Friday, September 30, 2016

Sequel Review: "Isle of Stars"

There aren't any spoilers here, but I would still recommend reading my reviews of books one and two if you're interested in this series. I'll catch you with a fresh series next week!

The Short:

Isle of Stars
The Isle Chronicles, #3

By: Wayne Thomas Batson

4/5 Stars

What: Kaylie, from the Dreamtreaders series, is sucked into the world of Cat and Anne on the day of their big wedding. But nothing seems to be going according to plan.

Recommended to those who: like fantasy and pirates and have read The Isle Chronicles # 1 and 2, as well as one or more of the Dreamtreaders series.

The Long:

This book is a bit different from most other books by Mr. Batson. As he explains in the opening, this is his “Christmas gift” story to his fans (albeit published in the spring). As such, it lacks the grit and darkness of most of his books. It brings together two series—Dreamtreaders and the Isle Chronicles—for a time of fun adventures.

This book is definitely a 4-star book for a lighthearted adventure. We have visits from many of our favorite quirky characters and swashbuckling adventures. Mr. Batson also gives a nicThe Lord of the Rings.
e hat tip to his other series and to

The book contains a strong Christian message. Some people may like it; others may not. I hesitate to say the Gospel is ever out of place, but let’s just say our mostly light-hearted story took a very serious turn right at the climax and it was a bit jarring, in my opinion.

I would recommend this book to fans of Mr. Batson who have already read his other works and appreciate his characters. This book really isn’t a good introduction to his writing or a great stand-alone novel. Fans will appreciate the nice wrap-up to Cat and Anne’s story and getting to revisit old characters, but newcomers probably won’t get much out of this story.

If you could have a follow-up book to any story/series, what would it be? And what would it be about?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The 2016 Tolkien Tag

I'm a week late on this one, but, in my defense, I was sick last week. Not quite Frodo post-Shelob-bite sick, but pretty close. You can check out the fun festivities from Hamlette over at The Edge of the Precipice. 

1.How many books by J.R.R. Tolkien have you read?

Eight, if you count The Lord of  the Rings as three books. I have also read most of The Hobbit in Spanish.

2. Have you seen any movies based on them?

I've practically worn out my copies of the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings. I've also seen the new Hobbit movies...for better or for worse. I also watched an indie film called "Born of Hope" that chronicled the early life of Aragorn.

3. Are there any scenes/moments that make you cry?

I still get a little teary at the end of The Return of the King when the ringbearers sail off. Also, it isn't uncommon to see me sniff a little at the death of Boromir.

4. Are there any scenes/moments that make you laugh?

I absolutely love the scene from The Hobbit where Gandalf and Bilbo first meet. I was laughing out loud when I read it in my Spanish edition.

5. Have you ever chosen a Middle Earth name for yourself? If so, what is it?

Yes--Tithen. It's the first half of the elvish version of my first name. (Sindarin, I think? It's been a long time since I've looked it up).

6. Who would you want to party with/marry/fight to the death? (pick three characters)

Party with: Merry and Pippin. I would love to see them dancing on the tables and singing about the Green Dragon Inn.

Marry: While my favorite Tolkien story is "Of Beren and Luthien", I feel like Faramir and I might make a good match. He has great morals and is reputed to love books. I also tend to associate with Eowyn quite a bit. 

Fight to the death: Someone I could pick off somewhat easily with my bow, because I haven't had time to hone my sword skills to anything respectable. (And my bow skills are nowhere near as good as Legolas', so it would have to be someone I could pick off from a considerable distance).

7. When was the last time you visited Middle Earth, via books or movies?

Sadly, it's probably been since June. I've had a Middle Earth itch of late, so I'll probably either introduce my roommate to the movies or else drag one of my books along with me for a while. Fall is a good time for poetry, so I might dig up my copy of The Lays of Beleriand. 

8. Do you consider Gollum to be a villain? Why or why not?

This is a difficult question. He's a villain in the sense that he's certainly far from honorable and serves as an antagonist through much of the story. However, he's not truly villainous in many aspects. I don't believe that he truly seeks to cause others harm; he's just obsessed with the Ring. I would have to think on that question for a while longer.

9. How would you sum up what Tolkien's stories mean to you in one word?


10. List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotes from the books or movies.

"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." 

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." 

"All that is gold does not glitter." 

"Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love." 

"I will not say 'do not weep', for not all tears are evil." 

"Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised." 

"The women of this country learned long ago that those without swords can still die upon them." 

"But I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend..."

And far too many more to list...

