Reader’s Corner

Books Worth Reading – May 2016

I’m delighted to be able to share with you some of my bookish discoveries this last month.

It’s not all fantasy this time. My second great love, after fantasy, is futuristic fiction. There’s more connecting the two genres than might appear: one gets to create the world and do pretty much whatever one pleases, either with technology or fantasy type power. The rules can be bent and history invented. So, first on of all…

Futuristic Fiction

I read the first book in the Out of Time Series, A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes. Yes, the title made some of my family give me strange looks, but it is perfect of the theme. What would you do if you knew the day of your death? And if that day was almost upon you?

Writing: 5 out of 5; well written and engaging. The style, while following a basic story arc, reminded me of how a biography would follow a person’s life more than the normal novel.Hence, there were some parts which might seem a little slow in a novel where every scene is building towards one single goal, but I think it works in this book.

Characters: 5 out of 5; oh the poor characters. I can’t believe how much Nadine hurts them. Even as a writer, there were still some parts which shocked me. And then it got me thinking…and that might not be good news for future characters of my own. But I digress. I loved the characters in this book. And I loved Parvin, the main character. Her fears, her doubts, the raw realness of her struggles in and with faith… it was excellent.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5; Fresh, strong.

Theme: 5 out of 5; Very clear and foundational to the story, but at no time does Parvin’s struggles seemed forced or sections turn preachy.

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; I highly recommend this book. I just bought the second book, A Time To Speak and am looking forward to reading that as soon as I get though some library books. And the last book, A Time To Rise, comes out this fall. *squeals* Which is another reason I keep putting off A Time To Speak; once it’s over, I won’t have the next book to read until later this year.

Fantasy Books

I heard about The Blades of Acktar series from a friend who highly recommended them. In a fantasy land, set in some obscure corner of our world, Christians must worship in secret to escape the wrath of an evil king and his handpicked blades; assassins proficient at spying and fighting with knives. And the best thing about Dare and Deny is that the third (and, I think, final) book in the series just came out yesterday. I’m eagerly looking forward to reading it.

Writing: 4 out of 5; the beginning of the first book was a little slow, but not enough for me to stop reading.

Characters: 4 out of 5; the characters are deep, but not broad. Each character has a distinguishing characteristic by which they are defined, and that characteristic is present in almost every interaction. But I still love the characters, even Renna, who’s doubt and fear sometimes made me sigh. This, by the way, is simply personal opinion; but while I like and know there needs to be room for character development, I do like reading about main characters with a little more confidence.

Dialogue: 4.5 out of 5

Theme: 4.5 out of 5; Very clear and very up front, but it didn’t proceed to the point where it was annoying and preachy.

Recommendation: 4 out of 5; I love the blades, and I love Leith. And my only consolation for the end of the second book was that the third book was about to come out. The mixture of a fantasy land in name, along with real life Christianity works well. While not my absolute favorite books, mainly because I like my characters to have more breath and nuances, I would recommend them as an interesting and exciting read filled with danger, turmoil, and treachery.

Other…Book

I’m not sure what to call The Hidden Oracle, the first book in the Trials of Apollo series. It’s not really fantasy; more a mix of modern and mythology. The premise in all of Rick Riordan’s books, of which he’s written quite a few (the Percy Jackson series being my favorite) is that the Greek gods are real. Not real in that they are God (the idea of there being an all-powerful God is left open ended), but they are immortal beings which tinker in the affairs of men and who have children with them. These children are called demigods and are the main characters in most of the books…except this one, where the main character is actually Apollo, who Zeus has made human. (Apparently that happened twice in mythology…and now once in Riordan’s books.)

Writing: 5 out of 5; Rick Riordan is an excellent writer who makes me laugh with the most outrageous random lines.

Characters: 5 out of 5; the characters are all layered, distinct, and play off each other in a very humorous manner. Also, there is an arrow that talks in Shakespearean English near the end of the book. I’ve read of talking swords, but never about talking arrows. It was absolutely hilarious.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5

Theme: Umm, this is the one reason I debated between mentioning the book, but the talking arrow tipped the scales in the story’s favor. Rick Riordan is not a Christian author. Actually, his books are some of the few fiction books I read outside of the ‘inspirational fiction’ area. There are good themes of loyalty and courage, but Riordan’s view of life, and of marriage is not the Christian view of one man and one woman. Not that there is overwhelming romance of any kind in these books, but when it is touched on in minor subplots, the worldly view of ‘marriage’ is treated as normal and perfectly fine.

