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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

CSFF Tour, Day 2: Sharon Hinck, The Restorer

Welcome to Day 2 of the CSFF Blog Tour focusing on Sharon Hinck's The Restorer. Before we get to business, I've been feeling restless in spirit about something, and I want to address it here, if briefly.

The purpose of the blog tour, as I've understood it, is to make folks on the Internet and elsewhere more aware of Christian Fantasy and Science Fiction. We do this by concentrating on an author, book, website for a specific period of time--which gets blog-tracking sites like Technorati to notice, and so...hopefully will the public. Those of us who are involved are avid readers of SciFi and Fantasy, and we'd all like to see more Christian-friendly fiction available. We'd also like to see the secular world drawn closer to the King of Kings through the fiction we write and promote.

When we do a Tour, we introduce the author(s) and the book(s), we do interviews, we do behind-the-scenes-features, we post art and photos, and yes, we review the books. The last couple of book blog tours, however, have troubled me a little bit. I think some of the Blog Tour participants have forgotten the purpose of the tour. I've read some absolutely scathing reviews of some of the books we've featured. Use of sarcasm, condescension, and belittling is common--without apology, I might add--in such reviews. And in a Christian community, that bothers me. I think reviews like these promote division in the body of Christ, not academic honesty as is the purported excuse for such reviews.

I think there's a problem with most extremes, and book reviews on the Blog Tour can fall into one of two extremes, both problematic, but not equally so.

1. The Blind Praise Review: This is when the reviewer gushes on and on about how spectacular a book is--even when it's not. The book might be good, but not great, and yet the reviewer sings a hallelujah chorus of spectacular joy over the story, the character, the settings, everything is perfect. The author of a blind praise review comes off as a flatterer, and in so doing, loses the reader's respect.

2. The Flame: This type of review basically hammers a book from top to bottom, never considering the merits that are there. Often, harsh criticisms are rendered with little or no rationale. Even when ample rationale is present, the review still has the tone of a hatchet job. It feels like a personal attack. The author of a "Flame" review comes off as spiteful or perhaps as an intellectual snob, and in so doing, loses the reader's respect.

In my humble opinion, I don't think either kind of review is appropriate for the Blog Tour. Most people don't like either one. Most people will give more credence to a balanced review--one that seeks the positives without ignoring the negatives. I think that is what we should strive for. Be honest, be fair, be critical--but all in love.

Remember, the authors of the books reviewed here are people--nice people--who have feelings. And most of the authors like to visit these blogs and contribute a lot of insight from which we all benefit.

I'd like to end my rant with this advice for some of the folks on the tour who have published recent "flames"---like my mother used to say: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

And now, back to our regularly scheduled broadcast!

I said yesterday that Sharon Hinck's The Restorer could change the Fantasy Genre forever. Big claim, that. But seriously, let's consider the Fantasy Genre. Prior to the last 15 years, who read fantasy? Mostly guys, right? When I went to the Trilogy Tuesday Showing of all three Lord of the Rings Movies, who else did I see camping out for tickets? Mostly guys. But things are changing. Lots and lots of men and women of all ages are discovering or rediscovering fantasy. And this is a good thing. The more people who discover fantasy, the more titles we fans get to read. The more hopeful writers become authors. The more great communities like the CSFF Blog Tour spring up. It's all good.

Sharon Hinck has just thrown wide the doors to this great genre for a population that typically doesn't read SpecFic. Soccer moms, homemakers, stay-at-home-moms--whatever the title, now have an invitation to come and read. And once in the door, we all know what happens. Someone handed me a copy of The Hobbit in 6th grade. I read it, and it was all over. A fan for life I became. The Hobbit was my "gateway" read into the Fantasy Genre.

The Restorer will be a gateway for thousands more. Great work, Sharon. Keep writing for the King!

In conclusion, I thought it might be fun for those who come by here to post about your own "Gateway" book. What fantasy/sciFi book made you a fan of the genre? What hooked you?



Becca Johnson said...

I think the book that hooked me was The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. I had read The Chronicles of Narnia before that, but The Lord of the Rings was when I really got into fantasy. :D

Becca Johnson

Amy Browning said...

Firstly, Amen to the way you handled the issue of extreme reviews.

Secondly, I think that I was a fan of fantasy for many years before realizing it. As a young child, my mom would make up the most amazing stories to tell me - boom - fantasy was introduced to me even before I could read. Actually, I may write on my blog about the more detailed version of my love of fantasy. Check it out later. :)

everlastingscribe said...

On behalf of all fantasy loving females, that have loved fantasy since we were knee-high to a Hobbit, I say welcome to those sisters just discovering the delight of this genre!

Does it count if you had fantasy read to you? Cos if it does, I was five when I fell in love with this field. My parents read 'The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe' around the table after dinner to me and my brother. One chapter a night, and only a chapter a night, no matter how hard I begged. We went through the whole series that way.

I suppose Dr. Seus is another way that I got hooked on fantasy, reading for myself. Then I found Gilbert Morris' "The Seven Sleepers" series and "A Wolf Story" by James Byron Huggins followed by "Children in the Night" by Harold Myra.


