Special Offer From Frank Viola

Hey, I’ve been following a lot of stuff by Frank Viola in the last year, and I’ve been tremendously blessed by his work. His latest book just came out. Check out below for more information and a special offer if you order it before May 7th.
Frank Viola’s new book, God’s Favorite Place on Earth, has just released. If you get the book between May 1st to May 7th, you will also receive 25 FREE books from over 15 different authors.
Click GodsFavoritePlace.com to ordering information and easy instructions on how to get your 25 free books.
GFP3Dlarge
Recommendations
“In Frank Viola’s hands, the story of Lazarus—like Lazarus himself—once again comes to life. In a world where hope is battered and life can so easily beat down the human spirit, we are reminded once more of the possibility of becoming a host of Life.”
John Ortberg, pastor and author of Who Is This Man?
God’s Favorite Place on Earth realigned my heart toward Jesus and His mysterious, confounding, surprising, beautiful ways. It’s not often I learn something new when reading a book, but Frank Viola’s sharp storytelling and insightful interpretation made me hunger for more of the real Jesus.”
Mary DeMuth, author of Everything: What You Give
“God’s Favorite Place on Earth is the kind of book I’ve discovered I need to periodically find and read. Frank Viola’s pen and voice are consistently both penetrating and trustworthy. Beyond his invitingly beautiful writing skill—which makes reading a joy and a sight-seeing tour that brings God’s Word into 3-D when he relates narrative passages, I’m grateful for the depth of his themes.”
Pastor Jack Hayford, Chancellor of The King’s University, Los Angeles
“This is a masterfully engaging book that distills the vision of the Christian life into one focused quest: To be God’s favorite place on earth today. I recommend this little volume to all Christians and Christian leaders.”
Mark Batterson, New York Times bestselling author of The Circle Maker
“Combining masterful storytelling, historical knowledge, biblical insight and practical wisdom, Frank artfully uses the Gospels’ depiction of Lazarus and the small town of Bethany to lay out a beautiful and compelling vision of a God who longs to make every human heart and every church ‘His favorite place.’ This is a beautifully written, timely, prophetic work all would benefit from reading!”
Greg Boyd, pastor and author of Benefit of the Doubt
“A lot of people write books, Frank writes stories and in this one we once again see why he’s such a master. Honored to call him a friend, excited to call him an author I love to read.”
Jon Acuff, bestselling author of Start, Quitter, and Stuff Christians Like 
“Frank Viola surpasses himself in his best book yet—a work of serene, soaring magnificence. Part novel, part biography, part theology, part Bible study, Frank’s imaginative touch and command of prose haiku leaves the reader resolved more than ever to be a Bethany—God’s favorite place on earth.”
Leonard Sweet, Drew University, George Fox University, sermons.com
“Reading God’s Favorite Place on Earth by Frank Viola, my soul began to burn from Chapter One. To delve into Lazarus’ heart and thoughts … I received a beautiful glimpse into the life of Christ on earth. Lazarus’ stories make a perfect foundation for God’s truth, God’s intimacy. I can’t wait to share this book!”
Tricia Goyer, USA Today best-selling author of 35 books
“In spite of my Ph.D. in Theology, I had never considered the importance of Bethany in the life of Jesus.”
Phil Cooke, media consultant and author of Unique
“The best thing I can say about Frank Viola is this: When I read his books—and I read them all—I don’t think much about Frank Viola. I think about Jesus. And I learn to love Him more. This book is no different. Read it, and you’ll find yourself thinking, if you’re like me, ‘I knew Jesus was great, but… Wow!’ And that, at least from me, is as good as it gets.”
Brant Hansen, Radio personality and blogger 

Most Influential Book of 2012

In my last post, I shared my favorite fiction books from 2012. Fiction books can be very influential as well, but there was one non-fiction book that helped with a paradigm shift in how I thought about church and its mission.

The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating The Missional Church by Alan Hirsch was recommended to me over a year ago by my friend and former pastor Brian Harrison. I didn’t read it until this year when my friends and I started into our Outreach Saga. A group of us had left our former church and were looking into what God had for us.

As we started to meet together and tried to hear from the Lord each week, I was also reading this book. It truly opened my eyes to ideas that I hadn’t considered in a fleshed out manner before. Sure, through intuition and talking with other people I had touched on ideas from The Forgotten Ways but I wasn’t getting the full picture.

