Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Can we be Pro-Life? - CSFF Blog Tour

Julie one more time with the CSFF Blog tour.

In my review of Marissa Shrock's The First Principle, I complained about the lead character Vivica's one-time-boyfriend Ben because I didn't feel that he offered any tangible support for her pregnancy, even as he insisted she keep the baby. When she tells him the news at the start of Chapter 7, he says, "And if you are (pregnant), you're not going to kill my baby" and "I'm so sorry I did this to you, but please don't punish my baby." That really got under my skin, given that the boy who had recently broken up with Vivica is now laying claim to the child inside her. He's asking--ordering!--Vivica to basically trade her current life, all her comforts, her education, and everything she knows to give birth to "his" baby, while he makes no sacrifice whatsoever. I agree that the little life growing inside her is a baby, but what claim does Ben really have to it?

But that actually helps me see why a lot of people get so upset over the pro-life movement. Many "pro-life" supporters speak out loudly against abortion, while at the same time demanding cuts to welfare benefits, insisting that the poor are not entitled to health care, and rallying against the idea of the government increasing the minimum wage at all or dictating any sort of paid parental leave. If these people have plausible alternative ideas to supporting the poor, I haven't heard them, and I'm not even liberal...  It just seems that some of the same people who loudly proclaim that abortion is murder seem to show little interest in supporting the baby inside the womb, let alone the mother carrying the baby.

I understand that Christians believe that intercourse should only take place within marriage, which would substantially reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies. And I recognize that there's a danger that if we make pregnancy look desirable, teen girls will take that as encouragement to get pregnant.

But today, many women who do have unwanted pregnancies are faced with a choice rather like Vivica's. They can risk or give up their comfort, some of their security, and at least a portion of their income or schooling, maybe their figure, and possibly lose the respect of many people they care about, Christian and non-Christian both, and have their baby. Or they can quietly get an abortion and go on as though nothing happened.

If you take God out of the equation, then it's pretty easy to disregard a fetus and tip the scales to the "keep it secret" side. And even if you do believe in God and do believe abortion is wrong...well, God seems to forgive more easily than the earthly judges some people face every day.

I know what the right choice is, and it's a brave choice, but I won't say that it is ever an easy choice.

I think it's tragic that women would ever be proud of getting abortions, and I rankle at the idea of abortion being used as "birth control." But I'm not sure that Christians are really fighting enough to support the women responsible for bringing the unborn into the world. I know there are Crisis Pregnancy Centers and the like, but is that enough support? Out here it appears the hours are limited, and the services might be too. Why aren't we making adoption an easy and viable option? Working to offer counseling and prenatal care outside of Monday-Friday? Truly cheering on and loving those women who make the brave choice not to hide, but to carry their life to term? Supporting parents as best we can?

If needed, are we willing to sacrifice a portion of own comfort and income to help those women we admonish to bring their babies to term?

Or are we basically saying, "You made a mistake, and getting rid of it is murder. You can't get an abortion. I can send you somewhere to give you some help, and that's the end of my involvement. Good luck."
James 2:14-17 (ESV)  What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Yes, Ben's demands still irritate me...but am I any better than he is...?

(Similar thoughts on the issue of "pro-life" just popped up on my Facebook feed today with Traci Schmidley's story on Medium.com.)


Click below to see what other tour members think!


Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas
Shane Werlinger

*In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I was sent a free copy of this book.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Review - The First Principle by Marissa Shrock - CSFF Blog Tour

This is Julie with the CSFF Blog tour!

Book: The First Principle by Marissa Shrock

Ridiculously simplified summary: 
The United States has collapsed into a totalitarian empire where minors receive mandatory birth control and, should that fail, abortions. When the district governor's daughter finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, she must choose between submitting to the termination of the pregnancy, or going underground with the people who would fight to remake the government...

