Archive for September, 2014

CSFF Blog Tour: Rebels

Book Reviews | Posted by Shannon
Sep 30 2014

At the ripe old age of forty, all the citizens of the Safe Lands are “liberated”, sent by their government into Bliss. No one is certain what, exactly, that means, but Omar and Mason are about to find out. “Find pleasure in Bliss,” the liberator says, but it won’t be easy.

Meanwhile, in the Safe Lands, the subversion of the Glenrock exiles and the separatist Kindred continues.

Rebels is the final book of the Safe Lands Trilogy, written by Jill Williamson. This dystopian series, set fifty years and more into the future, is intended for teens but suited for older audiences, though not necessarily younger ones. Williamson deals with heavy themes, such as addiction, temptation, and promiscuity.

As the last book in its series, Rebels delivers on the promises of the preceding books, unveiling long-maintained mysteries and bringing character arcs to realistic and satisfying conclusions. I thought Williamson showed very good judgment about what, in the story, needed to be solved or answered, and what could be left open. Not everything was absolutely concluded, but the story ended with a sense of completion. It’s a fine line for an author between a story that feels unresolved and a story that feels like it goes on after the book is closed, but Williamson managed to walk it.

There were some twists in this book. I liked the surprise role of Luella Flynn, and the idea of the truth as the “lynchpin”. The truth is dangerous to a society built on lies.

However – and I need to turn on my SPOILER ALERT here – I thought it strange that such a controlling government did so little to keep the truth from coming out. Could no one think to cut the power to the ColorCast? I also think Rebels would have done a better job of selling the downfall of the Safe Lands government if it had evoked more powerfully a sense of chaos in the city. It mentioned riots – but only briefly, and only after the climax was over. If our heroes had confronted the Ancients while the city was engulfed in riots, it would have made the rulers’ capitulation more believable, and the story itself more exciting.

Now, SPOILER ALERT OFF.

The level of typos in this book was, for a professionally produced book, high; I don’t know if the publisher had a too-tight deadline or a shortage of copyeditors, but I suspect the problem goes beyond this particular novel. I noticed errors in the last book I read by this publisher, though notably fewer.

Rebels is a strong conclusion to the Safe Lands Trilogy, bringing the characters to complex, realistic fates and completing the Safe Lands as a convincing, chilling dystopia. Recommended, with its preceding books, to readers of sci-fi and dystopian.


In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

CSFF Blog Tour: Captives, Outcasts, Rebels

Culture | Posted by Shannon
Sep 29 2014

Today we begin the CSFF blog tour of … wait a minute, it’s in my notes … Rebels. Yes, that’s it: Rebels, by Jill Williamson.

Rebels is the third and final book of the Safe Lands Trilogy. All the books have titles that consist entirely of a single noun, and there’s a common theme – it’s always people who are, shall we say, outside of society’s mainstream. But between accepting Rebels for review and actually receiving my copy, I had trouble keeping the books straight. People would ask me what book I was reviewing next, and I’d say, “I think it’s Rebels. Or maybe Outcasts. It’s in that series.”

Sometimes I’d try to figure it out in my head, and I had trouble getting it right, especially because I thought one of the books might be called Exiles. (Which, in fact, none of them are, but my reason should be obvious: It’s a noun, a one-word title, and it means people who are, among other things, outside of society’s mainstream.)

So here are the books of the Safe Lands Trilogy, in order and all with their correct titles: Captives, Outcasts, and Rebels. After touring Captives and Outcasts, we will now conclude our review of the trilogy with this week’s tour of Rebels.

Here, then, is Rebels on Amazon, and also Jill Williamson’s website, and of course, the blog roll:

Julie Bihn
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Vicky DealSharingAunt
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rebekah Gyger
Jeremy Harder
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Melanie @ Christian Bookshelf Reviews
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Writer Rani
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Elizabeth Williams

Into the Rabbit Hole and Through the Looking Glass

Literature | Posted by Shannon
Sep 25 2014

It has been exactly two weeks since I last posted. I did blog last week, over at Speculative Faith; the weeks when you don’t find me here, I’m usually over there. Next week, however, is the CSFF blog tour of Rebels, and I’ll be posting on SpecFaith and my own blog.

In the meantime, I would like to report that I have read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. As with all classics, there’s a sense of accomplishment just in having read it, as if I have now entered a little more fully into the enormous cultural heritage of western civilization. Also, my siblings read the Alice books back in a distant childhood fad, and now I’ve finally caught up with them.

I’ve always known something about Alice in Wonderland. I saw the old Disney movie a number of times – a largely faithful, if highly selective, amalgam of the two books (mostly the first). I’ve heard the quotations: ‘Curiouser and curiouser!’ ‘Sentence first; verdict afterward.’ ‘When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean.’ ‘That’s logic.’

And everyone knows what it means to go through the looking glass.

But there were things I found in the books that were never translated into the movie, or carried through the quotations. One was Lewis Carroll’s puns. Most were amusing, and one was so bad I wouldn’t have known it was a pun if the King of Hearts hadn’t pointed it out.

Another was how Carroll did not merely have nursery rhyme characters in his books, but actually had them act out their rhymes. In fact, the Alice books educated me on nursery rhymes; before reading them, I didn’t know what rhyme was attached to Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and I had never even heard of the rhymes of the Knave of Hearts and the Lion and the Unicorn. (This last, by the way, brought about one of my favorite parts of Through the Looking Glass: The Unicorn expresses surprise over Alice, calling her a “fabulous Monster”, but eventually agrees to believe in her if she will believe in him.)

