Sunday, October 31, 2010

From Dust and Ashes, by Tricia Goyer (Moody)

In May, 1945, advance elements of the 11th Armored Divsion rolled into St. Georgen, Austria. What awaited them there would be gouged into the soldiers' memories for the rest of their lives: the Gusen concentration camp.

Sergeant Peter Scott is among the first to arrive at the front gates. The skeletal remnants of men and women cling to the fence and clutter the main entrance to glimpse their liberators and beg for even a morsel to eat. He encounters the gaunt figure of Michaela, a Polish Christian, standing erect among the dead and dying, intent on thanking the saviors of the camp with her final vestige of dignity. He also encounters Helene, the recalcitrant wife of a former SS guard bringing soup and whatever comfort she can to the emaciated prisoners. The lives of the three are inextricably bound together from this point forward.

Sgt. Scott has fought the European war from the Normandy beaches to the Rhine River, his once-strong faith now smothered under too much carnage and destruction. Michaela fights her own war of physical and emotional restoration from years of internment, her faith still vibrant, but confusing in where it's leading her. Helene must deal with her own conscience at too many years of silence, if not acceptance, over the atrocities her husband has committed. Each leans on and learns from the others in winning their own personal battles.

From Dust to Ashes is a tender story of love, faith and redemption overlying a background of indescribable horror and bruality. It may not be the most recent work by Ms. Goyer (released in 2003), but it has to be one of the best. The book is not for the faint of heart, but neither is it overly graphic in its depiction of reality. Meticuloulsy researched and skillfully presented, From Dust to Ashes is an entrancing read. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Last Cordate, by Alison Pickrell (OakTara)

The Last Cordate is a highly imaginative allegorical tale that spans the gamut of human existence from pure innocence to unspeakable depravity and human experience from sublime ecstasy to utter despair. Striving for a suitable literary comparison, I found myself dithering somewhere between JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and John Bunyan’s A Pilgrim’s Progress. And yet, no. It's really in a class by itself.

The Last Cordate tracks the adventures of the beautiful Talasa of Ny-Da, who carries with her the message of hope that will usher in the final era of Diapason, when all creatures of the planet will once again draw into perfect communion with their benevolent creator, Da-Dat-Shee. Both natural and supernatural forces stand against her, they having successfully foiled the missions of the previous two Cordates. Talasa must face not only these external threats, but also the greatest peril of all—that of untested faith within herself.

Talasa travels with two noble companions, Jare and Worthy, as well as Secret, a scribe whose sole function is to record everything that is said and that happens on the journey to Quala-Da, the ultimate destination of her quest. They learn from each other what it means to listen and to trust not just Da-Dat-Shee’s leading within their own hearts and minds, but to the wise counsel of other Dations—followers of Da-Dat-Shee—along the way.

The previous two paragraphs hint that there is some vocabulary to learn. And, oh, there is indeed. At first I was somewhat nonplussed at the five-page glossary at the front of the book, concerned I’d be able to stay on track without having to keep a thumb wedged in the lexicon of players and place names. I needn’t have worried. Ms. Pickrell’s writing is so crisp, her allegorical ties so strong, I never referred to the word list until I’d finished the book. Then I checked back just wondering if I’d missed anything. I hadn’t.

Well conceived in theme and rigorous in detail, The Last Cordate drives you relentlessly along the road with Talasa from the moment she leaves her sanctuary in Ny-Da to the final step she takes on her quest. Oh, and prepare to meet yourself along the way--likely more than once.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"Katia" News

The long-awaited release of Katia is now a reality! was the first to offer it here. is also carrying it for a reduced price for club members. CBD hasn't caught up yet, but when they do, you'll get a better hit on the price.

The interview with KENS 5 went very well. The host and camera man were at the house for over three hours. I guess it took that long to get 5-10 minutes of useful information from me.

In any event, the segment will be broadcast on the morning show, "Great Day SA", between 9:00-10:00 am CST on November 9th, the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. There's a live-streaming feed online of the show, as well as a live-chat feature where viewers can post comments. It's kind of neat--no commercials and you can see/hear the cast and crew bantering and setting up for the next segment between spots. It would be so cool if those who are of a mind and can tune in at that time and drop a comment that includes who you are, where you're watching from, and how studly the interview subject is. Or, for those of you with any shred of integrity left, just who you are and where you're watching from.