What are some of your favorite Tolkien quotes or books? 

Feel free to steal this tag!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday Fiction Fix: "Emissary"

The Short:

Legends of the Realm, Book 1

By: Thomas Locke

4/5 Stars

What: A young man discovers he has powers he shouldn’t have. But his powers might be the only thing that can save the kingdom.

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, Clean, Fast Reads

Not recommended to those who dislike: Magic use

The Long:

I had a little bit of trouble rating this book. On one hand, it had been a while since I had entered a fresh, true fantasy world. (I’ve been reading a lot of dystopian/futuristic/sci-fi-ish stuff lately). I absolutely adore fantasy, so you’d be hard pressed to give me a fantasy story in which I didn’t find something to enjoy. Thus, my fantasy-starved-self had originally given this book a higher rating. However, the more I reflect back on it, the less I think it fits in with the books with those higher ratings.

Anyhow, that’s a long way of saying that I enjoyed this book (and other fantasy lovers probably will, too), but that I did have some issues with it.

With her dying breath, Hyam's mother sends him back to the place he most dreaded as a child. Will the mages that treated him so poorly reveal something important? And when he discovers his newfound powers, how will Hyam use them? Time is running out for the kingdom, and everything depends on his choices. 

For a fantasy book, Emissary was relatively short. This made it perfect as my “commute book” and allowed me to finish it in a couple days. The writing is snappy and sometimes reads more like an action novel than an epic fantasy. Sometimes this worked well; other times, it didn’t.

One of the disadvantages of the book’s length was that I felt I didn’t get to know the characters. Since I plan on picking up the next book, I’m hoping that I can get behind the characters a bit more.

The plot was of a good pace and had a nice, small surprise at the end. The magic battles were well-written and the quest element of the story was less predictable than I had initially expected.

I did enjoy the worldbuilding. It had enough typical fantasy elements to still have the familiar feel of a fantasy novel, but it also had some fresh ideas that livened the story up a bit. If you dislike magic, this would not be a good choice for you. (“Magic” in this book being manipulating energy fields. If you’re fine with Star Wars, you shouldn’t have a big problem with this book.) There are some questions I have about the story world, but I hope that they are answered in future volumes.

The Bottom Line: I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy as a genre and doesn’t mind extensive magic use.                                               

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Pastors in Fiction: "A Time to Rise"

This post is part of the Rise TourA Time to Rise is the third book in the Out of Time Trilogy by Nadine Brandes and is scheduled to release October 14th!  If you pre-order the book, you can get some awesome Out of Time swag! (Pre-order swag ends October 1st). 

If interested in the series,you can check out my reviews of A Time to Die and A Time to Speak to learn more. 

Name: Lamuel/The Preacher

Book: A Time To Die, by Nadine Brandes. Christian, futuristic, dystopian.

Role: Supporting Character; spiritual antagonist

Personality: Detached, somewhat cynical leader.

What he brings to the table: Lamuel is the leader of a people group on the other side of the Wall from Parvin's home. Parvin seeks his help in determining God's purpose for her life.

Spiritual role: Lamuel serves as spiritual antagonist to Parvin's mission in some ways. While she seeks to save her people from themselves, he tells her that, ultimately, nothing she does will matter.

Pastorly/Worship notes: Lamuel draws most of his inspiration from Ecclesiastes. He believes that life is meaningless and one should just muddle along, because nothing really matters. If God has a specific purpose for someone, Lamuel believes that He will reveal it to them. Otherwise, most people are insignificant.

We don't see Lamuel leading worship or anything else formal, but his people do look up to him.

Ninja Status: I'm not sure how to classify him--leave a note down in the comments if you have an idea!

Further Discussion:

Lamuel is an interesting character for the fact that, while both he and Parvin believe in God, he serves as an antagonist to her in some ways. I enjoyed the portrayal that there are differences between believers and that sometimes those beliefs can come into conflict with one another.

While most pastors in Christian Fiction serve the role of an encourager, Lamuel serves an entirely different role. I really enjoyed the fresh take on pastorhood in this novel.

Can you think of any other pastors that serve as antagonists?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Friday Fiction Fix: "Song of the Ovulum"

The Short:

Song of the Ovulum
Children of the Bard, Book 1

By: Bryan Davis

4/5 Stars

What: Two children from the time of Noah escape the Flood. Were they preserved to save the persecuted dragons-turned-humans of the modern day?

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy/sci-fi, Christian, Complex worlds

The Long:

So, when I was moving my books a few weeks ago, I realized my “most-owned” author is Bryan Davis. I guess I like dragons blended with sci-fi.

