Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pieces of Words #3

The quotes for today's Pieces of Words come from a book, a blog, a sermon, and musicians on Twitter. There's some really great stuff here.

Book:

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable." -C. S. Lewis in The Four Loves

Blog:

"...after awhile you start believing your own lies, which all essentially say the same thing: 'I'm not good enough.' Suddenly, and unknowingly, you defeat yourself. Has anything positive come from guilt and shame? Has any life flourished after believing that it was worthless? The only thing left after believing our own lies is our own defeat." -Matt MacDonald, lead singer of The Classic Crime

Sermon:

"David lost the battle with his eyes, which opened the door for him to lose the battle over his heart, all because he was not in the battle he was born for. When you turn away from the battle you're assigned to, you face the battle you're not equipped for." –Pastor Bill Johnson of Bethel Church

Twitter:

"There will always be someone more talented, but never someone more called. Live according to your calling, not your talent." –Alyssa Barlow of BarlowGirl

"Just when you think you can depend on something or someone, Jesus reminds you that He's your ONLY Hope." –William Matthews of Bethel Music

Do you have any quotes you've heard or read over the past week that you'd like to share? Please feel free to leave them in the comments. I love reading what people find.

Becca Johnson

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour: The God Hater by Bill Myers -Review


This month, the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring Bill Myers' The God Hater. In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

The God Hater is about an atheistic philosophy professor, Nicholas Mackenzie, who is asked to help with a computer program. This computer program contains an entire world and characters who think, react, and feel just like real people. The programmers believe they have thought of everything and made the program perfect. But every time they run it, the characters end up self-destructing. Nicholas reluctantly decides that they need to introduce religion into the program. But that too fails. Even giving them laws doesn't help, but instead turns them into unforgiving legalists. He is forced to realize that the characters' only hope is for someone to go into the program and show them how to live. So he steps into the program with them as a character just like himself and begins a mission to save them from themselves.

When I read the description of this book, I thought it sounded like a very cool idea and possibly a good book. I was right. This book is fascinating and touching, and it shows man's need for redemption from a Creator-like perspective. I loved reading things I'd heard before about sin, the payment for sin, redemption, and forgiveness in new terms, since most of it was in the computer program's terms. It made things fresh and made me look at them in a new way.

I only had a couple things that bothered me. One problem I had was with an inconsistency I noticed. The programmers said that the characters didn't eat food and instead survived on life units. And yet, later in the book, the characters were eating life units fried in crumbs, drinking wine, etc. Unless I misunderstood something, that was a big inconsistency.

The other thing that bothered me was the ending. Its bittersweet nature frustrated me, and it didn't end with as much resolution as I would have liked. There's a key event I was expecting that I'm upset about being left out. But that didn't diminish my overall enjoyment of the book, and the ending actually was pretty good. It just felt like it was missing something.

I connected with the characters well, especially Nicholas and Alpha 11. I could feel their inner struggles clearly, as well as Nicholas' father-like love and sadness. That was essential to making the book work, and Bill Myers did a great job.

One of my favorite quotes from the book:

"It's impossible to adequately capture every nuance of truth with words. To convey the truths of life...you have to live that life."

I recommend The God Hater to both believers and those who don't yet believe. The philosophy is presented logically and never preaches. It's an entertaining read that also makes you think.

To find out more about The God Hater, please visit the book's website or Bill Myers' Facebook page. You can also read what other people thought about The God Hater by visiting the other blogs participating in the CSFF Blog Tour. Their links are below.

Noah Arsenault
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Rachel Briard
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Carol Bruce Collett
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
CSFF Blog Tour
April Erwin
Amber French
Andrea Graham
Tori Greene
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Joleen Howell
Bruce Hennigan
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emily LaVigne
Shannon McDermott
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika
MollyBuuklvr81
John W. Otte
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
James Somers
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Nicole White
Dave Wilson

Becca Johnson

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney -Review


I just finished reading an ARC (advance readers' copy) of Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney. I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Dark Mirror is about a girl named Tory who lives in England in the early 1800s. The book is slightly an alternate history story, because in its England, magic is a real thing and is commonplace. Magic is a useful tool embraced by the commoners, but the nobility has been taught to view it as wrong and disgraceful. Tory is the daughter of an earl and looks forward to finding a high-ranking husband. When she discovers that she has magical ability, she is determined to hide it. If anyone finds out about her magic, she could be disowned from her family and rejected by everyone she knows. Despite her resolve to keep her power hidden, she has no choice but to reveal it when an accident occurs. She is sent to Lackland Abbey, where young people of the nobility are sent to be cured of their magic. Once there, she will have to make many choices concerning sacrifice, bravery, duty, and love.