I didn't read Tolkien until I 20 and seeking refuge from one of the worst times in my life when I was a missionary in Ireland. So, I came late to Tolkien, but I have always loved fantasy.

John said...

I appreciate your thoughts on reviewing. I hope my own was balanced. I had some issues with the novel, but I did feel it was a good book overall and a good read, just confusing in some ways and having a few plot holes or stylitic things that didn't appeal to me but might appeal to others.

Daniel I Weaver said...

Thank you for sharing your comments, Wayne. I had a few negative points, but certainly hope nothing I've said came across as flame. There are a lot of wonderful qualities about Sharon's work and I made a point of highlighting those.

I am equally excited about the prospects of what Sharon's work can do for the Fantasy genre. Drawing in the majority of the CBA audience can only help facilitate this genre's growth.

AS for that fantasy bridge, I honestly can't thing of a single book. I was enthralled by Sci-Fi long before fantasy and grew up when Fantasy movies hit their peak back in the 80's (before I ever got into reading). I read just about every middle-grade fantasy series I could find, but I suppose the series that made me the think the most about the genre were Robert Jordan's books. He seemed to take his world so much farther than his predecessors that it amazed me. Looking back now, I appreciate the groundwork that Tolkein and Lewis laid, but I think Jordan was the "wow" factor bridge for me.

God bless,

David Adams said...

*Looks back at review* Honestly I really did like the novel, sometimes my reviews can get a little too flowery. My parents would always get annoyed sometimes by the fact I would praise Lord of the Rings, and when writing reviews on Amazon about it, I would just say the book was wonderful. Thanks for the tip, I am really trying to improve my critiquing skills, to include both positive and negative merits. I must agree that some parts in the book were a bit confusing especially how some of the technology worked.

Karenee said...

Wow, it was the Narnia series, of which I read all but two of the books twice a year faithfully until there were too many books on my repeat list to keep up with it. Only in highschool did I discover the merits of The Last Battle and The Magician's Nephew and now I go through the whole series when I read it.

Thank you for the suggestions on reviews. I often fall into the syrupy sweet category, I think, but growth is possible, so hopefully I'll figure out this review business in time.

Anonymous said...

Fantasy book? Hhmmmm. I've been an SF fan since about ninth grade. Picked up a Robert Heinlein juvenile novel (can't remember which). And that was it. Read Heinlein, Asimov, most all of the "Golden Age" authors. Really enjoyed Poul Anderson (anyone read The High Crusade) and Gordon Dickson. For the longest time, I really didn't like fantasy, at least not what's described as "sword and sorcery" But probably Tolkien or Lewis hooked me on the fantasy finally. Oh, and by the way, I'm a woman and I've been reading and BUYING SF and fantasy for a very long time. Kathy-E in FL

pixy said...

I think Wrinkle in Time was my leap into fantasy in 5th grade. I read the whole series--devoured it actually. Then I read a few Narnia books sprinkled with Baby-Sitter's Club. ;)

You made some very good points, Wayne, about review. I have had to pass writing several reviews because of that exact adage.

I wish I could have read The Restorer in time for the tour. I feel totally out of the loop. It really snuck up on me. I love Sharon, though. What you said about her in yesterday's post is spot on. She is just the nicest person, ever. And her sweet spirit is a blessing to all around her.

Jason said...

A little known book called Oneprince from the '90s was my introduction to fantasy, both Christian and otherwise. I was familiar with fantasy elements from Dungeons and Dragons for a little while as a teen, but for some inexplicable reason had never been exposed to LotR or Narnia.

I look for your books in our local Barnes and Noble. Haven't found them yet. I intend on picking them up sometime - waiting for my boys to get just a little older to enjoy them with me.

PatShand said...

Harry Potter is what hooked me and that series is still, to me, the masterpiece of the fantasy genre.

Brett said...

The "Choose you own Adventure" books were the ones that hooked me, even though some of them were sci-fi/fantasy. 'A Wrinkle in Time' solidified the passion for me.

Brett said...

*correction* Even though some of them *weren't* sci-fi/fantasy. :)
My writing is atrocious....

WayneThomasBatson said...

Lord of the Rings
Chronicles of Narnia
Harry Potter
Wheel of Time
Wrinkle in Time

That'd be a nice bookshelf, wouldn't it?

Mark Goodyear said...

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I liked the first two Narnia books, to be sure. But when I read Dawn Treader in the 3rd grade I was hooked for life. I bought the board game and doodled Dufflepods and everything.

I also read Tolkein multiple times, Lloyd Alexander, and lots of Piers Anthony and Steven King.

Though I think Anthony and King may not have been so good for my teenage mind.

You didn't ask, but...
today I enjoy Harry Potter. I enjoyed the first two books of His Dark Elements (though I've heard it's basically anti-Christian in the third book).

And I'm loving my subscription to Science Fiction and Fantasy.

David Adams said...

