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This blog is managed by us two sisters, known to some as Ants and Epic. We're a pair of up-and-coming authors and avid readers. This blog is mainly full of honest, Christian book-reviews and an occasional update about our writing. We love hearing from you all so feel free to drop a comment anywhere to just say hi!
Also, got any book suggestions? Something you'd like to see reviewed? Leave the title in the comments and we'll try to get to it!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday Sale!

   Like most other bookworms, great books make their way onto my "things I'm thankful for" list every year. It's hard to choose favorites, but I went ahead and picked five books I read in 2015 and am thankful for.
  1. Dare by Tricia Mingerink is at the top of my list right now! Full of faith driven adventure, a tiny bit of sweet romance and even sibling relationships! Read full review here.
  2. Resistance by J. L. Knight has kinda made my year by reminding me, once again, why indie authors have a tendency to beat all! Creative, heartfelt characters, lots of siblings, more sweet undertones of romance, and an amazing plot as well! Read full review here.
  3. Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan though now licensed by a publish was originally an indie series as well and it shows in the unrestrained witty dialogue and fantastic adventure!
  4. The Hive by John Otte was one of the few sci-fi books I've ever read and my first time on a launch team. Such an amazing world built into an unforgettable adventure! Read full review here.
  5. Water Princess, Fire Prince by Kendra E Ardnek was like revisiting Narnia...without knowing what was going to happen! A fun, fast paced story; really, need I say more? Read full review here.
I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to another great year of reading! Speaking of more reading, here's one more thing to be grateful for. Books on sale! In honor of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, a group of independent Christian authors banded together to offer over seventy discounted books on Nov 27-30. There's literally something for everyone. Every single book listed on Indie Christian Books is on sale in one or more ways. Find discounted paperbacks, dozens of books offered with free shipping, $0.99 ebooks, package deals and more. Even if you have a budget of $0, new reading material awaits you. Don't know what to pick? The fearless Indie Christian Books team created a quiz that will generate a book list perfect for you! Check it out! Book Quiz What awesome reads of 2015 are you grateful for? What books are you looking forward to reading in 2016?
A note on the Ebooks Only page. All books are listed as "Sold Out." This only refers to paperback copies of these titles. Please click onto the product pages to find descriptions and links to discounted or free ebooks.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Leah E. Good for her work organizing this sale, Gloria Repp for completing the time consuming job of uploading book info to the sale website, and Hannah Mills for her fantastic design work on the website graphics. Hannah can be contacted at hmills(at)omorecollege(dot)edu for more information about her design services.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Author Interview + Sneak Peek: Tricia Mingerink

Today I get to interview one of my new favorite authors! Everyone, meet Tricia Mingerink!

About the Author: Tricia Mingerink is a twenty-something, book-loving, horse-riding country girl. She lives in Michigan with her family and their pack of pets. When she isn’t writing, she can be found pursuing backwoods adventures across the country.

You connect with her through FacebookPinterestGoodreadsTwitterInstagram, or her Blog

And today we'll be talking about the latest addition to her series The Blades of Acktar, Deny:

Summary: All lies have consequences. Promoted to the top rank among King Respen’s assassins, First Blade Leith Torren hides his involvement with the Resistance. How many lies will it take to protect his secret?
Renna Faythe has done nothing but survive for the past four years, but now Leith’s courage inspires her to try to be something more. If only she could figure out what that duty might be.
When the unthinkable happens, faith waivers. Friendships tear. What else will they be forced to deny?
But this time, Leith faces his greatest fear.
He can’t save everyone.

And here are some awesome extra images!

Awesome right! And now for the interview:

Where did your characters come from, specifically Brandi and Jamie (they're my favorites!)? 

I don’t really have a conscious place I get characters. I don’t model them after people I know. Since I’m a plot first writer, my characters rise out of the plot. I know what happens in the book, and I figure out the characters by digging deeper to learn why they are doing the things they are doing. And then there’s Brandi. She just started doing her own thing the moment she stepped onto the page.

Which character is your favorite?

If I had to choose, I guess I’d say Leith, but I love all of them so dearly. Leith has a special place because I got most of the ideas for his character right along with the ideas for the series.

Do you know how many books are going to be in the series The Blades of Acktar? Or are your simply going to write as long as you have plot to write?

Right now, I believe there will be 4 books. The story will be pretty much wrapped up after that, and anything else would probably be short stories or novellas, but not a whole book. But, I’ve been wrong before. I thought the series would be done after book 3, but a certain character (I can’t say who without giving away spoilers) demanded another book.

What was your inspiration for these books? Did you always plan to write a series? 

I always planned to write a series. Almost as soon as I got the idea, I knew most of book 1 and 3 and the climax of book 2. I couldn’t tell you the exact process because honestly, things came together so quickly it feels like I got the idea all at once. Much of the inspiration came from researching the Dutch Resistance in WWII and my over-active imagination.

