my Pastor, joyful choir practices, and sitting on the front step listening to light rainfall. Of course there were a few down moments in there too—sore throats and such—but overall I am just full to the brim with all the restful, joyful feelings of spring and new growth right now. I hope you are too, and ultimately whether you are going through rough times or good, “…may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 5:13)

I’ve just finished the book Black by Ted Dekker: the story of a man who is torn between two equally compelling realities. Thomas Hunter—the protagonist– wakes up in one world whenever he falls asleep in the other, and to quote the back cover, “…in both, catastrophic disaster awaits him….may even be caused by him.” My feelings about this novel are almost as starkly mixed as Hunter’s dual lives. I found myself on a teeter totter of excitement/love versus frustration/dislike as I worked my way through it.

…excellent cover styling for this series, if you ask me.

I really enjoyed the sheer creativity of Dekker in Black. The entire concept is new and fresh… and interested me right away. Which of Hunter’s “dreams” is the “real” world? One is decidedly modern and realistic, the other is a sort of fantasy/allegorical land filled with strange creatures and characters. Dekker didn’t hold anything back when he created this other world, as every description is full of color and imagination. There’s almost a touch of the quirkiness of Alice’s Wonderland, but with much more meaning, thought, and truth behind every element.

Conversely, there were times when I felt the storyline was bogged down with repetitive or excessive writing. Occasionally imaginative steered into ridiculous or distracting, and many of the supporting characters felt wooden. I came across someone else’s thoughts on Black (I’m not sure where) and the reviewer said they wished that Dekker had written the book later in his career when he had more writing experience under his belt– and I tend to agree. I think that the book has a lot of promise but needed additional editing and polishing.

I plan on reading the next book in the series, Red, and reserving judgment until then. If Black was just the rocky start of setting the scene for all the shining potential of the premise, then I may yet end up with a favorite series in my hands. 🙂 Cross your fingers for me!

Author Interviews

Q&A with author Mike Dellosso!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an interview on my blog; you may remember the first one was with the lovely Stephanie Grace Whitson back in June. (Take a look at that here if you missed it.) I love interviewing; it gives a whole new depth to the books I love as I start to get to know a little about the author and where he or she is coming from as a fellow believer. Understandably though, many of the authors I’ve contacted with interview requests are very busy and (while they’ve always responded kindly) haven’t been able to commit to a Q&A.

I’m especially thrilled, then, to have the opportunity to hear from Christian fiction author Mike Dellosso! I very recently reviewed Mike’s suspense/thriller Centralia and am looking forward to reading his other titles. To shamelessly steal Mike’s official Bio:

Mike is the author of eight novels of suspense, an adjunct professor of creative writing and popular conference teacher, a husband, and a father. When he’s not lost in a story or working or spending time with his family he enjoys reading and dabbling in pencil sketching. Mike has a master’s degree in theology and serves with his wife in their local church. He is also a colon cancer survivor and healthcare worker. Born in Baltimore, Mike now resides in southern Pennsylvania with his wife and five daughters.

Now that you know a little about Mike, let’s move right into the Q&A:

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First off, on your website you mention being a sinner saved by amazing grace! Praise God! I love to hear testimonies, would you mind sharing how you came to Christ?

 My dad came to Christ when he was 35. I was 9. He had been an alcoholic and I saw the dramatic change Jesus made in his life. I was a first-hand witness to my dad being made a new creation. A few months later I also made that decision. I was a “good” kid so there wasn’t a radical change in my life but over the years I’ve seen time and time again the difference Jesus has made and is making in my life. I’ve wrestled with stuttering, been through cancer, major disappointments, major hurts, significant life changes, and through it all God has remained faithful. He’s used every one of those situations to shape me into the image of Christ and draw me closer to Himself.

In another interview you mentioned that you have had a stutter your whole life and that through writing you feel you found your voice. While it might not compare, I sometimes feel as if I struggle to communicate my thoughts out loud to others. Do you have any encouragement or advice for others with stutters or similar difficulties?

Embrace who you are. For 25 years I fought my stuttering, struggled against it, cursed it, begged God to take it away from me. I just wanted to be “normal.” I wanted to be able to talk without it being a big chore. But every time God refused. Finally, through a series of circumstances I came to the point spiritually and emotionally where I was tired of fighting God and I gave in, I cried “uncle,” and just accepted who I was and who He made me to be. From that moment on my stuttering began improving. I was once a kid who loathed speaking in public, hated it, would look for every way out of it. And now I look for opportunities to speak. Yes, I still stutter some and at times it’s worse than other times, but I work with it now. It’s who I am and I’m okay with that.

Perusing through your old blog posts and other interviews, it would be pretty hard to miss how much you love being a dad to your five daughters! I’m sure they’re pretty proud of you too. That said, have you had any funny requests or comments from them about your books?

