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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

House of Dark Shadows by Robert Liparulo

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing a pair of novels, House of Dark Shadows and Watcher in the Woods (Books 1 and 2 in the Dreamhouse Kings Series), Thomas Nelson (May 6, 2008), by Robert Liparulo

About the Author

Robert is an award-winning author of over a thousand published articles andshort stories. He is currently a contributing editor for New Man magazine.

His work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Travel & Leisure,
Modern Bride, Consumers Digest, Chief Executive, and The Arizona Daily Star, among other publications. In addition, he previously worked as a celebrity journalist, interviewing Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Charlton Heston, and others for magazines such as Rocky Road, Preview, and L.A. Weekly. Robert is an avid scuba diver, swimmer, reader, traveler, and a law enforcement and military enthusiast. He lives in Colorado with his wife and four children.

About the Books

House of Dark Shadows (Dreamhouse Kings Book 1)

Dream house...or bad dream? When the Kings move from L.A. to a secluded small town, fifteen-year-old Xander is beyond disappointed.
He and his friends loved to create amateur films . . . but the tiny town of
Pinedale is the last place a movie buff and future filmmaker wants to land. But he, David, and Toria are captivated by the many rooms in the old Victorian fixer-upper they moved into--as well as the heavy woods surrounding the house. They soon discover there's something odd about the house. Sounds come from the wrong directions. Prints of giant, bare feet appear in the dust. And when David tries to hide in the linen closet, he winds up in locker 119 at his new school.

Then the really weird stuff kicks in: they find a hidden hallway with portals leading off to far-off places--in long-ago times. Xander is starting to wonder if this kind of travel is a teen's dream come true . . . or his worst nightmare.

Watcher in the Woods (Dreamhouse Kings Book 2)

It's not just the house that's keeping secrets. Pretending everything's all right is harder than it sounds. But the Kings know that even if they told the truth about the bizarre things happening in their house, no one would believe them. They're hyper-focused on rescuing their lost family member before anyone finds out what's going on. But when a stranger shows up to take their house, their options start dwindling fast. Why would he be so interested in a run-down old place? And what secret is he hiding--just as he hides the scars that crisscross his body? The mystery gets stranger with each passing day. Will the Kings be able to find a way to harness the house's secrets and discover who is watching their every move before another gets snatched into an unknown world?

My Review

This creepy, action-packed story grabbed from the first sentence. It's fun. It's fast-paced. I liked the realism and humor of Xander and his family, but I must be honest about several problems I had with this novel. At the end of chapter one, the author chose to use a word in dialogue that I've always been taught is unacceptable, whether in secular or religious fiction. Unfortunately, the word appears a couple more times in the novel. Forgive me if I seem like a prude, but I must be honest. I was startled to see this word and a bit turned off. I wouldn't let my kids read this novel.

More things troubled me about this young adult novel. I checked the back cover and even glanced through the discussion guide. Is this supposed to be a "Christian" novel? I didn't see a shred of Christianity anywhere in the book! What a disappointment! And what a lost opportunity.

Something else bothered me, too. Fifteen-year-old Xander is a move-aholic. Whenever a situation comes up, he's thinking about the similarities to some movie he's seen. That's not necessarily a bad character trait, but some of these aren't movies I would think most Christian fifteen-year-olds should see or movies their parents should allow them to see. For example, one movie is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which probably has the strongest language of any movie I've ever tried to see. I know this movie is one of those "important movies," according to critics; but it's rated R for good reason, and I'd never recommend it to anyone, least of all a Christian fifteen-year-old. Xander thinks of lots of other movies, too. Star Wars. Well, I don't have a problem with that one. But The Shining? Hmmm. I'm pretty sure that rated-R movie has content problems, too.

Here's the problem for me. I grew up with strict guidelines for TV and movies, and I believe in having strict guidelines as a parent. Whenever Xander thinks approvingly of a movie, isn't he essentially recommending that movie to other young adult readers? In other words, if I have strict guidelines for my two daughters (ages six and four) on the movies they are allowed to see, he's basically recommending some movies I'd never allow my kids to see. That bothered me, especially when Thomas Nelson is marketing this novel to Christian young adults. I was also alarmed to see some teachings about lying being okay in certain situations. Huh!? I'm just being honest about how this novel struck me. The story was fun, but I was turned off by these content problems.

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