Showing posts with label New Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Books. Show all posts

Friday, March 14, 2014

Stranger Things by Erin Healy

This last December, I had the honor of hosting best-selling author Erin Healy on my blog to promote her new book. I've been a long time fan of Erin's books, and I'm happy to say Stranger Things is yet another inspiring, thought provoking, and impactful novel.

Serena Diaz's life is suddenly torn apart after a troubled student accuses her of sexual misconduct. In an effort to escape the inevitable fallout, Serena retreats to the comfort of the woods, only to stumble into the middle of a criminal operation. And she almost pays for this discovery with her life, until a man she's never met steps in front of the bullet meant for her. Haunted by mysterious visions and the question of why a complete stranger would die for her, Serena's search for answers reveals an evil she never expected. Caught in a tangle of false accusations, Serena is forced to confront the darkness and step into a world of terrifying danger where she soon realizes her life isn't the only one at stake.

Among the fun stories and the easy reads, the classic novels and the favorite series, there are a handful of books on my bookshelf that have done more than just entertain me. They've impacted me in a big way and changed the way I look at the world around me. This is one of those books. In her latest novel, Erin not only weaves a captivating and suspenseful story, but she also tackles the very serious--and very real--topic of sex trafficking. In the midst of the beautiful writing and masterful storytelling I've come to love so much from Erin, the import of the truth behind the fiction began to haunt me. As I was caught up in the characters' stories--each with their own unique, powerful, and emotional layers--the realization that their stories are, in some places, closer to fact than fiction was heartbreaking. And then I came to the line that completely wrecked me:

"And then she thought she didn't really want to hear this story. She wanted the sordid tales that involved fourteen-year-old girls to stay at arm's length the way they did in the papers, or in her parents' safe house. She wanted them to remain trapped at a safe distance on digital screens, where she didn't have to look a victim in the eye and find she had no idea what to say."

Wow. Can we say "hard truth"? I saw myself in those lines, and the more I read, the more I wanted to do something to offer the hope woven into the pages of this story to the real-life women who so desperately need it. And that is what makes this book so amazingly wonderful--its power to defeat apathy and inspire change. If you're a fan of emotionally charged, well-written suspense, I hope you'll put this book at the top of your to-read list, then spread the message: We're in it to end it.

If, like me, stories like these--whether fiction or real life accounts of those exploited--have inspired you to take action, the End It website is a great place to start. There you'll find ways you can show your support and take a stand against modern-day slavery, and links to organizations that are leading the fight against human trafficking. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Author Interview: Erin Healy

It's my pleasure to be hosting the lovely Erin Healy on the blog today! Erin is a best-selling author and award-winning fiction editor who has worked with talented novelists such as James Scott Bell, Frank Peretti, and Ted Dekker. She is the author of Kiss and Burn (co-authored with Ted Dekker), and several other novels, including her last book Afloat (click to read my review). Her latest supernatural thriller, Stranger Things, comes to stores on New Year’s Eve.

Library Journal says: “Serena Diaz’s teaching career came to an abrupt end when a student falsely accused her of sexual misconduct. Seeking solace in the woods, she discovers that a gang of sex traffickers has taken over a vacant house. Serena is almost captured by one of the criminals but is saved by an unknown man who has been shadowing her. He is shot, and Serena escapes with her life. But she is drawn to know more about this stranger who died for her. What follows is a suspenseful story of danger and pure evil. Whom can Serena trust in a world that seems intent on serving its own self-interests? VERDICT Healy (Afloat; coauthor with Ted Dekker, Burn and Kiss) has written an edgy, fast-paced spiritual thriller that will please Dekker fans.”

How was your idea for Stranger Things born?

Two years ago, during a Good Friday service, my pastor (Kelly Williams of Vanguard Church, Colorado Springs) asked the congregation: “If a complete stranger died while saving your life, wouldn’t you want to know everything you could about that person? Wouldn’t you want your life to honor that person’s death?” He challenged us to consider Jesus Christ in a new light—as a stranger, as a savior we might not know as well as we think we do. This idea has roots in Romans 5:8—“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Before I ever had the chance to know him, while he was a complete stranger to me, Christ died for me. The Message translation says “when [I was] of no use whatever to him.” Why would he do that? Have I investigated him thoroughly enough to connect my own life with his purposes? This is all background, though. Stranger Things isn’t an overtly Christian tale as my previous novels have been, but it’s a parable about these questions.