Hirsch discusses how the model of Christendom we operate in nowadays in modern evangelical culture (for the most part) is not necessarily how the early church (up to 300 AD) did things. From 300 AD to now the church developed hierarchy and structure that was adopted from Roman systems. They worked in a Christian culture context of Europe in the Dark and Middle Ages, even through the Renaissance and Reformation. However, now that our culture is post-Christian and pluralistic, it cannot meet the changing forces in the world in an adequate way.

The majority of the book describes his theory on how church should operate. Through the complex diagram to the right, he shows how the church needs to function. Stemming from the Lordship of Jesus are the five hubs that continue to expand out and encompass the life of a Christian and the community of believers.

Hirsch has worked in missional fields for a long time and has spent a lot of effort into this study. From the Biblical basis to historical activity and modern theory involving organic systems, he brings a thorough and convincing argument for the need to discover forgotten ways and to fully reactivate the life believers need to have today to fully reach the people out there.

In writing this post I am not doing the book justice in a short summation. Perhaps my testimony will help spell it out. As I read the book, I realized that as we tried to reach out to a needy sub-group in our community, we needed to be willing to risk and try new things in order to touch the people. Instead of being a controlled environment where one person (the pastor) speaks and runs the meeting, we’re developing a time of sharing with each other from the Word and our own testimonies. In this way everyone in the meeting has the potential to share something that another person may desperately need. I know I don’t have all the answers in life – that I don’t have the exclusive on God. In relying on the body of Christ to be the body, I’ve seen the strength it brings by allowing others the opportunity to step up when they have what is needed at the time.

I had a reawakening through reading this book and studying Scripture alongside it. I haven’t had a book challenge me like this in many years. It is an easy choice for me to recommend it to anyone who’s wondering if there are better ways of doing “church.” There are better ways, but we’ve just built human structures onto things that should be organic and not just formed into boxes. For an introduction into this, I can’t do better except to highly suggest reading The Forgotten Ways and seeing if it speaks of His truth and the reality of the world today. I think it does both.

So here’s to 2013. May there be many excellent books in your future, and may you dare to take a risk for Jesus in your life in the coming year.

The Just Church

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

and to walk humbly with your God.  

The words of the prophet Micah are spoken in churches all over the world. Believers love this simple declarations of what Jesus asks of His people.  

Christians try hard to walk humbly with the Lord. We strive to show mercy to people. However, we often ignore or struggle with the clause of “acting justly.” Especially for Western Christians, the command for justice is flat-out missed or simply misunderstood.  

There is a new move of the Spirit, awakening His people to the need to provide justice for those who cannot speak up for themselves, to proclaim freedom to the captives, to minister to the widow and orphan. It is a slow burn, but it is exciting to see the embers leaping into flame in various places of the body.

 A new spark is being provided by the new book The Just Church by Jim Martin of the organization International Justice Mission (IJM).

IJM has been fighting for justice for many years now and is one of the leading organizations battling injustices like forced labor, human trafficking, sexual exploitation of women and children, and modern-day slavery in all its forms.  

Jim Martin has been working with them after transitioning out of the pastoral role in his church, becoming a church liason with IJM. This experience made him especially qualified to write The Just Church.  

This book is a challenge to the body of Christ to reclaim the lost aspect of Micah 6:8 and to actively act justly in the world. There are other books that try to awaken Christians to the need of justice and to expose the problems of modern slavery and other forms of bondage towards vulnerable peoples that is easy to overlook in our daily lives. The Just Church is a book that takes the church on journey to forming a viable justice ministry to compliment evangelism and mercy ministry.  

The book is laid out in three sections. The first section establishes a theory that faith doesn’t really grow without significant risk and suggests that justice ministry is a needed part of the church and can help develop a healthier discipleship in His people. The second section takes the reader through a practical journey on establishing a justice ministry in the local church. It isn’t a step by step approach, allowing for the individual characteristics of any body guide the process. The last part of the book is a series of appendices with Scriptures on justice, resources for following through, and study materials. Each chapter ends with a QR code that can be scanned by a smart phone or tablet, leading to a video with Jim summarizing each chapter’s main point.  

It is well-written with an easy conversational style. Jim lays out the challenges inherit in this type of ministry and doesn’t sugar-coat it. It won’t be easy. But he recognizes the hope that is out there for people if Christians will rise up and stand in this gap, so the book is infused with this balance of challenge and hope.  

