Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Break from the norm. Recover your identity. Express your creativity.

Morrison, Erika. Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul. Thomas Nelson – W Publishing, 2015.
Contemporary Christianity seems to be suffering from an epidemic of sameness. Uniformity. Monotony. Those trapped inside are often afraid to step beyond established norms and express their creativity, and those on the outside often see little that attracts them. Yet God, out of the abundance of his own creative force, made each one of us unique. Peculiar. Irreplaceable. So why so much pressure to conform?
Bandersnatch* explores this intersection of disillusionment by inviting readers on a journey of liberation. It’s organized around four creative terms viewed through the life of Jesus: Avant-Garde, Alchemy, Anthropology, and Art. Each expression reveals a diverse facet of God’s unorthodox creativity planted within us.
Providing a fresh look at God’s avant-garde nature and a new set of definitions by which to live, Erika Morrison gives us permission to break free from the expectations and labels that cramp our souls. Only in embracing our uniqueness can we create artful, holistic lives that matter to both heaven and earth.
*A Bandersnatch, while more commonly known as the wild, ferocious, and mythical creature of Lewis Carroll’s creation, is also a person with unconventional habits and attitudes.

Morrison’s ability to encourage ability and courage to step outside the norm of our society into a place where we can live out our faith. I believe her approach encourages to us to “work out our faith” (Philippians 2:12) by a willingness to cross over into the life and teachings of Jesus in such a way that we lead original and creative lives that draw others to Christ.

The energy Morrison brings to living faith, and her ability to show rather than tell, captures the reader and takes them through the looking glass to a perfected and redefined life and intentional lifestyle that is exciting and god-breathed.

I received a complimentary proof of this book from the publisher through Net Galley for my unbiased review.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Kat McGee and the School of Christmas Spirit by Rebecca Munsterer and Georgiana Manderoli

Munsterer, Rebecca. Kat McGee and the School of Christmas Spirit. Illustrated by Georgianna Manderoli. 2nd ed. New York: In This Together Media, 2012, 2013.

Formats: Paperback, eBook
ISBN-10:0985895632; ISBN-13:978-0-9858956-3-1; ISBN-10:0985895624; ISBN-13:978-0-98589952-2-4

Ever since she had an accident on thas stuck like glue. Even worse, she lives in a household where she is the middle and only average child. So in fifth grade, Kat decides to reinvent herself. She sets her sights on the Totsville Christe roller coaster in four years ago Kat McGee’s nickname “Kat McPee” hmas Pageant. However, Kat was not chosen for ANY role in the biggest celebration in Totsville. Then it seems Mr. Mudge is bribing Principal Pratt to have his daughter play the part of Mary, the pageant’s most coveted role. 

Gram is the only one that believes she is special. Moreover, it turns out she went to school with Mrs. Claus – THE MRS. CLAUS. Then there is the magic snow globe by her bed, that takes her directly to the North Pole. Mrs. Claus runs The School of Christmas Spirit” where real Elves are teachers, mentors, and chaperones and the chosen children will learn worthiness, wonder, will, and whimsy. However, somehow, all is not as it should be. Is Kat unique enough to coach the reindeer and save Santa and Christmas?

A great Christmas story with an underlying message of the specialness of every child. Includes Christmas activities for families to build the values and virtues Kat learns during her time at the North Pole and a recipe for tasty Candyfruit Confection (an every morning delight at The School of Christmas Spirit). It is too bad, Mr. Mudge and Principal Pratt either didn’t get selected for Mrs. Claus’ school, or they forgot what they learned. Well written and will appeal to late elementary school girls especially.

Ages 8-10

Rating 4.5 stars

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Baldacci, David. The Finisher.

A Place Where Wrong as Wrong Can Be

Baldacci, David. The Finisher. New York: Scholastic Press, 2014.

ISBN: 978-0-545-65220-9

Five Stars

Tags: Young Adult, Middle School, Grades 6-9, Fantasy

Vega Jane has never left the village of Wormwood. But that isn’t unusual – no Wug has ever left Wormwood. At least not until Quentin Herms vanishes into the unknown. Vega knows he was chased into the Quag that surrounds the village. Quentin leaves Vega Jane a very dangerous set of clues only she can decode.
       As dangerous as the dark Quag with its tangled undergrowth and deadly beasts are the the Council and influential people within Wormwood who are willing to kill to hold their secrets and their power. Vega is the only Wug determined to discover the truth, but the closer she gets the more she risks her life and the lifes of those she has loved since her birth light.

       David Baldacci, author of twenty-seven books for adult readers has created an imaginative world for young adult readers where things are as wrong as wrong can be. A world filled with beasts, secrets and hidden magic. And, an unforgettable heroine and supporting characters that made me begin again as soon as I had finished. (Oh, and the second book in the series The Keeper has just been published.)

Friday, August 28, 2015

An Interview with Author Ella Jackson

E. C. Jackson

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I’m excited. Finally, the number one goal of my freshman English class has been realized. After a lifetime of wanting to write books, “A Gateway to Hope” is published. This one accomplishment answers many years of prayers.  

Describe the plot of “A Gateway to Hope” in a few sentences.

Neka (Nikhol Lacey) is a beautiful twenty-one-year-old introvert. Without a word to anyone, she leaves home to support a friend when his fiancée breaks off their engagement. James Copley is twenty-nine and every woman’s dream man. Despite his fiancée’s desertion, James still needs a fiancée so he can take control of his family’s business. Neka’s arrival offers the perfect solution to Teri’s defection — until Neka’s father attempts to maneuver James’s scheme into fulfilling the Lacey agenda. 

Who do you think would most appreciate this book?

Anyone who wonders what their life might have been had they made different choices. And those still seeking God’s purpose for their life.  

What inspired you to write a book about a shy, beautiful young woman who has the opportunity to help out her friend in a very unique way?

I believe that there is a little of Neka in all of us, but life has a way of muddying those unique qualities everyone receives from God. Difficulties, missed chances and thwarted dreams obscure our pathway, and then we accept the mundane instead of utilizing our natural gifts and talents. Neka can allow life to lead her into an alternate position or she can make decisions that fulfill her destiny.

Tell us a bit about the protagonists, Neka and James Copley.

Though grief came from different sources, they both suffered hurts while growing up. Neka masked the pain by putting on a brave face and pretending not to notice the exclusion and snide remarks. James harnessed each attack, using them to validate his calculating behavior.  

What are some of the challenges Neka and James face?

Can they embrace a life together without losing themselves in the process? How do they blend two diverse lifestyles into one? And they must decide if it’s worth taking a chance on each other.  

Who was your favorite character to write?

Actually, I liked writing both characters equally. I enjoyed Neka’s optimistic approach to life as she came to terms with reality. And James’s self-styled stage managing of everyone else’s life bumps heads against another master manipulator.

How do you hope readers react to “A Gateway to Hope”?

A Gateway to Hope

I hope they relate to the characters as believable and see the story as a real slice of life. That is part of the slogan on my website. The write way – a real slice of life. 

Are there any authors who have influenced your writing style?

Jane Austen. I’m pulled into her stories, especially my all-time favorite book, “Pride and Prejudice.”   

Tell us about your creative process, from initial idea to published manuscript.

The story flowed once I placed my fingers on the keys. Yet, I learned a lot through writing this first book. It’s hard to believe that I rewrote each chapter several times before moving on to the next one. However, I wised up halfway through the first draft and wrote the last 15 chapters before critiquing them. Many scenes were removed during the editing stage. No more overwriting. 

While writing “A Gateway to Hope,” did you ever use personal experiences as a reference?

On occasion, I identified with certain aspects of both characters.

How do you feel about the increasing popularity of eBooks?  

Publishing the e-Book was simpler than publishing the paperback.

What are your goals as a writer for the next ten years?

Writing one bestseller per year that adds purpose to the reader’s life.

Is there any aspect of writing you don't like?

Book promotion is difficult. The introvert in me shies away from exposure.

What do you have in mind for your next project?

Another standalone book following the hope theme.

Is there anything else you'd like potential readers to know about your book?

“A Gateway to Hope” was a labor of love. I hope everyone enjoys Neka and James’s story just as much as I enjoyed sharing it with them.

The interview was featured on:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Interview: Dennis Kreiss - The Evidence Locker and The Resurrection Files

The Resurrection Files
Pastor Dennis Kreiss became the most recent pastor of Pine Grove Community Church  in Roseburg, Oregon, the first of January 1992. Pine Grove has a combined background of the circuit riding reformed tradition of the Brethren Church and the Sunday School revival movement of the Baptist tradition.  

Pastor Kreiss was raised in the reformed tradition. His favorite part of growing up in a large family of six boys and two girls were the yearly summer month-long camping trips in the Redwood forests. There he learned to love the Creator and his Creation. During his most mischievous years, Dennis began to wonder if he was going to heaven or hell and when he asked his mother, she had the pleasure of leading him to Christ.”He says, “I am amazed that I grew up stone-bored in church and came away believing in God.” 

This God-consciousness was nurtured between his junior and senior years in high school when a young man  from the  Moody Bible Institute interned with his church and befriended him. During their many walks and conversations, Dennis was “immersed  in the need to serve this God he barely knew."

Pastor Kreiss went to Western Bible College in Salem, Oregon (now Corban College). While there, he heard Warren Wiersbe talk. From that experience he carried away what became his true faith in Wiersbe's words: "You can have as much of God as you really want, and as little of God with which you are satisfied." Pastor Kreiss went on to finished his education at Cascade Bible College in Bellvue, Washington.

"The real work of discipleship is in the teaching," says Pastor Kreiss. "If you are going to impact the world, you have to teach. One important way to measure your maturity is whether or not you have graduated from learner to teacher, from apprentice to disciple-maker.” In addition to being an intentional disciple, Dennis is pastor to a vital and lively congregation of disciple-makers. He is also a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a self-published writer.

All of his books have come out of his role as disciple-maker. The Evidence Locker, his most recent title, is in
many ways his research for The Resurrection Files. In both books he mixes his understanding of the chronology and study of the disciples and their natures to create books that are part fictionalized accounts and part teaching.  They back-fill the stories of the appearances of Jesus to the disciples over the forty days following the Resurrection. Each story brings the emotions that must have rolled over the disciples like a shock wave. Pastor Kreiss sees these forty days as the hinge of history.

"If people could just grab hold of the Resurrection it would revitalize the church in America. It was the rocket fuel that impelled the first century believers to spread the gospel, and could do the same today.” Pastor Kreiss says the disciples with greatest impact on his faith surprisingly are the women. "They had to deal with incredible disbelief from the apostles. What a diverse group they were – women who had lived in deep poverty and rejection and women of wealth and position. Nowhere else but in Jesus could they be bound together.” 

He hopes to have found a publisher interested in perusing these books in a combined form by the end of the year. Just writing these books and sharing these stories has revitalized his life and faith. “Faith is an incredible battle full of personal and emotional distraction. I hope someday someone will be able to say, ‘He finished well.’”

Article based on telephone interview conducted 6/20/12