Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Charlatan's Boy

The Charlatan's Boy, Jonathan Rogers, WaterBrook Press, Fantasy, 2010, 305 pages.

Synopsis:  As far back as he can remember, the orphan Grady has tramped from village to village in the company of a huckster named Floyd. With his adolescent accomplice, Floyd perpetrates a variety of hoaxes and flimflams on the good citizens of the Corenwald frontier, such as the Ugliest Boy in the World act.

It’s a hard way to make a living, made harder by the memory of fatter times when audiences thronged to see young Grady perform as “The Wild Man of the Feechiefen Swamp.” But what can they do? Nobody believes in feechies anymore.

When Floyd stages an elaborate plot to revive Corenwalders’ belief in the mythical swamp-dwellers known as the feechiefolk, he overshoots the mark. Floyd’s Great Feechie Scare becomes widespread panic. Eager audiences become angry mobs, and in the ensuing chaos, the Charlatan’s Boy discovers the truth that has evaded him all his life—and will change his path forever.

Thoughts: I am getting a great hankering for the southern style of writing. Roger's character development is reminiscent of the style of Flannery O'Connor. The southern grammar and vocabulary were very entertaining!

I found it interesting that Grady had very wise insights, such as when he reflected that townspeople can learn more about themselves from their neighbors than from a "phrenologist," someone who can determine character traits from indentations in a skull. He only thinks of the feechie act as "an honest trade" while he thinks he really is a feechie. For a show assistant, he is quite honest.

Rogers' characters are great fun! Ranging from the trickster Floyd, to the compassionate Short Fronie, to the whooping drovers, I had a glimpse of a different world.

I recommend this to anyone who likes adventure and a show, because this book is full of it!

*This book was provided free by the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.*

Rating: 4 stars

Upcoming reviews:
  • Decision Points by George Bush
  • By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson
  • Warrior by Bryan Davis

Check out the author's website!
Buy The Charlatan's Boy!
Check out more fantasy!

Beyond the Dead Forest

Beyond the Dead Forest, Steve Groll, Tate Publishing, Fantasy, 2010, 416 pages. 

Synopsis: It just appeared one day out of nowhere—a dead forest that the partners had never seen before. Carter and Kat think they know every tree, river, and rock within five miles of their homes, but this section of wood, completely devoid of life, was not supposed to exist. Stepping through a doorway into a bizarre world filled with darkness, terror, and death, they embark on a quest to discover the greatest treasure of all. Aided by a strange old man they called the Guardian, and armed with spiritual weapons, their wits, and a growing arsenal of wisdom, they battle against forces of darkness that are determined to destroy them. Hitch a wild ride with the arrogant Mr. Stewborn with a raving madman in hot pursuit. Come stay awhile in the inescapable People Rule Inn and experience a place where nightmares are real. Travel through the depressing Valley of Shadows, and meet dark creatures you have never imagined. Join Carter and Kat as they venture Beyond the Dead Forest and discover, with our heroes, the unsurpassable riches of wisdom that can empower you to change your life and your world.

Thoughts: This book, as well as being a great adventure, was a great moral guide. It gave me responses to temptations that Christ would approve of. The primary thing that caught my attention was that this book was a Pilgrim’s Progress that is more understandable to younger readers. One minor qualm I had was that, at the beginning, Carter and Kat didn’t seem like they were 12. Their exploration of the woods fit, but their conversation often sounded like they were older. All in all, I really enjoyed the book, and it is now among my favorites. It's worth it to buy.

Rating: 5 stars

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

Upcoming reviews:
  • The Charlatan's Boy by Jonathan Rogers
  • Decision Points by George Bush
  • By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson
Check out the author's website!

Sunday, February 20, 2011


No, it's not my giveaway :P. But, if you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that ASCS is one of my favorite books, and I've even given it away once! So, whenever I find out someone else is giving away a copy, I love to post it here. :D So, head on over and enter!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Dauntless Homecoming

Dauntless Homecoming, Pete Koziar, self-published, Science Fiction/Fantasy, 2010, 478 pages.

Synopsis: Set hundreds of years in the future, a starship, The Dauntless, from mankind's first interstellar expedition, returns back to Earth. The planet they visited wasn't very interesting, just a lifeless ball of rock. Earth, on the other hand, had changed in ways they couldn't have imagined.
          The world is now ruled by one king and a group of very powerful beings known as the Purnarkat. The crew from The Dauntless doesn't quite know how to react. The world they knew before they left hadn't been that different from our own - a bunch of independent nations that often didn't get along very well. In this new world they now find, the crew resents the rule imposed upon the world, questioning why the "normal" humans aren't in charge.
          One of the crew, Jim, disappears soon after their landing, which serves to set them on edge, and make them suspicious that things aren't what they seem. The captain of the crew, Cliff, decides to take matters into his own hands, to liberate the world from the rule of the Purnarkat.
          The rest of the crew reluctantly follow him, but all of them must deal with their own emotional and even spiritual baggage. Their quest to understand and fit into this new world takes all of their resources, and leads them in very surprising directions.