Any critiques are minor. The videos are a very nice multimedia touch in this day and age – but I’m a fast reader so I’d rather not slow down and watch a movie. Those who like this feature will be pleased. Also, sometimes the book seems too much like a selling tool for IJM. I realize Jim works with them and is most familiar with their work, but there are other fine organizations out there doing similar work as well. This isn’t a big issue, and I support IJM financially myself.  

Overall I am thrilled to have had a chance to read this book and see the new horizons coming in the fight against injustice. The need is starting to become known in the western Church. The Just Church takes the movement to the next step and provides a practical tool to those churches looking into how they can join in the justice ministry sphere. It isn’t for special groups like IJM or others listed on my links on my blog. The Bible speaks very clearly about God’s love of justice and it is every Christian’s responsibility to see the threefold thrust of Micah 6:8 walked out in the world today.  

I’m thankful to Jim Martin and IJM for their work. I did receive a preview copy for promotional purposes, without any expectation of a positive review. My endorsement is heartfelt. The Just Church is a powerful tool in the battle against modern injustice. I highly recommend it.
 —

CSFF Tour Day 1 – The Telling by Mike Duran

 It’s time to “Tell” you about the September Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Tour.

This one is a pleasure for me because the CSFF is featuring Mike Duran and his latest novel, The Telling.

Mike Duran is an author and prolific blogger. His blog Decompose is a fertile ground of ideas that make you think. Not only does Mike post provocative thoughts on faith, fiction, and culture, but the community of commenters he has following him often expand the posts into very interesting realms.

Mike is not afraid to ask the hard questions or probe issues regarding Christian fiction and speculative ideas. However, he has a deep love for the Church and regularly pokes at the foibles of atheist and relativistic thinking.

Mike and I chatting it up

The best part about Mike is that he is real and he is interested in people and exploring these issues. I know this because I had the great pleasure of meeting him this last weekend at the ACFW Conference in Dallas.

If this post sounds gushing because I just met the guy and I’m talking him up, you can forget that idea. The web does not allow for really knowing people, no matter how much you think it does. The face-to-face with Mike and bouncing ideas off him and other like thinkers (here’s a shout to fellow CSFF tour member Morgan Busse) over meals was a highlight of the conference to me.

Over the next few days we’ll be talking about Mike and The Telling. I’m sure it will be a tour with a lot of discussion. I invite you to check out my fellow tourmates below for more information.

 Jim Armstrong
Noah Arsenault
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Brenda Castro
Jeff Chapman
Christine
Theresa Dunlap
Victor Gentile
Nikole Hahn
Bruce Hennigan
Julie
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Dona Watson
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler
— 

The Monsters Within – A CSFF Tour Special Report

We’ve come to the darkness.

I’ve challenged people if they have what it takes to read Night Of The Living Dead Christian. I’ve explained the book (as best I can) and asked people to share their inner monster. What is the point of all of this monster lore, and how does it relate to Christianity?

Matt Mikalatos wrote a funny book to make the medicine go down better. He’s a smiling Mary Poppins. But we need to see that as Christians, we often have a monster form that we take.

What is a monster? Generally it is anything outside of the norm for a creature. Whether it is a cross of types (like a werewolf or Sasquatch) or a perverted form (vampire, zombie), it is a recognition that something is not right. The person is not who they seem to be.

How many Christians can attest to the fact they don’t live up to the transformed life that we are supposed to have in Christ? How many of us are comfortable admitting that even though we have the Holy Spirit dwelling with us, we wrest control and try to make our lives something of our own?

We live in delusion if we don’t see that there are monsters we each battle.

Matt manages to use this as an allegory on helping us to find transformation in the blood of Jesus, and nothing more.

The zombies in his story are Christians who have mindlessly followed a leader and have no life in themselves, thus becoming undead. The vampire Lara was wounded by her ex-husband so much that she had to start stealing life from others to feel alive. Luther the werewolf realizes that he has an animal side with lusts of the flesh he can’t control. One of the tragic moments in the book is when Luther dresses up very nice and meets with his estranged wife. Only his tail is showing, his teeth are long, and his fur has to be brushed. He tries to accept the wolf part of him and dress it up as acceptable.

Needless to say, it doesn’t go well.

How many of us have tried to deny the animal desires, only to fail when we are tired, stressed, or challenged by a strong temptation?