Stranger Things sounds like a pretty dark read. Why did you choose to write about sex trafficking?
Human trafficking (of which sex trafficking is a subcategory) is the world’s third-fastest growing illegal industry behind drugs and weapons. It is the most horrifying kind of modern captivity I can imagine, and my research proved that even my imagination fell short of reality. I picked it because it’s a real contemporary crisis, but also because it profoundly symbolizes the kind of bondage that Christ came to end (Isaiah 61:1-3). Freeing the captive, physically and spiritually, is a high calling for followers of Jesus who want to express their gratitude for his sacrifice and demonstrate his love through the continuation of his work.

What does all this have to do with the “thin places” that you’re always talking about?
The traditional (Celtic) definition of a thin place is a physical location in the world where the division between physical and spiritual realities falls away, a place where we can see the greater truth of our existence. In my stories I use the term “thin place” to define moments when a person experiences a sharpened spiritual awareness about what’s really going on in his or her life. Stranger Things  is the first novel in which I’ve combined both ideas. The thin place is a physical location, a burned-out house in a sparse terrain, where Serena discovers her purpose. “There are places in the world where you will encounter things so real that you will be surprised others don’t have an identical experience,” Serena’s father tells her. “But then you will realize that the clarity given to you is a gift from God. Perhaps this gift is just for you, maybe also it will touch the lives of others.”

Did anything surprise you while writing the novel?
I started with intentions to write about an Asian-based trafficking ring, but in the course of my research was distressed to learn just how close to home the problem lies. Though it’s impossible to get a precise count of how many people are victims of sex trafficking in the US, most estimates fall between 100,000 and 300,000 (mostly women and children). Since I learned this my own awareness has expanded, and I’m happy to see just how many efforts are already underway—not only in the US—to end this atrocity. The Polaris Project is a great place to begin learning about global human trafficking.

What do you hope readers will take away from Stranger Things?
I hope the novel is layered enough to meet each reader individually. Maybe some will be challenged to investigate Jesus Christ further. Maybe some will use their new awareness of trafficking to do something about it. (I’ve joined the prayer team of a local home for girls rescued from sexual slavery.) To date my favorite response to the book was from the person who found herself looking in a new way at the strangers who surrounded her. She felt unexpectedly protective and concerned, on heightened alert to ways in which she might be able to help them. In other words, ways in which she might be able to do what Christ did for her. So many opportunities! If we all moved through the world with eyes like that, what might change for the better? I love to think of all the possibilities.

Along with the provided interview, I had the privilege of asking Erin some additional questions of my own. One of the things I love about Erin is her desire to interact with her fans, which she does in such an easy going and warm way. Here's her reply to my questions:

You’ve worked as an editor for some very talented novelists. What inspired you to take up your pen as an author?
Though writing has always been a large part of whatever work (and a lot of play) is at hand, I started writing novels because Ted invited me to. (We co-authored Kiss and Burn before I wrote my solo books.) It wasn't that I'd never thought of it so much that the demands of career and family had prevented it. So to write publicly in the context of my established career was a fantastic opportunity.

Your books have had a great impact on my life, both as a reader and a writer. Can you share with us some ways your own life has been impacted through telling these stories?
That's wonderful! As for me, writing has made me a better editor. I think I'm kinder, more perceptive, and less frustrated to have my own creative outlet. I started writing in the same year of the national economic crisis, which was about the same time the publishing industry entered its own upheaval, so I've learned a lot about how to be patient, humble, and peaceful instead of anxious. I'm also learning (still very much in process) about how to be a better listener--to people and to God--and how to find my personal worth in God and not in the reception of my work.

What advice would you give to those of us who are chasing the dream of becoming a published author?
If you go into writing aiming to be successful, brace yourself for a real challenge. The percentage of hard-working, good writers who are successful from an economic, numeric, or literary point of view is excruciatingly small, though they do everything “right.”  If you go into writing because you have something to say and you believe God called you to say it, you’ll have to set aside empirical notions of “success,” because God’s definition of that word is largely hidden from us earthlings. He is the Master Creator of us creative types. We will always be His apprentices, and never the master. His opinion is the only one that ultimately counts. So you have to consider—when the rejections stack up, reviews are harsh, and you’ve only sold ten copies of your self-published work—if the ten people who bought those copies were exactly the people who needed to hear what you had to say. Maybe your book was for the person who borrowed it from the library and didn’t pay a cent. Maybe your book was just for you, to learn something about yourself in the process of writing it. Someday you’ll know. But probably not today.