My thoughts:  It was rather enjoyable! From the moment it started, this adventure reveals an upgraded and better Earth, ruled by the King, who works all things out for the good of his subjects. The planet was inhabited by fantastical creatures and shepherded by the Purnarkat, the King’s chosen people.
    Several of the characters are taught lessons ranging from humility, respect, compassion, and submission. These lessons are very easily applied to the reader’s life.
    It struck me that the crew of the Dauntless came home to an Earth foreign to them. No place like they had lived in existed any longer. It made me glad the place I am going to is eternal, unchanging, and glorious.

My rating: 4 stars

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

Upcoming reviews:
  • Beyond the Dead Forest by Steve Groll
  • The Charlatan's Boy by Jonathan Rogers
Check out the author's website!

Wayne Thomas Batson interview

Please welcome Mr. Batson!

NA: Welcome! What drew you to write fantasy fiction?

WTB: It's really what drew me to reading. Fantasy sucked me right in and showed me worlds I'd only dreamed of before. Tolkien's works were the most influential and I still read them today.

NA: What is unique in Sword in the Stars compared to other fantasy fiction?

WTB:  1) SiS stars a hero some people might hate. Alastair Coldhollow has a very dark past. He's guilty of unspeakable things. And yet…

2) SiS stars a hero who's not so black that he's beyond redemption. I think of Alastair as an Apostle Paul type. Paul was infamous for persecuting Christians. He stood by while men and women were stoned to death. Who knows how many people Paul personally murdered. It's for good reason Paul called himself Chief of Sinners. But God took Paul and slammed him. And Paul went on to write 2/3 of the NT. I'll let you read to see if Alastair finds such redemption.

3) SiS isn't afraid to tackle real issues of life: addictions, sibling rivalry, selfishness, doubt, passivity, etc. We live in a flawed world full of flawed people.

NA: Where did this story idea come from?

WTB: I wish I knew exactly where. God is the source of all my story ideas--hopefully, that's understood. Still, SiS came along in vignettes--short scene or chapter ideas and after a while, they coalesced into one really BIG story. 7 Books outlined for the series--that's a big, big adventure.

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

WTB: Well, my wife and kids always influence my characters, as do friends and people I observe in life. I guess I draw quite a bit out of myself as well. Sometimes, I take a character on a journey through something I'm struggling with, hoping that both of us will find a way to overcome. ;-)

NA: As you look back on writing Sword in the Stars, what challenged you the most?

WTB: Worldbuilding. This is my first totally-in-the-fantasy-world story. No portals. No Narnia hopping in and out. Everything in Myriad had to be crafted from scratch, including languages, histories, currencies, races, geography, climates, etc. etc.

NA: Which character was the hardest to write?

WTB: Some of the villain characters are hardest to write because they take your mind down a dark path. Sometimes, I need to stop in midchapter to work on some lighter area of the book.

NA: Which character was the easiest to write?

WTB: Probably the characters that are most like me. I know instinctively what they will do or say at any given moment.

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

WTB: You might think I would choose someone like Aidan or Captain Valithor, maybe Grimwarden or Alastair, but I guess I'd take Kaliam from The Door Within books. He's powerful and heroic, but also humble.

NA: I liked him a lot. J I really enjoy the training scenes in your books. Is it easy for you create them?

WTB: Nope. I have to research the training scenes so that I write realistic portrayals. Prior to my books, I didn't know beans about sword play or war tactics.

NA: That’s hard to believe! You write them very well. I heard that Thomas Nelson is not going to continue publishing your Berinfell Prophecies series. That’s a real shame. Are there any other publishers you are specifically looking to?

WTB: Oh, sure. Christopher Hopper and I would have loved to continue with TN, but there are certainly other publishers who might be willing to pick up the series. I won't mention any specifics at this time. Stay tuned!

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

WTB: Director: Peter Jackson (of course). Actors: Sean Connery, Harrison Ford, and a cast of unknowns. Composer: Jon Maiocco or Howard Shore.

NA: I like your choices! :D Can you tell us three or more things about yourself we readers may not know?

WTB: 1) I used to play lead guitar for a heavy metal band called Contagious. 2) I believe nachos should be America's National Food.  3) I have an orange cat named Rusty, and he often sits near me while I write. ;-)

NA: Wow! :O Can you give us any new info about your second book in the Dark Sea Annals, The Errant King?

WTB: I will tell you this: The Errant King will take place about 20 years after Sword in the Stars ended (not much time in Myriad time, but still...lots of things have happened). This story will have the most humor in it out of the series as well b/c young King Lochlan likes to "pretend" to be other people. And the ending of The Errant King will be unlike ANY you've ever read!

