Monday, December 27, 2010

Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor

Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor, The Knights of Arrethtrae, Chuck Black, Fantasy Fiction, 2010, 189 pages

Synopsis: Two friends face the Dark Knight’s deadliest scheme, but only one knight has the courage to overcome.
Sir Quinlan leaves his boyhood friend to serve the Prince, fighting a battle darker and more intense than any he’s ever known. The mysterious Sir Baylor recruits him into the ranks of an elite unit of knights known as the Swords of Valor, but when tragedy strikes and everyone blames Quinlan, the Swords of Valor disband, ending a legacy of heroic deeds.
Alone and despairing, Quinlan wanders the kingdom, fleeing his past. His providential encounter with Taras, a mysterious Silent Warrior and former trainer of Valor Knights, offers Quinlan a chance to redeem himself and learn the ways of the secret warriors.

The training is grueling, and just when Quinlan seems to have left his failures behind, he receives an impossible challenge from the Prince—one that will force him to face his past…and the mighty men who blame him for the tragedy that ruined them.

Can Quinlan reunite the Valor Knights in time to save the people from the Dark Knight’s evil plot to rule the Kingdom of Arrethtrae, or will the Valor Knights lose the most important battle of all?

My thoughts: This is the first book by Chuck Black I have read. Considering that, I found the introduction of the "Life Spice" a little corny. ("...the King used the power of of the Life Spice to raise His Son from the dead.") To a non-believer, this may merely seem like a child's immediate solution to an invincible monster's killing of his favorite hero toy. But, if the Life Spice is explained sufficiently in previous books, the reader should not encounter this feeling.
  Coming back to my first encounter with Mr. Black's books, I liked it very much! I didn't need to foreknow anything to understand it; I felt as if I were reading the first volume. A medieval society is oft-used in fantasy fiction, but often works well for Christian allegory. Such is the case in this fifth volume. I also found it easy to lose myself in it; I read it in one day! The idea of an elite fighting force such as the Silent Warriors always excites and entices me. However, near the end of the book, about 9 months of training pased without enough detail. It seemed as if the story was under a deadline, and could have been developed more at that point. I was disappointed that Mr. Black hardly described the training procedures, as they are my favorite parts of medieval tales.
  The kingdoms of light and darkness, the paythas that brought on apathy, and fighting for the King and His Prince were all great themes! The characters were quite realistic, but after Quinlan's 9 months of training, he was greatly matured, but it felt too sudden for me.
  The conclusion to this story was very powerful! It portrays the 2nd coming of Christ, and leaves both Christians and unbelievers with a question: "Have you given your life to the King?" This question and the knightly lessons learned in Arrethtrae apply to the reverse of that land's name, our temporary home.

My rating: 4 stars

Please rate my review on the publisher's website! Thanks!

Upcoming reviews
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This book was provided free by Waterbrook Multnomah. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.

Buy Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor
Check out more Medieval Fiction
Check out Mr. Black's website

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Class of '12 poem

Hannah at Eroica's Poetry wrote another poem, this one describing my school's current Junior students, and our past experiences there. There are inside jokes, beware :P

Two and a half years of looking ahead,
Waiting for better days, trekking time's thread
Faster than retrospect's focus can see—
Stop, fellow juniors, remember with me!

Pull out the yearbooks for memory's sake;
“Pause for a moment” and just take a break.
Yes, you had fun at least sometimes, admit;
Stop before life gets too good to forget!

Look at your baby face! Look at mine, too!
See all the faces of folks we once knew!
Seems it was ages ago since those days,
Yet it was yesterday, too, in some ways.

'Member the 2009 senior class,
Westerbeak's antics, Amanda's sweet sass?
'Member the president's speeches so strong?
'Member the Andersons, always in song?

How about Choir Tour's Canada trip,
Laughing at Christopher's "Honey Bun" hips?
Who would've thought—at one time long ago,
Sara wore glasses, and Emily, no?

We're missing faces: Miss Dougil's, Miss Ho's;
But how'd we survive without Donny, suppose?
Aw, SeƱor Connally, missed most of all!
Spanish and Latin were always a ball!

Now look at pictures from 2010;
Think of the memories from way back then!
Taking on staff in a volleyball spree,
Sitting rejected beneath a lone tree...