Thus the monster motif is a perfect vehicle for challenging Church, Christians, and ultimately ourselves. Before I read Night I preached a sermon last October called “Escaping the Zombie Life.” In going for a catchy opening, I ended up using a zombie theme throughout the message discussing how Paul identifies our struggles to be holy in Romans 7, and how dying to ourselves and walking in the life of the Spirit in Romans 8 is the answer if we can remember to die each day. Matt takes a similar idea and runs with it in a way that convicts and entertains.

This book is not for everyone. People need a certain sense of humor to really get into it. It fits me to a tee, but someone who has a different humor or are too serious may not appreciate it. It appeals to a younger demographic that is used to The Walking Dead and the Twilight phenomena, but that doesn’t mean older people can’t enjoy it. It is a novel, but not quite. It is a spoof-y (is that a word) Pilgrim’s Progress.

It is a book that has a powerful message in a tortilla wrap of fun (it is close to lunch, sorry).

And for those who commented yesterday in my monster quiz and want to know what kind of monster I am? I’m part mad scientist/part cyborg with a little dash of lyncanthropy for some zing. I can trust too much in my intelligence, I can be cold to what people feel at times, and I can’t always keep the beast tamed on my own.

It is not fun to admit, but it does help me recognize that I have a need for a Savior that does not end with a prayer or by Sunday perfect attendance. It is daily saying to Jesus, as Matt’s werewolf friend does in the book, “I am Your servant.”

There’s more at Becky Miller’s blog, where she updates all posts for the tour. Hurry on over and see what others are saying.

Also, I should disclose that I was sent a review copy from the publisher. Any and all silliness is solely my own.

The Monsters Within – A CSFF Tour Special Report

We’ve come to the darkness.

I’ve challenged people if they have what it takes to read Night Of The Living Dead Christian. I’ve explained the book (as best I can) and asked people to share their inner monster. What is the point of all of this monster lore, and how does it relate to Christianity?

Matt Mikalatos wrote a funny book to make the medicine go down better. He’s a smiling Mary Poppins. But we need to see that as Christians, we often have a monster form that we take.

What is a monster? Generally it is anything outside of the norm for a creature. Whether it is a cross of types (like a werewolf or Sasquatch) or a perverted form (vampire, zombie), it is a recognition that something is not right. The person is not who they seem to be.

How many Christians can attest to the fact they don’t live up to the transformed life that we are supposed to have in Christ? How many of us are comfortable admitting that even though we have the Holy Spirit dwelling with us, we wrest control and try to make our lives something of our own?

We live in delusion if we don’t see that there are monsters we each battle.

Matt manages to use this as an allegory on helping us to find transformation in the blood of Jesus, and nothing more.

The zombies in his story are Christians who have mindlessly followed a leader and have no life in themselves, thus becoming undead. The vampire Lara was wounded by her ex-husband so much that she had to start stealing life from others to feel alive. Luther the werewolf realizes that he has an animal side with lusts of the flesh he can’t control. One of the tragic moments in the book is when Luther dresses up very nice and meets with his estranged wife. Only his tail is showing, his teeth are long, and his fur has to be brushed. He tries to accept the wolf part of him and dress it up as acceptable.

Needless to say, it doesn’t go well.

How many of us have tried to deny the animal desires, only to fail when we are tired, stressed, or challenged by a strong temptation?

Thus the monster motif is a perfect vehicle for challenging Church, Christians, and ultimately ourselves. Before I read Night I preached a sermon last October called “Escaping the Zombie Life.” In going for a catchy opening, I ended up using a zombie theme throughout the message discussing how Paul identifies our struggles to be holy in Romans 7, and how dying to ourselves and walking in the life of the Spirit in Romans 8 is the answer if we can remember to die each day. Matt takes a similar idea and runs with it in a way that convicts and entertains.

This book is not for everyone. People need a certain sense of humor to really get into it. It fits me to a tee, but someone who has a different humor or are too serious may not appreciate it. It appeals to a younger demographic that is used to The Walking Dead and the Twilight phenomena, but that doesn’t mean older people can’t enjoy it. It is a novel, but not quite. It is a spoof-y (is that a word) Pilgrim’s Progress.

It is a book that has a powerful message in a tortilla wrap of fun (it is close to lunch, sorry).

And for those who commented yesterday in my monster quiz and want to know what kind of monster I am? I’m part mad scientist/part cyborg with a little dash of lyncanthropy for some zing. I can trust too much in my intelligence, I can be cold to what people feel at times, and I can’t always keep the beast tamed on my own.