What are some of your favorite parts/aspects in Deny, (if its not too spoilerish)? 

Deny was a tough book to write. I finished the first draft hating it. I went into the second draft hating it. It was so draining and uncooperative. It took a few drafts, but now I really like it. I have a hard time choosing a favorite part. I’m the most proud of the climax since that was one of the few scenes I kept from the original draft. I love some of the early scenes with Leith and Renna. I even really like the ending chapters.

Which character would you say you relate to the most? 
Leith and Renna. I see a lot of my perfectionist side in Leith. He feels failure to the extreme, and that’s something I’ve had to work on. Renna connects with my uncertainty. I’ve struggled with lack of confidence and fear too.

In all honesty I completely understood Renna throughout most of the story, her fear and desire to keep her family safe!

And now....(dramatic drum roll)...the Sneak Peek! I get to share the ENTIRE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS!!!! Enjoy:

First Blade Leith Torren’s mark of failure throbbed blood down his left arm. His knees
ached against the cold, stone floor. How long would King Respen keep him kneeling after giving
his report?
Respen leaned back in his throne, the candles’ flames dancing in his eyes. “Claim your seat,
First Blade.”
“Yes, my king.” Leith clenched his right fist and thumped it against his chest. Pain spasmed
from the wound in his left shoulder, courtesy of former First Blade Vane’s knife. Gritting his
teeth, he eased to his feet and faced the table.
Shadows prowled the edge of the light cast from the two flickering candles. Eleven Blades
hunched in chairs scattered around the long table, an empty seat for each of the Blades that had
been killed three days ago. A few of the younger Blades shifted. The Blades had never had dealt
with so many rapid promotions all at once, especially not promotions among the top Blades, and
none of them had moved into the chairs for their corresponding rank yet.
Leith straightened his shoulders. He was the First Blade now and expected to take command
of the Blades. He sharpened his voice and gaze into a dagger’s edge. “Take your seats.”
The other Blades scrambled to their feet. Their boots scuffed on the stone floor. Wooden
chair legs grated. When the last Blade slid into his new seat, Leith claimed the chair to Respen’s
Respen’s jaw tightened his beard into a sharper point. “First Blade, you will remain here to
recover from your wound. The Twelfth Blade will also remain here.”
Leith tapped his fist over his heart again. “Yes, my king.” He bit the inside of his cheek, tasting blood and bile. What was Respen planning now? Leith had foiled Respen’s plan to assassinate the Resistance leaders and supporters, but that failure wouldn’t stop Respen long.
Respen swiveled his gaze to Martyn Hamish, now sitting on Leith’s right. “Third Blade, you will take charge of the Blades searching for the traitor Vane. The Seventh and Eleventh Blades will go with you.”
Martyn nodded, his curls flopping, and thumped his chest.
If only Leith had been given that mission. He could’ve slipped into Walden and talked to Renna. And Shad and Brandi too, of course.
Respen’s fingers drummed a rhythm on his armrest. Leith’s muscles tightened. The other Blades leaned forward. Only the hissing of the candles broke the hush. The darkness ringing the room closed around the table.
“Second Blade, you will ride to Blathe. There, you will meet with my army. Report to General Wentle. He will brief you on your mission from there.”
Army? Leith fisted his hands below the table. He barely heard Respen send the rest of the Blades to other towns loyal to King Respen, some to send reinforcements to General Wentle and some to assist what Respen called the southern and western divisions of the army.
Had Vane known about this army? If so, then he supposedly would’ve told the Resistance. Unless this was something even Vane hadn’t known about?
This wasn’t good. Leith’s heart pounded in his ears. Not good at all. An army. Secret instructions. Leith needed to report to Lord Alistair at Walden. Now.
But he was stuck at Nalgar Castle.
Should he sneak out? If he did, Respen would know Leith was the real traitor. Was this information important enough to break his cover? Or should he wait in case he learned more?