Look at the minuscule Class of '13
Back in their first year, when Rachel was queen!
(Though one might argue that Queen she still is.)
But no one beat Elsie the literature whiz!

High school, of life, is the best and worst time.
Enjoy it, therefore, while you're life's in its prime;
So when you're much older you'll look back with joy,
Quoting the favorite, “When I was a boy...”

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Wisdom of Snow - Music Shuffle Tag

I was tagged by Prism at A Girl Of Many Colors and here are the tag rules:
  1. Put your iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc. on shuffle.
  2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
  4. Tag 20 friends.
  5. Everyone tagged has to do the same thing.
  6. Have Fun!
Here are the questions!

If someone says "Are you okay?" you say
People by Barbra Streisand

What would best describe your personality?
Why Have You Brought Me Here? from the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack

How would you describe yourself?
Hold Fast by MercyMe
Could be...

What do you like in a guy/girl?
For What It's Worth by Sidewalk Prophets

How do you feel today?
Winter Wonderland by Jason Mraz
I don't really like this verson of the song, but I wish there was snow :)

What is your life's purpose?
Bring The Rain by MercyMe
Hmm, I hope I don't make others miserable...

What's Your Motto?
 Yo Hold The World by Israle Houghton
I am not sure if that's a typo; that's how it came. But, a good motto nonetheless!

What do your friends think of you?
Take Me Home-Country Roads by John Denver

What do your parents think of you?
Annie's Song by John Denver
Wow... If you've heard this you'll know...

What do you think about very often?
Old Rugged Cross by The O'Neill Brothers
Ooh, that's a good one!

What is 2 + 2?
Awake by Josh Groban
Hmm, ok...

What do you think of your best friend?
So She Dances by Josh Groban
Completely random choice lol!

What do you think of the person you like?
An Awakening by The O'Neill Brothers

What is your life story?
Time Floats On by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Hahaha! Sometimes it seems like it!

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Somos Novios (It's Impossible) by Andrea Bocelli
Hmm, I did dress up as Peter Pan last year...

What do you think when you see the person you like?
Magical Lasso from the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack

What will you do at your wedding?
Sanctified by MercyMe
Appropriate! I like it!

What will they play at your funeral?
O Come All Ye Faithful by Jeremy Horn

What is your hobby/interest?
Night Enchanted by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
0.o 0.o

What is your biggest fear?
Christmas Bells, Carousels & Time by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
A lie! :D

What is your biggest secret?
Ignition by Tobymac
Hmmm, I don't think so :P

What do you want right now?
See by Steven Curtis Chapman
I do have bad eyesight...

What do you think of your friends?
Christmas Concerto by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

What's the worst thing that could happen?
Best-kept Secret by Skillet
Uh-oh... :P

What is the one thing you regret?
Awake by Josh Groban
Yes, I love sleeping :D

What makes you laugh?
Half-Remembered Dream from the Inception soundtrack
Sometimes, yes!

What makes you cry?
Mercy by Casting Crowns

Will you ever get married?
Hold My Heart by Tenth Avenue North
Hmm, is that a yes?

What scares you the most?  
If we are the body by Casting Crowns

Does anyone like you?
Safest Way Into Tomorrow by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Not sure what that means...

If you could go back in time, what would you change?
Morning has broken by Michael Card
I like that song, but it doesn't apply here :P

What hurts right now?
That's All by Michael Buble

What would you want to say to the person who tagged you?
Uaxuctum: The Legend Of The Mayan City Which They Themselves Destroyed from the Shutter Island soundtrack

What will you name this post?
The Wisdom of Snow by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

I first 20 followers! (discluding myself)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Jacob Parker interview

Please welcome Jacob R. Parker, author of Kestrel's Midnight Song! (read my review here)

NA: What drew you to write fantasy fiction?

JP: I suppose it was a couple of different things. "Zelda: Ocarina of Time" first drew me to fantasy. I'm pretty sure that game tripled the size of my imagination. And with fiction, I've always been an avid reader. In grade school, we had a yearly short story contest that showed me how much fun writing fiction is.

NA:  What is unique in Kestrel’s Midnight Song compared to other fantasy fiction?