This is a fun book filled with adventure, likeable characters, and magic. I don't think I ever got bored, even during the slower portions of the plot. M.J. Putney combined a rich, realistic-feeling historical setting with a complicated, detailed world of magic. It was fascinating, especially when the magical powers were being explained or when people were learning how they could use their magic in new ways. The magic was also described beautifully and clearly. I looked forward to the magical parts of the story most.

As I was reading and increasingly more characters were being introduced, there was a point where I got concerned that I'd never be able to remember, let alone keep track of, all of the characters. However, they all had distinguishable personalities and important roles to play. I was pleased to discover that I had no trouble keeping all the characters with their personalities and abilities separate in my head. Each person was an interesting character, and I came to care about all of them. I'm now glad that there was such a large cast of characters to enjoy.

Tory, the main character, was a nice choice for a heroine. She was smart, kind, and wanted to do the right thing. It was refreshing to read a book where the main character started off already having some wisdom and strong virtues. That way, Tory could work on building her strengths and adding to them, taking the story deeper than if she'd been a spoiled, selfish child. I really liked that about her.

I only have a few complaints about the book. One is that some of the foreshadowing was too obvious for me. I knew what the inciting incident would be before it happened. (An inciting incident is the first conflict that sets the plot in motion.) The clues were on the pages leading up to it and they stood out clearly to me as hints as to what was about to happen. Also, in the same night that a character mentions preparing for a possible danger, that danger happens. On one page the character was finally discussing the need seriously (even though the need had been there before), and on the next page or so the danger struck. It seemed too set up to me.

Also, the love story did not seem entirely believable to me. It would have been a good romance, but I didn't see how the characters suddenly fell in love with each other. And saying they had a magical connection isn't enough to explain it for me. I would have liked to see more development of the love before the characters were declaring their undying love for each other. Because the love story was not rooted in a deep relationship (at least not that we the readers saw), it made a scene that would have been much more powerful seem just slightly overdramatic. I really wish we'd been allowed to see the relationship develop more. It would have been good.

Speaking of romance, M.J. Putney's history as a romance writer started peeking through here and there. It seemed like she couldn't resist throwing in a little suggestive dialogue between Tory and her love interest. It didn't seem plausible considering what era these characters came from, and it also bothered me. I would have preferred if she'd stuck to keeping the book mostly a fantasy book about magic and adventure.

But aside from those few things that I mentioned above, I really enjoyed Dark Mirror. It had a well-developed setting, an exciting plot, and interesting characters. If there is a sequel, I will most definitely be reading it.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy, history, time travel, or romance.

Becca Johnson

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher -Review


Tonight, I finished reading Sapphique by Catherine Fisher. Sapphique is the sequel to Incarceron. If you haven't read Incarceron, you need to. It’s good. I'll try to avoid spoilers in this review for those who haven't read Incarceron yet.

Sapphique is the continued story of two groups of characters. The first group is made up of prisoners inside Incarceron (a living prison as large as an entire world to those inside it) who are trying desperately to find a way out. The second group consists of people Outside of Incarceron who are trying to defeat both the Prison and the stifling rule of Protocol (a requirement that everything stays like it was hundreds of years ago to prevent further nuclear desctruction to the world). Old characters, such as Finn, Claudia, Jared, Keiro, the Warden, Attia, and Incarceron itself, return in this book. New characters, like Rix, are also introduced. And of course, Sapphique (the only prisoner to Escape) is again present in this book through the many references to him and the "excerpts" from the stories about him.


What first got me to pick Incarceron off the shelf was the beautiful cover. Isn't it lovely and intriguing? And the cover for Sapphique looks just as great, if not better. What intrigued me further and got me reading was the idea of a futuristic prison that was alive and that had a personality of its own. I'm glad the cover and the idea drew me into reading Incarceron, because I've really enjoyed it and Sapphique.