Children of the Bard is a companion series that takes place after the more well-known Dragons in our Midst and Oracles of Fire series. You could probably start your Bryan Davis adventure with this book, but I think you’re more likely to enjoy it if you read the other two series first. There are loads of characters in this book, and it’s easier if you already know a few of them.

The worldbuilding in this book is incredibly complex, building off of the world Mr. Davis created previously. While the writing style is your typical teen/upper middle grade style, this is one time where it would be appropriate to compare the complexity of the worldbuilding to Tolkien’s Middle Earth. (Not every Christian fantasy book is like something Tolkien or Lewis wrote. Please, please don’t say that a book is like their writing unless it truly is. And don’t say it’s like both—that tells me nothing. Rant over.)

The plot had some great action, but it felt repetitive at times. Nevertheless, it was fun to read this blend of sci-fi and fantasy and to see how the worlds might collide.

I loved the old characters; however, a lot of the new characters just didn't float my boat. I hope to get to know them a bit better in the next volume. 

The Bottom Line: I would recommend Song of the Ovulum to fans of Bryan Davis who have read both Dragons in Our Midst and Oracles of Fire. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Small is Beautiful Tag

Last week I said that I would be covering Shepherd Book from Firefly as part of Pastors in Fiction. I really want my analysis of him to do him justice, and I just didn't have time to do that this week. So, I bring you a blog tag as a conciliatory offering.

This tag is also super cool because Serena (who tagged me) initiated this tag. And she understands that tag rules are, to paraphrase Barbosa, more like guidelines.


  • Feature 3-5 blogs with fewer than 100 followers.
  • Write 1-3 paragraphs about each blog, including information like what the blog is about, a brief bio of the blogger, and/or why you recommend their blog. Don't forget a link to their blog!
  • Include an image for each blog, whether it's a blog button, profile photo, header, or simply a screenshot of the blog. (I'm sorry that this will have to wait until a future date; as mentioned, I'm on a bit of a time crunch this week).
  • Thank the blogger who featured you, and include a link to their blog. If you like, you can even include them as one of the blogs that you feature (especially if they joined the tag without having been featured by someone else).
  • Include the tag image somewhere in your post.
  • Optional: For extra visibility, share a link to your post on Twitter with #SmallBlogsTag. I'll retweet it! Don't forget to follow the hashtag and retweet others' links! (The retweeting thing is from Serena...I'm just figuring out how to work Facebook. Twitter is beyond my ken.)

1. Victoria @ The Endless Oceans of My Mind

If you've hung around the blog very long, you've probably noticed Victoria lurking in the comments like a shark from her second homeland of Australia. Or perhaps more like a fuzzy polar bear from her first homeland of Canada?

Regardless, she's not that terrifying--though the pictures of Australian spiders she posts on her blog are. And her Spiderman obsession might be a little terrifying, as well. Spiders aside, she writes about writing, movies, superheroes, and having a foot in two very different countries.

2. Liz @ Out of Coffee, Out of Mind

I share Liz's coffee obsession. Beyond that, she also talks about writing, her childhood in Africa, and some very serious issues from her personal life and in the world at large. I never pull away from one of her posts without food for thought.

3. Heather @ Sometimes I'm a Story

I don't always agree with Heather in her posts, but I enjoy her wit and her perspective on different books. She always has interesting tags and miscellaneous posts. I absolutely adore her Walden-Bond Index posts on villains and I hope that reading more about villains will allow me to create better villains in my own works (mwahahaha...ahem). 

4. The Ladies @ Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife

This is one of the few non-writing related blogs I follow. Several authors have come together to discuss the vocation of women in the church from a Lutheran perspective. (I may have just given away part of my secret identity there). Much of it is designed for women with families, but there are definitely some thoughtful posts on singleness, as well. 

So, there you have my list of blogs! I would definitely encourage you to check out Serena's post, as well. I found another blog or two that interested me. If you have the time, I would encourage you to continue to spread the tag. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Friday Fiction Fix: "Captives"

The Short:

The Safe Lands, Book 1

By: Jill Williamson

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

What: A village is captured by a more technologically advanced society. What will they do when they are asked to compromise their beliefs to save their captors’ civilization?

Recommended to those who like: Christian, dystopian, futuristic, teen and up

The Long:

This book was incredibly different than what I expected…but I loved it!

A plague has wiped out most of modern civilization. The citizens of Glenrock have rebuilt their society in a simple fashion, living off the land, fueling old ATVs with homemade ethanol, and reading books they find in ruined cities.