Recommendation: 4 out of 5; because of the book’s theme not being Christian as mentioned above, I can’t recommend it 5 out of 5 like I’d really like to. I enjoyed the book, and love most of Riordan’s works that I’ve read. But, in the end, you’ll have to decide if you want to read a book which treats some sins as fine and normal, recognizing that the author’s worldview is wrong, or if you’d rather forego it altogether.

Flashback Fantasy

And I figured, since there’s lots of books I’ve read which I won’t be rereading any time soon but still want to share with you, to have a ‘Flashback Fantasy’ section each month. So, without more ado, the Wingfeather Saga, everyone!

I started reading this series when a friend sent me the first book for my birthday. She sent me the second book a few months later, and then I eagerly bought the last two books in The Wingfeather Saga before handing them off to my brothers who also loved them

Writing: 5 out of 5; the writing is for a younger age group than I normally read; probably 12-15. But who cares? I loved the story and I loved the humor, even when it was a bit silly in the first book or two.

Characters: 5 out of 5; very distinct, each character with their own humorous addition to the story which sometimes covers painful secrets.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5

Theme: 5 out of 5; these are fantasy books, but the Maker (God) is mentioned and referenced as a part of life, not just some abstract and distant force.

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; These books made me laugh. They made me cry. I ached for the characters and I loved them. It’s an especially great series to read out loud to younger siblings. I just might do that this summer…

How about you? Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned and what did you think? What other Christian fantasy books do you love?

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

Posted by Hope Ann in Book Reivews, Reader's Corner, 15 comments

Books Worth Reading – April

Fantasy Books of the Month

A writer must read. There’s no question about it. What you want to write, you read. Reading not only sparks creative thoughts, but it also sharpens a your skills as you see how one writer could have done something better, or study how another writer expertly manipulated your emotions.

Of course, the downsides to being a writer is you can’t enjoy as many books as before because you’re consistently picking out poor writing. At least I do. But that just makes the well written books that much better. And, for the month of April (I realize this is a little late, but better late than never) I read several great fantasy books. *rubs hands with impish grin*

Firstly, Songkeeper by Gillian Adams. I’ve already written a whole review post on this second book in the Songkeeper Chronicles, so I’ll keep this brief.

Writing: 5 out of 5; great pace, great settings. Perfect amount of description and action.

Characters: 5 out of 5; Fresh, human, love them.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5; Fresh, funny, rings true.

Theme: 5 out of 5; Subtle, but strong.

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; one of my favorite middle books of a trilogy; keeps the story going while building up to the next book.

Then there is Dreamlander by K.M. Weiland. *sniffles* I had to spend the rest of the evening recovering after finishing this book. It was…it was good. Wonderful. And I felt so bad for the main character. As the one person in his generation who is able to cross from our ‘real’ world to the ‘dream’ world, he’s always awake in one or the other; either fighting for his life or trying to save the world. No long restful sleepy mornings. I don’t envy him his role, but I do highly recommend this book. It’s long, but it’s worth it.

Writing: 4.5 out of 5; there were a few sections with some telling instead of showing, but they were always brief enough I hardly cared. Dreamlander has great pace which kept building up. You know those books which you like, and then it gets better, and then it gets even better? This was one of those books

Characters: 5 out of 5; Fresh, both human and nonhuman; you can see the reasoning behind various character’s actions, even when they are wrong. They draw you into the story, emotionally investing you in the outcome.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5; Fresh, strong.

Theme: 5 out of 5; Well woven throughout the story

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; highly recommend this book. And, one of the best things about it is that it’s a single book. Don’t get me wrong, I love series. But everything seems part of a series now days. I love finding great single books I can read without having to worry about how many more books I need to buy or when the next one comes out.

Next, there is Knife and Rebel by Christian author R. J. Anderson. The third book, Arrow, just came out and I’ve not got it yet though I fully intend to. The series title, No Ordinary Fairy Tale, says it all. In a world where fairies are real, they’re far from innocent glittering pixies. If you like reading about fairies, then this is a version of their life you will very much enjoy.

Writing: 4 out of 5; A little slow to start, but they’re still interesting and quickly get exciting.