It is not fun to admit, but it does help me recognize that I have a need for a Savior that does not end with a prayer or by Sunday perfect attendance. It is daily saying to Jesus, as Matt’s werewolf friend does in the book, “I am Your servant.”

There’s more at Becky Miller’s blog, where she updates all posts for the tour. Hurry on over and see what others are saying.

Also, I should disclose that I was sent a review copy from the publisher. Any and all silliness is solely my own.

The Adoration Of Jenna Fox

Jenna Fox can’t lace her fingers together.
Her fingers look perfectly fine. They just don’t go together well. A classmate tells her she has an odd walk. But she used to do ballet. At least that’s what she’s been told by her parents.
She can’t remember it though.
Seventeen year old Jenna Fox wakes up in California, a stranger in her body. She had an accident that put her in a coma, and now she can’t remember most of her previous life.
She was an only child, so her doting parents have numerous videos of her life. She’s encouraged to watch them as she tries to regain what she’s lost.
Jenna feels like she’s not being told everything. Her grandmother who lives with them is distant and cold, unlike the loving Grandma in the videos. And when she visits her neighbor and he offers her a chance to feed the birds, they won’t eat from her handful of birdseed. They only choose the neighbor.
So just who is Jenna Fox?
We all received books for Christmas in my family. The Adoration Of Jenna Fox by Mary E Pearson was my request. It may seem weird for a middle aged guy to want a young adult novel, but this book intrigued me with its premise of mystery in the midst of bioethics. Oh, and the cover rocks.
 It didn’t disappoint.
The book is written in present tense from Jenna’s point of view, which is a perfect way to tell her story – as she discovers her new life and old one, we experience it with her.
The structure is a little disjointed early on. Chapters seem random and are set apart in varying ways, not with the typical stop, blank page, and clear title and beginning into the next part. It made getting into the book a little challenging. However, it makes sense when considering Jenna’s fragmented memory. Once I got into it, I wanted to discover what Jenna’s secret was and how it was going to affect her. (I knew more about the plot going into it than I am giving here – I don’t want it spoiled for new readers).
The book is set in a near future where there are some amazing medical advances, but with any progress comes questions and unintended consequences. Adoration does a very good job of introducing issues to think about in the framework of the story. I don’t know how much it would make a teen think of bioethical issues, but as a medical professional I thought it was well done and should provoke thought. One of my favorite philosophers is Ian Malcolm from Jurrasic Park when he says, “Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.”
Adoration has humorous moments, stakes that become higher than just Jenna finding herself, and a lot of suspense. The ending may be too tidy, but it is satisfying, and it looks like Pearson managed to work a sequel into it still, The Fox Inheritance, which I haven’t read yet.
I recommend this book for teens, those interested in bioethics or medical fiction, and those who like near future “what ifs”. It is a good read that can provoke thinking – a crazy thing, right?

The Adoration Of Jenna Fox

Jenna Fox can’t lace her fingers together.
Her fingers look perfectly fine. They just don’t go together well. A classmate tells her she has an odd walk. But she used to do ballet. At least that’s what she’s been told by her parents.
She can’t remember it though.
Seventeen year old Jenna Fox wakes up in California, a stranger in her body. She had an accident that put her in a coma, and now she can’t remember most of her previous life.
She was an only child, so her doting parents have numerous videos of her life. She’s encouraged to watch them as she tries to regain what she’s lost.
Jenna feels like she’s not being told everything. Her grandmother who lives with them is distant and cold, unlike the loving Grandma in the videos. And when she visits her neighbor and he offers her a chance to feed the birds, they won’t eat from her handful of birdseed. They only choose the neighbor.
So just who is Jenna Fox?
We all received books for Christmas in my family. The Adoration Of Jenna Fox by Mary E Pearson was my request. It may seem weird for a middle aged guy to want a young adult novel, but this book intrigued me with its premise of mystery in the midst of bioethics. Oh, and the cover rocks.
 It didn’t disappoint.
The book is written in present tense from Jenna’s point of view, which is a perfect way to tell her story – as she discovers her new life and old one, we experience it with her.
The structure is a little disjointed early on. Chapters seem random and are set apart in varying ways, not with the typical stop, blank page, and clear title and beginning into the next part. It made getting into the book a little challenging. However, it makes sense when considering Jenna’s fragmented memory. Once I got into it, I wanted to discover what Jenna’s secret was and how it was going to affect her. (I knew more about the plot going into it than I am giving here – I don’t want it spoiled for new readers).
The book is set in a near future where there are some amazing medical advances, but with any progress comes questions and unintended consequences. Adoration does a very good job of introducing issues to think about in the framework of the story. I don’t know how much it would make a teen think of bioethical issues, but as a medical professional I thought it was well done and should provoke thought. One of my favorite philosophers is Ian Malcolm from Jurrasic Park when he says, “Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.”
Adoration has humorous moments, stakes that become higher than just Jenna finding herself, and a lot of suspense. The ending may be too tidy, but it is satisfying, and it looks like Pearson managed to work a sequel into it still, The Fox Inheritance, which I haven’t read yet.
I recommend this book for teens, those interested in bioethics or medical fiction, and those who like near future “what ifs”. It is a good read that can provoke thinking – a crazy thing, right?

Good Reads

Are you done with your shopping? Need some last minute Christmas gift ideas? Never fear!

Here at Spoiled for the Ordinary we specialize in randomness, so a shopping guide is perfect.

I’ve seen a lot of pitches for giving a book this Christmas, to encourage the year-long gift of reading and learning. However, many people end up buying a series with long waiting times in between books. You don’t want your loved ones to be frustrated!

That’s why I’ve listed several series that have several books already published. Most are completed, so you can get the whole series, or at least have several books to read before you need another one – giving the author a chance to catch up to you.

Remember, if one book is a good gift, three or four are even better!
+++

If they like historical action with a dash of controversy a la “The DaVinci Code,” then consider The Gifted series by Lisa T. Bergren. Set in 1300’s Italy, a group called by God with special gifts must navigate the power plays of Catholic leadership and the darkness of Lord Abramo Amidei. I  recently picked up the first book The Begotten for a minute and ended up reading the whole book again. Engrossing – and much better than Dan Brown.

One of the most unique characters in literature right now is The Bug Man, Nick Polchak. He’s a forensic entomologist who is brilliant with science and clueless socially. Tim Downs writes this series and his sense of humor, suspenseful stories, and trademark ick factor of a CSI show makes each one a treat. Several can be read stand alone, but he is working them as a series with the last several ones.

How about a little more alternative history? Stephen Lawhead is one of the best mythological writers out there. He loves to tie into old tales and bring them to life in his fiction. In The Raven King series, he does his own take on Robin Hood, taking him from Sherwood Forest in England and settling him into the dark woods of medieval Wales. An excellent series.

A little more modern? Try the series of coming to age tales in the deep South starting in the 1940’s, only with a spiritual warfare twist: The Black or White Chronicles by John Aubrey Anderson. The first book, Abiding Darkness, made me laugh and cry on the same bus ride. The next two books were just as engaging. After a publisher change, I have started into book four, The Cool Woman.

Current trends support superhero powers – just look at the hit movies from the summer of 2011! If you’re looking for that in book form, you can’t beat Robin Parrish and his Dominion Trilogy. When the main character gets Shifted into a new, powerful body with amazing powers, he finds other people wearing similar rings as him, with varied superhuman abilities. He also finds a conspiracy tracing through time, waiting for the moment with he would arrive! Suspenseful to the nth degree, Robin writes a literary comic book that rocks.

Maybe they need a laugh. You can’t beat Rene Gutteridge for this, and her Occupational Hazards books will keep you in stitches. The Hazard family grew up homeschooled and helping their parents with a clown business. When the parents die in a tragic hot tub accident, the different siblings look to make their way in the world. Their innocent faith and honest integrity lead them to a news room, an airline spy, and working as an undercover cop with fits and giggles.

If they need a book to challenge their grey matter, then check out the Chronicles of Chaos series by John C. Wright. When the Titans of old are force to live in an English boarding house, they discover burgeoning powers that bend physics and mythology into a strange, wonderful blend. If you like quantum mechanics mixed with your Greek gods, then this is the series for you!

If you’re looking at the young adult set, my first and best recommendation is The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. Three children wonder about their place in the world, living under the oppresion of the Fangs of Dang. If only they knew they were the fabled Jewels of Anniera, and that they were destined to rule a fabled land. If they don’t get eaten by toothy cows first. Whimsy, lyrical, touching, and just too much fun, these books are worth adult reading as well!

