Tag: Christian Fiction

What's one thing you'd like to see less of in Christian fiction? Why?

Bookish Question 117 | What’s one thing you’d like to see less of in Christian fiction?

If you’ve read my posts over the last two weeks, then this week’s answer probably won’t come as much of a surprise.

Two weeks ago, we talked about edgy Christian fiction, and how did I see edgy. My answer: fiction that reflects all of us, not just white middle class feel-good safe fiction.

Last week, we talked about what we’d like to see more of in Christian fiction. My answer: Jesus.

So what do you think I’d like to see less of in Christian fiction?

I’d like to see less cultural Christianity and more real faith. Less WASP and more diversity. Less America and more international. Less sanitised “safe” content, and more delving into real issues affecting real Christians (and non-Christians).

I live in New Zealand, which has been called a post-Christian culture for over twenty years. In New Zealand, people might go to church out of habit, but they don’t go just because all the neighbours go and going to church is the “done” thing. People go to church to meet with God and fellowship with other believers—which isn’t the impression I get from a lot of Christian fiction.

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So that’s what I’d like to see in Christian fiction: less sanitised church and more real Jesus.

What do you think? What would you like to see less of in Christian fiction? Why?

What's one thing you'd like to see more of in Christian fiction? Why?

Bookish Question #116 | What’s one thing you’d like to see more of in Christian fiction?

Jesus.

You’d think that Jesus Christ would be a central feature of a genre called “Christian fiction”.

Yet he’s not. An increasing number of Christian fiction publishers are owned by multinational media corporations, so they have no moral or religious compunction to ensure that “Christian fiction” actually shares Jesus Christ. As a result, I’ve seen an increasing number of “Christ-lite” titles from the larger traditional Christian publishers.

Don’t get me wrong: there is a need for “Christ-lite” titles.

A non-Christian isn’t going to pick up Redeeming Love or This Present Darkness. They’re reading The Da Vinci Code and Fifty Shades. There is a need for Christian authors to write books that appeal to the unsaved, but which thread Christian messages into their stories. There are many Christian authors writing in the general market, sharing messages of love and hope that reference Christianity lightly and will hopefully plant a seed or two.

But I expect more from Christian publishers.

I expect Christian fiction—novels with characters who are definitely (and sometimes defiantly) Christian. Characters who make mistakes and sin, but who experience God’s grace and change. Characters who look to God first, who show what it means to be a Christ follower in an increasingly secular world. Characters who teach us how to better live as Christians—either by what they do, or by what they don’t do.

Once upon a time, Christian fiction that included Jesus was normal. But at some point, it became abnormal, to the point where Christian fiction with an active spiritual thread is practically edgy.

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That’s why I’d like to see more Jesus in Christian fiction.

What about you? What’s one thing you’d like to see more of in Christian fiction? Why?

New Releases in Christian Fiction

New Releases in Christian Fiction | July 2019

It’s July (already), which means we’re halfway through 2019 (already). I’m not sure how I feel about that … Anyway, a new month means more new releases and more books to add to the to-read pile. What’s on your to-read pile for July?

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

Hometown Hope by Laurel Blount — In the three years since her mother’s death, widower Hoyt Bradley’s daughter, Jess, hasn’t spoken—until she suddenly begs him to save her favorite bookstore from closing. Hoyt is desperate to hear his daughter’s voice again, but he and the bookstore’s pretty owner, Anna Delaney, share a less-than-friendly past. Working together is complicated enough…but can they avoid falling in love? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

A Heart Surrendered by Joy K. Massenburge — Since her teens, pastor’s daughter Sharonda Peterson devoted her life to church service and solitude after the one night she gave Carl Ray Everhart everything. Sobered by a near-death experience, prodigal Carl returns home from an acting and singing career to serve as the worship leader at Sheronda’s church, and she finds that it takes every ounce of her resolve to resist his pursuits … not to mention memories that threaten to overturn the delicate balance she’s created. Can she finally surrender the one thing she’s tried all these years to protect: her heart? (Contemporary Romance from Harambee Press [Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas])

Starting Anew by Melanie D. Snitker — He’s afraid to trust. She has a secret that could change everything between them. Will they let go of their fear, or allow it to rob them of their chance at happiness? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Historical:

Underestimating Miss Cecilia by Carolyn Miller — Can shy, sweet Cecilia overcome her family’s prejudice to see a future with the recently returned prodigal son from next door? (Historical from Kregel Publications)

This one is definitely on my to-read list!

