Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wingfeather Saga Book Two: Fangs Strike Back!!!

I’m finding that Hollywood has a shaky record on sequels of late. The days of classic sequels like “The Empire Strikes Back” or the more recent “LOTR: The Two Towers” seem few and far between. The ‘2nd edition’ has too often been an opportunity to try to make an easy buck, piggy-backing on the buzz of the first movie by simply regurgitating or recycling a tired plot, and then jazzing it up with overdone action, CGI, or heightened skin exposure and sexual tension.

A good sequel is hard to come by.

Andrew Peterson, however, distances himself from the Hollywood norm (let that be the understatement of the century), and brings a quality sophomore book offering, something for which I am thankful.

A side note…
AP is one of my favorite music artists and lyricists, a man who loves God and his family, and who values and esteems people. He is someone who I‘ve found can get lost in the moment, sidetracked by a funny story or tangent thought, and is quick to not only draw attention to, but laugh at his miscues. He also speaks, writes and sings deeply out of his own journey, and invites people to journey with him. He has never disappointed me in concert; never let me down with a new album. I listen to his music for 3 reasons… beautiful musicianship, lyrics that grab you with richness and depth, and the winsome sharing of a heart and life through music and words that you can relate to personally.

And now that he is delving into the waters of fantasy adventure novels, I’m finding that he doesn’t disappoint there, either.

AP’s latest book in the Wingfeather Saga Series, North! Or Be Eaten was not only much-anticipated, but became the kind of ‘can’t-put-it-down,’ ‘keep-me-up-late-at-night-tired-for-work-the-next-day’ book that I was hoping it would be. I reread book one, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, to prepare myself for the sequel and to reacquaint me with the characters and story. I took OTEoTDSoD on a three week trip abroad knowing that when I got home, N!OBE would be waiting.

The Igiby Family adventure picked up seamlessly from the end of book one, with the family on the run from the Fangs of Dang, hiding in the tree house of their brother-in-law and uncle, Artham Wingfeather, Throne Warden of the Kingdom of Anniera (aka Pete the Sock Man). Their stay in Glipwood Forest is short-lived, as they are flushed out of their hiding spot by a determined army of Fangs, and hurtled forward in an adventure that gains momentum with each turn of the page.

(For those who haven’t read On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, not only is it a must read, but it introduces you to Podo Helmer, his daughter Nia Igiby, and her kids Janner, Tink and Leeli. It even tells you why Leeli’s dog Nugget is GINORMOUS, and why they are running for their lives from lizard people from another part of the planet, Aerwiar. It also tells you that the Igiby’s have a very special family history, a fact that is responsible of all their trouble with the Dang Fangs…

…so if you are out of the loop, read the first book… you can also go here for some background and helpful info)

N!OBE is definitely a notch above the first book in terms of action and adventure. The tongue-in-cheek commentary is still there, to some degree, but N!OBE is a little faster hitting. AP introduced readers to the world of Aerwiar and its inhabitants in book one, and seems to 'get after it' a bit more in book two.

Enter Gargan Rockroaches, bomnubbles, caped crusaders, and even a group of people called Stranders that are an evil, knife-wielding cross between the Herdmans (“The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever”) and the hillbilly "Darling family" (picture right) from the Andy Griffith Show. The Stranders play a pivotal role in the Igiby story and, we discover, have a curious connection to their past.

Enter suspense and betrayal, sacrifice and loss. Be ready to ride the rollercoaster of emotion as you follow the characters through hairpin plot turns and unforeseen twists. There will be at least a few moments where you fear for the lives of characters you grow to love, and hope for the demise of characters you come to despise. Heroes and villains...isn't that what makes a good story? (by the way...AP not only sets the stage for book 3, but also gives enough intriguing back story to make me think that the Wingfeather Series should have a prequel or two...)

The Igibys are joined on the adventure by Oskar N. Reteep, the owner and proprietor of Books and Crannies (a novelty bookstore in Glipwood Township, boasting the most complete collection of books and history of the people of Skree). Oskar brings his 'master of the obvious' quote repertoire to the journey, and is responsible for a LOL moment as I read.

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another side note...

One thing that I like about AP’s writing, both musically and now in his novels, is its flexibility. The books, for sure, and several of his songs have their light and whimsical side. The books can be read for pure entertainment and enjoyment. But there is the ability, too, in both music and literary realms to take a listener/reader quickly and effortlessly beyond the temporal to the eternal, while still being something tangible and relate-able. AP's flexibility, in that sense, make his 'art' attractive to kids and adults, alike, in different ways and in different settings. (And something I've found for sure... sometimes it takes a couple listens/reads before I realize that AP is communicating on a much deeper plane than I first realized)

Case in point: One can read the books as an opportunity to spend some quality time with kids, reading a great and entertaining book at bedtime... or whenever. (It's obvious that several families do just that with the Wingfeather Series).