With a final salute, Respen swept from the meeting room. For a moment, none of the Blades moved. Eleven pairs of eyes swiveled toward Leith. No time to appear rattled.
He pressed the palm of his good hand on the table and shoved to his feet. He had to gather the cold detachment that had served him so well when he’d killed.
Leith’s boots thumped on the stone floor as he strode across the room toward the line of pegs next to the door where his weapons hung. The other Blades’ weapons dangled from the other pegs. He drew one of his knives, whirled, and stabbed it as hard as he could into the tabletop. A sharp thunk speared the room. The tabletop vibrated.
Ranson Harding and Blane Altin, the youngest Blades, both cringed. A few of the others flinched.
Leith swept his gaze around the room. “I’m the First Blade now. Anyone have a problem with that?”
His voice sparked like flint grating on steel. If only he didn’t have to make them fear him. But Vane had kept them in line with fear. If Leith didn’t do the same, the Blades wouldn’t heed his orders. They’d question him, and questions could lead to answers that would endanger those he cared about at Walden.
“What about you, Second Blade Craven?” Leith planted his hands on the table and glared at the Second Blade.
Craven shifted his gaze to the candle a few feet away. “No. You’d thrash me soundly.”
With Leith’s injured shoulder, not likely. Craven had a good four inches on Leith, several years, and a stockier build. But Leith wasn’t going to argue. If Craven wanted to continue to be the same obedient muscle he’d been with Vane, that was his problem.
“And what about you, Fourth Blade?” Leith switched his gaze to the thin Blade sitting next to Craven.
The Fourth Blade shook his head. The scruff below his nose, long and pointed like rat’s whiskers, twitched.
Seventh Blade Quinten Daas crossed his arms, his fingers tapping on his elbows as if he itched to reach for a knife. When Leith met his gaze, Daas held it for several moments, a fire burning in their depths. When he finally glanced away, a chill crawled along Leith’s arms. That one was going to be trouble.
Martyn scowled at the other Blades. Leith tipped his head towards him, a silent nod of thanks. Martyn had his back, honoring a promise they’d made years ago.
What would Martyn do once he learned Leith was spying for the Resistance? Would he side with Leith then? Or would he join the other Blades in trying to kill him?
“Good. Get out of here.” Leith waved toward the door. “Move your things into your new rooms before you leave.”
The Blades nodded, stood, and hurried towards their knives hanging from their pegs.
Martyn eased to his feet and sidled over to Leith. “So, First Blade, huh?”
Leith grimaced. Chief among King Respen’s killers. “I’d rather be Third Blade, but that’s your rank now.”
They strolled to the door. Leith reached for his weapons and winced as he slung the leather straps over his shoulders. The knives settled against his chest. He swung his belt around his waist, ignoring the twinge in his wounded shoulder.
He faced Martyn as his friend finished buckling on the last of his knives. “You be careful. Vane will be dangerous.” Not that a dead man could be dangerous, but Leith couldn’t tell that truth to Martyn.
“If you could handle Vane, then so can I.” Martyn slapped Leith’s good shoulder.
“I barely escaped.” It was the truth. Mostly. “Steer clear of Walden. Lord Alistair will be doubly alert now.”
Martyn leaned against the door. “I’ll try, but if Vane is there, I’ll have to track him there.”
Leith nodded. What would happen if Martyn were caught snooping around Walden? Would he and Shad try to kill each other? Or would Martyn discover the unmarked grave and its secrets Leith had tried so hard to hide?
Leith pressed a hand to his shoulder. His wound throbbed again. Back at Walden, he’d thought he could handle returning to the Blades to continue spying. He’d thought it was where God wanted him to be. But how long would he last here when every word had to be a calculated lie?
Martyn threaded his fingers through his blond curls. “Are you all right with this? Being the First Blade and all?”
Leith leaned against the wall. The last time he’d tried to voice his doubts, it hadn’t gone well. Leith met Martyn’s gaze and put every bit of steel he could muster into his voice. “Yes. I know where my duty lies.”
“Good. So do I.” Martyn slapped Leith’s good shoulder.
“I know.” Leith did know. All too well. Before this was over, Leith might find himself on the wrong end of Martyn’s knife.