Characters: 4.5 out of 5; fairy and human are both excellently done, though compared to some of the other books I’ve read this month, they don’t have as many distinct quirks as they could. But still, well done.

Dialogue: 4.5 out of 5; sound, solid.

Theme: 5 out of 5; Subtly woven into the first book. Stronger, but without being preachy, in the second book

Recommendation: 4.5 out of 5; This trilogy keeps the story moving well. Each book is a separate story with one overall arc through all three. I’m looking forward to reading the last book…you’ll probably be hearing about it next month.

And finally, I finished the Two Towers in my journey though reading Lord of the Rings for the third time. And there’s no need to parse out this book. Tolkien is an excellent writer and all fantasy writers should read his works. No, they must read Lord of the Rings. It is the fantasy trilogy of the century. *Glares down any challenge*

So, what about you? Have you read any of these books? What have you been reading lately? Any wonderful fantasy to recommend to me?

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

Posted by Hope Ann in Book Reivews, Reader's Corner, 9 comments

Wingmaster

This story is set in Aslaria, my Legends of Light land. The wingmaster idea is based off the Song of the Sword, my current WIP, but this event took place about a hundred years before Song of the Sword.

He should have known. He should have guessed. The finding of the legendary wingmaster’s blade should have given him more than a hint that something was wrong.

But the late spring snow, the early darkness, and the encroaching mist sweeping through the Melody Realm had been enough to deal with. Even drawing on the power of the song in the Melody, it had been all I could do to beat the joy stealing fog back towards the south. It had been an everyday enough occurrence that I should have known the sword was for something else.

Something worse.

But I’d relaxed. I’d attended the celebration like a normal citizen of Aslaria instead of one of the few who knew about, much less could entered, the reflection realm of song. And I’d left the sword in my lodging.

The swift beat of Frithren’s wings during a jubilant dance was the first sign something was terribly wrong.

He’s here.

The words sent ice though my veins and I pulled away into the shadows even as the lamps flickered out. And, under the startled cries, which I knew would soon turn to pleas of fear, I could hear the heavy drumbeat of the traitor’s song.

The traitor. As I dashed into the night, snow falling gently around my, I racked my brains but could come up with no name to couple to the shadow who had been sweeping though the country. A rumor, may thought it was.

I’d thought it was.

Except he was real. And he was here.

I snatched up the wingmaster’s sword, my vision blurring then clarifying as I saw the real realm and the Melody at once. My chest tightened as I glimpsed the mist, seeping in about the castle walls. But there was no time to deal with it now. Summoning the song, I dashed back to the great hall.

Silence met my ears. Silence, mingled with the recent memory of bloodshed and weeping. And the traitor’s faint song.

I choked at the sight. The motionless bodies. The stained floor. The lifeless hall.

I staggered back outside, my sword hanging limply from my hand. Frithren’s wings beat against the air and I turned, lifting my hand for the messenger falcon.

He’s headed south. Frithren declared grimly.

I nodded and swallowed hard, then closed my eyes. The Prince forgive me. I’d been given the sword, and I’d failed before I’d even started. I’d failed, but more would die unless I could stop the shadow. Clenching the sword, I took a deep breath, then turned toward the south.

And I ran. Ran through the night. Though the snow. Though the mist. Though the song. With death behind me, danger ahead, and an oath throbbing though my blood, I ran towards the fulfillment of my doom.

Posted by Hope Ann in fantasy, Legends of Light, My Writing, Reader's Corner, Writing Scenes, 2 comments

Songkeeper

I had the privilege of being on Gillian Adams’s launch team for the second book in her Songkeeper trilogy, Songkeeper. I absolutely loved the first book in the series, Orphan Song and couldn’t wait to read the second book. It didn’t disappoint.

Songkeeper was absolutely wonderful; better even than the first book if at all possible, and much more heartrending. This is not simply a ‘middle book’ in which the story is only preparing for the climax of the third book. It does build up, of course, but it is also a gripping and exciting story in it’s own right.

Things I loved:

Characters – 5/5: They are so fresh and original. Amos, Ky, Birdie, Gundhrold, Sym, Inali, Migdon…there’s nothing 2D about them. And the way Gillian has made her characters so human is amazing. Even the minor characters aren’t completely bad or completely good, but are a perfect bend of complexity.