Or... it is easy to go to a deeper level...
-the Igiby family are exiles from a distant kingdom fighting for survival in a place that is not 'home.'
-the growing pains of Janner and Tink, hesitant to know how to live out their true identities,
-the classic saga of 'good vs. evil' is the all-encompassing reality that creates the adventure

While the Igiby family has arisen from the creativity of AP's brain, it is not hard to put ourselves in their shoes and their adventure. The world of Aerwiar is a picture of ours and the story is a creative look at the lives and adventures of all who are 'pilgrims in a foreign land,' longing for home and for wholeness. The characters' challenge of identity mirror our own struggles to live with dual-world citizenship and identities that are far deeper than what we do for a living, what our national flag looks like, or what color our skin is.

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I hate to write more about the story itself, for fear of giving away the twists and turns of the plot. But suffice it to say, N!OBE was worth the wait, worth the late nights , and well worth supporting someone who knows how to produce a quality sequel.

Well done, AP! Thanks for letting us inside the creative adventure of your mind and heart. Bring on BOOK THREE!

Thanks to publicist Kelly Blewett for the opportunity to review the book!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

It's Here! Hope is here!

You can imagine how people respond when you say that you're going to spend almost 3 weeks in the Caribbean... a roll of the eyes when you mention that it's a "mission trip"... a groan of jealousy... an incredulous look that says, "seriously?"

yep...seriously.

On this side of my trip with Operation Mobilization on board the Logos Hope, I'm still processing the impact of an amazing and encouraging experience. I was deeply blessed, had my eyes opened to a pretty neat and, previously, unknown context for ministry. I also was blessed with a new network of godly people from some 43 countries.

OM has found a unique niche ministry in ports all over the world by visiting countries by ship. This spring, they finished work on the latest edition to their fleet, the Logos Hope, a former ferry boat from the Faroe Islands. The Logos Hope set sail in Europe and is now visiting the islands of the Caribbean, bringing "knowledge, help, and hope."

I was invited on this adventure by friends, Jim and Shirley
Goering, attenders of GCC where I used to serve, and
supporters of OM's ministry. (They have great hearts for God
and for people, and regularly travel to serve).

There are 350-some people on board, serving in a variety of ways-- from the 'deck crew' who help ensure the safety and reliability of the ship's operations, to the 'line up crew' who enter port cities to prepare the way months before the ship, to the 'galley and pantry crew' who serve some 1500 meals a day. That's only a fractional view of the amazing ministry taking place on board, not to mention the teams that go ashore to serve in churches, schools, and neighborhoods.

The Logos Hope has an entire deck (Deck 4) set aside for visitors. People enter the boat and purchase books from a bookstore (offering thousands of titles), hear about the ministry of OM globally, and even can buy ice cream or snacks in an onboard cafe. Throughout their time on board, these visitors have several encounters with crew members who are looking for opportunities to bless, encourage, and share eternal 'hope' with them. I was able to be with the ship on its visits to Grenada and Tobago. 43,500 people visited in St. Vincent (the port before Grenada), and close to 23,000 in Grenada. They were still coming to the ship in Tobago when I left.

I served in the galley/pantry and
then helped greet and talk to
visitors on Deck 4. Both experiences
were a blessing, and a neat look
at people using their unique gifts to serve.
And that was the lasting impression...
the "gifts of the body" in so many ways contributing to the whole of the ministry.

Another opportunity I had was to show how out of shape I was by playing with the soccer ministry team. 14 people from the ship went and played against a local club team. After the game, one of the guys from the Logos Hope shared his testimony and encouraged the young men and women to think eternally about what God has in store for their lives. I was able to 'encourage' a young man by allowing him to juke me... my ministry heart at work...

I was deeply blessed in a time of worship led by people from 10 different nations... a vivid illustration of Revelation 7...
9After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne
and in front of the Lamb.They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.10And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."

And... they even sang The Happy Song... here's a short preview from the band warmup...

video

I had some great times with Jesus... sunset devotions on deck, witnessing the amazing beauty of our "God of Wonders," and being blessed and challenged through testimonies and sharing of some very godly people...



yep... seriously...

and one final glimpse that sums up the beauty and blessing of this trip... (compliments of another gifted crew member- the ship's photographer)





Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Preview of blogs to come...

So... the blog has been silent of late... for good reason.
I'm still getting used to blogspot...
I haven't had time to blog...
I moved...
I left the country for almost 3 weeks...

But, so that I can set some goals, as well as give interested people hope... here's a preview of things to come.



...a recap of my trip to the Carribbean with OM Ships (www.om.org) aboard the Logos Hope





... a book review of Andrew Peterson's latest offering in The Wingfeather Saga series.

So... for all you faithful and patient, yet frustrated, readers.... stay tuned.

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