JP: That was one of my biggest goals in writing Kestrel's Midnight Song. I would rather take a leap of faith with an original work that ended up flopping than utilize a sure formula in order to become a runaway success. I'd like to think the plot is original. Nobody has been able to guess the big twist that I know of. Also, the main character never picks up a sword, and there is no magic.

NA: Where did this story idea come from?

JP: I was sitting in front of my computer literally thinking, "What should I write about?" Microsoft has this desktop background with the rolling green hills and blue sky. I imagined a shepherd boy journeying across that, which led to a bunch of questions I needed to answer. That was the genesis for Kestrel's Midnight Song, originally titled The Shepherd.

NA: Were there any smaller influences that came into the books?

JP: I wander through life with my inspiration detectors open as wide as possible. Anything and everything can strike me with an idea. For instance, I misspelled the word "warehouse" yesterday, which led to the idea of the "warhouse." You'll probably see exactly what that will be in my next book. ;)

NA: I can’t wait! What inspired you to create an Aegre Bird or a Caelum Flute, and where did you get those names?

JP: Both of those I created to fill the needs of the story. I didn't think of them at the time as one of those cool ideas that are just burning to be included in a story somewhere. "Aegre" is latin for "scary" and "caelum" is latin for "air" as far as I know.

NA: How long did it take you to piece together the plot?

JP: I let this story idea simmer in my brain for years before I even started writing it. And even then it changed as I went along. The moment I came up with the ending was one of the most thrilling I can remember.

NA: Which character was the hardest to write?

JP: Drift was the hardest character to write because I couldn't decide whether to make him an introvert or an extrovert. At different times in the story it was more convenient one way or the other. Ultimately I made him an introvert, obviously, but it took a lot of concentration to keep him that way.

NA: Which character was the easiest to write?

JP: Micah was the easiest to write. We have a lot in common, or did when I started writing at age 15, anyway. 60% of the time, he did and said what I would have. But he's different in several ways, too, especially now. We've grown apart, you could say...

NA: If you could be any character in your books, which would it be?

JP: I'm much too mean to my characters to want to trade places with any of them! Haha. Plus, one of the rules I made for myself in order to avoid making my book like others already out there, was to avoid wish fulfillment. When I started I felt like giving the characters special abilities and/or privileges was a cheaply used and common trick to get the reader into the story, so although I hope the reader cares deeply for the characters and their perils, I don't think anyone envies them. And that's not to say I won't use abilities and/or privileges in future books in some way or other.

NA: If your books were made into a movie, would you have any preferred actor, director, composer, etc?

JP: First of all, let me say that I would prefer a horrible movie adaptation to no adaptation, simply because it would still drive a lot of people to the book. Second, I would either want no say or a great deal of say. I wouldn't want to direct simply because I have no experience and haven't studied that, but being involved in the creative process and having the ability to offer input with some weight would be fun.

NA: Can you tell us three things about yourself we readers may not know?

JP: Hmmmm. My first novel attempt was in 4th grade. I flew to St. Louis to play the evil prince in the book trailer for To Darkness Fled, by Jill Williamson. I used to be an avid fisherman. I'd fish once every two weeks. Not terribly interesting, but that's what popped into my head!

NA: Awesome! Do you have a title, cover idea, or plot for the next book that you can share with us?

JP: Hmmm, only one other place on the internet has this info, but I will say that the tentative title is Balloon Hunter. That is all. Shhhh. ;)

NA: Hmmm. Do you have any other book plans or ideas after this series?

JP: Many, but I'll keep them close to my chest for now. Sorry!

NA: Do you have any advice to those writing or planning to write speculative fiction?

JP: I think the craft of writing fiction is too often overlooked. Reading fiction is great. Writing fiction is too. But eventually you have to study the nuts and bolts, just like everything. Pick up a good, non-fiction book on writing and learn from the masters.

NA: Thanks for sharing your time with us! God bless you and your writing!

Buy Kestrel's Midnight Song
Check out Jacob Parker's book site!

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Do you own...?

I am looking for some readers who own the book The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead, because I have 5 extra book plates signed by the author, and I am willing to give them out to anyone who wants them. (1 per person) Just comment here, or email me if you know my email :P The first five who "sign up" get them, so hurry!