Leith leaned against the wall as Harding and Altin laid his straw tick and blanket on the cot in the First Blade’s room. His extra set of clothes, one in all black and one in a prairie tan, hung from pegs on the opposite wall, along with a few extra knives. Below them, a stand held his basin and pitcher of water, the only furniture in the room beside the cot and small table next to it.
Even the servant’s room he’d been given at Walden had been cozier than this stone dungeon. Actually, Leith had seen the dungeons below Nalgar Castle’s North Tower. They at least had a window.
“Anything else, First Blade?” Altin clasped his hands behind his back. Behind him, Harding rocked back and forth, as if all he wanted to do was bolt from his First Blade’s presence. Did they think he’d turn into a monster because he was the First Blade?
Perhaps he’d have to.
“No, you’re dismissed. Twelfth Blade, assemble the trainees in two hours.”
The Blades saluted and slipped from the room. As soon as his door closed, Leith locked it and inspected the wall separating his room from the Second Blade’s. He found a loose stone low in the wall. Apparently the rumors that the former First and Second Blades spied on each other were true.
At the base of the wall lay a stone wedge. Leith picked it up and jammed it between the loose stone and the rest of the wall. With the wedge in place, the loose stone couldn’t move.
Once he’d searched the wall and found no more loose stones, he sank onto his cot. His shoulder had gone from aching to stabbing. He closed his eyes.
Had he done the right thing in returning to Nalgar Castle? Should he have taken up Lord Alistair on his offer to get Leith out of Acktar? Leith could’ve been far away from here. Free.
Then what? He would’ve been out of the fight. Craven would’ve been First Blade, Martyn Second Blade. And Leith wouldn’t know about the army Respen was sending against the Resistance towns.
Should Leith slip out tonight to warn Walden? Lord Alistair needed to know about the army and the Blades sent to aid it.
But if he left, Leith wouldn’t be able to gather any more intelligence for the Resistance. Should he risk discovery? Or wait?
Leith rolled his shoulder and sucked in a breath. He wasn’t going to be climbing over the castle walls anytime soon. Could he bluff his way out the gates?
Perhaps he’d be better off waiting for his moment. Surely Respen would send him on some mission before the month was out. Vane had always been coming and going, checking on the other Blades. Leith simply had to bide his time.
As long as he didn’t slip up in the meantime. He leaned against the wall. The cold from the stones seeped through his shirt. A tingle swept down his spine. How long could he go on like this? Pretending his heart hadn’t been touched by God and nothing about him had changed?
Best to be prepared. He unhooked one of his spare knives and sheathes from the wall. Biting his tongue to keep from crying out, he shimmied on his stomach through the dust under his cot and reached for the far corner. Moving by feel, he wedged the knife between the wall and the cot leg. He tightened the leather straps and wiggled from under the bed.
Hopefully he’d never need it, but just in case, he had it stashed away. If he were ever caught and locked in his room, perhaps the Blades searching for weapons might miss it.
Footsteps scuffed on the stone outside his door. He brushed at his shirt, but he couldn’t get all the dust out. A knuckle rapped on the door once, twice, as if scared the door would bite.
“Come in.” Leith leaned against the wall and buried his thoughts deep in his chest. As far as anyone could see, he was the First Blade.
Balancing a tray piled with bandages, salve, and a bowl of water, the oldest Blade trainee eased the door open and tiptoed inside. A foot shorter than Leith, the boy’s arms looked barely bigger than Leith’s knives. When the boy ducked his head, his mop of dark brown hair fell across his blue eyes. “Sixth—I mean, Third Blade Hamish sent me.”
“You can set the tray on the table.” Leith waved with his good hand. The trainee hurried across the room, circled to stay as far away from Leith as possible, and leaned over to set the tray down.
Leith rested his head against the wall. All the trainee saw was a First Blade who could lash out at him at any moment. Given Vane’s lack of patience, Leith could only guess what the former First Blade had done to set the boy’s hands to trembling and his eyes to darting glances at Leith through the fringe of hair.
Leith should be hard. Cold. He should make the trainee jump to attention.
He could do it. Ice lurked in his chest, waiting to form a numbing wall around his heart. He’d tapped that cold so many times over the years. He’d done it when he’d faced a fellow trainee, drawn his knife, and become a Blade. He’d done it again a year later when he’d leaned over a bed where a boy a few years older than him slept.
He was still a Blade. He still could kill. The chills on his back crept down his arms.
No. He wasn’t going to become a First Blade like Vane.
“I’m not going to hurt you.” Leith held his hands palm up. “What’s your name?”
The boy eyed him as if waiting for Leith to change his mind and draw his knife. “Jamie. My name’s Jamie Cavendish.”
Perhaps being friendly was a mistake. But it was better than terrifying the trainee. Leith unbuckled the straps crossing his chest and the belt around his waist. “You’re thirteen, right?”
Jamie bit his lip and nodded. A hint of red tinged the ends of his ears. If he was anything like Leith had been at that age, he was bothered by his lack of height for his age.
After setting his weaons on the floor beside the cot, Leith pulled his black shirt over his head. He gritted his teeth as his movement wrenched his wound.
Jamie’s eyes widened and traveled down the length of Leith’s right arm. His lips moved, probably counting Leith’s marks. Leith forced himself not to flinch. Thirty-six scars marred his shoulder and arm, the marks of thirty-six successful missions for King Respen.
“Help me with this bandage.” Leith eased onto the cot. He tugged on the bandage Renna had wrapped around his shoulder three days ago. Almost he wanted to leave it in place. If he closed his eyes, he could still feel the gentle brush of her fingers against his skin.
But his two-day ride across the stretch of prairie from Walden to Nalgar Castle had soiled the bandage. A spot of brown, dried blood stained the center.
Jamie stretched to keep his feet planted as far from Leith as possible, while he helped Leith remove the bandage. Jamie bit his lip. Had he realized the bandage was neater than Leith could’ve managed by himself with only one arm? Thankfully, the boy was only a trainee. He wouldn’t dare say those questions aloud, especially not to the First Blade.
As they reached the final layer, Leith gritted his teeth. The bandage had darkened to a deep burgundy, so thick with dried blood the linen was no longer visible. When they worked the bandage free, it’d yank the scab off.
Jamie filled the basin with water, wet a rag, and handed it, still dripping, to Leith. Leith pressed it to his shoulder and closed his eyes. The coolness filtered through the blood and bandage onto his burning shoulder.
When the bandage was as damp as he could make it, he dropped the rag, grasped the edge of the bandage, and tugged. The scab tore from his shoulder as if peeling away a layer of skin. With a final tug, the bandage dropped free.
Leith pressed his chin to his chest to look at his wound. The middle drooled blood, but the edges only oozed a clear liquid from the burns that had closed the wound.
When he raised his head, he found Jamie gaping at him. “You cauterized your own wound?”
Leith couldn’t help the quirk to the corner of his mouth. “Yes, and I don’t recommend it.”
Shaking his head, Jamie dampened another cloth and handed it to Leith. Leith pressed it to his shoulder while Jamie laid out fresh bandages and worked the stopper from the salve.
Leith spread the salve over his wound and allowed Jamie to wrap the bandage around his shoulder and arm. If only Renna could tend the wound. But she was safely tucked away at Walden, and he wasn’t about to wish her to Nalgar Castle.