They haven’t read all of them. My oldest daughter says they’re too intense and scary for her. My second daughter isn’t a big reader to begin with. My third daughter has read them all and enjoys them. Number four is just seven and number five is only two. I’ve not had any funny requests from them but when they were little (and I still do this for the seven- and two-year-old) I would tell them bedtime stories and they’ve mentioned several times that I should compile them into a children’s book. Most of the requests come from other people. “Hey, I have a great idea for your next book.” I always listen politely but inside I’m rolling my eyes. I love when they say, “I’d write it myself if I had time.” I work a full-time job, a part-time job, have a wife and five kids, and am very involved in our local church . . . and you think I have time? Again, internal eye rolling.

You’re also a colon cancer survivor. What advice would you give to those, including me, with family or extended family who has cancer? I doubt this is an easy question to sum up, but was there any way you wish your friends had helped but they didn’t (maybe because they just didn’t know?)

Don’t patronize. If you don’t know what to say just tell them that. Don’t say, “I’m thinking about you.” I used to think: I don’t care if you think about me; what good does that do me? Pray for me. Let them talk, express themselves, cry. Just be there for them. Don’t tell them it could be worse (yes, people would say that to me). Don’t tell them they look good (they often feel like they’ve been run over with a septic truck). It’s about being real and honest and allowing them to be real and honest.

I just discovered your books so I’m a little embarrassed to admit that Centralia is the only one of your titles I’ve read so far (but I plan to change that soon!) “Scream” especially piques my interest… what would you recommend new readers start with? Do you have a favorite among your own works?

My favorites are DARLINGTON WOODS and A MILLION MILES FROM HOME. They are two very different novels in different genres and I loved writing both of them. I usually tell people to start with either SCREAM or CENTRALIA. If they don’t like suspense or thrillers, try A MILLION MILES FROM HOME.

~~~

I’m so thankful to Mr. Dellosso for his honesty and time; if you’d like to learn more about him please take a look at his website, www.mikedellossobooks.com. He has two new books out: Midnight is My Time, “an end-times novel like you’ve never read before” and  A Million Miles from Home, “Southern fiction that is captivating people’s hearts.” You can explore his books here on his Amazon author page.

Suspense · Thriller

Full Review, Centralia

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“Centralia.” He said it out loud, hoping the auditory stimulation would trigger something, anything. But it didn’t. It was just a word, nothing more than a string of letters, a compilation of sounds.

Again tears came to his eyes, and he brushed them away. Regardless of whether he knew what the note meant, this was the proof he’d been looking for. Lilly was alive. And her note said they’d both gone together. If Lilly was alive, he had every reason to believe Karen was too.

He had to find them. He had to figure out what Centralia was and what he was supposed to remember.

Centralia
by Mike Dellosso, ©2015
Tyndale House Publishers

Centralia holds a special place today because it is the first suspense/thriller I have reviewed on the blog. This book is also the first one I finished from the Tyndale book haul I shared a while back. It’s also the first book since Sutter’s Cross by a male author. So, is it worth all those firsts?

Centralia is the story of Peter Ryan, who wakes up one morning looking for his wife and daughter only to discover that they both died in a car accident he doesn’t remember. As the back cover puts it, “Haunted by faint memories and flashes of details, Peter becomes convinced that something isn’t right and begins to question reality.” Peter goes on the run to try to find his family –if he even still has one. But confusing memories aren’t the only thing haunting him; hit men follow him every step of the way and Peter can’t afford to make any mistakes.

While this isn’t the kind of story I typically read, I really enjoyed it. One thing author Mike Dellosso did right is including the strong family element. In a book full of shootouts, close calls, car chases, and questions, Peter Ryan’s need to find his wife and daughter kept things grounded and meaningful. On another level, Peter also begins to remember a relationship with God he didn’t know he had, buried somewhere in his confusing and jumbled past.

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Between trying to figure out which memories are real, (was he a mild-mannered scientist? An army ranger with a medal of honor? A divorcee or happily married?) I should warn you that a lot of people die. I lost count after fifteen (mostly nameless assassins after Peter) people expired, so this book might not be for you or for younger people. I did appreciate that Dellosso included this section dealing with Peter’s grief over the lives lost as he’s tried to escape:

…But in the aftermath, looking at the collection of casualties in the parking lot, he wondered who these men were when they weren’t being used as killing machines. Did they have wives who would grow ashen at the news? Children who would never again hear their father’s voice reading them a bedtime story? The thought made Peter sick.

God in heaven, forgive me. Deliver me from this evil.”

As for negatives, I did think the ending was a little bit underwhelming, and some components of the story were a little over-the-top or especially convenient for the hero. A ventilation chimney leading straight out of the bad guys’ bunker complete with a ladder to the top and a metal grate cover (that isn’t even fastened on!) comes to mind. But it’s ultimately all part of the Marvel movie-ish fun and action.

The front cover quietly warns that “things are not what they seem.” But if you think this book seems like an energy-infused story full of revelations and heart…you might just be right.