Content: Very Evangelical, with several "conversion talks." Several violent deaths, not described in extreme detail. The lead character is a 15-year-old or 16-year-old (depending on if you believe Amazon's description or Rebecca LuElla Miller's correction below) who had sex outside of marriage and who gets pregnant. There's talk of abortion, a procedure which all "respectable" people in the society consider appropriate.

Rating:

Characters - 6 out of 10. Vivica, the main character, was interesting enough--shockingly capable of getting herself out of messy situations and gifted at computer hacking.  It's first-person but her emotions aren't made manifest in the writing, and I still don't understand her motivations. I found Ben, the object of her affections, to be rather boring and not particularly likable, while Drake (the final player in a semi-love-triangle) was infuriatingly charming and compelling. Most of the villains were painted with broad strokes, but Vivica's mother, the governor, was somewhat more nuanced. I think the portrayals were appropriate for the genre, but I was hoping for something that might work better for older readers, too.

(It was another novel where all the women of consequence are mothers and/or pregnant; those who aren't, are not portrayed in a positive light. I don't think that's terribly uncommon for Christian novels at this point.)

Suspense/stakes - 5 out of 5. I read this over a weekend, rather unusual for me. Finding out about the underground was interesting and seeing how Vivica will get out of her next jam kept the pages turning for me.

World building - 4 out of 5. The world felt fairly detailed to me, with explanations of how the totalitarian government had developed, slang terms for their equivalent of cell phones, and so forth. Some of the details in the government seem scarily plausible. That said, I would have liked to "see" the physical places more clearly.

Writing/editing - 4 out of 5.  I thought the writing was fine and didn't notice any typographical errors. My main issue was that I felt incredibly distanced from Vivica's feelings and pain. There's some emotional angst, but even when she gets slapped at one point, she (tells us she) literally doesn't feel it when it happens. I tend to write less emotionally myself, but when the subject matter is a character deciding to turn her back on her entire world because there's a baby growing inside her, I expected her to have more emotions. I'd expected her, for instance, to have some kind of turning point when she felt the baby inside her, perhaps, but I saw nothing of the sort.  Maybe that's an intentional technique, though.

Clarity - 4 out of 5. Overall I had no trouble following the action. There were a couple chase scenes where I got a bit lost because the scenery wasn't described in detail so I couldn't follow where they were going.

Plausibility/believability - 3 out of 5.  This is kind of tricky for me. The explanations for how Christianity became illegal struck me as scary-plausible, to the point that I'm wondering if I should start learning more about hacking (although I feel like making the fake identities needed in dystopian worlds might be more fantasy than anything else). But I didn't personally "believe" Vivica's transformation or her progression towards Christianity. In today's political climate, I really wanted to read a compelling account of why a girl decided against abortion when the government mandated it, but she only rarely showed compassion for her unborn child, never seemed to really think of it as a human (referring to it as a "baby" but not anything about its potential). Her decision seemed to me to be initiated mostly from the fact that the boy she has a crush on begs her not to kill "his" baby, despite the fact that he has no ability (and to me, no interest) in actually supporting the baby once it's born. Arguing that a baby has a right to life because the father wants the baby to live, isn't exactly going to appeal to people who consider it a woman's decision. Frankly, I think the baby has an inherent right to life, but when a deadbeat father is making the argument, that really rankles me.

(I could be wrong, but it also seems to me like ALL of the rebels are Christians, which is good for Christians but I'm not sure if it's realistic...I feel like if freedoms were stripped away like this, it might not be just Christians fighting. Even the very secular The Handmaid's Tale acknowledged that in a world where freedoms are stripped in the name of some twisted version of Christianity, people who want to read the actual Bible will be persecuted, but it seems like some Christian books don't acknowledge the strange bedfellows we just might end up with in bad times...)

Positive - 4 out of 5. The ending is positive enough, though there's a lot of darkness to get there. While the main character turns to Christianity, she doesn't seem to focus on the hope it gives for the people she lost along the way...it was just kind of disconnected to me.

Gut reaction - 3 out of 5. Exciting story that I personally think could have benefited from a dose of emotion, particularly given the subject matter.

