CSFF Tour – Broken Wings Day 3

Day 3 of the CSFF Tour – the wrap up day.

We’ve been featuring Shannon Dittemore and her latest book,  Broken Wings, second in the Angel Eyes trilogy. I introduced the book on Monday, and gave my overall review yesterday.

I wasn’t quite finished though.

Being a Christian novel, there is another layer to consider when reviewing or discussing a book like Broken Wings. There are the spiritual underpinnings of a CBA book to explore.

Faith can be applied as one layer of a multi-layered story. It may be more of a base layer, the foundation of what happens, but not as apparent on the surface. This would be a book where a character is a Christian, but overt aspects of faith aren’t featured in the story. Or it may be a novel written with the idea of a Christian worldview without explicit statements or actions of Christianity. I wouldn’t say these are any less of a Christian novel, but the story has another purpose. It isn’t dealing with the specifics of faith and belief.

Other novels are Christian from specific content. Whether it is set in a church community, a crisis of faith, or a conversion story, the author wants to explore themes and ideas of faith and religion. The layer of faith is close to the surface, easily discernible.

Since Broken Wings deals with angels and demons, it is not the former.

It is a criticism if a book forces the faith aspect when it isn’t natural to the story. It comes across as preachy. Thankfully, Shannon has created an organic exploration of faith, fear, and living for worship in her series. Brielle is on a journey of faith, and throughout she has ups and downs. She can see into the spiritual realm, what Shannon terms “the Celestial.” It is the crux of the plot.

It doesn’t become a gimmick. The spiritual life is a beautiful thing in Broken Wings. By ascribing colors to emotions and spiritual aspects of life, it allows for imaginative descriptions of what happens in the unseen realm. Worship shows colors dancing in ribbons and waves that captivate Brielle. More than having “angel eyes,” she can sense the spiritual. She can smell worship. Rich scents accompany worship. Hearing the angelic worship draws her and calls to her. Brielle may not be a singer, but as a dancer she expresses her feelings in movement, and this is a precious depiction of a way of worship that is not always appreciated in church today.

The descriptions are rich and varied, but the themes resonate with power. I don’t want to spoil things, so I won’t explain each one, but one theme is sacrifice. As the little cherub Pearla notes toward the end:

“It’s the greatest expression of love, she knows, to lay one’s life down. But she wonders if humans know just how unique the ability is to do that. Death is not something an angel has to offer her loved ones. How glorious it must be to have one’s days numbered by the Father.

How precious it makes each and every one.” (page 259, emphasis mine)

What a statement to consider. Wow.

In short, Broken Wings is exactly the type of Christian YA fiction I would want my daughter to read. Now, she’s only four, but I will be saving these for her.

That’s all I have for this tour, but there are other great people talking about this book – just go to Becky Miller’s page to find other posts. And remember how precious each day is.

CSFF Blog Tour – Broken Wings Day 2

Onto the review.

The CSFF Tour is featuring Shannon Dittemore and her latest book,  Broken Wings, the second book in the Angel Eyes trilogy. I did a synopsis of the book yesterday.

Shannon nailed her debut novel Angel Eyes with a strong voice for her protagonist Brielle, an intriguing premise, and a different take on the idea of spiritual warfare and dealing with angels and demons. The sophomore slump is always a concern for writers.

Thankfully, Shannon kept up the strong work in Broken Wings. A bold choice was the initial setting: hell. An angel especially designed for reconnaissance is peeking into a demonic conference when the adversary from the first novel, Damien, is allowed to return to Stratus, Oregon, to see if he can corrupt Brielle and her boyfriend Jake.

From there the intrigue continued. Brielle has grown from when we first met her, but more obstacles are making life harder than before. The progression of Brielle is nicely handled. Her doubts and fears are realistic and deftly shown. She has experienced faith, but is still new in it and learning how to walk in faith.

YA novels are their own genre, with the sub-categories of fantasy, romance, or since the Twilight novels took off, paranormal or supernatural romance. I read a lot of YA having boys that read a lot, and Shannon does a great job of capturing a younger voice. Now, my boys don’t read romance, but I have really enjoyed Jenny B. Jones in the past, a writer that has a wonderful voice with sass and a real touch for the romantic. I think Shannon is right there with that type of romance that will appeal to the young women looking for quality reads.

The book was a very enjoyable read for anyone who enjoys a look at the supernatural or a YA romance. I’ve said it before: good writing is good writing. That’s what Shannon delivers, and I don’t mind saying that I really like her books. Heck, I handed over my man card the last time we featured her.