Benaiah: Might Man of God by PH Thompson — A novel of Biblical, historical fiction about Benaiah, one of King David’s mighty men, examining the premise: What happens when the king’s most obedient soldier is issued a wicked command? (Historical/Biblical from Word Alive Press)

Historical Romance:

Waltz with Destiny by Catherine Ulrich Brakefield — When the men and women of World War II marched off to war, they didn’t know what lay ahead. All they knew was that upon their young and inexperienced shoulders rested the plight of the free world. (Historical Romance from CrossRiver Media Group)

Thimbles and Threads by Mary Davis, Grace Hitchcock, Suzanne Norquist, and Liz Tolsma — Enjoy four historical romances that celebrate the arts of sewing and quilting. When Tilly, a schoolteacher; Alice, a bridal shop owner; Sarah, a seamstress; and Melissa, a rag doll designer, put needle and thread to fabric, will their talents lead to the surprising gift of love? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Refiner’s Fire by J.M. Hochstetler
Will the promise their hearts cling to finally find joyful fulfillment, or will war’s refining fire separate them forever? (Historical Romance from Sheaf House Publishers)

Where Dandelions Bloom by Tara Johnson — To escape an arranged marriage, Cassie Kendrick enlists in the Union army as a man, taking the name Thomas Turner. On the battlefields of the Civil War, keeping her identity a secret is only the beginning of her problems, especially after she meets Gabriel Avery, a handsome young photographer. Anxious to make his mark on the world and to erase past guilt, Gabriel works with renowned photographer Matthew Brady to capture images from the front lines of the war. As Gabriel forges friendships along the way, he wonders what the courageous, unpredictable Thomas Turner is hiding. Battling betrayal, their own personal demons, and a country torn apart by war, can Cassie and Gabriel forgive themselves and trust their futures to the God who births hope and healing in the darkest places? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

I haven’t read Tara Johnson’s fiction before, but I’ve heard great things. This one is also on my to-read list.

The Express Bride by Kimberly Woodhouse — Jacqueline Rivers manages a Pony Express station in 1860 Utah territory after her father’s death. There are daily stresses placed on her in this unconventional role—and now a government official is asking her to sniff out counterfeiters. When Elijah Johnson passes through on the stage while on an exhausting quest to find his boss’s heir, he doesn’t want to leave the beguiling station manager. In fact, he may never leave when caught in the crossfire of the territory’s criminal activities. Can she remain strong when secrets of the past and present are finally unearthed? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

Legacy Rejected by Robin Patchen — She’s not giving up her home, no matter what threats come against her. Realtor Ginny Lamont’s family has abandoned her, leaving her with nothing but a warning that she’s in danger. But Ginny’s built a home in New Hampshire. After a childhood of nomadic living, she’s not running again, certainly not because of some nameless, baseless threat. Real estate developer Kade Powers is thrilled to go out with Nutfield’s beautiful new real estate agent. But the prowler they surprise after their first date offers a glimpse into Ginny’s past and the legacy of lies her parents left her with. She brings a mystery, one he’s determined to help her solve. With Kade’s help, Ginny searches for the truth of her parents’ criminal activity while her enemies close in. When mobsters show up in her quaint New England town, will she find a way to bring them down, or will she lose the home—and the man—she’s come to love? (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Suspense:

Storm Rising by Ronie Kendig — Mentioned in the pages of the Old Testament but lost to history, the Book of the Wars has resurfaced, and its pages hold secrets–and dangers–never before seen on earth. Tasked with capturing the ancient text, former Navy SEAL Leif Metcalfe is once more given command of his own team. But their best efforts are ruined when a notorious Bulgarian operative known as Viorica snatches the volume right out from under them. Iskra “Viorica” Todorova is determined to use the book to secure the thing that matters most–freedom. But a series of strange storms erupts around the globe, and the coming dangers foretold in the text threaten crops, lives, and entire nations. Though both are haunted by secrets of their past and neither trusts the other, Leif and Iskra must form an uneasy alliance to thwart impending disaster. However, the truth hidden in centuries-old words could unleash a storm of their own destruction. (Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Speculative:

The Story Raider by Lindsay A. Franklin — Deceiving an empire is a treacherous game. Tanwen and the Corsyth weavers race to collect the strands of an ancient cure that might save Gryfelle. But Tanwen has a secret–Gryfelle isn’t the only one afflicted by the weaver’s curse. As Queen Braith struggles to assert her rule, a new arrival throws her tenuous claim to the Tirian throne into question. Braith’s heart is turned upside down, and she’s not sure she can trust anyone–least of all herself. The puppet master behind Gareth’s rise to power has designs on Tanwen and the story weavers, and will stop at nothing to reclaim the throne. A plot to incite the angry peasants of Tir takes shape, and those dearest to Tanwen will be caught in the crossfire. As the fight for Tir consumes the realm, no one can remain innocent. (Speculative from Enclave Publishing)

What’s on your to-read pile for July?

Do you read more or less Christian fiction than five years ago?

Bookish Question 106 | Do you read more or less Christian fiction than five years ago?

Less. Or should that be fewer?

Whatever. I’ve been recording my books read on Goodreads since 2010, and have set (and achieved) my target number of books read each year since 2011. My target this year is 150 books, which is a lot less than the 201 books I read in 2014.

So, yes, I’m reading less Christian fiction than I did five years ago.

But that’s because I’m reading fewer books overall than five years ago, not because I’ve consciously moved away from reading Christian fiction. If anything, a larger proportion of my fiction reading is Christian fiction.

However, I am also making more of an effort to read books on writing craft or marketing this year. If I stick with that, it might further reduce the number of Christian novels I finish in 2019.

What about you? Do you read more or less Christian fiction than you did five years ago?

How do you define Christian fiction?

Bookish Question #104 | How do you define Christian fiction?

I’ve actually written several longish blog posts on this. Rather than rehashing my entire train of thought, I’ll give you the highlights and link to my previous posts.

Fiction written by a Christian author may or may not be Christian fiction.

Christian authors may write for the general market, or for the Christian market. I don’t think you can classify fiction written for the general market as “Christian fiction” even if it’s written by a Christian and has underlying Christian values. That’s not what the market wants. Also, lots of books have underlying Christian values—even Star Wars. That doesn’t make Star Wars Christian fiction.

I’m sceptical of any “Christian fiction” that isn’t written by a Christian.

That, to me, is someone trying to cash in on a market segment, and I don’t think it’s honest. Yes, Christians can write general market fiction with underlying Christian values—that’s us being in the world but not of the world. But I don’t think non-Christians should be writing Christian fiction any more than I think Christians should be writing general market LGBTQIA erotica, or Islamic romance. It’s disrespectful and dishonest.

So I think Christian fiction is written by a Christian, and aimed at Christian readers.

It will reflect and reinforce mainstream Christian values and beliefs (e.g. the Apostle’s Creed). It won’t divide readers over doctrinal differences. And the content will be consistent with the Bible—it won’t gloss over sin, but it won’t be a how-to manual either. Great Christian fiction leaves the reader feeling they’ve learned an eternal truth about God or how we can know Him better.

How do you define Christian fiction? By the author? The publisher? The intended reader? The content? #BookishQuestion #ChristianFiction Click To Tweet

Here are some blog posts which go into more detail:

What about you? How do you define Christian fiction?

It is in tackling the new and the scary that we become who we are meant to be.

Book Review | A Desperate Hope by Elizabeth Camden

Alex Duval has the dubious honour of being mayor of a town that’s about to disappear.

New York needs water, which means New York needs a reservoir. That new reservoir will flood Alex’s town in the near future. Sure, the State Water Board is offering compensation, but that doesn’t change the fact that two hundred years of family and town history will soon be buried at the bottom of a lake.

So Alex is less than impressed when a team arrives to survey the land and assess the buildings for compensation. He’s even less impressed when he realises the accountant who will determine how much the government will pay for each house is his first love, Eloise, who he hasn’t heard from in ten years despite his efforts.

Eloise isn’t exactly happy to be in town either, especially when she realises Alex is still there. She has no desire to be party to the destruction of this town, but it’s her job. Yet as she gets to know the town—and the townspeople—she wants things to be different.

Elizabeth Camden’s novels never fail to impress me, and A Desperate Hope is no exception.

As with her earlier novels, it combines complex characters with an intricate plot that incorporates an intriguing aspect of history, and a suspense element. This series has focussed on one of the major challenges of industrialisation: water.