Free points: 5 out of 5.

Recommended for: Teen girls who are fans of dystopian fiction.

Total Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars


Click below to see what other tour members think!


Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas
Shane Werlinger

*In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I was sent a free copy of this book.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Preparing for Dystopia - The First Principle by Marissa Shrock - CSFF Blog Tour

Julie for the CSFF Blog Tour!

This month, we're talking about The First Principle by Marissa Shrock. The promotional description speaks of government control, mandatory abortions, and so forth.  One facet I haven't seen addressed in so many Christian books (in my limited reading), is the government creating an edited, "approved" version of the Bible.

The way things are right now, it seems almost hard to imagine the government "approving" of Christianity in any way, but certainly various Christian groups change interpretations of the Bible (and sometimes even words) through the years. And as humans, making little tweaks is just something we do.  Our Bible Study just got to the fall of man. When the serpent tempted Eve, he twisted God's words...but then, whatever the reason, Eve also quoted God incorrectly!

I think people are prone to corrupting and adjusting the Bible already, sometimes inadvertently...how much scarier if the government were to get involved.

Of course, all the dystopian fiction makes me wonder what kind of dystopian world should I be preparing for? The Christian fiction we've been reading for the blog tour lately, such as The Last Principle and Jill Williamson's Safe Lands series, hint that impressive computer hacking skills are probably the most useful skill. The Hunger Games suggests hunting will come in handy. Out in Arizona in the real world, there have been some preparedness conferences teaching how to farm and such.

My problem is that hacking and farming are not exactly overlapping skills. So where should I focus?! (Of course, I'm not sure the fun hacking skills we see in various forms of media are terribly realistic, but they sure look like fun, don't they?)

A sermon series at my church recently emphasized that the best way to prepare not to fall in persecution is to work at having a good relationship with God now. I agree, but The Last Principle reminded me of one of the places where I fall particularly short.

I'm a leader at AWANA at my church, which teaches kids to memorize Bible verses. I was never good at memorizing verbatim, so I didn't like AWANA as a kid (I love it as a leader, since I don't have to recite anything!). I need to remember that memorizing Bible verses--not just the basic gist of them, but the actual words--is a good practice for every Christian, so long as we remember the context.

My phone has multiple Bible translations on it and I can do a web search for any verse I like right now, so it seems kind of unnecessary. But someday we might not be so blessed to have the Bible so widely available, even in America...

Check out the other participants on the blog tour!


Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas
Shane Werlinger

*In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I was sent a free copy of this book.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Storm Siren costume and random thoughts - CSFF Blog Tour

Julie one more time with the CSFF Blog tour, writing on Storm Siren by Mary Weber.  I blogged earlier about the costumes, which I can still picture...but drawing them is harder.  The "tiny hat" made to look like frog eyes described in the book is lost in a mass of Adora's curls, and I technically should have gotten out the glitter...  Ah well.


I'd suggest any writers/authors/people interested in craft read Rebecca LuElla Miller's entry on pacing as it pertains to this book. And J.L. Mbewe has links to several interviews. (Is anyone else surprised that such a bubbly author wrote Nym?)

That's about all I have, though I was rather surprised that of the CSFF bloggers I read, I seemed to see the most Christian content here. Maybe that's because I have some familiarity with To Write Love on Her Arms, a movement with a lot of Christian links. From their "Learn" page:

We believe: 
You were created to love and be loved. 
People need other people. 
Your story is important. 
Better days are ahead. 
Hope and help are real.
You are not alone, and this is not the end of your story.

In Storm Siren, God is only vaguely referenced and Christ doesn't seem present at all, so for me the message of hope rang a touch hollow.  On the other hand, many people are in a place where they don't think God cares or they can't believe in Jesus. Those kind of people might be moved by the rather modest proposal that the protagonist, who feels like a monster, is deserving of love, and might have actually been created for a purpose.  But a more explicitly Christian story might lose those same people, and maybe the later books will build on that modest foundation to help some broken people look into finding lasting hope...