Be sure to check out the rest of the tour as well!

Blog Tour Schedule
November 16
November 17
November 18
November 19
November 20
November 21
November 23
November 24
November 25
November 27
November 30
  • Release Day!
December 1
December 2
December 3
December 4

You can find my review of Deny and a giveaway Here.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Book Review + Giveaway: Deny

Summary: All lies have consequences. 
 Promoted to the top rank among King Respen’s assassins, First Blade Leith Torren hides his involvement with the Resistance. How many lies will it take to protect his secret? 
 Renna Faythe has done nothing but survive for the past four years, but now Leith’s courage inspires her to try to be something more. If only she could figure out what that duty might be. 
 When the unthinkable happens, faith waivers. Friendships tear. What else will they be forced to deny? 
 But this time, Leith faces his greatest fear. 
 He can’t save everyone.

Thoughts: I became hooked on this series the moment I started Dare. The tension Tricia manages to build into the story makes the climax what it is...climatic! Deny is no different, rather its better...or worse depending on how you handle extremely anxious scenarios! Honestly! I find myself worrying for the main characters, the ones you know can't die and yet, I worry! 
Alright, enough ranting. This is the second installment in the series The Blades of Acktar which is rapidly becoming a new favorite of mine. This book is fantastic! Thoughtful characters, chilling villains, amazing world building, deep Christian themes, twisting plots and wonderful writing all come together once again! And have I mentioned the wonderful sisters? Especially Brandi? I'm always on the lookout for great stories featuring siblings and this series made my day! (Ahem) Point being...if you're a fan of Christian fiction/fantasy (though not necessarily magical fantasy) I highly recommend these books! 
 I was given a Review copy in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Content: While this story gets a little on the bloody side, it's perfectly clean!

And now, the giveaway!

Rafflecopter Giveaway

That's right! You could win a copy of both books! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 16, 2015

Book Review: The School for Good and Evil

Summary: The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away. 
This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.
But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?
The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.

Thoughts: I don't even know. What do I think about this book. There were times when I was left shaking my head and wondering why on earth I was reading it and then times when I actually laughed along with the characters antics. (Sigh) Well, let me try and get my thoughts straight. 
  The fascinating cover, a story about friends, two fairytale all sounded captivating and though I try to be wary of popular fiction (its almost all love triangles and guys who are jerks) I admit to being a sucker for great covers despite the proverbial saying "Don't judge a book by it's cover". Needless to say this was actually, more or less, what I expected it to be rather than what I hoped; a high school drama about two girls and one boy with fairytale elements. But that wasn't all (otherwise I'm not sure I could have finished reading it). There was also a bigger question looming in the back: what makes someone good or evil? And can someone truly be only good or only evil, with no in between? This is probably one of the few books I read for the plot which was actually pretty intriguing. Intertwining so many new ideas and possibilities it left its rather typical characters behind. Well written but with randomly interspersed crude humor its a little hard to stick with but...well, I think I sort of liked it, I'm waiting to pass further judgement once I've read the rest of the series. After all, if the plot is nearly the same and the girls are simply going to go back and forth with their roles I'm going to get fed up pretty fast. But then again, the plot was one of the best aspects of the story so I suppose I should have some faith in the Author and hope he'll be able to catch more of my interest as the books continue.