I'll post an update as we get closer to the time.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pearl In the Sand, by Tessa Afshar (Moody)

I read Sibella Giorello's blog post pronouncing Tessa Afshar "a name to remember." As Sibella has this disturbing habit of being right about things like this, I checked out Tessa's Web site. To my utter joy, I found a kindred writing spirit--historical, Old Testament fiction. A godly woman I tell you, godly.

So I bought her book. And I read it. I highly recommend you do both of those things, too.

Ms. Afshar has taken the story of Rahab and created a thought-provoking, spiritually uplifting, and dramatically poignant story of tender divine redemption overcoming stubborn human resistance. Liberally sprinkled with snippets of unexpected humor (what a unique writing voice!), Pearl in the Sand digs deeply into the tortured soul of a woman who simply cannot believe that there could be a future for one with such a past as hers.

Through no fault of her own, Rahab is slow to win the hearts of her newly adopted people--and especially the heart of one in particular (cf. Matt. 1:5). When she does win their--and his--love, she has no idea what to do with it. Shamed by a past she cannot erase by her own power, her life crumbles until, like the walls of her hometown, Jericho, almost nothing is left standing. It is not until she and her husband receive by faith the grace God extends to both of them that she comes to understand her value through His eyes.

If you click the link in the first line above, you'll see a  fascinating interview with the author. You'll also have the opportunity to click over to her Web site. There you'll discover she has an MDiv from Yale. She ministers to women. So does her novel, but it's not only for women. There are priceless nuggets of wisdom for both men and women on relating to God and relating to each other, all woven seamlessly into the context of Rahab's and Salmone's story. And if that's not enough to move you, guys, there's also a battle scene, okay? Okay.

Tessa Afshar is indeed a name to remember, but I think she'll prefer you remember the message she delivers so powerfully in Pearl in the Sand. The book is a gem in and of itself.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Memory Between Us, by Sarah Sundin (Revell)

I have a new book to add to my list of favorites and a new hero to add to my list of exemplary writers. The question is, which/who do I fuss over first? (Flipping coin...fumbling it onto floor...picking it up...flipping it wins!)

When I reviewed her debut novel, A Distant Melody, I noted that Ms. Sundin had set the bar so high, I was concerned she'd be able to match it with her second installment in the "Wings of Glory" series.  I needn't have feared.

A Memory Between Us excels on several planes. (No pun intended...well, okay, maybe it was a little bit intended.) The tale revolves around Major Jack Novak, a B-17 pilot (and brother of Walt Novak, our hero in Memory), and Lieutenant Ruth Dougherty, the nurse who tends to his wounds after a rather rude burst of Nazi flak grounds him. Jack notices the attractive Ruth through his morphine-induced stupor, but she has fended off the advances of so many male patients that she has a withering retort prepared before the first words are even out of his mouth. Imagine her surprise when he slurringly professes God's love fore her instead of his own. Then he drops off to sleep.

Thus begins the stutter-stopping relationship between a woman so emotionally incapacitated by guilt over a horrible childhood secret that she can barely function in a social setting, and a man so self-absorbed he can't figure out whether he's falling in love with the woman or just trying to charm her into falling in love with him. Enter a well developed supporting cast that includes the lovable May, who chips away at the wall around Ruth's heart, and stolid Charlie, who chips away at the pride around Jack's, and you've got a great recipe for an even greater storyline.

Now for the author. As in Melody, Ms. Sundin delivers the raw grit and terror of WWII aerial warfare with all the skill of one who must surely have been there, seen that. She paints an equally vivid picture of the imperfect human heart as it trips along in all its glorious failings on the road to redemption. But another interesting facet of her writing surfaces in Memory that was only hinted at in Melody.

In addition to adeptly portraying the gamut from heart-wrenching turmoil to heart-warming love, Ms. Sundin displays a unique versatility in that she can present the reader with a playful scene--yes, playful--without it coming across as trite or goofy. That's not as easy as it might sound. What do I mean? Shall I share an example or two? Sorry. Read the book.

A Memory Between Us is a worthy sequel to A Distant Melody--and that's saying something. Thanks for a great read, Sarah. Can't wait for the third book!