One last link to the other bloggers, if you missed anyone.

Lauren Bombardier
Beckie Burnham
Vicky DealSharingAunt
George Duncan
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Simone Lilly-Egerter
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Michelle R. Wood

*In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I was sent a free copy of this book.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Review - Storm Siren by Mary Weber - CSFF Blog Tour

This is Julie with the CSFF Blog tour!

Book: Storm Siren by Mary Weber  (Facebook)

Ridiculously simplified summary: 
Nym, a 17-year-old girl with Elemental control over weather, is made slave to a depraved aristocrat.  Nym must try to control her powers, overcome her past failings, and save a kingdom that kills Elemental boys at birth.

Content: This is a dark world, and I think the content might be too much for some readers (or parents!).  There are countless deaths (many, though not all, a result of war), with horrific treatment of a young child, apparent abuse of a disabled character later on, and other horrors and threats of horrors.

The main character has been a slave most of her life and struggles with cutting/self-harm.  At the start, she takes comfort in cutting herself, and the immediacy of the viewpoint made me as a reader almost think her actions made sense. While she works to overcome that self-destructive habit, parents may want to know that the attractive tattoo-like marks on the character's arm on the cover are in fact Nym's scars from cutting.

The 17-year-old main/point-of-view character spends quite a bit of time detailing her longing/lust for a man who struck me as being substantially older, though I believe it's actually a 5-year difference. Her thoughts about doing things like "drinking him in as fast as (she) can" were more sensual than I'd expected to read.

I don't recall any actual cursing, but there is lots of made-up cursing that sometimes sounds like real curses. Notably, the word "hulls" is used more than 30 times as a pretty obvious substitution, as in "What in hulls?" "Oh hulls," and "The world is going to hulls."

I see from other reviews online that some people have said this wasn't intended to be a Christian book. I'd say the Christian content is present but understated. I didn't notice any of it until Chapter 22, more than halfway through.  I basically saw mentions of a creator and being created for a purpose, a little talk about good and evil, and an act of self-sacrificing love.  CSFF Blog Tour members usually tease out more Christian meaning than I do, though as of about 8 PM PST Monday, I didn't see anyone mentioning anything I haven't.

Rating:  (Due to circumstances beyond my control, I read the Kindle copy, not the printed one, but the formatting was fine and I don't think that will affect the rating.)

Characters - 6 out of 10. Due to Nym's close first-person narrative, she was an interesting enough character to follow, though more than once I wished I could have seen parts of the story through someone else's eyes. The heroes seemed fairly realistic to me, which isn't really what I like, because with the single exception of Nym's fellow-elemental/friend Colin, I didn't find any of the characters particularly likable.  The heroes are imperfect and for the most part don't seem particularly noble, and the villains are completely wicked to the point that their actions often seemed insane to me.

Perhaps hardest for me was that I didn't care at all for the man Nym completely falls in love with, which made it hard for me to sympathize with her irrational choices involving him.  (That said, I am unusually unemotional, so I'm sure others with stronger passions or who liked the man would sympathize more.)  Other than a cast of maybe 5 main characters, I thought the others were rather thinly drawn, though that will probably be remedied in the sequel.

Bonus points because I did like Colin and several of the characters felt realistic...and it did hurt some when harm befell a few characters. One more special point for Breck, a blind servant, not acting particularly nice or kind.  (Most people with disabilities in books, particularly blind women, seem to lapse into stereotypes of being perfect people aside from one disability.)

Suspense/stakes - 3 out of 5. At first, the immediacy of Nym's narration kept me reading.  Later, one character notes, "I'm pretty sure the world's not worth being saved...But I love a good challenge."  That actually kind of sums up my feelings. I don't like this world and don't really care for most of the characters, so I slowed down reading near the middle.  When I picked it up again, with the building stakes and the immediate style, I was still interested to know what happened next.