Content: Again, crude humor and the toss up for what's good and what's evil but clean aside from that.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Book Review: The Door Within

Summary: There is an unseen world of good and evil where nightmares are fought and hope is reborn. Enter The Door Within. 
 Aidan Thomas is miserable. Within two weeks, Aidan’s life is completely uprooted as his parents move the family across the country to care for his ailing grandfather. The quiet but imaginative Aidan is struggling with attending a new school and fitting in with a new group of friends. But when he begins having nightmares and eerie events occur around his neighborhood, Aidan finds himself drawn to his grandfather's basement—where he discovers three ancient scrolls and a mysterious invitation to another world.
 No longer confined to the realm of his own imagination, Aidan embarks on an adventure where he discovers a long-fought war between good and evil. With the fate of two worlds hanging in the balance, Aidan faces Paragory, the eternal enemy with unfathomable power. Will Aidan be willing to risk everything and trust the unseen hand of the one true King?

Thoughts: I know this is something of a classic in Christian fantasy, and I hope I'm not going to offend a lot of people when I say this, but I really did not like this book. From hardcore allegory, unbelievable feats, and misuse of myths (the building blocks of fantasy! Respect them!) to 2d characters, a predictable plot and too many too used tropes. I don't mind obvious cliches when handled well, after all pretty much nothing written is 'new' it was all done before. As authors we just have to find new ways of using these tropes. But this was all trope. Useless kid suffering from reality finds what he's looking for in a magical land. You could get pretty much all of it from Narnia and The Neverending Story with much better writing, characters, and in between plot. (Deep breath) Ok, I'm not trying to bash the book or anything, I just really didn't like it. I do think this would probably appeal to young boys (there's a teensy bit of crude humor that might not be so entertaining for girls). I was bored but a younger audience who hasn't already seen/read these tropes a million times and are not familiar with the proper tales of mythical creatures (they use unicorns for plain old horse work!) might find some appeal to this story.

Content: A mild bit of watered-down violence during a battle scene and one time when Aiden's pants fall off in front of several people. Aside from that, perfectly clean.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Book Review: Dare

Summary: Courage could cost him everything. 
 Third Blade Leith Torren never questions his orders or his loyalty to King Respen until an arrow wound and a prairie blizzard drive him to the doorstep of the girls whose family he once destroyed.
 Their forbidden faith and ties to the Resistance could devastate their family a second time. 
 Survival depends on obedience, but freedom beckons. How far does he dare go to resist the king and his Blades?
No matter what Leith chooses, one thing is certain. 
Someone will die.

Thoughts: Wow! This story! Starting at a fast paced beginning, this book doesn't stop and hardly slows down as you're whirled through a heart stopping adventure that leaves you itching for more (the tension is killing me)! According to the summary, I assumed that most of the story took place in the girl's home, during a blizzard, and therefore expected a slower more home-focused story. Boy was I wrong! The summary barely scratches the surface of this book and, while I won't give anything away, I will say that I was pleasantly surprised and very tense reading this book. When you read enough books you get to the point where the ending itself isn't a great surprise, about half way through you already guess which familiar ever-after the book is going for, and start caring more for how everything gets to the ending rather than the ending itself (though happy endings always make a good read)! With this book I was six chapters from the ending and honestly didn't know what was going to happen, it felt like there was too much that needed to happen! But everything was well done, never crammed or unbelievable. The plot holds together well, the characters have depth and personalities, and the world itself feels believable and well structured. Also it's well written which is always a plus!

Content: Being a Christian adventure its pretty much entirely clean aside from some violence.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Book Review: The Pirate and the Princess

Summary: A female pirate, a lost princess and a mysterious gemstone! 
 Welcome to the Eurastia, a legendary pirate ship whose captain holds a dark secret. Her name is Yuri, and once, she lived in the future. Unable to return until she rights a terrible wrong, she must redeem herself and fulfill her destiny.
 Ten year old Princess Noelle is not from another time, but another place -- a land invaded by evil conquerors who killed her parents and kidnapped her younger brother. The Princess herself is taken hostage until Yuri saves her. It is then that they both learn that Noelle holds the key to Captain Yuri's destiny.
 Both Yuri and Noelle want nothing more than to return home. But neither can, until Noelle finds her brother, and Yuri vanquishes the sinister forces that she herself accidentally set in motion.

Thoughts: Well...the summary basically has every spoiler in it...but we'll just pretend like you still don't know. This novel was originally written in Japanese but has been translated and republished  in America (for which I am very grateful), this means there are minor errors in grammar you wouldn't normally find in books, but it's better than most translations for Asian stories I've read and shouldn't take away from the story! This is a wonderful, action packed little novel with several captivating sketches scattered throughout the story. Covering several genres at once, this book doesn't limit itself and offers to take you places you've never been to before in the next few books (it's the first in a series)! I will definitely continue reading these books with their charming and unique tale of a mysteriously good pirate and a princess who doesn't need a prince!

Content: This book was mostly clean aside from a semi-violent fight in the end and two scenes where Yuri removes her shirt so as to show a scar on her back. This is done while medicine is being applied to the wound and only the back is 'shown' so it's not really a problem. All-in-all, a great for younger kids and older readers who don't don't need a deep story to find a little pleasure in a book!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Book Reciw: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

Summary: Sixteen when a baby is brought to her to raise, Sybel has grown up on Eld Mountain. Her only playmates are the creatures of a fantastic menagerie called there by wizardry. Sybel has cared nothing for humans, until the baby awakens emotions previously unknown to her. And when Coren--the man who brought this child--returns, Sybel's world is again turned upside down.

Thoughts: Reminiscent of Ursula Le'Guin's Earthsea novels, this book was a deep and enchanting read. I admit, I picked it up expecting a cheesy romance but was interested despite myself. I mean, she raises a baby as the plot, there had to be at least some cute scenes right? Right. There were plenty. I was actually pleasantly surprised because, honestly, I hadn't expected the child to have much of a part in the story. And the romance? Not an issue, I actually came to semi-enjoy it by the end! The flow and narrative are great and it feels like another fantastic tale with its myths wound round the very core of the story. I really liked this book! 

Content: There was only one thing in this book noteworthy of content...but it's bad and a major plot point, also a SPOILER so beware. Around halfway through the book, Sybel is kidnapped and nearly raped. The memory of what almost (started to, actually) happen to her drives her to seek revenge so the scene isn't quickly forgotten but neither is it remembered in too great detail after it's happened. While there wasn't an overt amount of dwelling on it during the scene, I'd say it was a little too clear for younger or immature readers. Aside from that, she does (again SPOILER) get married and there are a few, less detailed, interactions between her and her husband. Over all a good read and the content isn't something to really worry about for a mature reader.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Manga Review: Pinocchio

Summary: A young girl is witness to a murder but rescued by the killer,a young boy, who is more than meets the eye.

Thoughts: First off, the summary is mine since I couldn't find an already existing one. Second, the title is very misleading, this is not a spin on the classic Pinocchio tale we knew as fact it has almost nothing to do with Pinocchio. It is also a tragedy. That being said, this was an amazingly sweet one-shot that had even me a little teary eyed by the end. A bittersweet story with characters made to hurt your heart but totally worth it!

Content: This manga is pretty gory to an extent and SPOILER the main character and villian both die in the end. not exactly a child friendly story or setting, but otherwise clean.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Book Review: The Master Puppeteer

Summary: Who is the man called Sabura, the mysterious bandit who robs the rich and helps the poor? And what is his connection with Yosida, the harsh and ill- tempered master of feudal Japan's most famous puppet theater? Young Jiro, an apprentice to Yosida, is determined to find out, even at risk to his own life.
Meanwhile, Jiro devotes himself to learning puppetry. Kinshi, the puppet master's son, tutors him. When his sheltered life at the theater is shattered by mobs of hungry, rioting peasants, Jiro becomes aware of responsibilities greater that his craft. As he schemes to help his friend Kinshi and to find his own parent, Jiro stumbles onto a dangerous and powerful secret....

Thoughts: Well...the summary's kinda scrambled everything, but I guess that's the jist of it.  I got the book the same time I grabbed another by the author Of Nightingales That Weep. I wasn't so impressed with Nightingales and had low expectations for this book as well. But it proved me wrong! This time, instead of a selfish girl mooning after some fantasy love, we have two boys and their friendship during a writhing and famine stricken Japan. The story, the characters, the setting, the events, not to mention the amazing art of the theater...I couldn't the book down! This was an amazing story and I absolutely loved it! 

Content: None really though there is quite a bit of violence and the effects of the famine (ex, a dead body found on the streets). Otherwise a great read for culture, history, or just pleasure!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Book Review: The Blue Sword

Summary: Harry Crewe is an orphan girl who comes to live in Damar, the desert country shared by the Homelanders and the secretive, magical Hillfolk. Her life is quiet and ordinary-until the night she is kidnapped by Corlath, the Hillfolk King, who takes her deep into the desert. She does not know the Hillfolk language; she does not know why she has been chosen. But Corlath does. Harry is to be trained in the arts of war until she is a match for any of his men. Does she have the courage to accept her true fate?

Thoughts: This was a very...interesting book. Something like the Alamo meets India. That probably wasn't a very good description, just my first impression I guess...anyways, it was unique, but a good kind of unique. While not exactly being the light read I was hoping for it was still a great read, full of hardcore world building and great investment in cultures. This made the characters; their reactions, thoughts, speech patterns, much more interesting. I realized only after I got this that it's the sequel to a story apparently about the famed legendary Aerin of The Blue Sword, so I will be sure to pick that up next time I get a chance. In the meantime, I really enjoyed this story which, while connected to it's prequel, is mostly stand alone and therefore easy to understand whether or not you've read The Hero and the Crown.