Mend Mark mayhem

So, there has been a lot of confusion about the Mend Mark giveaway. There were only four people who entered, and I have already emailed three, and none responded, so I am going to offer it to the last enter-er, Ronda. I will email you, and you have one week to respond. If I don't get a response, I will not bother to hold another giveaway for it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Giveaway winner

The winners of this giveaway have been determined (through! Without further ado, congrats to... (hint: highlight) I will email you soon for your mailing addresses.

David W. and Angela!

Marlayne Giron interview


Please welcome Marlayne Giron, author of The Victor! (read my review here)

NA: What drew you to write Christian fantasy?

MG: It wasn't a conscious decision. I was inspired for the idea for the story by an Amy Grant song from 30 years ago called "Fairytale". I love medieval stories and all the old classic fairytales.  The verse in the song which inspired me was: "...two princes wage the battle for eternity but The Victor has been known from the start..." An image of Jesus in shining armor crossing swords with a black knight (Satan) over the "bride of Christ" popped into my head.   I never aspired to be an "author"; I was mainly concerned about The Victor someday making it into print because I truly believe the idea came from God (and confirmed with a scripture - Psalm 45:1) in the hopes it could be used to introduce the Gospel to others who were like me. I didn't want to go to church, had no interest in reading the Bible and didn't like being witnessed to.  As a nonreligious Jew God was able to use a television movie ("Jesus of Nazareth") back in 1977 to open my eyes to the truth of the Gospel whereas before I had absolutely no interest in religion, much less Christianity. The emotional impact of that television movie changed my life forever.

NA: What is unique in The Victor compared to other fantasy fiction?

MG: It is a blatant retelling of the fall of Satan, the fall of man and the Gospel in the genre of a medieval fantasy fiction but if you didn't know the Bible you wouldn't be able to tell. There is no mention of God or religion, and no "preaching" but the story has the reader on the side of the protagonist (Joshua).  It is also end-noted with over 65 scripture references for anyone curious enough to look them up. It was written for the nonreligious market.

bookcover1NA: Were there any books that you read that became inspiration or interest
in the genre?

MG: Of course, although it sounds so cliche but definitely Lord of the Rings. It remains my favorite book of all time to this day.

NA: Were there any smaller influences that found their way into your writing?

MG: Yes, all the old classic swashbuckling movies of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s with Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone, etc. Those who are familiar with the movie The Court Jester with Danny Kaye may recognize a few things here and there.

NA: Have you ever eaten anything like an almond cake?

MG: I based my description of Prunella's almond cakes on an actual pastry that is made by Antonello's in South Coast Plaza (Costa Mesa, CA). I have a blog on my website about it and the pastry chef, Massimo, tells me that people have come in asking to buy a lot of them because of my book. Blog link:

NA: Which character was the hardest to write?

MG: Joshua because he represents a perfect being and they can come off flat and uninteresting.

NA: Which character was the easiest to write?

MG: I had the most fun with Penloth Estaban, Captain of the Guard. He's larger than life with a wicked sense of humor but at the same time very protective of his younger brother, Penlorian. As many authors will tell you, after a while the characters begin to "write themselves" and he was definitely one of them.

NA: If you could be any person in your books, who would it be?

MG: Well if you really about it I already am...Llyonesse (who represents the bride).

NA: If The Victor were made into a movie, would you have any preferred
actor, director, composer, etc?

MG: Ridley Scott, Peter Jackson, Ron Howard, Robert Zemeckis, Spielberg, Lucas. I already know that I want Gerard Butler to play Penloth. Composer: John Williams, John Barry, Jerry Goldsmith, or Howard Shore.

NA: Can you tell us three things about yourself we readers may not know?

MG:  I never went to college, I used to compete in ice-skating and I'm a frustrated interior decorator.

NA: Do you have any other book plans or ideas?

MG: I am currently compiling a bunch of short "wish fulfillment" stories for Nanowrimo.  They are 2-5 page short stories I have written for others as gifts where they star as the main character in their own story . It will be called "Star Light, Star Bright" after the classic wishing upon a star poem.

NA: Do you have any advice to those writing or planning to write Christian fantasy fiction?

MG: Read a lot of similar books, belong to a critique group and never give up on your dream.

NA: Thank you for spending this time with us! It was great to have you! May God bless you and your writing!

