Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Blog Badges

You may have noticed that the blog underwent a little bit of a remodel last week. It's probably not the last time this will happen, but I don't plan on moving stuff around again for a while.

You'll also note that on the right hand side there's a little green square that says, "Jaye's Resistance Member."

Jaye L. Knight (author of Resistance, which I reviewed a couple weeks ago)  has a "street team"--that is, a group of fans who have said they're willing to promote her books by sharing information about them on their blogs, social media, etc. I was not aware of this when I reviewed the book and it did not influence my rating of her book.

However, it does give The Book Hound a chance of being on blog tours and other cool stuff (yay for cool stuff!). It also gives us a chance to spread a little word about a Christian author who's writing cool stories (and cool stories and authors are even better than cool stuff).

My hope is that we can promote more authors in this way as their book reviews get buried deeper in the posts. It will give them a little more visibility on the main page.

If you're interested in supporting Jaye in her work, you can also join Jaye's Resistance, even if you don't have a blog. You can find more about how you can get involved here.

You'll also notice a Camp NaNoWriMo badge off to the side. I will be participating in Camp NaNo this year and editing the second book in my current WIP (work in progress). Many of my "extra" posts this upcoming month will focus on a behind-the-scenes look at the writing life.

Let me know if there are any cool, relevant badges that you think should be added to the blog! I'm especially interested in promoting the works of other authors via group badges.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "Swords of the Six"

The Short:

Swords of the Six
(The Sword of the Dragon, Book 1)

By: Scott Appleton

4/5 Stars

What: A dragon brings six human daughters into the world and tasks them with bringing justice to his six warriors who betrayed him thousands of years before.

Recommended to those who like: Dragons, fantasy

Not recommended for those who dislike: Slower, more narrative plot

The Long:

I’ve long been a fan of any story involving dragons, so I picked this one up at a book fair a while back.
The storyline is original and not very predictable, which was a big bonus. Throughout the book, we follow the white dragon and his six human daughters. Dantress, the youngest, is chief among them. 

The dragon was betrayed long ago by five of his six chief warriors ages before. He tasks his daughters with bringing those still alive to justice, as well as to become warriors that will eventually bring justice and peace to the world.
I think I would have liked the story more if I had liked the characters more. I really wanted to like Dantress, but it took me some time to become invested in her to the point where I cared about her as a character. The story was strong on plot, but not always as strong on character development, in my opinion. So, if deep character building is a “must” for you to enjoy a story, this might not be the book for you. If you like plot and interesting world building, you will likely enjoy the book.
The story has many Christian themes, but these do not overwhelm the story. There is also a minor love element that is worked nicely into the story.
I believe Mr. Appleton did a good job with the narrative aspects of this work. Seeing as this is considered a “prequel” to the rest of the series, I’m hoping that the books will continue to improve. I think if we get some more well-rounded characters, the stories will make for gripping reads. 

If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts below. Please remember to be respectful of Mr. Appleton and his work, as well as other commentators. I also welcome comments on what you would like to see included in the reviews. I reserve the right to remove vulgar, hateful, or rude remarks from the comments. Thanks for sharing!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sequel Review: "Isle of Fire"

I didn't want to cheat you guys out of a fresh book this Friday, but I did want to share my thoughts on Isle of Fire, sequel to Isle of Swords by Wayne Thomas Batson. Hope you enjoy, and I'll see you back here Friday for a fresh book! 

I'd love to hear your feedback regarding how I should handle sequels and series. 

The Short:

Isle of Fire
(Sequel to Isle of Swords)
Wayne Thomas Batson

5/5 Stars

What: The pirate crew of the Bruce seeks out other pirates to join forces with them in ridding the seas of more dangerous criminals; Cat must come to grips with his past; The Brethren seek to eliminate The Merchant, a dangerous arms dealer.

Recommended to those who like: Pirates, sword fights, sailing, more historical setting, Christian themes

Not recommended for those who dislike: Some gruesome scenes (PG 13)

The Long:

                If you have not read the first book, be warned! Spoilers ahead!
This book is a well thought out sequel to Isle of Swords. Unlike so many sequels, it manages to continue character development, keep the stakes high, and still be a well-rounded story. If you enjoyed the first novel, you’ll certainly enjoy this one!
In the book, Cat must come to grips with having Bartholomew Thorne as his father. And now he realizes that it is not certain that his father is dead. Faced with this past, troubling memories, and fits of violence that he has difficulty controlling, much of the book is spent following his inner journey. When he is asked by the Brethren to seek out the notorious arms dealer known as the Merchant, he accepts.
Meanwhile, Captain Ross and the crew of the Bruce face disbandment by England. Together with Commodore Blake, they must find ways to defeat enemies new and old.
As in the first book, we have plenty of cannonfire, colorful side characters, and duels. Violence, love element, and historical elements are comparable to the first book.
I would highly recommend this sequel. It has a satisfying ending and the series does not appear to continue.

If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts below. Please remember to be respectful of Mr. Batson and his work, as well as other commentators. I also welcome comments on what you would like to see included in the reviews. I reserve the right to remove vulgar, hateful, or rude remarks from the comments. Thanks for sharing!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "Resistance"

The Short:

(Ilyon Chronicles, Book 1)

Jaye L. Knight

5/5 stars

What: A “half breed” man struggles over if he has a soul while a young woman fights to maintain her faith in the den of the enemy.

Recommended to those who like: stories with internal conflict, fantasy, Christian allegory, a good sword fight, and interesting world building.

The long:

I found this book perusing through the Christian Fantasy/Sci Fi catalog on Amazon and needed a book to read, so I figured I’d give it a try.

I’ll admit, I was a little reluctant to try it. I’m still new to walking off the beaten path to find Christian speculative fiction. Some of the books have flopped epically for me. But Resistance did not disappoint!

The thing that really struck me about the book was the amount of internal conflict within it. Jace is genuine in his struggle against his own internal flaws, doubts, and fears. Everyone tells him that he cannot have a soul, for he is a mixed-race man. He’s one of the more realistic characters that I’ve read in Christian fiction recently.

Kyrin is also lovable. As somewhat of a tomboy and independent young woman myself, I found it easy to associate with her. She fights to maintain her faith, even though it may cost her life as an assistant to the Emperor. She also struggles with how to witness to others, as well as how to reconcile what she’s heard about others to what is reality.

The action sequences were well-paced and logical in this fantasy novel. The overall pace of the book was better than many. It was predictable at times, but not overly so.

If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts/opinions below. Please remember to be respectful of Ms. Knight and her work, as well as other commentators. I also welcome comments on what you would like to see included in the review format. I reserve the right to remove vulgar, hateful, or rude remarks from the comments. Thanks for sharing!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Printed Books vs. Electronic Books

You know that smell when you walk into a book store? 

How about the smell of the internet?

You can guess which of the above smells better (unless maybe the Internet smells like roses—perhaps my nose just isn’t good enough).

With the advent of e-readers, many readers are shifting away from paper books to electronic ones. E-books are cheaper, don’t wear out, and are often on sale. With a click of a button and an internet connection, new purchases are available in seconds. And, with the advent of better readers that reduce glare and eye fatigue, more are considering switching over.

However, there’s still something about holding a book in the palm of your hand, the smell of unread pages, and perusing the aisles at a local book store. (Not to mention the battery doesn't die in the midst of a sword fight). 

Personally, I like to support local book stores as much as possible--but I also enjoy the flexibility of just carrying my e-reader with me when I travel. It takes up less space than four thick volumes. About half of the book reviews you see on this site come from paper books; the other half are ones I got as bargains electronically (a book a week at full price would blow my college budget...see last week's quote  for more on that).

Which do you prefer, and why?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "Isle of Swords"

The Short:

Isle of Swords

By: Wayne Thomas Batson

5/5 Stars

What: A pirate searches for a lost treasure to get out of the sweet trade; his daughter wants nothing more than to become a captain in her own right; a man awakes on a beach with no memories.

Recommended to those who like: Christian-centered fiction, pirates, sailing, somewhat historical setting, adventure.

Not recommended to those who dislike: Some gruesome scenes (akin to PG 13 rating at times)

The Long:
                In recent years, Wayne Thomas Batson has become one of my favorite Christian speculative fiction authors. Not one to shy away from some darker plotlines, his stories are colorful and rich. Isle of Swords is no exception.
                If you liked The Pirates of the Caribbean, this book would probably suit your tastes. The book does have a Christian element to it, but is fairly realistic and does not overwhelm the plot. The story is not set in a separate universe, but rather at an unspecified point in the past. It does not bear the hallmarks of a traditional historical novel (if you like adventure stories, you’ll still like this one).
                Throughout the story, we follow the adventures of Captain Declan Ross and his daughter, Anne, who seek the treasure of Constantine to be free from piracy—a profession the captain was forced into by circumstances. Anne, however, is perfectly content to be a pirate and often clashes over this with her father. They must also avoid Captain Bartholomew Thorne, a ruthless pirate who will stop at nothing to gain the treasure for himself and to get revenge on Captain Ross.
                The story is filled with colorful side characters fitting a pirate book, as well as “Cat”, a young man who awakes on an island with no memories. The writing is great and well-paced, making this book a nice read for an afternoon or two. I’m excited to be starting the sequel soon!
If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts below. Please remember to be respectful of Mr. Batson and his work, as well as other commentators. I also welcome comments on what you would like to see included in the reviews. I reserve the right to remove vulgar, hateful, or rude remarks from the comments. Thanks for sharing!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Book Addiction

"When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes."
~Desiderius Erasmus

I think most book lovers can relate to this--myself included. What was the last book you bought or read? 

I am open to suggestions for future "bonus" posts. I'd love to hear from you and what you think would be nice to have on the blog. 

Stay tuned for another book review on Friday!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "By Darkness Hid"

The Short:
By Darkness Hid
(Blood of Kings Trilogy, Book 1)

Jill Williamson

5/5 stars

What: An elderly knight takes on an outcast boy as a squire despite protests from the boy’s unjust master; A young woman disguises herself as a man to avoid being pressed into a royal marriage. The story focuses on the concept of “bloodvoicing” (a type of telepathy) and a darkness that has swallowed half the land.

Recommended to those who like: fantasy, Christian allegory, personal adventure, coming of age stories, interesting world building

The Long:
I’ve been following Ms. Williamston’s blog for some time now, but just got around to reading some of her works. I have to say that By Darkness Hid is a keeper.  I can’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy!
                The book tells the tale of Achan, a “stray” boy who is little better than a slave in a manor ruled by the cruel Prince Gidon. Everything he has is taken from him—including the girl he loves. One day, a knight rides into the manor. He unexpectedly makes Achan his squire. But things only turn for the worse.
                We also follow Vrell throughout the story—a young woman who has disguised herself as a boy to escape marriage to the same Prince Gidon. She is taken across the kingdom for her “bloodvoicing” ability.
                The story is remarkable for its interesting world building. I was especially intrigued by the concept of bloodvoicing—a form of telepathy with which only some characters are gifted. Ms. Williamson does a very good job of explaining the process, which deepens the realism of the story.
                The other intriguing concept of the story is that of the Darkness. Darkness has covered half the kingdom of Er’rets, due to a betrayal long ago. People who live within it tend to turn on one another.
                While the story is allegorical in nature, it does not dominate the story. It has an overall fast pace, good action, and a few plot twists. I had a hard time predicting much of the story. Bear with it if it seems slow in the beginning—the end is definitely worth it!

If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts/opinions below. Please remember to be respectful of Ms. Williamson and her work, as well as other commentators. I also welcome comments on what you would like to see included in the reviews. I reserve the right to remove vulgar, hateful, or rude remarks from the comments. Thanks for sharing!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Learning from "Unbroken"

This past weekend, I watched Unbroken for the first time. (I know, I know, you're supposed to read the book before you watch the movie. My family decided to rent it.).

I was really impressed on multiple levels. Though the story is not speculative in nature, nor produced by a Christian company, it has many aspects that I believe are applicable on a personal level as well as from a writer's perspective.

The Storyline 

For those of you who don't know, Unbroken follows the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympian who ends up serving the U.S. during WWII. His plane crashes into the Pacific Ocean. He, along with two other crew members, floats in a tiny life raft for well over a month before being captured by the Japanese and placed in a prisoner of war camp. At one point, he is offered the chance to leave the camp if he publicly slanders the U.S., but he refuses.

The story of survival by itself is remarkable, but his courage is even more inspiring. To refuse the chance to leave takes more courage and moral fortitude than I think I have.

His Faith

Another thing that struck me about the movie was Louis's faith. Although he was not a Christian at the beginning of his ordeals, he later becomes one. He credited his faith with allowing him to forgive those who mistreated him.

Here again, we have an inspiring aspect of the story. Rather than blaming God, or his captors, he realizes that God is bigger than his problems and actually helped him through the ordeal. He still might have held a grudge against his captors (which I think we can all understand), but he turned to God's grace to help him learn to forgive. How much we can learn from this!

From a Writer's Perspective

This movie wasn't a "Christian" movie, but it portrayed a Christian life as clearly as many movies that have been published as "Christian" (and I daresay that it was executed far better than if the story had been done by a Christian movie company).

There were several important ideas from a Christian writer's perspective that I thought important:

  • Christian life wasn't portrayed as a cakewalk, because it isn't
Something that I see occur frequently in Christian literature is, "Oh, We accepted Christ? Everything is hunky-dory." That's not how it works. In this true story, Louis goes through many more months of severe hardship and still has to deal with the aftereffects of his experiences. If we want our writing to reflect real life, we should acknowledge the fact that we will have trouble in this world.

  • The "message" of the movie didn't overrun the story
I've read many Christian books that were wonderful...but just couldn't step away from the message to let the story grow. Don't get me wrong; I still love many of those books. But if we start to focus too much on the message we:
    • lose realism
    • seem cliche
    • lose readers (they probably didn't pick up a novel for a sermon)
    • and lose the potential to have more than one meaning for the work (if you focus on the message, odds are you will only convey that message; readers will only pick that up, and nothing else)
This was also one reason that I was glad the story was picked up by more of a mainline company

  • The writers didn't shy away from the ugly
This is a delicate subject. You have to consider your readership when writing and decide what personal limits you want to impose upon your writing (you may also have to consider those of your potential publishers).
Also, this is a war movie. It's expected to be ugly and rough; if it was anything else, it would ring false. A young adult adventure novel may "feel" perfectly fine without the grit.

I'd love to hear from you in the comments below! What else would you like to see as "extra" posts?