Content: To be hones, there was an unnecessary amount of language in here. Not a lot mind you, maybe three D***'s and two O My G**'s but it felt strange and was not only unnecessary but broke into the flow of the book. Aside from that, there's kissing near the end of the book and plenty of bloody fights but otherwise a clean read depending on how you handle language.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Book Review: Tom's Midnight Garden

Summary: Lying awake at night, Tom hears the old grandfather clock downstairs strike . . . eleven . . . twelve . . . thirteen . . . Thirteen! When Tom gets up to investigate, he discovers a magical garden. A garden that everyone told him doesn't exist. A garden that only he can enter . . .

Thoughts: This was a magical and sweet book reminiscent of an E. Nesbit or The Secret Garden. Filled with a sort of dreamy quality, this book takes through a mysterious adventure that you just can't quite understand until the very end. Full of sweet characters, a heart-pulling plot, and childish mishaps, it takes on a tour through time. In the beginning Tom was leaving home to escape the measles that had laid hold of his brother, and found himself extremely bored in his childless Aunt and Uncle's flat. While reading, I had a cold and was too miserable to do much and yet well enough to be extremely bored. It was then, with similar interest, that I followed Tom on his discovery of the garden and thoroughly enjoyed the adventures he had during the thirteenth hour.

Content: Perfectly clean for all ages. There is talk about ghosts but this is disproven by the end.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Manga Series Review: Kataribe no List

Summary:A watch that controls time, a marble that can find items and a stick of chalk that can kill any human...
The items of the mysterious girl, List of the antiques, all hold their unique magical powers. Without our noticing, they slowly merge into our daily lives.
If you strain your hearing you might discover the mysterious secrets hidden throughout the world. The curtain of this antiques fairy tale finally rises!

Thoughts: Started reading this one day when I got bored and was hoping for some sort of mystery to pass the time. While not an actual mystery I became immediately hooked! First off, let me squeal, one of the main characters is a nine year old girl!! And she's cute! If you've been following our blog for very long you'll already know that I love stories with small children...which is why this became an instant favorite. List (the girl) is a mysterious Kataribe (storyteller) who collects magical and dangerous items that have somehow escaped the Grimm's fairytales. She is joined by Hiwatari Akitsune after a mix-up ends with him in possession of one of the items..and unable to return it to her. They are joined by a crazy fun cast of characters and discover that they aren't they only ones searching for the items. List's past and the secrets surrounding the items create an intriguing and  surprising story that is filled with twists and turns right out of the original fairytales. As an up-and-coming fictional author myself, I have a great love and respect for fairytales and enjoy revisions, originals, and usage of the very building blocks of fantasy. This manga doesn't disappoint and did I mention that List is adorable? Well, now you know!

Content: Like all manga, there's some language that probably wasn't necessary with D*** and B****** being the biggest problems but rarely actually used. The story is very dark. I don't know how many people are familiar with the actual Grimm fairytales but...let's just say Disney kid-a-fied a lot! And manga rarely shies away from mature or dark themes. As such this series can get a little bloody. But, in all honesty, its not as bad as far as most mangas go. Aside from that, its alright! This was surprisingly clean and cute

Monday, November 2, 2015

Book Series Review: The Psammead Trilogy

Summary: Five Children and It: The five children find a cantankerous sand fairy or 'psammead' in a gravel pit. Every day 'It' will grant each of them a wish that lasts until sunset, often with disastrous consequences. Never out of print since 1902. The Introduction to this edition examines Nesbit's life and her reading, showing the change in children's literature from Victorian times.
   The Phoenix and the Carpet: It's startling enough to have a phoenix hatch in your house, but even more startling when it talks and reveals that you have a magic carpet on the floor. The vain and ancient bird accompanies the children on a series of adventures through time and space. This book is a sequel to Five Children and It.
  The Story of the Amulet:  At the end of Five Children and It the five children promised not to ask the Psammead for another wish as long as they lived, but expressed a half wish to see it again some time. They find 'it' again in a pet shop in Camden Town, and their magic adventures start over again. 'It' leads them to a magic amulet - half of it actually - which they use it to try and find the other half. It takes them back to ancient Egypt and Babylon. The Queen of Babylon visits them in London, bringing all her ancient customs with her - which is awkward. They visit the lost continent of Atlantis. They see Julius Caesar in the flesh, but none of these adventures run smoothly, and if they forget the 'word of power' or lose the amulet, what would happen to them?

Thoughts: I love classic books, E. Nesbit being a favorite author of mine. I know plenty of people know of Five Children and It and probably the rest of the books but I'm not sure how many realized they were a series...well, now you know! Full of fun, magic, childish humor, and thrilling adventures that don't always go according to plan, these books make a great read for anyone!

Content: Clean and great for all ages!