Again, a huge thank you to Erin for allowing me to host her on my blog today! If you'd like to have a peek at Stranger Things, you can read the first two chapters here. Prepare to be hooked! And don't forget to fill out the form below to be entered to win one of ten copies. (A US shipping address is required and books will ship on January 1, 2014). You can enter each day through December 8th, and earn more chances to win by visiting other host blogs--you'll find those links here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more from Erin Healy follow her on:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

A young job seeker, an eccentric old man, and a bookstore with middle-of-the-night customers who don't pay for their books...this only scratches the surface of the genius work of fiction that is Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.

When Clay Jannon takes takes a job working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, he soon realizes there's more to be curious about than the store's odd hours. For example: the repeat customers who "check out" obscure volumes from the dark corners of the high shelves - volumes which Clay is not supposed to read. But curiosity is a strong force and soon Clay finds himself analyzing the customers - and even the store itself - dragging a handful of close friends along in an effort to discover if he has, in fact, stumbled upon some sort of cult, or at the very least an elaborate front for...something. But when Clay and his friends bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, he reveals a decades-old story with a mystery that will take them on an enthralling quest far outside the walls of the tiny bookstore.

It's always a happy day when I discover a book that genuinely thrills me with a fresh, can't-put-it-down story that makes me want to go right back to chapter one when I've finished. The perfect mix of brains and beauty in book form, Penumbra quickly skyrocketed into my top-ten list of favorites with its unique take on the conflict between tradition and technology in the world of books. Each chapter brought a new bit of awesomeness and my inner nerd gave many a fist pump at Sloan's inclusion of things like Industrial Light and Magic, Google, and the art of typography. The mystery of a secret literary society is wonderfully crafted and intricately woven alongside technical details of super cool things like code writing, super computers, and cardboard book scanners (which are all described in a perfectly fascinating, non-boring way, in case you were wondering). The story, characters and environment are so well written, that it's easy to imagine every word is real and true and possible (and it wouldn't surprise me to learn that much of it is). I gushed about this book to my husband, who read it as soon as I finished. His words when he closed the book on the final page: "That was amazing." I couldn't agree more. I loved everything about this book. And whether you're a proud e-book reader, or an avid defender of the paperback, I think you'll find a lot to love, too.

P.S. Once you've read the book, be sure to visit robinsloan.com to read the short story (and tweet) that started it all!

Monday, July 8, 2013

(Moving) Picture Quote Monday

For this week's picture quote, I decided to do something a little different. Instead of a one or two-sentence quote, I chose one of my favorite passages from Jon Acuff's NYT Bestseller, START. Luckily, I have a husband who's really good at making pretty awesome videos. My graphics + his editing/production talents = one moving picture quote.


I highly recommend picking up this book. Read my review for all the reasons why.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Afloat by Erin Healy

All it takes is one look at my bookshelf to see I'm a big Erin Healy fan. And Erin's new novel, Afloat, is yet another wonderful example of why I love her books.

Vance Nolan and Danielle Clement are both obligated to Tony Dean for different reasons with the same root: Tony's wealth. With Tony's investment, Vance has created an architectural wonder--floating apartments which line the cove of a peaceful river. But when the peace is shattered by a sudden disaster during construction, Vance, Danielle, and Tony, along with a handful of builders, investors, and residents, are forced together in a struggle to survive. As a single mother, Danielle's first priority is protecting her son, and she soon finds herself conflicted between the opposing plans of Tony and Vance. When Danielle's son Simeon sees glowing blue lights shimmering beneath the surface of the water, the lights become their one link to hope as a powerful storm rages, the world goes black, and a murder occurs in their midst.

Erin has once again crafted an intricate tale of mystery, suspense, and the supernatural that captured my attention from the very start and held it through many a late night when I simply couldn't put it down. She skillfully lays the foundation, giving you just enough to keep you wondering how it will all tie together. But it isn't until the last piece is in place that you realize just how beautiful and complex the completed puzzle is. And she's outdone herself creating a unique, spine-tingling environment worthy of the big screen. Her characters possess real-life flaws and struggles and will quickly capture your heart (which for me means alternating moments of smiles and tears). Ultimately, it's the hope and redemption which is at the core of each of Erin's novels that leads to a truly fulfilling conclusion. I highly recommend Afloat to anyone looking for their next great read. It is a stunning work of fiction that will hold you captivated until the very last page.

Friday, May 17, 2013

START by Jon Acuff

I've been following Jon Acuff's blog Stuff Christians Like for a while now, and if there's one person I can count on to bring humor to my Twitter and Instagram feed, it's him. In his NYT Bestseller START Jon brings his wit and wisdom together to create a phenomenal book about leaving average behind and traversing the path to awesome. 