I always loved fantasy/scifi. When thinking back, I first fell in love with it was when I read Narnia and The Hobbit when I was nine years old.Around the same time, I read the first Harry Potter book. These three series are what really sparked my love for fantasy. I just couldn't read anything else, because I enjoyed reading things that can never happen in reality. To this day, I still enjoy fantasy/scifi as much as ever. If I were to name my top five favorite fantasy writers, they would probably be; Neil Gaiman, JK Rowling, JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, and George RR Martin. I only recently, about a year ago discovered Christian fantasy, so far I have read some awesome stuff from Karen Hancock, Kathy Tyers, Wayne Thomas Batson, and Sharon Hinck. My love for fantasy will continue to flourish, as I know God has plans for me, to make use of my love of creating fantasy worlds.

Katie Hart - Writer and Avon Representative said...

The Chronicles of Narnia. I am a diehard fan, and have been since age 11. The first book to "break" me into adult fantasy/SF was Karen Hancock's Arena, followed closely by Kathy Tyers' Firebird trilogy.

Shannon said...

What a cool question. I read Terry Brooks' *The Sword of Shannara* at age 10 and was hooked. Since I hadn't read LotR yet, I didn't know it was a ripoff. *grin* Expectations, again. (And I'm so glad I'm not the only one bothered by, err, certain tendencies in the tour.)

Other books that sealed it for me: The Chronicles of Narnia. The Pern books (until the later ones). The Ozark Trilogy. (Anyone remember that??) Lewis' Space Trilogy, esp. That Hideous Strength.

chrisd said...

It wasn't a book at all that hooked me. (Sorry)

It was Star Trek. Am I allowed to say it? And then I bought the Fan Fiction books that went along with it.

Then Green Mythology in grade school, Sword of Shannara somewhere in there.

And then I tried the Hobbit, which I thought was ok.

Then Star Wars.

The Hobbit again and the Lord of the Rings, Lloyd Alexander, etc.

Hanging head in shame-never read Lewis' TCoN.

Aravis said...

My first exposure to fantasy were the Disney masterpieces: Cinderella, Sword in the Stone, Sleeping Beuty...

Brett said...

Aravis! Disney? Really? I was thinking by your name that it would have been 'The Horse and His Boy', the book in the Chronicles of Narnia! lol.

Amy Browning said...

Ah - Sword in the Stone, a classic. I still watch it when it's on tv. I love that movie!

Oh, and Choose Your Own Adventures were definitely one of my faves as well. I remember A Wrinkle in Time, The Chronicles of Prydain and there was this one series I couldn't put down... now what was it called? Hmm - oh yeah, The Door Within Trilogy! That's been one of my faves for over a year now. :)

One of the coolest parts of loving Fantasy and also being a parent, I get to see my daughter become captivated and transported by some of the same books that meant so much to me as a kid, and do still. She's now on the third Harry Potter and devouring them almost as quickly as I did. I've now read the entire HP series several times over, so we can discuss and share our feelings about the characters and the whole wizarding world.

Wayne - you'll like this. The first Fantasy book my daughter latched onto was The Door Within. She was eight at the time, well, just a few months ago. She was so tickled that I had book plates in that were signed by you. She also thinks it's cool that I get to communicate with you via blog. :)

Aravis said...

The Chronicles of Narnia is the first fantasy series I ever read. For some reason, I really liked Aravis.

Eve said...

I've been hooked on fantasy since beyond memory. The first books that come to mind are the Red/Green/Blue Fairy Tale books. I read everything I could about fairy tales.

Then, I moved on to Robin Hood, and everything King Arthur (there are tons of books on this topic!).

I've read all the other authors mentioned here, over time, except for a handful.

Wayne, I'm still looking forward to reading yours :)

Scriptorius Rex said...

The Hobbit at 8, Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight at 10, Narnia shortly after that.

Now I have kids that I tell bedtime stories to. My middle son liked my Little Baby Zebra stories. My 6 year old daughter likes me to tell Beautiful Princess (her) stories.

Because I'm kind of sick in the head, I decided to give Beautiful Princess a nemesis: Dark Fairy Queen and her hordes of fay creatures. Bedtime stories around here aren't all sunshine and lollipops.

Merrie Destefano said...

I think I agree with Chris, my first sci-fi adventure was on TV, although I was always an avid reader. The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone and Star Trek got me indoctrinated. There were also a whole bunch of classic movies back then: War of the Worlds, Time Machine, etc.

As far as reading goes, I immediately fell in love with Heinlein. "Red Planet" was one of my favorites. I also loved Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allen Poe, H.G. Wells, and those prelude-to-the-graphic-novels, "Creepy" and "Eerie." (I think I got their names right.)

Then when I was about 15, I read the Hobbit and the rest of the series. Loved it.

But sci-fi will always, always, always be my favorite. Take me to another planet, another world, another time, and let wander around and explore. Then I'm in heaven.

Merrie Destefano said...

Sorry, me again--
I forgot to mention that I when I was in about 3rd-4th grade I read every fairy tale on the planet.

Shelby said...

I never really read fantasy or sci-fi until I caught my brother under his bed one night, reading a copy of The Door Within that my cousin had let him borrow. My mom ended up reading it to us, and at first I was hesitant...until after the first chapter. lol--then I begged for more. As of right now, I have lost count of how many times I've read the I read it aloud to my family.