The Safe Lands are being slowly consumed by a mutated strain of the plague. Unable to have children, they capture the people of Glenrock and ask them to do the unthinkable to save their foreign, self-indulgent society. Who will exchange their simple lives for glamor? And what could they lose?

I would definitely recommend this book only to mature teens and up. Much of the story centers on what happens when a society indulges in wanton living. Furthermore, the people of Glenrock’s plight is largely over whether they will have children for the Safelanders. These topics were handled tastefully and thoughtfully. 

The worldbuilding was fantastic. For a Christian post-apocalyptic book, it offered a fresh outlook on the role of religion in society. Rather than showing Christianity as outlawed, the two societies have different religions that are juxtaposed in most of their core values. Christians attending secular universities and high schools will likely find the issues and dilemmas raised in this book to be more relevant to them than those in most Christian dystopian books. Many of the topics covered center on the role of families and relationships.

This book was thought-provoking without being even remotely preachy. (Yay!) I believe much of that had to do with the characters. They were flawed. They were tempted to deny their values. And while they might quote Scripture to themselves upon occasion in difficult circumstances, they lived their lives like most of us do—not giving each other trite sermons over anything that happened. Instead, they showed their faith by how they lived and how they made choices in their lives. I loved it. If I could have my faith portrayed this way in more fictional books, I would be elated.

I can hardly wait to read more about these characters in the sequel. I hope they keep quoting The Princess Bride.

The Bottom Line: Highly recommended to mature teens and up who are in for a thought-provoking story about a dystopian future. 

If you could have your faith portrayed to the world by any one fictional book, what book would you choose?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Pastors in Fiction: "The Messengers: Discovered"

Today's Pastor is Zeke from The Messengers: Discovered, by Lisa M. Clark. I've tried to keep this character analysis spoiler-free. There's another spiritual character in the book who I would really love to cover, but I've decided that it would be too spoiler-y to do him. 

Name: Zeke

Book: The Messengers: Discovered. Christian futuristic dystopian.

Role: Supporting Character.

Personality: Eccentric, secretive old man who takes his role as an elder of the underground church quite seriously.

What he brings to the table: Zeke is one of the leaders of the underground church in the story. He serves as one of the primary spiritual advisers to the characters.

Spiritual role: Zeke catechizes one of the main characters and serves as a primary spiritual advisers in the story.

Pastorly/Worship notes: Zeke is the leader of a church in hiding that still clings largely to the traditional/liturgical service.

Ninja Status: Yellow belt. He doesn't have any super awesome skills, but keeping your faith during times of trial is worth some distinction. 

Further Discussion:

I found Zeke to be interesting as a pastor/spiritual figure because of the style of worship he employs. Not very many stories involve a liturgical worship style.

I would have liked to know more about him as a person outside of his pastorhood. What things does he struggle with? How is life different as an underground member of the faith? Why does he believe this crisis for the faithful came about? Demonic attack? The fallen world? Punishment on complacent Christians? What are some moral dilemmas he faces as he leads a double life?

Next week, I'll be looking at Shepherd Book from Firefly. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Sequel Review: "Cyndere's Midnight"

As always, I've done my best to keep this review spoiler-free. Check out my review of Auralia's Colors, which I would recommend reading first. Or, you can read some flailing over when I found the third book in the series, by clicking here

I'll be back with a fresh series next week!

The Short:

Cyndere’s Midnight
The Auralia Thread, Book 2

By: Jeffrey Overstreet

5/5 Stars

What: Can a widowed princess overcome her fear and grief to help a beastman who wants to change his ways?

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, loosely Christian, darker stories

The Long:

This was a really good follow-up to Auralia’s Colors. My only complaint is that it gets a little confusing in the middle. However, the ending and overall themes in the book are marvelous.

Cyndere’s husband was killed by beastmen, throwing doubt on their dream that there might be some way to save them. Jordam, changed by Auralia’s colors, stumbles across her one day. Will he be able to change his ways, in spite of the pressure placed upon him by his brothers?

Meanwhile, House Abascar scrapes out its new living in caverns. Can King Cal-Raven overcome his fear of becoming what his father was?

The Ale Boy continues looking for The Keeper, feeling alone in Auralia’s absence. Can he really make a difference?

This story provides some well-done commentary on art, the pursuit of happiness, and joy. Once again, Mr. Overstreet manages to weave a thought-provoking, action-packed book that gets a message across without being preachy. I can hardly wait to read the next book.

What books have you read that get a good message across without shoving it down your throat?