I also discovered some elements that were odd even for the Wonderland books. The scene with the Sheep, first in the store and then in the rowboat, has an elusive dreamlike quality. I didn’t care for the scene with the Duchess and the Cook; it was full of a kind of inexplicable hostility, as the Cook threw dishes at the Duchess and the Duchess sang a lullaby about beating “[her] boy when he sneezes” to her baby, giving him a shake at the end of every line. And then, bizarrely, the baby turned into a pig.

That notwithstanding, I’m glad I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I doubt there are any other books quite like them – the absurdity of Wonderland and of its citizens, who through it all took themselves quite seriously, the puns and moments of philosophy, the rampaging irrationality – and the sense that only the rational could really enjoy it, because only they could recognize it.

Blog Tour: A Different Kind of Courage

History, Literature | Posted by Shannon
Sep 11 2014

Who Was Dr. Joseph Warren?
A Guest Post by Sarah Holman

The early years of the American Revolution have been almost completely forgotten. Actually, the entire history of that war is often condensed down to these events: The Boston Tea Party, The Midnight Ride/Lexington and Concord, the Declaration of Independence, 1776, Americans win the War. Some of us know a few more details, but what do you know about the people who lived during those times? Don’t be too embarrassed. I am also describing myself a little over a year ago before I started working on A Different Kind of Courage.

It all started many years ago, when one of my favorite movies was Johnny Tremain. Being the child I was, my favorite character was the calm and kind Dr. Joseph Warren. I wanted to know more about him, but quickly found few people knew about him and there were virtually no resources on him. Years later, when reading a reference to a speech that Warren made, my interest was sparked again. This time, I had the World Wide Web at my disposal.

For the first time in years, I found myself spending hours researching. I found letters to Warren and by Warren. I found interesting facts, old books that told his story, and much more. I knew I just had to write a fictional account where Dr. Joseph Warren had a huge role.

So who was Joseph Warren? Here are a few facts:

  • He was a devoted father of four.
  • He was a writer. He drafted many documents that fueled the Revolution (just take a peek at the Suffolk Resolves or his Massacre Day speech).
  • He was a confidant of many.
  • He was a leader of the Sons of Liberty.
  • He was a man of faith (he makes many references to God and honoring Him in his letters).

To learn more about Dr. Joseph Warren, go to www.adifferentkindofcourage.blogspot.com – or you can read my historical fiction book, A Different Kind of Courage.


Sarah Holman is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and author of five published books and counting. If there is anything adventuresome about her life, it is because she serves a God with a destiny bigger than anything she could have imagined.

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A Different Kind of Courage
by Sarah Holman

July 4, 2014
202 pages

“Why did my life have to be full of secrets?”

After three years in England, William Landor returns to Boston in 1774, little knowing the events that are about to unfold.

England has issued an ultimatum: Pay for the tea that was destroyed in the Boston Tea Party, or the Port of Boston will be closed. William knows that this will have a devastating effect on his hometown, which is so dependent on the sea. However, he finds himself in the middle of the political struggle he wanted to avoid.

William’s father is a merchant and loyal to the king and is furious at what the rebels of Boston have cost him. He would like nothing more than to rid the city of their poisonous influence. Meanwhile, William’s best friend, Dr. Joseph Warren, is one of the leaders of rebels, or Whigs as they call themselves.

As if his life was not complicated enough, he meets a fiery indentured servant who tugs at his heart as well as his loyalty. When he is confronted by the consequences of his many secrets, he has to make a choice whether or not to tell the truth. Does he have the kind of courage it will take?



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Review: Unbound

Book Reviews | Posted by Shannon
Sep 05 2014

There are two things Elijah Goldsmith does not lack. The first is money. The second is ambition. It is not enough, in one year, to graduate high school and begin college at Princeton. He mixes in one more thing: Becoming a spy.

Only he doesn’t know, when he goes to Washington in the cold beginning of the year, what it really means to be a spy – what they do, what they want from him. He doesn’t know who the beautiful, talented girl training beside him really is. And he certainly doesn’t know what’s coming on Easter Day. 2066 is an appropriate year for the world to end.

Unbound is the first book of J.B. Simmons’ Omega Trilogy. It’s part spy drama , part sci-fi, and mostly End Times. I don’t often read End Times novels, and for two reasons. One, they can get depressing (the good guys lose and lose and lose, and then the world ends). Two, they can get predictable. I’ve read Revelation. I know the inevitable plot points.

Still, I have read End Times novels I liked, such as C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle (yes, it truly is) and the Swipe series by Evan Angler. And now Unbound.

Unbound operates outside the box of mainstream End Times theology, freshening and shaking up the narrative. Nor does it start out with apocalypse, but with a world running along, and which gives every indication that it will go on running.

I enjoyed the story’s setting; the futuristic aspect was well-done – hints of enormous changes in the world, and technology that felt both new and realistic. I particularly liked the small detail of the White House having been converted to a museum (and nobody knows anymore where the president lives). It’s the sort of thing that lets you know, without stopping the story to explain, that you’re in a different country.

The characters were quickly and vividly defined in the story. I was a little surprised at how fast a few characters were inserted into the story and then eliminated from it, but it’s hard to say it was wrong. And I’m not sure where to put this, so I’ll just tack it on here: There was one fleeting moment with “Jezebel” that was more than I liked.

I liked the balance struck by Elijah’s visions – neither too ordinary nor too exotic. His vision of the man had particular depth, and promised a greater spirituality in the books to come.

Unbound is a fascinating take on the End Times, a compelling mix of Revelation prophecy, sci-fi, and spy drama.


Unbound will be released September 13. Until that date, J.B. Simmons is running a giveaway of the book on Goodreads. I received a review copy of this book from the author.