There’s another major aspect to the book I’d like to address apart from this review, but I think that can wait for tomorrow. If you’re looking for more, Becky Miller always keeps the latest and greatest from the tour on her blog. And no CSFF Tour is complete without Steve Trower’s post of songs that match the book. Theme: Broken Wings. Check that out, and I’ll be back with final thoughts…

CSFF Blog Tour – Broken Wings Day 1

A question: how do you fly with Broken Wings?

The Christian Sci-fi/Fantasy Tour (CSFF) is back with the latest book from Shannon Dittemore. Broken Wings is the second book in her Angel Eyes trilogy. This is a unique situation for our tour, because we just featured the first book in the series, Angel Eyes, in January. We don’t usually get to review books in a series so close together. Readers won’t have to wait long for the conclusion either. The final book Dark Halo will release in August. Certified fresh content.

In the first book, Brielle Matthews had her eyes opened. In Broken Wings, she sees more than she may be able to handle.

Brielle had returned to her hometown of Stratus, Oregon, after tragic events happened while in Portland at an exclusive arts school. Thanks to her boyfriend Jake and her new look on life, things have settled down. However, her father has taken up drinking again and is seeing a younger woman that makes Brielle’s skin crawl. Jake is hiding something. And a startling event opens up old wounds regarding her mother’s death when Brielle was just a little girl.

Unknown to Brielle and Jake, the demonic forces they tangled with in Angel Eyes aren’t done with them yet. A new offensive is authorized to strike the small town of Stratus. This time, even having the eyes of an angel may not be enough to save all Brielle cares about.

That’s the preview. The review will be following tomorrow. Hope to see you there. My posts from the tour for Angel Eyes is here. If you want to see what others are saying, check out the fellow tour members below.

Gillian Adams
Julie Bihn
Jennifer Bogart 
Beckie Burnham
Pauline Creeden
Janey DeMeo
Theresa Dunlap
Emma or Audrey Engel
Victor Gentile
Nikole Hahn
Becky Jesse
Jason Joyner
Karielle @ Books à la Mode
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback 
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nathan Reimer
James Somers
Kathleen Smith
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Shane Werlinger

CSFF Tour – Angel Eyes Day 3

Today’s our wrap-up day for the excellent supernatural debut of Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore.

I introduced the book on Monday and Tuesday did a quasi-review while doing a compare/contrast with the Twilight books to which Shannon’s book has been compared. I planned to do my review today, but I jumped the gun yesterday.

So I’m going to do something I’m usually loathe to do.

Angel Eyes is about the teen Brielle learning about a wider world and her special gift that is both a blessing and something that makes her a target. However, there is a sub-plot in the book that touches on an issue near to my heart. I don’t like to give spoilers, but here is a minor one: Brielle and Jake stumble upon a human trafficking ring.

The tragedy of human trafficking is coming up more often than ever in fiction. I am very glad for this, since it is such a horror and needs to be defeated. In my own work in progress it is an integral part of the story. I wish I would have finished it sooner, but I’ll get there someday. Whereas my story is set in Southeast Asia, Shannon keeps hers in the Pacific Northwest.

Guess what? Human trafficking exists all over. It is in the States, not just an overseas problem.

If a story can bring awareness to a terrible crime like human trafficking and still be entertaining, it is a powerful tool. Shannon’s done that here, and I’m very appreciative of her book. Not just because of the enjoyment factor, which I definitely enjoyed it, but because the more light that is shown on the darkness of modern-day slavery, the more it will retreat.

There are many fine organizations who are doing specific things to battle human trafficking, some that I’ve linked to in the sidebar to the right. Shannon offers up Chabdai at the end of Angel Wings, so I’ll point you there as well for more information. Please take a few minutes to become informed about this if you haven’t already.

Shannon has won a major fan here. I’ll be excited to read her next book, Broken Wings, which comes out next month. My preferred genre isn’t YA romance (even with the supernatural twist) and I’m focusing on reading suspense nowadays for my own writing, but I’ll make an exception here.

That’s all I have for this fine book and interesting tour. As always, Becky Miller keeps tabs of all of the participants on her blog. Check them out.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest opinion. So there.

CSFF Tour – Angel Eyes Day 2

Is Angel Eyes the Christian version of Twilight?