Last but not least, there’s a great suspense series set in my own state of Idaho that will keep you up at night. Brandilyn Collins specializes in Seatbelt Suspense (meaning you better hang on!). In her Kanner Lake series, a small Idaho mountain town and its quirky residents must confront evil when murder and mayhem shakes up their idyllic setting. These books defy being put down, and also make lack of sleep a distinct option (from staying up too late reading or being too scared to turn out the lights – both are known to happen).

I hope you’ve enjoyed this special service. May your Christmas be full of joy and your tree stocked with good reading for 2012!

Good Reads

Are you done with your shopping? Need some last minute Christmas gift ideas? Never fear!

Here at Spoiled for the Ordinary we specialize in randomness, so a shopping guide is perfect.

I’ve seen a lot of pitches for giving a book this Christmas, to encourage the year-long gift of reading and learning. However, many people end up buying a series with long waiting times in between books. You don’t want your loved ones to be frustrated!

That’s why I’ve listed several series that have several books already published. Most are completed, so you can get the whole series, or at least have several books to read before you need another one – giving the author a chance to catch up to you.

Remember, if one book is a good gift, three or four are even better!
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If they like historical action with a dash of controversy a la “The DaVinci Code,” then consider The Gifted series by Lisa T. Bergren. Set in 1300’s Italy, a group called by God with special gifts must navigate the power plays of Catholic leadership and the darkness of Lord Abramo Amidei. I  recently picked up the first book The Begotten for a minute and ended up reading the whole book again. Engrossing – and much better than Dan Brown.

One of the most unique characters in literature right now is The Bug Man, Nick Polchak. He’s a forensic entomologist who is brilliant with science and clueless socially. Tim Downs writes this series and his sense of humor, suspenseful stories, and trademark ick factor of a CSI show makes each one a treat. Several can be read stand alone, but he is working them as a series with the last several ones.

How about a little more alternative history? Stephen Lawhead is one of the best mythological writers out there. He loves to tie into old tales and bring them to life in his fiction. In The Raven King series, he does his own take on Robin Hood, taking him from Sherwood Forest in England and settling him into the dark woods of medieval Wales. An excellent series.

A little more modern? Try the series of coming to age tales in the deep South starting in the 1940’s, only with a spiritual warfare twist: The Black or White Chronicles by John Aubrey Anderson. The first book, Abiding Darkness, made me laugh and cry on the same bus ride. The next two books were just as engaging. After a publisher change, I have started into book four, The Cool Woman.

Current trends support superhero powers – just look at the hit movies from the summer of 2011! If you’re looking for that in book form, you can’t beat Robin Parrish and his Dominion Trilogy. When the main character gets Shifted into a new, powerful body with amazing powers, he finds other people wearing similar rings as him, with varied superhuman abilities. He also finds a conspiracy tracing through time, waiting for the moment with he would arrive! Suspenseful to the nth degree, Robin writes a literary comic book that rocks.

Maybe they need a laugh. You can’t beat Rene Gutteridge for this, and her Occupational Hazards books will keep you in stitches. The Hazard family grew up homeschooled and helping their parents with a clown business. When the parents die in a tragic hot tub accident, the different siblings look to make their way in the world. Their innocent faith and honest integrity lead them to a news room, an airline spy, and working as an undercover cop with fits and giggles.

If they need a book to challenge their grey matter, then check out the Chronicles of Chaos series by John C. Wright. When the Titans of old are force to live in an English boarding house, they discover burgeoning powers that bend physics and mythology into a strange, wonderful blend. If you like quantum mechanics mixed with your Greek gods, then this is the series for you!

If you’re looking at the young adult set, my first and best recommendation is The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. Three children wonder about their place in the world, living under the oppresion of the Fangs of Dang. If only they knew they were the fabled Jewels of Anniera, and that they were destined to rule a fabled land. If they don’t get eaten by toothy cows first. Whimsy, lyrical, touching, and just too much fun, these books are worth adult reading as well!

Last but not least, there’s a great suspense series set in my own state of Idaho that will keep you up at night. Brandilyn Collins specializes in Seatbelt Suspense (meaning you better hang on!). In her Kanner Lake series, a small Idaho mountain town and its quirky residents must confront evil when murder and mayhem shakes up their idyllic setting. These books defy being put down, and also make lack of sleep a distinct option (from staying up too late reading or being too scared to turn out the lights – both are known to happen).

I hope you’ve enjoyed this special service. May your Christmas be full of joy and your tree stocked with good reading for 2012!