I liked the way the author described some of the things in Sapphique. I especially liked when she worded something differently or turned recurring themes around so that the reader saw them in a new way or understood that they could stand for a separate idea in the story.

The story jumped from point of view to point of view, but it didn’t bother me like it does in some books. One moment we knew what Finn was thinking, and then suddenly we only knew what Claudia knew. But the shifts from one point of view to another weren’t jarring and I actually liked them, because then I could know various character’s secrets as they became important to know (there were a lot of secrets).

It was interesting switching back and forth between the world of the Prison and the world of Outside. The Prison was filled with despair, fear, technology, and all sorts of strange sights. The plants were made of metal and some of the people were part machine. The Outside was like history with its castles, political intrigue, balls, faked pleasantries, and scenic countryside. And yet, the two places had so many things in common, such as danger, illusion, and the desire for escape.

The book was never too slow, which made me happy. The last hundred pages or so grew so much in intensity that I was unable to put the book down. I was hurrying through the pages, excited to find out how everything was going to work out in the end. I love it when that happens.

Although I enjoyed reading the book, I was fairly confused when I reached the end of it. Either I’m not catching on, or some of the questions were never truly answered. They were given answers that might be true…but they might not be. At least, that’s how I understood it. *MAJOR SPOILER WARNING* I’m still confused as to who Sapphique was. Was it really Jared, or was he just filling the role for the prisoners and Incarceron? And if Jared really was Sapphique, how on earth did that happen? I’m just a little perplexed. *END SPOILER*

My favorite characters have always been Keiro and Jared, so it was fun to see them both play important roles in Sapphique. Keiro was entertaining with his arrogance and bluntness. He always had some plan for getting out of trouble. And, despite his best efforts, there were moments when he showed that he did have a heart. Jared was just as kind and intelligent as before, but we got to see more of his loyalty, fear, and courage in this book. I liked other characters in the book, but these two were the ones that stood out to me. They’re very different, but both fascinating characters.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

"People will love you if you tell them of your fears."

"Perhaps the Prison is in us."

"The stable was hung with small golden lanterns, like the ones used at Court. Or perhaps these were the stars, taken down and propped here and there, hung on wires."

I recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy, steampunk, or adventure.

Becca Johnson

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pieces of Words #2

Pieces of Words posts are collections of quotes that I come across that are beautiful, amuse me, make me look at something differently, or stick with me. Today, I have quotes from a song, a movie, and a sermon. Enjoy!

Song:

"We can be who we are. Now we are alive. We can fight. They cannot contain us. It’s who we are. We are undying. We won’t hide our faces from the light. Eliminate the space between us. It’s who we are. We are forever." –"Who We Are" by RED

Movie:

"Destiny is not the path that's given to us, but the path that we choose for ourselves." –Megamind

Sermon:

"Unbelief forces me to live in thirst within the reach of water." –Pastor Bill Johnson of Bethel Church

Do you have any quotes you've heard or read over the past few days that you'd like to share? Please feel free to leave them in the comments. I love reading what people find.

Becca Johnson

Friday, February 4, 2011

Pieces of Words #1

I’ve decided to do a variation on the weekly quotes I used to post. What I have in mind will be called Pieces of Words and will sometimes be posted more often than once a week, sometimes less often. It depends on if I find some good pieces. These posts will be collections of words from songs, poems, stories, blogs, other nonfiction, etc. that I thought were beautiful, that touched me, that stuck out to me, or that made me think. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? So, here’s my first Pieces of Words post. Enjoy!

Songs:

"And when you’re finally in My arms, you’ll look up and see love has a face. And I will be your hope." –"Not Alone" by RED

"You’re not so far that I can’t get to where you are." –"Invisible" by Disciple

Story:

"He infected it."
"With a disease?"
"A desire. And desire can be a disease, Claudia."
-The Warden and Claudia from Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

Nonfiction:

"Maybe every breath we take is the outcome of the breath we took before it." –Joy in her blog post life beside the silverscreen.

Happy adventures!

Becca Johnson