I hope that sentence doesn’t scare anyone off! I aim to explain. 
Yesterday I introduced the January CSFF feature Angel Eyes by new author Shannon Dittemore. She takes an intriguing nugget of an idea and runs with it. 
Becky Miller addresses somewhat the idea of the similarity between Angel Eyes and Twilight. Both books feature a wounded girl moving to be with a single father in a rural area, and both girls end up meeting a mysterious guy who is also very good looking and intrigued with said female. Becky was surprised about the comparison. 
I wasn’t. 
Because I *ahem* read the Twilight series. 
Okay, I guess I will hand over my man card. Won’t be the first time. I was bored and had a lot of time to read that year. But I digress. 
The trick is that anytime there are similarities, people are going to call it. And in the Christian market, where we do have a reputation (often deserved, but not always) of copying a trend or style in the mainstream market, it is going to come fast and furious.
So here’s a main difference:
Angel Eyes is way better. 
I kept reading Twilight because I did like Stephenie Meyer’s voice. But aside from the questions the plot offers, her writing needs some severe editing. I’m not sure I could read it again after four more years of studying writing under my belt. Meyer gets too thick with her description, going on and on about how perfect Edward is.
Dittemore hits the right notes. Sure, there are points where someone who’s read both will see comparisons. I don’t think it was intentional. There’s nothing new under the sun, remember. Her Brielle is not a whiny wimp that doesn’t feel good unless she’s around her hunk, and even then she’s a bummer. Brielle is damaged, like any good fiction character. There’s issues that create conflict, but they don’t drag her into a quagmire of blah.
The book has great description. For instance, in the book Brielle is always cold. She can’t get warm. It is a plot point, and it has to be repeated a lot. To me an idea that gets repeated over and over can really bog down a book if it is done poorly. Dittemore reminds us enough about this particular detail without being overly repetitive or boring us with the same words.
Another similarity is the attraction between Brielle and the mysterious guy, Jake. Now, I probably wouldn’t have used the name “Jake” (Jacob the shirtless werewolf, anyone?), but there is no love triangle in this book. There’s no sparkly vegetarian vampires. I repeat, NO SPARKLES. One criticism of the book I have is that Jake is sometimes too good – he doesn’t seem to be a fully three dimensional character. But again, the comparison between the romance is superficial.
Ultimately, this is a Christian novel. It deals with faith, doubt, suffering, and other real world issues in a touching and believable way. Believable considering a girl can see the supernatural and there are angels and demons. But the angels know their place. They serve the Lord Almighty, and that is brought out in the book in a very strong way. Not preachy, but it isn’t hidden either.
So, I do not believe Angel Eyes is the Christian Twilight. It stands on its own, with some shared conventions since they are both YA, both romance, and both supernatural in nature. But I would not hesitate to recommend Angel Eyes to a young woman who likes to read or anyone who enjoys speculative fiction. Which I would hesitate with Twilight with some people. 
Well, shoot Becky. You forced my hand early. I’m going to have to get creative for tomorrow’s post. In the meantime, Becky keeps a tab of all of the posts for this tour, so check them out for more opinions and info. 

CSFF Tour – Angel Eyes Day 1

What do you think you could see if you could see into the angelic realm?

Good for us that’s the job of speculative fiction authors, and that Shannon Dittemore took up the challenge.

The latest feature for the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Tour is the debut book by Ms. Dittemore, Angel Eyes. It is a YA novel and the first of a trilogy of books, with the next book Broken Wings coming out in February and the final book Dark Halo releasing in August.

Brielle is a young woman with a devastated heart and an inability to get warm. She returns to small Stratus, Oregon after a tragedy that causes her to give up on her elite performing school in Portland. Her heart is as frozen as the weather in the rural town, but when she catches the attention of the new, hot guy in town, she doesn’t know what to think.

Especially when she starts seeing the supernatural.

Brielle enters a strange new world that the new guy, Jake, seems to know a lot about. Her new sight opens up new horizons, and a new perspective on evil-an evil that wants to use her in their latest schemes.

Now Jake and Brielle may be all that stands between a loss of innocence and a horror beyond imagining, if they can survive the encounter themselves.

This book has gotten a lot of buzz, so it is exciting to be featuring it for our January tour. Check out my tourmates below for more information, and I’ll have a review and more discussion in the next two days. 

Gillian Adams
Julie Bihn
Beckie Burnham
Theresa Dunlap
Nikole Hahn
Jeremy Harder
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Faye Oygard
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Dona Watson
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler