Friday, April 29, 2016

Sequel Review: "The Heir War"

As the exam crunch hits full swing this weekend, I felt in the mood for something a little bit darker. If you haven't already, check out my review of Darkness Reigns, which is the first installment in this series. I've tried to keep this review spoiler-free, but no guarantees. 

The Short:

The Heir War
The Kinsman Chronicles, 1.2

By: Jill Williamson

4/5 Stars

What: A plot seems to be afoot to place Janek on the throne—but who is behind the trail of bodies?

Recommended to those who like: Darker books, loosely Christian, fantasy, and have read part 1. 

The Long:

If you’re just hopping into this series, I would highly recommend reading my first review here. It will help explain things further.

I know I said that I was going to be patient and wait for the entire print book to come out, but I couldn’t help myself. I might do that with the next book around, but we’ll see how patient I am.

Just as in Darkness Reigns, The Heir War contains a lot of mature subject matter and dark content. Demons, sorcery, murder, and promiscuity are all part of the story. Granted, the point of the story right now is that, when these things exist, the world is not a happy place and judgment is coming.

I can finally see where the story is going now, which is a definite bonus. I’m starting to get drawn into the different layers and piece the puzzle together. There are a lot of characters in this novel, so it’s certainly not for the faint of heart when it comes to keeping track of the various characters.

I definitely plan on reading the next installment. I think the story will come together by that point and I’ll really be able to enjoy the story. However, I do look forward to seeing some more redemptive themes as the story progresses—it’s been very dark up to this point.

What's your favorite "dark" book that has a redeeming message? 

Please note that I will likely be slow to respond to comments for the next several days.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Caffeine and Books
Well, I've been taking in my fair share of caffeine lately, but the book is coming along slowly due to exam season. One today, then only four to go next week!

As such, that's really all I have for you today--for which I apologize most heartily. In the meantime, I'll be drinking copious amounts of coffee and probably consuming a few caffeinated chocolate bars. (Yes, they exist!)

Do you drink caffeine? What's your favorite form--coffee, tea, pop, or something else?
For those doing Camp NaNo, how's it going?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday Fiction Fix: "Tainted"

The Short:

The Soul Chronicles, Book 1

By: Morgan L. Busse

4.5/5 Stars

What: A young female scientist has always held a mysterious power just barely under control—but what happens when she can no longer control it?

Recommended to those who like: Sci-fi/steampunk, Christian, Romance, Young Adult

The Long:

Look at me—I actually managed to get a book review out soon after the book’s release!

Kat has always known that a dangerous power lurks within her. When she is accepted to the Tower, the leading scientific institution in World City, she takes it as her chance to research her condition. But can she find answers before she entirely loses control?

Stephen Grey is a leading detective. After leaving the force to become a bounty hunter, what will he do when he crosses paths with Kat?

I really would have loved to give this book five stars. The world-building was fantastic, blending the Victorian era with the dreams of the future and leaving the perfect amount to the imagination. I’ve never read steampunk before (and was somewhat skeptical), but I’d definitely be willing to try some more from the genre.

The concept of the story was also unique, echoing aspects of Frankenstein while forging its own path.

However, it took me a while to get into it. I didn’t really like Kat at the beginning of the story and it jumped around a bit too much at the start for my taste. Also, the romance was too heavy for me. (Shock there—sorry to all of you who love romance.)

Although this volume was somewhat predictable, I’m very excited to see where the story is going. I’m on board with the characters now, and there are some great little nuggets as to some bigger conflicts that could be coming up in the next book. But I have to wait until 2017 to find that out. *Sighs*

This book did an excellent job of incorporating a realistic Christian element into the story. It wasn’t preachy or overwhelming, but it hints at great things to come.

More than anything, I’m really excited to see Christian authors writing books in different genres and exploring new worlds. If you’ve got a few bucks to spare, give this one a try and send the message that there is a market for new books that venture outside the prairie romance.

The bottom line: If you’re into sci-fi from a Christian perspective and open to trying some steampunk, give this one a go. Just expect some romance and give the book some time to get going.

Have you ever read steampunk before? If so, what book? And what did you think?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hundredth Post!

Wow, I wasn't sure that I could make it this far when I started blogging!

*Throws confetti*

Spring is finally here and I had to take some pictures!
Unfortunately, I don't have a lot to tell you today. Camp NaNo is...happening? I've had a lot of papers to write this month (which is unusual; my program is more test-based) and my creative juices have been sapped. Staring at a blinking cursor in a word document has been my life for the past few weeks, so writing has felt like a bit of a chore.

As a result, I'm a little bit behind, but this should be my last week of papers, so maybe I'll get back into it here soon. I certainly hope so. If not, there's always May.

But alas, the end of papers means that the beginning of the exam crunch is coming. Thanks to some help from the wonderful Victoria J., posting will proceed as normal for the foreseeable future. As always, I'll keep you posted if I'm going to be slow to respond to anything.

So I apologize that it was a lame hundredth post. (Other than flower pictures. Do I at least get some credit for going outside to take those?) I do have some awesome blogiversary plans in the works for the end of May.

Also, I have a review of Tainted coming up this Friday, so you should totally come back to read that. Or buy it now. Either is a good option.

Thank you all for reading, supporting me, and putting up with the craziness.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Friday Fiction Fix: "Oath of the Brotherhood"

The Short:

Oath of the Brotherhood
Song of Seare, Book 1

By: C.E. Laureano

5/5 Stars

What: A prince falls short of all of his father’s expectations—from not being able to wield a sword to holding fast to a forbidden faith—but it seems that God has a larger, more dangerous plan for him.

Recommended to those who like: Darker reads, Christian, Romance, Fantasy, Sword Fights, Magic

The Long:

Where to begin with this book? Even though I decided to write this review a full day after finishing it, I’m still trying to put my thoughts into coherent words.

Conor Mac Nir is everything he shouldn’t be—a scholar, musician, and member of the Balian faith. When he is sent as a hostage to a neighboring kingdom to cement an alliance, he meets Aine, a young woman who appreciates him for what he is. But war looms on the horizon and everything he’s gained is at stake. Does God really have a purpose for all his suffering?

To start, this is a dark book—it reminds me a lot of Macbeth. There are demons/banshees and magic that can be wielded for good or evil. It would definitely be more appropriate for the teen crowd and up, just because of the darker elements of the story. Violence is probably a PG-13 level but isn’t gratuitous.

This book might have made it onto the favorites shelf, but the love element was a little strong for my personal taste, though many would probably enjoy it. If you’ve been reading the blog for very long, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I’m not a romantic type of gal.

The Christian element is strong, but is well incorporated into the story without being too preachy.
The book covers three years, so there’s quite a bit of action packed into the story without much fluff in between, which is something I definitely appreciated. I wish I could write more about the plot, but I don’t want to give too much away.

What was the last book that scared you a little? 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Reread, Rewrite, Burn Tag

Thank you to the lovely Liz over at Out of Coffee, Out of Mind for this tag. I'm glad that I finally got around to it. Send up a prayer for her when you think about it; she's had a rough couple weeks, from the sound of things. 

So, this is essentially a fun--if painful--tag wherein I took the last 15 books I read, sorted them into groups of three using a random number generator, and now have to decide which book I'd like to reread, which I'd like to rewrite, and which I'd like to burn (or just not read again).

I've left links to my reviews of books that I've featured on the blog. Others have "upcoming" reviews (you typically don't see my book review until a month or so after I've read it) and others don't fit in with what I review here.

Ready? Here goes:

Group One

Re-read: Kingdom's Edge

Burn: The Killer Angels

This group was somewhat difficult, mainly because I couldn't decide which book I would want to re-write more. I love Kingdom's Edge, but it would sort of be fun to see it written at a higher level than its current middle-grad audience. Third Starlighter had some things I'd really like to iron out, so I ended up choosing it. As much as I enjoyed The Killer Angels, which is about the battle of Gettysburg, I could be perfectly happy without re-reading it. 

Group Two

Burn: Spirit Fighter (Review Upcoming)

The re-read was a no brainer on this one. Daughter of Light is on my real life re-read list. I loved Spirit Fighter, but it's fairly straightforward. I think I could live happily with it in my memory and not worry about leaving it behind too much. *sniffs* On the other hand, Samara's Peril is coming out soon, so I might reread The King's Scrolls beforehand. I'm not quite sure what I'd change about it. Perhaps more internal conflicts within the characters? 

Group Three

Re-read: Beneath the Forsaken City (Review Upcoming)

Rewrite: Isle of Stars

Burn: Storm Front

Again, the struggle between re-reading and rewriting is a challenge. I was tempted to say that I would write out some of the mushy-gushy parts of Beneath the Forsaken City. However, the climax of Isle of Stars irked me more. Storm Front was recommended to me by a friend, but I didn't finish it. I guess I'm not a huge fan of urban fantasy. 

Group Four

Re-read: Auralia's Colors (Review Upcoming)

Rewrite: Oath of the Brotherhood (Review Coming this Friday)

Burn: Hospital Sketches

This was probably the easiest group so far. I can take out some of the mushy-gushiness from Oath of the Brotherhood while also leaving the epic sword fights in tact. Just the thought of trying to touch up Auralia's Colors makes me cringe--I absolutely love the book. Once again, my history class made the decision to burn something easy; Hospital Sketches is interesting, but is definitely something I could live without. 

Group Five

Re-read: The Heir War (Review Upcoming)

Rewrite: The Hunters, Brotherband Book 3

Burn: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

As much as part of me wants to make The Heir War a little less dark, I have to fix the head-hopping in The Hunters. Part of me hurts saying that I would burn Narrative of the Life, just because it's superbly written and I think it's a valuable look into slavery. 

Well, there you have it, folks. I feel a bit guilty for how easy that was; History of the American Civil War really saved me in these groups. I might actually redo this tag down the road; it's sort of a fun way to look back at what books I've read lately. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Sequel Review: "The King's Scrolls"

I've tried to keep this review spoiler-free in regards to Book 1. I'll have a new series next week, so be sure to stop in again!

The Short:

The King’s Scrolls
Ilyon Chronicles, Book 2

By: Jaye L. Knight

5/5 Stars

What: The race is on to claim the last of the King’s Scrolls before the Emperor destroys them.

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, Christian, and have read The Resistance.

The Long:           


The fledgling resistance has discovered that there is one remaining copy of the King’s Scrolls left in the empire. But can they locate it before the Emperor’s armies destroy them?

In this book, we rejoin all of our favorite characters from the start of the series—Kyrin, Rayad, Kaden, and Jace. We also draw in more characters who were on the periphery of the earlier books. Character development is still good, though not as deep as it was in The Resistance. The action continues to build and the stakes are higher than ever.

The Christian message is really strong in this book. Some may find it comforting and others may find it slightly preachy, but I thought it was well done overall. Although the story world generally reflects the set-up of Rome, there are some more traditional fantasy elements that are introduced in this book.

It isn’t necessary to have read Half-Blood to understand this book, but I would highly recommend reading The Resistance first. Samara’s Peril, Book 3, will be released on May 13th, so stay tuned for more!

Are you waiting for any new releases in a series? 

I'm also still looking for guest posters for Friday, April 29th and Tuesday, May 3rd.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Writer's Mind: Staying on Track

Welcome to April!

Camp NaNo, exams, papers, warm-weather triggered distraction, and the strange, Springtime urge to run have all hit me like a freight train that's been taking jiu-jitsu lessons from Chuck Norris.

I thought I'd share with you today how I attempt to stay on track in spite of the craziness that is college life. Maybe you'll find it useful. Maybe you'll find it stupid. I don't know, but it's what the post is for today.