Setting – 5/5: The settings are so vivid and so…different. I absolutely love them!

Plot – 5/5: Exciting, gripping; even when the story switched between characters I hardly cared because both story lines were so interesting. It was very well paced.

Theme – 5/5: Very well done. Though powerful, the theme is also subtle.

Dialogue – 5/5: I had to include this simply so I could give examples of some of my favorite lines. Amos’s insults, for example, are the best I’ve ever read. Take his line about the griffin, Gundhrold. “Why did the sand-blasted catbird have to be so seaswoggling logical? It was downright infuriating.”  And this confrontation between the two as they are forced to travel together. “Gundhrold’s head lowered until his massive beak was only inches away from Amos’s nose. “I am a son of the desert. This was once my home – the home of all my kind. I know every crag, every slope, every crick and hollow-”     Amos rolled his eyes. “Every blatherin’ speck o’ sand?”

Everything else – 5/5: Seriously, I love this book. And I’m a picky reader with a habit of correcting things as I write. But this book is very well written. There are some dark scenes at the end, but they are well handled and very necessary to the story.

The one thing I don’t like:

The fact I’ll likely have to wait a year for the next book. I want find out what happens to my favorite characters (which happens to be all of them, but there is one in particular that needs immediate attention…)!

Songkeeper comes out April 15th! You can preorder it here. And if you don’t have Orphan’s Song, make sure to check that out too!

Posted by Hope Ann in A Writer's Life, Book Reivews, fantasy, Reader's Corner, 3 comments

Luremaster

I’d been a professional luremaster for years; dragons, lions, great wolves. I flattered myself I knew monsters. I knew how they thought, how they moved, how to enrage them. And, with Ice Mane beneath me and a mist lamp in my hand, I could take on anything Alisara had to offer.

Then I met the Shade Griffin. Yes, the legends said his wings carried night and his great clawed feet shook waves of snow from the mountainsides and sent them thundering down to smother whole villages, while his beak could easily devour several oxen at once. I guess I didn’t believe them. I should have.

It was one of the arrogant knight heroes who’d hired me. All I was to do wake the beast, frankly not the best way to start any attack but hey, the knight was paying me good gold. I just made sure he paid me before we started out into the northern wilds. Anyhow, how hard was would it be to wake a Shade Griffin and then luring him down the mountain to the ambush where the knight was waiting?

I’d sat easily on Ice Mane and lifted a silver trumpet to my lips. The fact I had to wind the thing seven times before there was even a rumble from the gaping cavern should have given me some warning. And the Griffin’s first steps, shuddering the whole mountain side, did make me hesitate.

And then I saw him; wings made from living shadows, eyes as bleak as a starless night, legs as thick as pillars and a body which would crush have a village.

Ice Mane spun, tearing down the hillside so quickly I reeled, barely keeping my seat. Behind me, mist spun from my lamp, but there was no need of that now. We were hurtling into the darkness, barely keeping ahead of the Griffin’s easy stride.

And, as I pressed myself on my mount’s one final thought surged back and forth though my brain. Why, oh why, hadn’t I chosen to bait the fiery fen serpent instead?

Posted by Hope Ann in fantasy, My Writing, Reader's Corner, Writing Scenes, 6 comments

Call Name: Golden Sapphire

Area 7A: Sector 3C

1154 hours

Golden Sapphire, be alerted, Black Fury has been spotted heading east by northeast towards your sector. ETA 30 seconds. Repeat, Black Fury has breached Silver Ruby and is flying low. He must not be allowed access to the core. Repeat, he must be stopped. ETA 20 seconds. Golden Sapphire –

“Golden Sapphire reporting in,” Zevlina’s pulse quickened but she lifted the silver wristlet holding a humming crystal to her lips even as she slapped her boots against her dragon’s sleek blue sides. “Golden Sapphire reporting in. Heading to east. Will not allow Black Fury further access.”

Golden Sapphire, be alerted, a lancer is in your vicinity. He’ll lend his aid.

“Wonderful,” Zevlina muttered to herself, turning Sapphire’s head toward the breach and swaying easily as the beast wove though the gold-lit trunks.