One look at the cover, and you know this book is going to be great. Punch fear in the face? Do work that matters? Flip the awesome switch? Let's do this.

Jon begins with his signature humor before launching into a detailed road map of the 5 stages every successful life goes through: Learning, Editing, Mastering, Harvesting, and Guiding. He tells us what to expect in each stage, how to find victory and avoid pitfalls, and gives light bulb worthy advice on determining what finish line we hope to reach. He encourages and instructs, all while constantly nailing home the truth that age/experience level/money doesn't matter--you just have to start.

What Love Does did for my heart, START did for my dream. I closed this book inspired to continue to chase my dream and empowered with the tools I needed to do just that. Jon's writing has a way of drawing you in, making you feel like you're having a one-on-one conversation in his living room. He holds nothing back, opening himself up and sharing his great--and not so great--moments, all of which he uses to illustrate what he's learned in his own journey toward awesome. And there's a whole lot of awesome in these pages. Want to know how to silence the schizophrenic voices of fear? How to make time for your passions, ignore the critics, master your craft, and live life with an exclamation point instead of a question mark? Want to learn all that without being bored to death by a dry self-help manual? Read this book.

Whether your dreams seem too far gone to be realized, or you've already started down the road to awesome and are actively pursuing your passion, there's a vast amount of wisdom, motivation, and encouragement to be found here. Pick up this book and give yourself the chance you deserve. START will not only light a fire under your dream, it will give you the fuel to keep it burning.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley

There are only a handful of authors/series whose books I will rush to buy immediately upon their release, and Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce novels are at the top of that list. The insatiable need to get my hands on these books means that I've been waiting over a year for the release of book #5, Speaking From Among the Bones.

It was worth the wait.

With a penchant for poisons and an ardent love of chemistry, Flavia de Luce is back with all her unabashed zeal for uncovering the secrets of the dead.  
As Bishop's Lacey prepares to open Saint Tancred's tomb on the 500th anniversary of the patron saint's death, who else but the eleven-year-old amateur detective would be on scene to discover not a centuries-old skeleton, but the freshly murdered remains of the missing church organist, Mr. Collicutt.
As she launches her own clever and covert investigation, Flavia uncovers an array of secrets, including some kept by her own mother, whose untimely death still shadows the de Luce family and their home estate, Buckshaw.

As both a writer and a reader I am constantly awed by Bradley's ability to set a scene with the most enchanting descriptions, not to mention the constant flow of witty dialogue and Flavia's audacious inner thoughts. There are enough twists and turns (and suspects) to keep you wondering if your guesses as to the culprit are correct, and I can pretty much guarantee, no matter how well you think you have it figured out the conclusion will surprise and delight you. As always, Flavia's methods and adventures will leave you laughing and amazed at her ingenuity. And don't forget those rare raw and feeling moments between Flavia and her family, which are even more emotionally charged as the fate of Buckshaw--and the entire de Luce family--appears more fragile than ever.

Fans of Flavia will love returning to the quaint village of 1950's Bishop's Lacey, England, and the mind of its most interesting young resident. Plus, we're treated to a deeper glimpse into the lives of some of our favorite and most endearing persons, and are given further insights into the life and character of Flavia's late mother, Harriet.

But be forewarned--the moment you read the last sentence you'll be launched into an agonizing wait for the sequel. According to flaviadeluce.com, book #6, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, is set for an early 2014 release.

New to the Flavia de Luce novels? Check out book #1 The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.



Friday, February 15, 2013

The Return of Flavia de Luce


Flavia is back! I've been eagerly awaiting the release of this book for months. Before I dig into book #5 in the Flavia de Luce novels, I wanted to share how I stumbled upon this brilliant series and give you a bit of a prelude to my soon-to-come review of Speaking from Among the Bones.

Flashback to the summer of 2009...

I step into a quaint little bookshop on 1st Avenue in Seattle. There on the table in front of me, front and center just inside the door, is a little green hardback book. I'm intrigued by the image on the cover--a black crow, lying claws up, with a red postage stamp impaled on its beak. I'm even more intrigued by the title: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I turn it over and read the back. A story about an 11-year-old aspiring chemist named Flavia de Luce who has a passion for poisons and finds a dead body in the garden of her 1950's English home?

I was hooked and I hadn't even turned a page.

Thus began my love affair with Alan Bradley's beautifully crafted series.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a book to read.