World building - 3 out of 5. I appreciate how Weber puts us into the middle of a new world. Some negative reviews I read complained that the world building was weak, and I agree that a lot of things weren't spelled out, but I felt that was mostly a style choice, keeping in the immediacy of Nym's mind. I didn't get the impression that the world wasn't properly built--more like explanation was held back--but I could have benefited from a bit more detail and explanation. There were some interesting touches, like the almost steampunk nature of the warring kingdom Bron.

Writing/editing - 5 out of 5. This is in first-person present, which might turn off some readers. I thought it overall worked, well enough that I started wondering if that's what I should do for my own work in progress. Nym has a strong voice, and I liked some of the flowery descriptions she put in there, as well as some of the humorous, cynical lines, especially about the bizarre parties thrown by her sadistic master. The only quibble I had with the actual writing was Weber's style choice to make Nym use sentence fragments repeatedly. We're in her head, and even third-person narrators in close third-person are using sentence fragments nowadays, but the sheer number of fragments distracted me a bit.

I thought Nym was sometimes distanced from her own pain, even reading as a bit cold as she's suffering massive physical pain...that's how I tend to write, so I assumed Weber was a personality type kind of like mine and it spilled over onto Nym.  But reading Weber's gushy acknowledgements at the end revealed that no, while Nym and Weber have the same knack for fancy language, their minds look to be in rather different places, so any distance was surely intentional. In light of that, I'm rather impressed by how Weber rendered Nym's voice, since it's got some differences from her own.

Clarity - 2 out of 5. With all the twists and turns and betrayals and secrets, I got rather lost at the end. A lot of that could have just been bad timing on how I paused a week or so between the first half and the last half.  An important character was referenced a fair amount in the first 20 chapters, then once in chapter 23 in passing, and then all over chapters 30-36 (the end).  If I'd read straight through, I might not have stumbled.  Other points--particularly that Colin is bald and Eogan has black/dark skin--are repeated so often it was annoying, though I know from critique groups that if a character has dark skin, you have to reference it repeatedly or readers will miss it...  It's a tricky road to walk, how to be clear enough without being repetitive, and I get the feeling that the second book in the series will handle it better.

Plausibility/believability - 2 out of 5.  I felt like some of the characters behaved unexplainably, especially when a bit of critical thinking or even talking with someone they cared about would have probably revealed a certain problem rather early, before it all came to a head to cause major problems for our characters in the climax. Unfortunately, the characters' outright ignoring what struck me as an obvious peculiarity/problem hindered my enjoyment of the rest of the book.  I also had a hard time with Nym's insistence on showing mercy to one villain, even while the rest of that villain's men were left to die. Christian forgiveness and/or forgiveness prompted by the Holy Spirit is one thing, but Nym doesn't seem prompted by anything I could wrap my head around.  (Although, now I can see why my writing partner gets irritated when my characters want to go too soft on some bad guys!)

Positive - 1 out of 5. Anyone who's read my reviews at all should know I like happy endings. The world here is overall dark; even a third of the way through, I found myself frustrated that there was nothing much to like about the world. Yes, Nym starts to get over some of the darkness inside her, but even as she starts to reach towards the light, her world turns so much darker. I saw no mention of heaven or any eternal hope, just love that's in this world, which left me with kind of a hopeless feeling more than anything.

If you've read my other reviews, you may know that I can't stand endings where everything turns horrible at the VERY end, to compel readers to eagerly anticipate the next book, and this is quite a cliffhanger.  The more I look into the ending, the more I see that everything might not be completely lost, particularly if you believe believe that one character really does have prophetic powers...but I think one could make a good argument that the ending of the first book in the Hunger Games trilogy is more optimistic than this ending.

Gut reaction - 2 out of 5. A well-written book that's not written for me.

Free points: 5 out of 5.

Recommended for: Older young adults (or regular adults) who like fantasy but don't need/want happy endings...? From the reviews I saw online, there are many, many people who adored this book, so there's obviously something to like. But aside from the strong writing and excellent imagery, the immediacy of Nym's point of view, and the suspense nearer to the end, I can't really figure out the appeal. If you like your fantasy on the dark side, this might be a great read for you.

