A Review on Nerve & A Few Thoughts on Christian Fiction

June 16, 2015 at 7:00 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

imagesI have mixed feelings about Nerve by Bethany Macmanus.

As a reader I felt the Christian themes were awkward.  Having attended a Baptist University where, though I am a fellow Christian, people were constantly using breathy voices and calling on the Lord and praying over me and my sins in a manner that often made me uncomfortable.  Some were sincere friends and followers of Christ, many were frauds participating in group think and social customs of the Bible Belt.  Therefore, I have to say that personal experience greatly affects my ability to enjoy Christian fiction. Ironically, since my own cozy fiction – The Bookshop Hotel – has a churchy reference or two (maybe, if you look for it really hard).  A testament to the fact that although it’s a completely fabricated story with no roots in any people I know personally, world views have a tendency to seep through an author’s writing.

As someone who has grown up with Bethany Macmanus in my sphere of family friends, I know that these dialogues, prayers, and sentiments were sincerely written.  Something that rings false to me in the dialogue, I am quite certain was meant whole heartedly and rang true for the author when she wrote it.  She is one of the kindest, loving, and God-fearing women I have had the pleasure to know in my life.  I’ve never seen her without a smile and a sweet disposition.

Many with life experiences concerning physical ailments and reliance on God to get them through those ailments will find this romantic suspense novel something they can identify with and find comfort in.  I, on the other hand, had a hard time relating to Wren in any way as she struggled with romantic desires for two love interests, discomfort with whether things and people she encountered were destructive to her spirit, and dealing with creepy stalkers and dead ferrets.

Characters telling each other that they needed each other, and deeming that a verbalization of love, also didn’t sit well with me.  Again, I can chalk this up to personal experience tainting my ability to digest certain plot points – which is not an issue with the writing at all.  Need and love are such drastically different things in my world, with need often times being the exact opposite of a loving sentiment.  In my own writing, I’ve used need as a red flag to characters not being in the right place at the right time for each other, as opposed to the DTR that gets them together.

I think if you’re an avid romantic suspense or Christian fiction reader, this book will be right up your alley.  I definitely read a lot of books with romantic elements and enjoy a mystery every few titles I read, but romantic suspense has never been my favorite – and Christian fiction is a genre I tend to avoid, aside from Jan Karon, whose books (crossed with, hopefully, some Kate Morton) are closer to what I strive for in my own existing series.  I also have a tendency to prefer exploring religious themes in fiction within in the sci-fi genre – like Philip K. Dick, C.S. Lewis, and Mary Doria Russell titles.

These, of course, are all personal preferences and have no bearing on the merit of Macmanus’s work.  I can think of many people I would recommend her books to, and I will continue to purchase her titles and support her as a friend and fellow indie author.  But, as an honest book reviewer, I have to say that I wasn’t smitten with Nerve or its characters.

The editing was done well.  Not that I’m known for being a grammarian by any stretch of the imagination, but I noticed no flaws in grammar or any hiccups that would distract me from the story – something I highly appreciate after a poor editing job done on my own book from the first indie publisher who picked me up (fabulously re-done and re-released by Grey Gecko Press just this month), as well as other indie titles I’ve reviewed as a blogger.  It’s nice to see things so well done the first time out the gate, so there is definitely a kudos to professionalism regarding this title.

I think it is important to mention that though I consider Bethany a family friend, this title was *not* given to me in exchange for an honest review.  I purchased the title, read it, and am choosing to share my honest review with my public.  Some might wonder why I would share such an on the fence review regarding a friends’ work – I do it with purpose!  I think people scanning reviews might come across less than stellar star ratings for this novel (very few! I only see one on Amazon as of the writing of this post) and I’d like to offer some insight to the author and the public.  I strongly feel like this is *not* because there is any problem with the story or the characters, but with the perception of the readers who leave those reviews and how they might feel about people in the real world who speak this way.  It’s amazing how life experience can manipulate your views on a story, even in the most light hearted of genre fiction.

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Seed Savers – a series to be treasured

June 8, 2012 at 1:00 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I haven’t been this in love with a young adult series since Harry Potter.  I haven’t been this in love with an individual young adult book since Lois Lowry’s The Giver, unless you count How To Buy A Love Of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson (but her book, though it features a group of teens, is not really for young adults as far as I’m concerned.) I plucked it out of my mailbox, opened it, and read it in one sitting… 221 pages of exciting young adult goodness!  I devoured it, and it was delicious.  Book One of Seed Savers, titled Treasure, is no misnomer.  This book is truly a treasure!

Author S. Smith has written the latest and greatest of young adult dystopian society novels.  In the spirit of the previously mentioned Lowry novel and and Monica Hughes’ Invitation to the Game, Smith has given us solid middle grade tale featuring a new (and somewhat real) futuristic threat – illegal gardening.  It’s yet another great pre-cursor to students preparing to read Orwell’s 1984.  Educators everywhere should be aware of this rising star in children’s literature.

The detailed history of how this society came to be is part of its unique twist.  Most dystopian society stories don’t spend a lot time telling you how it got this way, just that it did and people didn’t notice, the path somewhat alluded to but not specific.  Smith helps point out the steps leading up to this future with factoids that suspciously resemble things that are happening in both the farmlands and corporate America.  From living organism patents made legal in the 1980’s to genetically engineered seedlings, Smith spells out just exactly how this future (though a little outlandish in a society newly obsessed with being eco-friendly in its marketing) could quite possibly go from where it is now to the kind of United States described in the book (corporations and the government in bed with each other making trouble for the little people – Banks, anyone?… in combination with the idea that a government can make a plant illegal – marijuana comes to mind).  Yet, she does this effortlessly, without killing the flow of the story.

I personally love social commentary presented through the art of fiction.  (You like this too? Check out this site: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/371512?uid=3739920&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=56242603693).  I find it compelling and quite frankly the best way to address particular situations that when written about in a nonfiction format becomes an irate rant.  I love the way it personalizes events and characters in a book so quickly, in a way that the average story cannot do.  Get under the skin of an art fanatic… make it impossible for art to be appreciated, collected, loved (if you’re not a reader, check out the movie Equilibrium, then again, if you’re not a reader what’s up with you reading my blog? What brought you here? Leave me a comment.) Tug at the heartstrings of a gardener… attack the very core of their being by telling them in this reality, they can’t have one.

Needless to say, I loved it.  S. Smith, you are brilliant, my dear, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.  This one is going on loan to my nieces and nephews, is getting short listed on my very long list of required reading for my daughter who will one day be homeschooled.  It will be the fun fiction to parallel our botany classes that week, the friendly reminder of why she will be taught to tend her own garden, and perhaps raise a chicken.

Buy Your Copy of Seed Savers Today!

Visit the author’s website here: http://authorssmith.com/

Want to start your own garden (before its too late!), check out Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening tutorial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5Lu-7FIj_g

Also for fun, check out this blog: http://www.thisgardenisillegal.com/

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