Buy The Victor
Check out Mrs. Giron's website!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Flight Plan

Synopsis: A life of greater possibilities, potentials and passions awaits the emerging young man. Flight Plan is a resource and source of instruction and encouragement for boys, their parents, and other adults who work with boys. This book is written with the aim of offering boys a vision and definition of manhood before they get there, a framework for considering the challenges of adolescence, and tools and strategies for making healthy and appropriate choices during those years.

My thoughts: All homeschoolers and most others should know what I mean when I say this is similar to A Beka health textbook. It gives the facts straight out, and then applies them to daily life. A warning though, at times these facts can be pretty detailed and the parent ought to look over the book first. The questions after each chapter are quite general, but still personal. An excellent feature I found is this: Many quotes listed were from popular figures in society, such as Michael Jordan, Leonardo De Caprio, and George Lucas, but also from prominent and wise leaders such as Ronald Reagan, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, and C.S. Lewis. All the flight metaphors and stories were cool as well.

*I received this book free from TBB Media. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.*

My rating: 4 stars.

Buy Flight Plan

Upcoming reviews:
  • The Wolf of Tebron by C.S. Lakin
  • Masters & Slayers by Bryan Davis

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

City of Tranquil Light

 City of Tranquil Light, Bo Caldwell, Henry Holt, Fiction, 2010, 287 pages.

Synopsis: Will Kiehn is an “ordinary man,” seemingly destined for life as a humble farmer in the Midwest, when, having felt a call from God, he moves to the vast North China Plain in 1906. There he is surprised by love and weds a strong and determined fellow missionary, Katherine, who is also a dedicated nurse.
    Early in their marriage Will and Katherine find themselves witnesses to the crumbling of a more than two-thousand-year-old dynasty, which plunges the country into years of civil war. As they work to improve the lives of the people in Kuang P’ing Ch’eng-City of Tranquil Light, a place they come to love-they face hardships they could not have imagined: a personal loss that shakes them both to the core, the constant threat of bandits, the physical dangers and tragedies of warlord China. But while they are continually tested both spiritually and physically, they are also rewarded in ways that leave them forever changed.
    Told through Will and Katherine’s alternating viewpoints-and inspired by the lives of the author’s maternal grandparents-
City of Tranquil Light is a tender and elegiac portrait of a young marriage set against the backdrop of a beautiful but torn nation. A deeply spiritual book, it shows how those who work to teach others often have the most to learn and is further evidence that Bo Caldwell writes “vividly and with great historical perspective” (San Jose Mercury News).

My thoughts: I am starting to enjoy this kind of book. A fiction written about the author’s missionary grandparents is an appealing subject. I love to learn about other countries and cultures, and this showed me much about China. It was eloquently described as a graceful yet often tragic land, filled with many tales of abundance, famine, beauty, and loss. The characters were tangible, filled with longing, regret, and compassion. I will certainly add Caldwell’s other book (The Distant Land of My Father) to my reading list. The only disappointment I had was the lack of an account of major events included in the book sans fictional details.

My rating: 4 stars

I received this book free from TBB Media. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.

Buy City of Tranquil Light

Upcoming reviews
  • Flight Plan by Lee Burns and Braxton Brady
  • Masters & Slayers by Bryan Davis

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

November Stats

Here is the November stat post. I forgot the October one, so I will just compare with September.

Followers: 70 in September and 95 now!
Pageviews: 1,836 in Sept. and 3,765 now!
Unique visitors: 985 in Sept. and 1,566 now!
Top referral sites:
  1. (50)
  2. (12)
  3. (12)
  4. (6)
  5. (5)
 Pageviews by country:
  1. United States - 654
  2. Canada - 51
  3. Georgia - 37
  4. South Korea - 23
  5. Germany - 21
  6. Latvia - 14
  7. Russia - 9
  8. United Kingdom - 6
  9. Netherlands - 6
  10. South Africa - 5

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Star Curiously Singing giveaway

Christian Fiction Book Reviews is giving away a copy of Kerry Nietz's speculative fiction A Star Curiously Singing! Older readers know that this is one of my big recommendations! Hurry, this giveaway ends December 4th!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Guess what!

Recently there was a little mix-up with Living Ink Books' blogger review program, and they sent me a copy of Sword in the Stars, along with another book I had requested. So, do you know what that means? It means one more person is going to win!!