The first book looked at some of the innovations in indoor plumbing. You might not think of plumbing as fascinating, but Elizabeth Camden turned it into a riveting read. Another looked at the importance of clean water, and the scientific battle between filtration and chemical treatment. Both were a combination of good fiction with intriguing historical detail, and a woman in a non-traditional occupation.

A Desperate Hope is the same. There is a problem, but solving that problem is going to take some innovative engineering thinking … and I don’t want to say more, because that would be a spoiler.

I recommend A Desperate Hope to all historical fiction fans, whether they’ve read the earlier books in the series (A Dangerous Legacy and A Daring Venture) or not.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Elizabeth Camden

Elizabeth Camden is a research librarian at a small college in central Florida. Her novels have won the coveted RITA and Christy Awards. She has published several articles for academic publications and is the author of four nonfiction history books. Her ongoing fascination with history and love of literature have led her to write inspirational fiction. Elizabeth lives with her husband near Orlando, Florida.

Find Elizabeth Camden online at:

Website | Facebook

About A Desperate Hope

Eloise Drake’s prim demeanor hides the turbulent past she’s finally put behind her–or so she thinks. A mathematical genius, she’s now a successful accountant for the largest engineering project in 1908 New York. But to her dismay, her new position puts her back in the path of the man responsible for her deepest heartbreak.

Alex Duval is the mayor of a town about to be wiped off the map. The state plans to flood the entire valley where his town sits in order to build a new reservoir, and Alex is stunned to discover the woman he once loved on the team charged with the demolition. With his world crumbling around him, Alex devises a risky plan to save his town–but he needs Eloise’s help to succeed.

Alex is determined to win back the woman he thought he’d lost forever, but even their combined ingenuity may not be enough to overcome the odds against them before it’s too late.

You can find A Desperate Hope online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads

You can read the introduction to A Desperate Hope at:

Book Review | Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof

Aven was born in Ireland, married from the workhouse, widowed in Norway, and has now arrived in Blackbird Mountain, Virginia, to the only family she has left—even though it’s a distant link. She to find Aunt Dorothe is dead and “the boys”—Dorothea’s beloved nephews—are full grown men. Jorgan, the oldest, is betrothed. Thor, the middle brother, is Deaf. And Haakon, the youngest is full of fun. These are the three Sons of Blackbird Mountain.

The brothers invite Aven to stay—although she doesn’t have many options. She wonders if she’s made the right decision after the family receives a late-night visit from the neighbours. It appears the Klan don’t like Thor’s habit of hiring Negroes, even if they are the hardest workers. Despite the neighbours, Aven is becoming attached to the family, and especially to Thor.

One of the most interesting aspects of Sons of Blackbird Mountain was the character of Thor.

Thor has been Deaf since birth. He reads lips, and communicates through American Sign Language (ASL), and through writing notes. It’s fascinating to read this insight into Deaf life and culture in a time gone by. Thor is interesting for another reason: he’s in charge of the family cidery, brewing beverages that keep the family in fine style.

And he’s an alcoholic.

That’s an issue for Aven, because her late husband was an alcoholic, and it killed him. She’s initially afraid of Thor, but soon learns to trust him. But not completely. Not while he’s dependent on alcohol.

So Sons of Blackbird Mountain has plenty of conflict, and plenty of issues for the characters to deal with. It’s a gripping read with fascinating and original characters, and plenty of emotion. The writing is strong, although Bischof does have this weird habit of using odd sentence fragments—something I love in contemporary fiction, but which feels out of place in a historical novel. But that’s a minor niggle in an otherwise strong novel.

Overall, I recommend Sons of Blackbird Mountain for historical fiction lovers, especially those who like reading about small mountain communities.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Joanne Bischof

Joanne Bischof is an ACFW Carol Award and ECPA Christy Award-winning author. She writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the heartstrings. She was honored to receive the San Diego Christian Writers Guild Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon conference.

Joanne’s 2016 novel, The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from RT Book Reviews, among other critical acclaim. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her three children.

You can find Joanne Bischof online at:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

About Sons of Blackbird Mountain

A Tale of Family, Brotherhood, and the Healing Power of Love

After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of nineteenth-century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred-acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.

But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.

As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?

A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.

Find Sons of Blackbird Mountain online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

Read the introduction to Sons of Blackbird Mountain below:

What novel has influenced you the most, and why?

