#BlogTour: A Step Past Darkness by Vera Kurian

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a deliciously dark and creepy multilayered supernatural murder mystery reminiscent of IT and Stranger Things. For this blog tour, we’re looking at A Step Past Darkness by Vera Kurian.

Here’s what I had to say on the review sites (Hardcover.app, TheStoryGraph, BookHype, Goodreads):

Deliciously Dark And Creepy Multi-Layered Tale Reminiscent Of IT And Stranger Things. This is one of those dual timeline tales where a group of six kids get pulled together as teens to fight off an incredible supernatural evil in their rural smalltown hometown, then as adults have to come back home to end it once and for all. So like I said in the title, pretty well a blatant homage, all these years later, to IT. And of course, some say “homage”, others say “blatant rip off”. I’ll leave that to those who choose to read both my review and Kurian’s work. But if you have problems with dual timeline or multiple perspectives… just know up front that this book isn’t for you. It is truly a great story, but meh, even I know of what I know to be *phenomenal* stories that even I simply can’t read. (Looking at you, Lord of the Rings.)

Where Kurian shines particularly brightest is in giving these characters realistic Xennial (that weird merger of the youngest of Generation X with the oldest of the Millenials) character arcs, and yes, that does include LGBT discovery for at least one character. Again, if that is a problem for you… maybe not your book here.

Particularly strongest for me personally was Maddy’s own arc, particularly as a teen, as she is deeply immersed in conservative Christian culture of the early and mid 90s – as I myself was as a male just a few years behind her in the same period and in a similar small town atmosphere. (Here, our kids are Sophomores that school year, and I was in 7th grade that year – so just 3 yrs younger than our characters.) Maddy’s arc in some ways has a lot of things that were specific to females in that culture in that era, but in a lot of other ways were common across teenagers of both sexes during this period, and this is where I connected with the story the deepest. Maddy’s struggles as she realized what was going on and her role within it, and her desperate attempts to try to change and correct things… yeah, that was the early years of my own young adult form. So again, and particularly for any females reading this – there is quite a bit of discussion and action around purity culture in the conservative evangelical American church circa the mid 90s, including some of its atrocities being actively shown “on screen”. If this is something you can’t handle exploring in fiction form 30 yrs later (OW!)… maybe not the book for you.

Overall this was a deliciously dark and creepy tale that hit so many strong notes and was so very layered and multi-dimensional… it really was quite a ride. I very much enjoyed it, and I very much look forward to seeing what Kurian thinks up next. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: A Step Past Darkness by Vera Kurian”

Featured New Release Of The Week: Make The Call by Mark Richt

This week we’re looking at a particularly well timed book by a legendary college football coach, FSU / UGA / Miami’s Mark Richt. This week we’re looking at Make The Call by Mark Richt.

God And Football. This is Mark Richt, and this book is being published by a publisher that is a division of Lifeway Christian Resources, which originated in the Southern Baptist Convention. (I am unsure at this time of Lifeway’s connection to the SBC. I know there has been news of it in the years since I left the SBC, I just haven’t followed it.) Which is to say, you gotta know up front that you’re getting a lot of talk of both football *and* God. In the 20 years I’ve been following the man, since his first games as Head Coach of the University of Georgia’s football team – when I was 18 and fresh out of high school, but attending another school just outside of Atlanta -, the man has never shied away from either topic, virtually any time you hear him speak away from the sidelines of a game.

Within that context, and particularly with the timing of this book’s release – the week of the traditional opening of the College Football season -, this book is almost a sure fired hit. *Particularly* within Georgia and UGA fans, but even with FSU fans,(since an equally large part of the book, maybe even slightly more, is dedicated to his time as an assistant at FSU under the legendary Bobby Bowden), Floridians, and even in Miami, where he ended his coaching career as the Head Coach of the University of Miami Hurricanes – the very team he had played on in college.

But really, even if you don’t *overly* like Football or God, this book has a lot of strong life lessons, lessons Richt learned along the way either from meetings or, sometimes, the hard way. Lessons that are strong enough that as long as your disdain for those two topics is only mild ish, you should read this book to see anyway. Granted, if you have an utter revulsion to either topic… eh, you’re not going to like this book. Pretty well literally every single page has both topics, and at *minimum* one or the other.

Fans of FSU in the 90s, you’re going to get to relive some of the best highlights of that era of FSU football with a man who was on the sidelines and even calling some of the very plays.

Fans of UGA from 2001 – 2015 – arguably its best 15 year run in the history of the program – you’re going to get to see a lot of the highlights – and some of the lowest of lows – here as well. From Hobnail Boot – and man, I still miss hearing Larry Munson’s voice on that play – to Blackout I (against Auburn, a W) and Blackout II (against Bama, a L where the “can’t win the big games” narrative that would ultimately get him fired from UGA really began) all the way through the meeting that made his departure from UGA at the end of the 2015 season official. (For the record, I *still* say UGA was insane for this move, though CMR himself, as expressed in this book, is at peace with it.)

Fans of Miami will get to see both his view of the program as a player in the late 70s and early 80s and as Head Coach in the late 2010s and how much had changed.

And along the way, Christians will get to see the growth and maturity of a Christian man many – many more than he will ever know himself – have respected and looked up to for many years.

Ultimately this book will play and sell better in certain circles and areas than others, but I suspect that it will do at least as good as similar books by other Christian football legends such as Tony Dungy and Tim Tebow. Which seems to be decently well indeed, given that both of those men are almost constantly on Christian bookstore shelves and often even on chain and sometimes independent bookstore shelves, period.

Very much recommended.

PS: The reason for only 4 stars after praising this book so heavily? Prooftexting. Unfortunately all too common in Christian books, including this one. And an automatic one star deduction every time I see it, no matter how strong the book may otherwise be, in my own war on the practice.