NA: I can’t wait! Do you have any other book plans or ideas after this series?

WTB: a supernatural, mystery thriller for adult readers called: Ghost. Another YA series I'm thinking about proposing as well, but I must keep this under wraps for now.

NA: Do you have any advice to those about writing fantasy fiction?

WTB: Tons, but not enough time to write it all here. Visit my blog and click the link for writing tips in my sidebar. You'll find tons of useful stuff. (

NA: Thanks for your time, and God bless you and your writing!

The Gifted: In The Beginning

The Gifted: In The Beginning, self-published, Stephen R. Wilson, Science fiction/fantasy, 2010, 313 pages.

Synopsis: Aliens. Vigilante Ninjas. Mad scientists. Hard-nosed detectives. Super-heroes. God. An alien ship has crash-landed on Earth, setting off a new wave of drug addiction and world war in its wake, while the sole survivor of the wreckage vows revenge against the god-like authorities of his home planet. At the same time, the new president of the GenRes Company is obsessed with living up to his father’s medical success and has just discovered how to transform normal children into Genetically Altered super-humans. Who will control these children? The scientist, the alien, and a couple of ambitious criminals are all eager to keep them for their own use. But Someone else has entirely different plans for them. Follow as each development merges together and a new breed of adolescent superheroes rises to the forefront in The Gifted: In the Beginning.

My thoughts: People with superpowers. Who can ask for more! This type of book is a favorite of mine. However, these unnatural abilities didn’t appear until about half-way through the book, and only hardly then. They only became prominent in the last 50-some pages. When they did, I enjoyed their descriptions and variety!
    The alien part of the story didn’t come into play much in the story (even though the alien created the superhumans). I seemed like a distanced plot, separate and hardly explored.
    I was confused by the time references. The setting would often jump through a few years from one point of view, then switch to another, even 10 years before.
    Wilson’s portrayal of a future earth, far more sinful and corrupt, began to depress me, although I realized the implication that we could easily slip that far down. It encouraged me to spread God’s love and law to others.

My rating: 3 stars

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

Upcoming reviews:
  • Dauntless Homecoming by Pete Koziar
  • Beyond the Dead Forest by Steve Groll
Check out the author's book website!

    Nor Iron Bars A Cage

    Nor Iron Bars A Cage, Caprice Hokstad, Ascension Trilogy, Fantasy, Splashdown Books, 2010, 379 pages.

    Synopsis: In a last-ditch effort to find his kidnapped son, Duke Vahn sends his most trusted servant to pose as a runaway slave in the hostile country of Ganluc. Meanwhile, the challenge he faces at home is no less daunting. This beautiful story is full of images: servitude in leadership, ungrudging chivalry, and a love that endures through adversity.

    My thoughts: The previous book in this series was more character-driven than goal-driven. That wasn’t quite to my taste, although I’m not saying I don’t like a lot of character. The character was quite good! This second book was more appealing, as it had more of a goal in mind. However, the first 150 pages or so were somewhat boring, so readers may not finish, depending on how boring they find it. Once the action kicked in, the story became very intriguing and delightful. The slave and master themes are really cool and aren't used this well in most Christian fantasy fiction.

    My rating: 3 stars

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

    Upcoming reviews:
    • The Gifted: In The Beginning by Steven R. Wilson
    • Dauntless Homecoming by Pete Koziar
    Check out the book website!

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    Brian Jacques 1939-2011

    As a continued tribute to Brian Jacques, I will be re-reading his books, and reviewing them here. If you have not read, or even heard of his books, I urge - I URGE - you to read them.

    A Tribute

    I don't have the time to write a long post, so short will have to do.

    Many of you have already heard I'm sure of the death of Brian Jacques, author of the Redwall series, on February 5th, two days ago. Readers all around the US will mourn the loss of this storyteller, and he will be sorely missed.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011


    I was wondering if anyone who has a spare minute could read and rate my review of Dragons of the Valley on the Waterbrook Multnomah website. If you can, thank you very much!!

    Here is the review again:

    Honestly, I wasn’t expecting a lot, and my expectation was right, in a way. The plot wanders, and it’s hard to tell where it will go next, even though you think you know where it will end up. A lot of time often passed between chapters, without being hinted at, and that was confusing. The only character not revealed much was Tipper, even though she was the main character in the previous book, Beolomondore taking that spot in this volume.

    The other characters, however, were where I was wrong. I really, really enjoyed them! They are what drove this story. Wizard Fenworth’s absent-minded way of things kept me laughing, Hollee’s cheerful inquiries brightened my mood, Lady Peg’s meandering, critical speech bewildered and fascinated me, and Rayn’s antics had me wishing I had a minor dragon of my own! If you don’t mind a vague plot, and prefer good and interactive characters, this is the book for you!

    My rating: 4 stars