Bookish Question #97 | What novel has influenced you the most, and why?

Novels are stories. But novelists can use fiction to illustrate eternal truths, just as Jesus did with the parables. The best novels are those where those eternal truths are woven in so well that we remember them, and they positively influence the way we live our future lives.

So what novel has influenced me the most, and why?

There are many. This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti opened my eyes to the reality of spiritual warfare.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers exposed the human cost of lust and greed, and showed the everlasting love of God.

And the Shofar Blew by Francine Rivers showed the danger of putting spiritual leaders on a pedestal. This was written during the excesses of the 1980s teleevangelists, but needs to be reread in the light of our social media and reality TV culture.

Marcus’s mother in An Echo in the Darkness by Francine Rivers showed me how we all have a purpose in live, no matter our situation.

Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite by Lianne Simon reminded me life isn’t always black or white, right or wrong, male or female.

Grace in Strange Disguise by Christine Dillon reminded me that Christianity isn’t a free pass to an easy life.

Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter showed for the illustration of God’s sacrificial love.

The list could co on …

Novel? You mean I was only supposed to pick one? Not happening.

What about you? What novel has most influenced your life, and why?

First Line Friday

First Line Friday | Week 81 | A Desperate Hope by Elizabeth Camden

It’s First Line Friday! That means it’s time to pick up the nearest book and quote the first line. Today I’m sharing from A Desperate Hope by Elizabeth Camden:

First line from A Desperate Hope: Alex Duval's first hint of trouble was when Eloise failed to appear at their hideaway.

What’s the book nearest you, and what’s the first line?

About A Desperate Hope

Eloise Drake’s prim demeanor hides the turbulent past she’s finally put behind her–or so she thinks. A mathematical genius, she’s now a successful accountant for the largest engineering project in 1908 New York. But to her dismay, her new position puts her back in the path of the man responsible for her deepest heartbreak.

Alex Duval is the mayor of a town about to be wiped off the map. The state plans to flood the entire valley where his town sits in order to build a new reservoir, and Alex is stunned to discover the woman he once loved on the team charged with the demolition. With his world crumbling around him, Alex devises a risky plan to save his town–but he needs Eloise’s help to succeed.

Alex is determined to win back the woman he thought he’d lost forever, but even their combined ingenuity may not be enough to overcome the odds against them before it’s too late.

You can find A Desperate Hope online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads

Click the button to check out what my fabulous fellow FirstLineFriday bloggers are sharing today:

You can then click the link which will take you to the master page of all this week’s #FirstLineFriday posts.

And you can click here to check out my previous FirstLineFriday posts.

Do you read "clean reads"? How do you define clean reads?

Bookish Question #95 | Do you read “clean reads”?

Let’s reverse the questions.

I see clean reads as Christian fiction without the Christian world view. Both clean reads and Christian fiction avoid nudity, sexual content, and bad language. Most also avoid violence. But Christian fiction has a Christian thread of some kind: Christian characters or Christian themes. Clean reads doesn’t.

Do I read clean reads?

Yes. Some of it is marketed as clean reads (Amazon has a clean and wholesome category). Some of it is marketed as Christian fiction, but has little or no Christian content. I’m finding an increasing number of novels from the big-name Christian publishers fall into this category, and it’s a trend I have mixed feelings about.

On one hand, I feel slightly disappointed when I pick up a novel expecting it to be Christian fiction, but find it’s “Christian lite”. On the other hand, I believe Christian authors and publishers need to consider how we reach the unchurched rather than preaching to the choir. Non-Christians aren’t shopping in Christian bookstores. They don’t visit the faith or inspirational section of major book chains. So how are we going to reach them?

Here’s an example.

Last year I read a review of The Secret to Hummingbird Cake by Celeste Fletcher McHale, published by Thomas Nelson. The review criticised the novel for not being sufficiently “Christian”. But one of the commenters said that same “not Christian” novel led her to Christ.

Wow.

She said her (Christian) neighbour loaned her the book, but she’d never have read it if it had been obviously Christian fiction.

That example shows me the importance of Christians writing clean reads—novels that often reflect Christian values even if there is no mention of God or Jesus or the Christian faith.

Maybe I should be reading more “clean reads”. What about you? Do you read clean reads? Can you recommend some good authors?