Golden Sapphire, be alerted, a lancer –

“Got it.” Zevlina cut the voice off. A lancer indeed. Of all the numerous arrogants, lancers were by far the worse. And if it happened to be Quivlan…

A high shriek echoed through the air and Zevlina shifted her own javelin as her mount burst into a clearing. The deadly black figure of the Black Fury twisted it’s slender body upward, it’s wings flaring then folding as it spun towards her. Quivlan darted under Sapphire, angling his lance towards the Black Fury and Zevlina lifted her wrist to her mouth one last time, clenching her own lance ad the shimmering black skin of the dragon filled her sight.

“Command, be advised, we have found the Black Fury.”

Posted by Hope Ann in fantasy, My Writing, Reader's Corner, Writing Scenes, 10 comments

Heroes Inc.

Another flash fiction scene; I love the possibilities behind this one:

“Ready?” Katlyn questioned.
I scowled as I tugged at the cloak hanging heavily from my shoulders. “Do I really have to wear this?”
Katlyn rolled her eye. “They’ll be waiting for a knight, a prince. And you want to go in jeans and a t-shirt? Honestly, Haden, one would think you don’t care what impression you make.”
The slightest of smiles curved my lips as I glanced about the huge domed room where white lights flashed off steel walls and great fans. “And in the meantime, I look like a complete fool here. The last hero got to wear black leather and a mask.”
“And that’s less conspicuous?” Katlyn shook her head as she moved about me, checking the straps of my armor.
“Besides, leather would be highly impractical.” Daven didn’t glance up from the set of controls as he spoke. “Jamenson was traveling to the planet Varintena in the Gloom Realm. You’ll be in the Cember Realm, and you’ll be glad for the extra garments once you step onto the Seda.”
“Don’t doubt it.” I pulled my sword part way out of my sheath. Notwithstanding the cloak and tunic, the sword was a cool touch.
“There will be high winds, maybe even sand storms,” Daven continued to ramble. “You’ll be entering the Seda about an hour before dawn, and our intelligence puts a party of Zenovian rangers on a ridge to your left.”
“And now…” Katlyn stepped back, tilting her head as she inspected me. “Is Hero 7C ready for deployment?”
I chuckled, then took a deep breath. “Ready.”
“And…opening.” Daven tapped a button and the wall before me slowly began to split in two, divided by a brilliant blue light.
“Expected operation time five weeks!” Daven called over the noise of a rising wind. “Be back by then!”
“You bet!” I raised one hand in an informal salute, squared my shoulders, then stepped forward.
For a brief moment, the blue humming light of the Realm Gate surrounded me, then I was through. Wind dashed sting bits of sand against my cheek and immediately I was glad for the cloak. Not that I’d admit that to Katlyn.
Below me the blue glow begins to fade, but I don’t look back as I continue deeper into the Seda, ready to lead yet another nation to victory against the dark forces of evil.

Posted by Hope Ann in My Writing, Reader's Corner, Writing Scenes, 8 comments

Hunters of Shadowfen

It wasn’t nearly as large as the villagers had made it out to be. As big as cottage, certainly. If one counted the snaky tentacles along its huge humped back, it might almost rival two cottages. But it wasn’t twice the size of the town hall as the energetic alderman had insisted. Certainly not large enough to earn a monster rating. More like a beast, second class.
I drew a soft breath through parted lips and turned my head again, peering over the rim of the rickety canoe toward the creature slowly pulling itself from the depths of the Shadowfen. Its stumpy, scale-covered legs splashed water in all directions as its claws sank deep into the mud. The tentacles on its jaw rippled as the beast moved its head back and forth slowly, sniffing.
“Dorian?” My sister breathed out the word at my elbow.
“It’s working,” I replied, my eyes drifting to the light at the prow of the boat. My hand closed about the smooth staff of my javelin. “I think it’s blind, but it can probably sense the heat…and hear and smell.”
Tanla shifted next to me. “Big too. How fast do you think it can move?”
I titled my head slightly as the creature paused. Its dim eyes shifted the shadows in our direction.
“Looks like we’re about to find out. Ready to run?”
Tanla’s teeth shown white in the dim light as she grinned. “Ready.”
“And who knows?” I raised my eyebrows as she unwrapped a sling and prepared a scale-piercing stone. “Perhaps if we take care of this thing, the council will send us after a real monster.”
“Perhaps.”
We both stiffened as the beast snorted, then our gazes met.
I nodded slightly. “Charge.”

Posted by Hope Ann in My Writing, Reader's Corner, Writing Scenes, 2 comments