Total Rating: 2.9 out of 5 stars


Here are the other participants on the tour, who surely have different opinions than me!

Lauren Bombardier
Beckie Burnham
Vicky DealSharingAunt
George Duncan
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Simone Lilly-Egerter
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Michelle R. Wood

*In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I was sent a free copy of this book.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Costumes and Endings - Storm Siren by Mary Weber

 Julie here with the CSFF Blog Tour, writing about Storm Siren by Mary Weber  (Facebook).

Along with the gorgeous cover, one of the things I liked about Storm Siren were the ridiculous costumes worn by Adora, the rather depraved aristocrat who owns the protagonist, Nym.  And like a teenage girl, Nym has a lot to say about such costumes. Adora herself dresses as a frog-queen, a male peacock, and a tree nymph (complete with "the carcass of a dead squirrel attached to one shoulder"). I thought the descriptions are excellent--enough to get the point across, but not a ridiculous amount of detail.  (Ridiculous costumes, yes!)

Other guests dress as "rabid ladybugs," bears, sin-eaters, ferns, and mermaids.  Why Nym gets away with wearing what seem by comparison to be simple gowns, I'm not sure, but that's one of the few bits of good fortune she has with Adora.  Sadly, Weber's Pinterest doesn't have any images of inspirations for Adora's gowns...but given how ridiculous they sound, maybe that's for the best.

As to the inspiration for the party, Love is not a Triangle has a good interview with Mary Weber that has a couple real costume pictures, and a little info on Book 2. (I was particularly heartened to know that one of Weber's own daughters hated the ending, as I did too.)

Here are the other participants on the tour!

Lauren Bombardier
Beckie Burnham
Vicky DealSharingAunt
George Duncan
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Simone Lilly-Egerter
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Michelle R. Wood

*In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I was sent a free copy of this book.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In Which Two Small Birds are Discussed

This is Julie one more time with the CSFF Blog tour, discussing The Fatal Tree by Stephen R. Lawhead (Facebook).

As I mentioned in my review of The Fatal Tree, I personally cannot fathom of any series of events that would cause any real threat of God's creation coming undone and being made to have never existed.

True story--this last Friday, my mom was scheduled for surgery. Not the particularly risky kind, but scary enough. At work that morning, when I walked toward the parking garage stairs, there were two little birds directly on the landing. While occasionally I'll see some little birds downstairs by the cafe or near the condos near our office, I don't recall EVER seeing any on the parking garage landing, let alone a pair of them just sitting there, as if waiting.
Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.   (Matthew 10:29-31, NASB) (Full chapter for context)
The simple sight of two unexpected birds, not necessarily sparrows, gave me complete comfort and confidence. Not complete confidence that the surgery would go perfectly--after all, Jesus is worth more than me, and He sure suffered a lot. But I believe in an omnipotent and omniscient God, so anything that happens--whether it seems pleasant or seems dreadful at the time--is all in His hands. It's hard to wrap my head around it, but I believe He will work all things to good.

And when Adam and Eve sinned, God had a plan to redeem mankind, not to rewind the tape and start again. I don't see how anything any human or humans could ever do could affect Jesus' sacrifice, let alone make it so that it never happened.

Now, all that said, if the multiverses of Bright Empires were real, I think it's fair to speculate that God might allow people to think that all worlds would be unraveling in that way, while He, being outside of time, knows full well that the threat won't come to pass. (Not sure about the theology about realities falling apart before people's eyes, but that wasn't what bothered me for whatever reason.)

Oh yes, and by all accounts, my mom's surgery did go very well, and she is currently on the mend. And yes, it's easier to have faith in God's goodness when things are going relatively well for yourself. But I hope that when a tragedy does finally strike, as it strikes everyone at some point, I will still see that God is there and that He will work all things to good for those who love Him.

Thanks for the tour, all!