Enter my handy-dandy whiteboard.

I apologize for the fuzziness of this picture.
You can see what's really important, though--
the color coding!
Of course, it's color coded (why wouldn't it be?). Blue means schoolwork, which is why it takes up far too much space on the board. Since purple is my favorite color, I use it for the fun stuff--my writing. Black is chores, because it reminds me if the chores don't get done, everything's going to look really gross and dirty.

I typically list weekly goals at the top. These are things that take more than two days to complete. Common items here include the number of times I want to exercise that week, my word count or novel planning goal for the week, and goals for papers or large projects I'm working on.

Some of these goals will get broken up into smaller goals in the two-day section below. I tried doing one day goals, but then I would get frustrated when life threw curve-balls my way and I didn't accomplish a lot on my to-do list.

It also gives me more options. If I don't feel like cleaning on Friday, I can clean on Saturday. But it ensures that the room will get cleaned at least every two days (in theory). If I really am interested in Parasitology, I can make new note cards, draw out parasite life cycles, and make online review materials on Friday and then push my History homework off until Saturday.

Why do I like my whiteboard?

It's easy to clean off and change what I need to do, while also giving me the satisfaction of crossing something off my to-do list.

Nothing lights a fire under my backside like seeing a list of twenty things to do in the two-day section. On those days, I don't even need to turn on my Facebook-blocking app; I'm glued to my work.

It also makes sure I remember to do (almost) everything. Sometimes I have a brain fart and forget to write something down on the whiteboard. Then I'm really lucky if the task gets done.

How do I decide what to do first?

Some of it is by mood, especially if it's something simple, like making review materials for myself. However, for the most part, I try to think of what absolutely needs done within one day, then within two days, and so on. I do the stuff that's coming up quickly first. Schoolwork trumps pretty much everything else, except eating and (sometimes) sleep.

This is all great, but what does it have to do with writing?

If I didn't write down what I wanted to write, it would never get done.

I'm serious. By putting writing activities down on my white board, I legitimize my writing time. It's just as important as taking out the trash and putting my laundry in my drawers. Since my primary vocation is that of a student, it has to sit behind academic activities, but it's still something that I've decided to make a priority.

What tools do you use to prioritize and stay on track? How's Camp NaNo going for all of you brave campers out there? 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Friday Fiction Fix: "Daughter of Light"

The Short:

Daughter of Light
Follower of the Word, Book 1

By: Morgan L. Busse

5/5 Stars (Possibly going on the favorites shelf)

What: A young woman is banished from her village after she discovers she has a mysterious power.

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, Christian, Fantasy Battles, Allegory

The Long:

It’s really amazing how many books you can find for free in digital formats (Publishers and authors, you have my eternal gratitude! I couldn’t review as many books as easily without getting a break for my pocketbook once and a while). This one is really quite enjoyable.

Rowen finds a mysterious mark on her hand one day, but she isn’t able to see the far reaching consequences of it at first. Before she knows it, she’s banished from her village and finds herself across the country, embroiled in a war between neighboring countries and between the spiritual forces of good and evil. Will she ever learn to trust the One who gave her such mysterious powers?

This book is raw and emotional in a lot of ways. Rowen functions as a person in real life would—with heartbreak, doubts, fears, anger, and every other emotion you can think of. The book doesn’t sacrifice on action, either. We have political intrigue, assassination attempts, and large scale battles.

The allegorical nature of this book is stunning. I’ve read a lot of allegories, but this one actually made me stop and think about my faith in a different way. It’s rare that a book can do that, so I am very impressed. I look forward to reading the next book in the series. Congrats to Ms. Busse on creating such a wonderful work!

What’s the last fictional book you read that made you think about real life (spiritual growth, social issues, or otherwise)?

Ms. Busse also has a new release coming up. You can check out a brief write up on Tainted and some other recent or upcoming releases here.